India’s cultural history is ripe with tales of the dog’s fidelity – from Mahabharat to stories passed on through the generations. Indian dog breeds, like dogs elsewhere, are revered for their companionship, and a natural instinct to protect their masters.
Unfortunately, the native dogs of Indian folklore and real-world lost their place to exotic foreign breeds as a result of the media frenzy. From pugs to St Bernard(s), the rich and the elite called them all. The nefarious circle of breeders brewed in. It was cruel for the indigenous breeds, ridiculed to almost extinction or worse still forgotten. The imported dogs didn’t fare any better and continue to suffer the ill effects of misplaced existence.
Imagine Huskies in Hyderabad.
Native Indian dog breeds
India has one of the oldest canine cultures – dogs were domesticated as early as the end of the Mesolithic period. Oriented to speed and action, Indian dogs are all outdoor dogs.
Indian dog breeds are among the most adaptive in the world. Owing to their unique genetic markup they can adjust to vagaries of weather. But even they aren’t immune to neglect.
The Indian subcontinent is perhaps the largest conglomeration of various breeds of dogs in the world. Through a long period of evolution, each geographic zone in India has produced a distinctive breed, adapted to the local environment.
Multiple breeds of dogs which were native to India have ceased to exist, while many others are on the brink of extinction due to ignorance and sheer neglect. In the mid-2000s, the Indian Post featured four Indian dog breeds on stamps to raise awareness about them and to honour their special place in Indian history.
Also referred to as the Poligar Hound, Rajapalayam were the companions of the royalty and aristocrats in Southern India – Chola dynasty had them as exclusive pets for hunting or as guard dogs.
They are often milk-white, with a pink nose, button ears, whip tail and golden eyes. They have the gait similar to that of a horse and were also used during the Carnatic Wars and Polygar war against the British cavalry. They aren’t fast runners but are tireless and steady over long distances. There were also some reports that the Indian Army in Kashmir had them as guard dogs.
2. Rampur hound
Found in northern India, in the belt between Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh to Delhi, Rampur hounds were kept by Maharajahs against the threat of jackal and for hunting. It is said that Mughal emperor Jahangir’s kennel is said to have had 4000 of them.
Known for their stamina and speed, these dogs can cover great distances.
Rampur dogs were also featured in Mughal miniatures. They have a long wide head, flat between ears, and powerful jaws with a scissor bite. They have a long and tapering tail, and the body has a short and firm coat.
3. Himalayan Sheepdog (Bhutia kukur)
The majestic livestock guardian dog, often referred to as Bhote Kukur for resemblance to Tibetan Mastiff thrives on outdoor lifestyles and is native to the Himalayas. They are strong and powerful dogs, devoutly loyal and loving, amazing herd dogs and protector of the livestock.
They are gentle and sensitive to their humans. They have sharp reflexes and are very alert. Their courage and ferociousness make them an excellent guard dog for cattle.
Himalayan sheep dog is generally black or brown with patches of white on ears, legs and body. They have short legs and a long back, a pointed muzzle and luminous dark-rimmed eyes. The tail is almost always plumed up and turned. They have a thick coarse overcoat and a thick smooth fur for the undercoat to help them withstand Himalayan winters.
4. Mudhol Hound
Also known as Caravan Hound, Mudhol hound is often found as a companion animal in the Deccan Plateau region. They were used for hunting and guarding in and around Mudhol town of Karnataka. In the villages, they are known as ‘Karwani’.
They are primarily a desert variety of gaze hounds. The Raja of Mudhol, a princely state, now part of Karnataka, trained these dogs for hunting. The Raja of Kolhapur also patronized this breed. Quite, aloof, placid and reserve, it hunts with extreme concentration equally well on dry and marshy lands.
Mudhol hound have long and elan head, with well-chiselled jaws and nose, slightly protruding beyond the teeth. They have a bony and narrow body with long tail tat tapes to the end. It has very light and effortlessly easy movement with strong driving action with matching reach. Mudhol is found in all colours except albino.
5. Kombai/Combai (Indian Terrier)
Combai or Kombai dog breed is found in the hills of Southern India’s western ghats. Kombai means ‘a dense forest’. They are also called Karumoonji and have a black nose with a reddish coloured body. They are fierce guard dogs, good at chasing and hunting.
This ancient breed is known for its toughness and loyalty. They are very active, need regular exercise and thrive best raised in large, non-urban settings where they are free to roam and explore.
6. Bully dog (Indian mastiff)
Bully dog shares origins from both India and Pakistan and is predominantly found in the Punjab region. They are the most common choice for guard dogs but unfortunately, many of these dogs are still bred and nurtured for dogfighting purposes.
If you come across any news of a dog being used for dogfighting, please alert the police immediately.
7. Indian pariah dog
Perhaps one of the most primitive and ancient breeds of dog known to humans, Indian Pariah dogs bear resemblance to Australian Dingo or African Basenji, and have no trace of genetic tweaking or modification from the human side. They are best suited for the harshness of Indian tropical climate and thrive at way less as compared to foreign breeds.
Their immunity is way stronger as compared to foreign breeds and they don’t suffer from inbreeding-related disorders such as hip dysplasia. They also make for amazing pets – easy to maintain and train!
8. Kashmiri Sheep Dog/ Bakharwal
These mountain dogs are an ancient breed of working dogs found in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Scientists believe that these may be amongst the oldest herding dogs having origins in Central Asia. They are bred by nomadic tribes as a livestock guardian dog and settlement protector.
9. Chippiparai / Kanni
Chippiparai are easy-to-train dogs from Tamilnadu who were bred by the royal families of Virudhnagar for hunting and to protect their estates. They are a medium-sized dog having a reddish-brown-black tinted coat with limited white markings. One of their distinctive features is a long curved tail.
Depending on their coat colour, they are sometimes also referred to as “Kanni,” which means “pure”.
These adorably cute, short-haired dogs are predominantly found in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh and some places in Madhya Pradesh. They have historical ties with the legendary Vijaynagar Empire and were used for hunting.
If you are looking to adopt a dog, Indian breeds are a great option.
Because of India’s obsession with foreign breeds, many of the native breeds like Lut, Alangu, the Malaipatti dog and the Vaghari Hound have almost gone extinct. Although some organizations in India are trying to revive the near-extinct native dogs, they are still considered rare breeds today.