The Universal Dog - Part 1
World-traveled dog show judge says the dog is the number one animal in service to mankind, global photos show amazing uniformity of canine type, size, structure.
People who have not traveled and/or read widely often have limited understanding about politics and how dogs are perceived in each country or how they are related to ethnic and other features of foreign lands. Since I have judged and lectured in over 30 countries that have a wide range of “dogginess,” I think I have an accurate view to share with you.
Let me first generalize by saying that there are three universal attitudes in the world toward dogs. One is familiar to TheDogPlace.org readers: the European-North American environment where dog ownership is not only widespread but where the dog is considered a family member or sports companion. Include Australia as well, since those folks are almost like geographically-displaced Europeans.
We once had neighbors who had a crib with dolls and such trappings for their pet dog. He explained that many natives of his home state of Hawaii idolize dogs to the same extent. The idea is that dogs in such parts of the world are often considered utilitarian, almost partners, not just companions. If they do not control vermin, sound alarm, keep the children warm, help hunt or guard food, protect flocks and other property, scavenge and clean-up garbage, etc., dogs are likely driven off or even eaten. I have seen this in innumerable places in the world, not only Polynesia. The street dog (pariah, universal-dog) is the same as almost everywhere in the world.
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In northern North America, the wolf influence is strong in the Husky, Malamute, and other Eskimo or “northern” breeds. Canada has the same dogs as found in the USA, but fewer because it’s not as populated a country. However, I saw a few breeds when I handled dogs there that did not appear in the US until many years later, such as the Toller, the Lakenois, etc.
The American Indian camp dog is represented by too-wide a spectrum of type because it has come down from introduced European breeds (various mongrels, mostly) plus some Northern Wolf. Moving further south in North America, the “average” street dog in non-border Mexico is similar to the “universal dog” seen in many continents.
Moving further down the continent, Mexico has pockets of different breeds and in South America there is Peruvian Inca Orchid in the old Inca region, the Fila in Brazil, the Argentine Dogo, etc.
After America, Australia, and Europe, the second large “group” of people with relationships to dogs covers most of Asia and South America. Yes, there are many who relate to dogs in the same way as do those in the first group, but there are far more who don’t keep them as pets. In such lands, we find huge numbers of feral dogs, a result of both tradition and poverty. These feral dogs eventually interbreed so much that the result is a crossbreed canine that looks very much the same regardless of where they develop.
I have a large collection of pictures depicting canine type all over the world, which I grouped together under the title “Universal Dog”. I have dubbed them as such because I have seen this “breed” all over South America, South Carolina (The Carolina Dog), the Fertile Crescent (Canaan Dog variety), India-Pakistan, Malaysia-Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines, and the Caribbean. Sometimes they look like they could have come from the same litter!
In that large doggie dispersion, attitudes toward dogs are molded mostly by economics and religion. First, consider the economic influence. Poverty means that street dogs get the very worst offal after humans have eaten. In some cases, this may help keep vermin populations and keep garbage-buildup somewhat modulated. However, in such poor regions, it is still possible for feral-dog populations to become problematic.
If the general economy improves a bit without a corresponding change in attitudes toward (and control of) canines, numbers can mushroom.
The Muslim world’s attitudes toward dogs is gravely misunderstood by most people who do not interact with them. There are several sects of Islam, most of whom are very antagonistic toward each other. Of those around the world identifying as Muslim, most are of the Sunni sect, although sometimes their political government might be Shi’ite-dominated. Those of the Sufi, Baha’i, Ahmadiyya, and possibly`Alawi groups are much smaller.
In each of these branches or sects of Islam, we find a wide spectrum both of “depth of religiosity” and of attitudes toward dogs, these two being often but not always related. The stricter the interpretation of Islam, the worse off are the lots of dogs and dog owners, such as in the lands around the Fertile Crescent.
Sometimes it seems that the more affluent the country with high Muslim population is, the better off dogs are—England, for example. But that is not the case with wealthy countries such as Qatar, Bahrain, UAR, or even less-well-off ones such as Egypt and Indonesia, where there is not that correlation. I have seen the situation in many such countries, as a dog show judge. We must not paint every person of a given nationality or ethnicity with the same brush. In most countries where Islam is dominant, there are various degrees of freedom and tolerance, as well as adherence to traditional attitudes toward dogs.
A UCLA study tells us that wolves originated in the Middle East but there are ancient breeds that were once geographically isolated and therefore genetically divergent. Examples include the African Basenji and Saluki, the Afghan hound, New Guinea singing dog, Australian dingo, China’s Chow Chow and Shar Pei, the Japanese Akita and its smaller cousin the Shiba, and North America’s Alaskan malamute, Samoyed, and Siberian husky.
But on a universal scale one might easily surmise the domestic canine is a species unto itself. Why? Because only the dog will lay down its life to protect and be with the human species.
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