From Pet Connection
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
One of the things I enjoy about travel is seeing different dogs around the world. Last year, I went to Ethiopia in search of wild dogs — rare and endangered Ethiopian wolves (Canis simensis) — but I also saw many domestic dogs in forested villages and high-altitude plains, sometimes with flocks or humans, but more often trotting along on their own business.
No matter where you go in the world, you are likely to see some canine representative who looks much the same as the earliest-known dogs, based on rock art or remains of dogs discovered by archaeologists. Whether they are called aboriginal, landrace, pariah, primitive or village dogs, and whether they are found on islands or mountains or in dense forests, they tend to have a similar form: medium size, prick ears, wedge-shaped head, curved tail and short coat.
Color and coat vary. In the Seychelles, an archipelago off the east coast of Africa, and in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean, I saw mostly tan or brown dogs. In Ethiopia, I saw many black-and-tan and black-and-white dogs as well as ones dressed in basic brown. Sometimes they have feathering — or furnishings — on legs, ears and tail, or longer fur, depending on where they evolved. Sometimes these dogs have maintained a particular look over centuries simply because geographic isolation ensured that they did not interbreed with dogs from other areas.
Pariah-type dogs who live on the streets and forage for themselves, as well as those who live in homes as companions, can be found from India to Taiwan to Thailand and everywhere in between. You may have a dog who looks like this in your own home, mixed or purebred.
Some purebreds who live in our homes and sleep on our beds still maintain primitive behavior characteristics, such as reproducing only once a year. The Federation Cynologique Internationale — Europe’s answer to the American Kennel Club — has a “primitive” category of dogs that includes the basenji, Canaan dog, cirneco dell’Etna, pharaoh hound, Xoloitzcuintli, Portuguese podengo and Thai ridgeback. In the same FCI group as primitive dogs are the spitz breeds, including the Akita, Alaskan malamute, chow chow, Finnish spitz, Icelandic sheepdog, Jindo, Karelian bear dog, Norwegian elkhound, shiba and Siberian husky. While in their current forms, most of these breeds are not much more than a century old (no matter what their breed standards say), the types of dogs that were their progenitors have been around for millennia.
The United Kennel Club describes pariah dogs as having short, smooth coats and large, erect ears, saying they are believed to be the ancestors of sighthounds — those tall, skinny, fast dogs such as Afghan hounds, Azawakhs, greyhounds, salukis and sloughis.
Some dogs are considered not purebreds but landraces: domestic dogs adapted to a particular locale or culture. Their characteristics developed more in response to survival in a particular environment than to human design. One such dog I saw on a visit to Mongolia in 2016 is the bankhar, kept by nomadic herders to guard flocks, and able to survive, thrive and work in harsh conditions. That’s more important to their human partners than whether they meet specific criteria regarding appearance or size. Bankhars have greater genetic diversity than their purebred cousins who come from a closed gene pool and are selectively bred by humans for specific physical or behavioral characteristics.
Landraces sometimes become breeds through human intervention. In the United States, for instance, the Carolina dog began as a landrace but is now considered to be a standardized breed, registered by the American Rare Breed Association and the UKC.
Some primitive dogs retain more wild behaviors than others, among them Australia’s dingo and New Guinea’s singing dog. A few live as companions, but more often they live a wild life, fending for themselves.