Rare & Underrated Indian Dog Breeds That You Had No Idea About!
A vast majority of people in and outside India (which included me until a few years ago) are under the impression, that there are just two categories of dogs found in the country. One is the homeless stray mongrels and the other some imported, fancy, pedigree breed which could be anything from Labs to German Shepherds to Pugs to anything not found living on the streets. BUT THIS IS SO NOT TRUE! There are so many other native Indian dog breeds, that have little to do with the common Indian Pariah/Mongrels/Desi dogs we chance upon everyday! In fact, they look more like the imported breeds we swoon over. There are Indian breeds that are unbelievable look-alikes of Afghan Hounds, Samoyeds, Great Danes, Dalmations and Tibetan Mastiffs – the most expensive dog breed on Earth! NO EXAGGERATION! Needless to say very few can afford to have most of these breeds owing to the huge purchasing price coupled with the maintenance costs. But why worry when there are similar options with negligible expenses, awaiting you nowhere far but in the Indian subcontinent itself?
It goes without saying that while choosing to get a dog, there are various preferences of people which is perfectly understandable. You need a dog that matches well with your personality and lifestyle. Some prefer furry, squishy, little dogs, while others might want a lean, tall and athletic type. Some people may be into sports and recreation. It’s pretty obvious that they would want their furry companion to share the same enthusiasm, so they can enjoy these adventures together. While some people might be busy professionals who need to work even on weekends, leaving them too tired to do anything apart from the absolute musts. They would obviously prefer a laid back, self sufficient and easy to care for kind of dog. Some may have kids at home, so a dog breed that’s good and safe with children would be a must. In these cases, we would require different breeds with different temperaments. And we need not search far, as we have them in our own country itself! There is a plethora of variety too! From little fur balls to the lean and mean looking. From the needy, attention seeking ones to the self sufficient that don’t mind staying alone kinds, the low maintenance and the kids and other pets friendly even!
Let me now introduce you to a few of the breeds belonging exclusively to the Indian soil that would also fit your bill just as well..
THE GADDI DOG:
- Height & Weight: 20-31 inches & 35-45 kg
- Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
An enormous mastiff-type breed originating from northern India or the Himalayas, the ‘Gaddi’ is sometimes referred to as the ‘Mahidant Mastiff’, ‘Indian Leopard hound’ or ‘the Himalayan Sheepdog’. People mistake them for the Tibetan Mastiff but the Gaddi dog is less bulky and has a mane like a big black lion! A Gaddi is not for the faint hearted. Naturally they are huge, aggressive, and incredibly strong. However, they are very intelligent dogs and can herd goats and sheep with little or no instruction. If you consider the fact that 4 Gaddi dogs can take care of 2000 sheep on a windswept mountainside, you get an idea of how independent and self-reliant the breed is! The Gaddi started out as a hunter but found use as shepherd dogs because they are tough enough to take down a bear or even a snow leopard, hence the nickname ‘the Indian Panther Hound’.
This breed is not for the inexperienced. They are double coated, thus full of fur, which means they cannot stay in warm places. It also means, there is to be a lot of shedding to be expected, so regular grooming would be a must. They are huge, need lots of room to stay in and roam around and a ton of exercise for they are working dogs with such stamina, which means they’re not suitable for the small city apartments. They are highly intelligent and very loyal which make them easily trainable. They can get aggressive if not socialized early. They were bred to fight leopards and is not one to back down from a fight, they are fearless and incredibly brave, willing to confront danger head on. These qualities make them great guard dogs. They are a robust and healthy breed. Weak dogs cannot survive in the Himalayas, so only those resistant to parasites and infections survived. This has led to a dog that has no trace of poor genetic inheritance and a robust immune system. It is hard to tell how many Gaddis are left and is believed that they are endangered, even though they are a relatively popular breed of dog due to their local use of sheep herding.
- Height & Weight: 25-30 inches & 32-48 kg
- Life expectancy: 10-12 years
- Height & Weight: 29-30 inches & 27-29 kg
- Life expectancy: 9-14 years
The ‘Bhotia Mastiff’, ‘Bhotey dogs’ or ‘Himalayan Sheepdogs’ originate from the Ladakh and Uttarakhand states of Northern India. They look very similar to the Indian Gaddi Dogs. The local tribes have extensively utilized the agile nature of the dogs for hunting, herding and guarding, especially as livestock guardians of cattle from predators. These sheepdogs have been living in the Himalayan regions of Northern India and Nepal since ancient times.
They are a healthy and sturdy breed. They are obedient and love to please their master and stay with their family. Known for their loyalty, the Himalayan Sheepdog is a one-man dog that usually creates a strong bond with a single member of it’s family, in most cases, the owner. They are sweet with children and display a patient disposition, thus making them a great playmate. They are also tolerant of other dogs and pets provided they have been socialized since puppy-hood. They are alert and would guard the house of their owner dedicatedly, often barking loudly if they find anything suspicious. Despite making a good family dog, the Himalayan Sheepdogs are not meant to be kept in small spaces because of their active lifestyle. They need exercise even if it’s a daily walk. In the winter the coat has an abundance of very thick hair, which sheds once a year, when the weather gets warmer for about a month and this is the time specially when they need to be brushed regularly.
Our celebrated sports star Sachin Tendulkar too has a Bhotia dog! Here we catch a glimpse of him chilling with his beloved Bhotia and Saint Bernard on a holiday with friends and family in Mussoorie.
THE MUDHOL HOUND:
- Height & Weight: 22-30 inches & 22-28 kg
- Life expectancy: 10-12 years
The ‘Mudhol’ or ‘Caravan Hound’ is also called ‘Karwani’. It is a common pet amongst villagers in India’s Karnataka state, who use it for hunting and guarding. The Caravan was introduced to the Deccan Plateau of western India from Central Asia and Arabia. This region covers parts of the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and, to a lesser degree, Andhra Pradesh. The breed is popular in and around ‘Mudhol’ in Karnataka, from which the breed got it’s name. The Indian Army has expressed it’s desire to use the Mudhol sight hound for surveillance and border protection duties and has also obtained six of the dogs for testing at Meerut.
The breed is above all a working hound, capable of providing an excellent performance in the field on a consistent basis, under grueling conditions that would decimate most other dogs. The breed is elegant, graceful and courageous. It’s physical strength couples with great speed and plenty of stamina to allow it to catch and kill several types of game, from hares to black bucks, over rough country. It is not an ideal breed for the apartment dweller, as it needs a great deal of space and exercise. This breed, if treated with kindness and respect, can be exceptionally loyal. They are not very friendly, and do not like to be touched by strangers. They make reasonable watch dogs as they can be very protective. They should be treated consistently and respectfully because otherwise they may develop a nervous or vicious nature, either of which are difficult to live with.
THE BULLY DOG:
- Height & Weight: 13–23 inches & 30-40 kg
- Life expectancy: 8-10 years
The ‘Bully dog’ is also popular as the ‘Alangu Mastiff’, ‘Sindhi Mastiff’ and ‘Indian Mastiff’. It is a type of large-sized working dog that originated in the Indian subcontinent, dating back to the 16th century, used for hunting and guarding. Originally bred as a watch dog and livestock guardian in the hills of ‘Kumaon’, this breed is rare even in the region of it’s origin. Their appearance has been described to be similar to the old Great Danes. The dog breed is somewhat popular in the Punjab region of India including Haryana and Delhi. It also used to be a favorite pet of the ruling families. In fact, the Mughal emperor Akbar too owned a Bully dog, which he used for hunting.
Bully dogs have been described as intelligent, alert, responsive, energetic and aggressive. A well known veterinary Dr. LN Gupta from Agra, India says that bully dogs are a dominating canine and can only be handled by well-experienced owners. The Bully dogs have been illegally used for dog fighting in India in areas such as Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida as well as Pakistan and for the first time in June 2018, did the Indian Police in Punjab file an FIR against the organizers of a dog fight.
This is an endangered breed and it has been estimated that only 150-200 individuals of the breed exist in it’s country of origin, India!
THE INDIAN SPITZ:
- Height & Weight: Generally Indian Spitzes are divided into two types: the Smaller/Lesser Indian Spitz; 8.5-10 inches in height and 5-7 kg in weight and the Bigger/Greater Indian Spitz; 14-17.5 inches in height and 12-20 kg in weight.
- Life expectancy: 10-16 years
The Indian Spitz was introduced in India by the British who began breeding them from a stock of German Spitzes. Years of breeding produced the ideal dog type which was suited to the plains of India and was capable of withstanding it’s sultry climate. These Spitzes resembled Samoyeds and German Spitzes but had less thick coats and were smaller in size, which was ideal for the conditions.
The Indian Spitz is a dog with high intelligence, great zeal, energy and enthusiasm. They are flexible to all the living conditions of India. They can also adapt pretty well in a small apartment. Their diet is also highly adaptable as they can live on milk, yogurt, rice and chicken. The breed is friendly and loyal towards the members of it’s family. They are also protective and serve as awesome watch dogs. They greet strangers with a thrilling, high-pitched bark, hence their noisiness quotient would be on the higher side. They are friendly with other pets.
Owing to their sharpness and high train-ability in learning tricks quickly, these dogs were used in the Indian circuses to a great extent during the last two decades of the 19th century. Even the famous dog ‘Tuffy’ in the Bollywood blockbuster, ‘Hum Apke Hain Kaun’ was none other than an adorable Indian Spitz!
THE PASHMI HOUND:
- Height & Weight: 24-30 inches & 22-28 kg
- Life expectancy: 10-12 years
The ‘Pashmi’ breed, also known as the old Afghan hound was brought to the Indian sub continent centuries ago by the Pathans and Rohillas. Originally from Afghanistan, they settled in our Deccan Plateau region. The village Janwal in Maharashtra is where this breed is found in big numbers. This breed is similar to the Mudhol hounds mentioned before and have been depicted in paintings of those periods of nobility, out on hunts, some of which are of very famous historical personalities like Rana Sanga, Chand Bibi and Akbar.
Their ability to exterminate foxes, along with hunting, working and guarding is a bonus for their farmer owners, thus making them popular with the tribal families, till date. The breeding has been such that no Pashmi ever attacks farm animals or children even in the heat of the chase. The tribal people feed ‘Bhakari’ (bread made from Jowar or Bajri) with milk, half-cooked or raw meat (could be anything from chicken, rats, rabbits, peacocks, ducks, lambs, snakes, etc) and boiled rice.
An Afghan hound loves the company of adults and little does it prefer to run around children. But there have been instances of Pashmis adjusting very well in families with lots of children through proper training and socializing. Especially when the puppy grows with the children of the house it develops a natural affinity towards them. But they need space and exercise, by which it’s meant to run at least 5km every day to retain a top physical form for hunting (about 2km every day to remain fit as a non-hunting pet/guard dog). Running uphill, down slopes, sprinting, jumping and agility provides them better and complete exercise as compared to running at a steady pace on flat land.
THE JONANGI DOG:
- Height & Weight: 18-22 inches & 20-39 kg
- Life expectancy: 10-14 years
The ‘Jonangi’, also known as ‘Jonangi Jagilam’ or ‘Kolleti Jagilam’ is an Indian dog breed, majorly found in the state of Andhra Pradesh and also in some parts of Karnataka and all along the east coast from West Bengal to Tamil Nadu. This Breed is known to make a yodeling sound instead of barking! The Jonangi was once commonly found around the Kolleru lake helping local duck farmers with herding their ducks. But since these farmers turned towards a much profitable aquaculture, the Jonangis that once helped them, no longer had a working function and were thus left in a semi feral state to survive for themselves. They had to then develop some unique fish hunting techniques for survival, which lead to them being considered pests by the local aqua farmers. These farmers have since been killing these dogs to an almost near extinction!
This now rare breed, is a one-man or one-family dog. It is a very agile breed with long strides, capable of covering very large distances. Jonangis are known for digging decent sized ditches in the ground and staying in there. This dog can stay in an apartment provided they are exercised everyday to stimulate their mind. A medium to large yard is ideal for this breed but don’t forget to fence it as these dogs are known to wander off!
THE TANGKHUL HUI:
- Height & Weight: 22-26 inches & 25-32 kg
- Life expectancy: 12-15 years
The ‘Tangkhul Hui’ or ‘Awang Huijao’ is a hunting dog found in the Urkhul District in the state of Manipur. It is a very rare dog breed which evolved centuries ago, perhaps with amalgamation of the Myanmar dog breeds around the Indo-Burma border. It specializes in hunting wild boars and other animals in and around the jungles. There is a folklore that believes that the dogs have evolved from an Asiatic black bear to which the dogs’ muzzles too seem to have resemblance with.
The Tangkhul Hui is a very intelligent and obedient yet fierce dog. This breed learns very quickly and is friendly to family members, but stays aloof to strangers. Tangkhul Huis are a Spitz type dog. The coat comes in short to medium length and they are moderate shedders. They are a very healthy and hardy breed, with little health problems. They can live in an apartment if sufficiently exercised or walked daily.
Even though the villages of the Urkhul district have, of late come together to save the breed, the Tangkhul Hui is in an endangered state!
THE KAIKADI DOG:
- Height & Weight: 21-25 inches & 14-20 kg
- Life expectancy: 13-14 years
The ‘Kaikadi’ belongs to the terrier dog group, named after a nomadic tribe in Maharashtra. Kaikadi is a great watchdog as a result the nomadic life they lead watching over herds, they are also adept to hunting hare and vermin.
Kaikadis shed quite a little hence don’t require a lot of grooming. A Kaikadi is a good choice if you don’t have the time, skill or money to take care of a high maintenance dog, hence recommended for beginners. They have average intelligence and obedience. Patience is needed for teaching this breed tricks and commands. They like playing but are not the most playful breed, the same way they like being around their family members, but don’t mind being left alone at times either. This breed’s emotions reflect their owner’s feelings.
Kaikadis rank as one of the best watchdogs as their job involves observing and they’re very consistent with it. The best sense of hearing and vocal cords belong to them. They’re very territorial and protective about their property, so these dogs will alert you as soon as they sense something unusual. Their wandering potential is strong enough to make them escape home to explore beyond. It is safer to walk them on a leash, unless you teach them to get back to you on command. Also because Kaikadis have a high impulse of chasing and catching, cats or any other small animals are in danger. But it’s a natural instinct, and doesn’t necessarily mean aggressiveness. Kaikadis are not apartment-friendly dogs. They are good with children, and recommended for elderly people too.
THE BAKHARWAL DOG:
- Height & Weight: 24-30 inches & 27-36 kg
- Life expectancy: 8-12 years
The ‘Bakharwal dog’ (known in English as ‘the Kashmiri Mastiff’) is also popular as the ‘Bakarwali Shepherd Dog’, ‘Kashmiri Sheepdog’ and ‘Gujjar Watchdog’ in India. The Bakharwal is a powerful, heavy bone, medium to large size dog. It is an agile and a sturdy breed, a typical mountain dog with a furry coat and plumy tail that gives it a majestic look. Legend has it that this breed was developed during the primitive times by crossing wolves with a breed of Molosser sheepdogs around 300 years ago. It looks like a medium version of the Tibetan Mastiff. It is an ancient working breed of dog found across the states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir of India, where it has been bred for many centuries by the Bakarwal and Gujjar nomadic tribes, as a livestock guardian and settlement protector. The Bakharwal is now being used by the Indian Police Service to capture militants across the country.
There are two strains of this breed, the simple Bakharwal and the ‘Ladakhi Bakharwal’. The Ladakhi Bakharwal strain has a specific unique ability of open mouth barking, which means nonstop barking without taking a breath or continuous barking in one breath for an extensive period of time.
The Bakharwal is a ferocious protector. These brave dogs are rarely intimidated even when their competitors are larger by size. They would always stand beside their masters, protecting them, their families and properties from any ‘intruders’. Needless to say, these inborn traits have made them a very successful watch and guard dog. This breed has a strong pastoral instinct, that does not make them suited for an apartment life. It is recommended, that they are brought up in houses where there is a mid-to-large sized yard, since they typically need space. They are affectionate to their family members, and would even make a strong attachment with them. These dogs are dog aggressive, not suited for families having other canines and small pets. However, they are known to be good with their family kids, and consider them as a part of their herd, protecting them with profound commitment! They are not really indoor dogs and love being outside. They are very active and often show a tendency to wander off or escape. They need to be taken out for long walks daily and provided with opportunity for some vigorous exercises involving running and playing, so they are able to release their energy. This is much needed to keep a balance between their physical and mental health.
An interesting feature about the Bakharwal breed is that, they are vegetarians! Their favorite food consists of milk and bread made from maize, abstaining completely from the consumption of meat or even fish or eggs. This trait is inherent in it’s genes as they were raised in a nomadic community as livestock guardians and had to subside to bread, milk and milk products.
Unfortunately only few dogs of this breed are left today, hence the Bakarwal community has appealed to include this animal in the endangered species category as the magnificent indigenous breed is now on the verge of extinction!
THE CHIPPIPARAI DOG:
- Height & Weight: 15-29 inches & 16-22 kg
- Life expectancy: 14-16 years
The ‘Chippiparai’ gets it’s name from the town that it was developed in which is situated in Tamil Nadu. This is the single colored version, while the dual colored are called ‘Kanni’. Primarily used for hunting wild boar, deer and hare, they were also used for guarding homes. Bred by the royal families of Tamil Nadu, they were kept as a symbol of royalty and dignity.
A unique feature of this breed would be that Chippiparais are sight hounds, and have eyes positioned in such a way, so as to give them a 270 degree scope of vision – which is much more than most other breeds! Skinny and starved though they look, most of their weight come from the muscles and bones, instead of body fat. The Chippiparai is a robust animal needing little or no veterinary care. They however do need lots of exercise, as this was and is a breed meant to hunt. The Chippiparai is an intelligent breed and a wonderful watch and guard dog for homes as well as estates, sharp and brave enough to protect the family and affectionate and loyal enough to make a great family pet. This breed is also known to make a great one-man dog, because of their ability to imprint on one human being and become a dedicated companion to him/her for the rest of their lives. Contrary to the belief that it is just a one-man dog, Chippiparais can also get along well with other people if properly socialized. A Chippiparai loves human companionship and hates being in isolation. They are capable of great speed and can overtake a hare with ease! They are easy to groom and do not shed much due to their short coat. Generally, this breed is healthy. Though sturdy enough to cope with limited means and harsh weather conditions, the breed does suffer from cold weather. They are also not good with small children and smaller pets.
This exquisite hunting dog is now close to extinction and unless responsible and ethical breeders work hard to preserve them, they will soon be another thing of beauty relegated to history books!
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Stay Dog Blessed!