You know, sometimes I don’t even know why I bother talking to my sister. The other day, Colleen came down on me because of something I said.
What was it? Well, I suggested that I’d rather go to a funeral than a wedding, and did that ever set her off!
Hey, my take on it is that you go to a funeral to pay your respects to the deceased and his or her family, and the great thing about it is you don’t have to look at someone (meaning, usually, the bride) and say, “Oh, doesn’t she look beautiful”, when the fact is she’s actually pretty troll-like.
You don’t have to fake it at funerals; you just have to be reasonably polite.
That wasn’t good enough for my sister, Colleen, though. “Ash,” she said, “You’re just hell-bent on being a social pariah, aren’t you?”
Well, the word interested me. So I looked it up. And I guess if I look at the dictionary meaning of the word “pariah,” meaning someone who isn’t usually considered acceptable in a social group, maybe I am one.
Of course, since I’m totally dog-obsessed, I started wondering if dogs could be pariahs, and I discovered, to my astonishment, that they can! They’re among the world’s earliest dog breeds.
What Does the Dictionary Say?
1: a feral or stray dog that typically lives near human settlements; especially: a usually medium-sized, primitive dog (as of Africa, India, or southeastern Asia) that is often considered part of a naturally selected ancient breed, is characterized by a wedge-shaped head, pointed muzzle, erect ears, long curved tail, and usually a short coat, and typically scavenges for food
2: any of a breed of dogs (such as the Canaan dog) that have been selectively bred from a pariah dog
So, having found that definition, as you can imagine, I wanted to learn more about the world’s earliest dog breeds.
After all, dogs have been with us for literally tens of thousands of years – maybe more. Nobody really knows when exactly dogs stopped being wolves and became our beloved companions.
One thing that does seem apparent, though, is that it wasn’t exactly something that started and never stopped. On the other hand, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that some dogs became our friends, and then wandered back into the wild, and then came back, and then… well, you get the idea. Either way, these are among the world’s earliest dog breeds.
So, what this means is that you can define a pariah dog pretty loosely, or pretty specifically. Generally speaking, though, pariah dogs are considered to be animals that have generally wandered freely, but might from time to time have wandered into human encampments. Eventually, some “pariah dogs” ended up being domesticated, and are now considered to be actual breeds. Still others are “semi-feral” or even still considered to be “wild.”
The following dog breeds are considered to be “pariahs” in that they’re not exactly wild, but not exactly domesticated, either. Many of these breeds haven’t changed all that much since they were discovered. Some have.
Whether you want to consider these dog breeds to be “pariahs,” or whether you want to class them as domesticated breeds, one thing is for sure – the world’s earliest dog breeds are fascinating, and I hope you enjoy learning more about them.
This breed is often referred to as the “American Dingo,” and you might think that having been discovered in the US in the 1970s, this dog isn’t among the world’s earliest dog breeds.
You’d be wrong.
The fact is, this breed probably migrated to North America very early on. No one really knows where this breed came from, but it’s believed to have accompanied the earliest humans that came to North America.
This is another dog whose origin isn’t really known. Some experts claim that it’s a hybrid of grey wolf and dingo, originating in Australia. The original dog is thought to have bred with domestic Australian dogs, but nobody really knows for sure. And maybe it doesn’t even matter.
What does matter is that the pure dingo, the Australian wild dog, is now in danger of extinction due to that interbreeding.
Some Australian farmers will tell you that this is a good thing. I’m not so sure.
This is a pariah dog that has been domesticated. It’s one of the earliest dog breeds, but it has a lot of characteristics in common with pariah dogs. You may have heard of Basenjis as being “barkless dogs.” This isn’t entirely true, although they are typically quiet.
The Mexican Hairless (also known as the Xoloitzcuintle), definitely qualifies as a pariah dog in that it has been around for literally thousands of years. In fact, it appears in artwork dating back to 750 AD. As a breed, though, it wasn’t recognized in the United States until the 1950s.
Native American Indian Dog
This is another very old breed, used for thousands of years by Plains Indians for hauling and other tasks. It was also considered to be a companion dog. This medium-sized dog has perked ears, and very pretty coats that can range from black to tan to gold, cream and sable.
Indian Pariah Dog
This is the absolute epitome of pariah dogs. He needs precious little care, having his ancestry as a “wanderer.”” He’s very clean, and lacks odor, so you won’t have to groom him all that often. This dog has a strong build, and very little in the way of health problems. Ideally, he’s suited best to hunting and guarding. In terms of ancestry, he’s most closely related to the New Guinea Singing Dog or the Dingo.
This dog is different from most domesticated breeds in that the heat occurs only once a year, not twice as is the case with most domesticated breeds.
This is a small, tough dog that resembles a fox. It differs from most small breeds, though, in that it’s never been bred for small size.
I’ve often pointed out that I really dislike the idea of breeding dogs for small sizes (and defects), but the Alopekis is naturally small. What this means is that it’s not prone to health problems the way that “designer dogs” are. This dog is actually very well-proportioned and not vulnerable to health problems.
New Guinea Singing Dog
This dog, like the Australian Dingo, is an actual wild dog. It’s not feral, it’s not raised in captivity, and it’s not considered to be a companion dog.
It’s actually a primitive breed of dog that still lives in the wild.
That said, though, there is a breeding program underway that’s designed to return this dog to the wild. Today, New Guinea Singing Dogs are bred in captivity, and it is expected that one day, they will become prolific once more in their natural habitat.
The Canaan Dog is the national breed of Israel, and also one of the world’s earliest dog breeds. In fact, this handsome dog goes as far back as the third century, as we know from images carved on rocks.
Beyond that point, Canaan Dogs most commonly lived in the wild until Dr. Rudolphina Menzel started breeding them in the 1930s. She loved these strong dogs, and set about training and breeding them. Today, some Canaansare domesticated, thanks to her efforts. Generally speaking, though, the breed has dwindled, and now there are fewer than 3,000 Canaan Dogs on record.
The Final Word
There are very few pariah breeds today. These are among the earliest dog breeds, but they’re dying out. Perhaps if people become more interested in early breeds, pariahs may enjoy an insurgence in popularity. I wouldn’t hold out a lot of hope, though. There are a lot of dog breeds that come and go. You may have noticed that your breed of choice has dropped in popularity over the years.
It happens. Breeds come and go. In fact, I’d assume that at some point, breeds like my Boxers and Neila’s Rottweilers will drop in popularity. It’s hard to say what people will want from one year to the next.
I did enjoy taking a look at these really ancient breeds, though, and I hope you did too.