Dogs, irrespective of shape, size or breed can melt most hearts in a matter of seconds. Built on love and helped along by round innocent eyes and playful nature, the relationships that humans share with these four-legged creatures is nothing short of precious. The feelings are pretty similar in India as well, with praise for a dog’s character even present in some of our oldest stories.
However, in the modern age, there is a general lack of awareness or preference for Indian dog breeds and a puzzling preference for foreign ones.
“More than bad, it is quite pathetic because people often just equate all Indian dogs under one banner of indies, or strays which is not true. And while doing so, they are also underestimating the potential and beauty of an indie dog or stray. This sadly, stems from the idea whereby dogs are bought for the show, not for love,” says Rajeev Kumar, Pune-based pet-parent and co-founder of pet startup called PetYo.
Through his organisation, Rajeev has been trying to spread more awareness about Indian breed dogs, some of which are even pedigree breeds with various potentials. He aims to educate people that in terms of capacity, our Indian breeds are no less than the foreign breeds.
And this point found prominence, recently during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly Mann ki Baat radio address on Sunday, where he encouraged Indians to adopt Indian breeds if planning for pets.
“I have been told that Indian breed dogs are very good and capable. Among the Indian breeds, Mudhol hound and Himachali hound are of excellent pedigree. Rajapalayam, Kanni, Chippiparai and Combai are also fabulous Indian breeds. They cost less to raise and are better adapted to the Indian environment and surroundings,” he said.
While this is not new information, the lack of awareness influencing the demand for these breeds had not only reduced sale or adoption of Indian breed dogs but had also hindered many breeders from continuing the legacy.
“Owing to this, even pedigree Indian dogs would be abandoned and now they are quite rare. Additionally, because of limited knowledge and less awareness, these beautiful dogs were not getting loving homes,” says Chennai-based Kamanan Yadhav, a licensed breeder who specializes in the Rajapalayam breed of dogs.
Due to neglect or poor breeding conditions because of limited demand, over the years these breeds have suffered a steep decline in their population. But, Madurai-based Krishnan Ramanan, a fourth-generation owner of Delkrisline kennels that trains Combai and Rajapalayam breeds for competitions, feels that spreading more awareness through social media and now the mention by PM Modi, can help in changing the situation.
Here’s a list of striking lesser-known swadeshi breeds you should consider next time when planning a pet.
Believed to have originated in South India, specifically Tamil Nadu, the royal Rajapalayam breed is named after the state’s Rajapalayam city of Virudhunagar district and was historically used to guard palaces and even fight wars.
Lean, muscular with a thin white coat, these dogs were often used as hound dogs and have been recorded in history for being trained to fight alongside soldiers in Polygar and Carnatic wars against the East India Company from during 1799 to 1805. Owing to this they are also known as Polygar hounds.
An ancient breed of working dogs, found throughout the Pir Panjal range in the Himalayas, was historically domesticated by Bakarwal and Gujjar nomadic tribes, as livestock guardian dogs. These days they are also trained as militant dogs for law enforcement bodies in the country.
Heavy built, strong with a fluffy coat, Bakarwal dogs are majestic and are well-suited in the colder parts of India.
Known as the Indian Mastiff, this breed of large working dogs originates from the 16th century, in the Indian subcontinent. Similar to a bulldog, this muscular breed of dogs is mostly trained in hunting and patrol, it is commonly found across Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
Historically, this is another dog that was commonly domesticated by the royals, even in Thanjavur. Some reports even mention that the Mughal emperor Akbar once had a Bully Kutta who would often accompany him during hunting trips.
Found in parts of Karnataka and Maharashtra, the Mudhol Hound is known for its elegant gait and sharp muscular appearance. Named after an erstwhile princely state Mudhon that was once a part of Bombay Presidency in British India, this dog is said to be bred by the 17th century Maratha king, Chhatrapati Shivaji, to be used in his army.
Bred from a strain of the Caravan Hound, these slender and sleek hunting dogs were reportedly presented by King Malojirao Ghorpade of Mudhol to King George V of England during his visit to the United Kingdom. It was at the time that the English King christened the dogs as the ‘Hounds of Mudhol’.
Chippiparai and Kanni
A sighthound breed, Chippiparai, or kanni (which means pure) is a breed from Tamil Nadu known for its fierce loyalty and hunting prowess. Since the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, these grey-hound lookalikes are now used as guard dogs.
Like Mudhol and Rajapalayam, these dogs were also bred by royal families of Tirunelveli and Madurai in Chippiparai, Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu.
Also known as Himachali hounds or mastiff, Gaddi Kutta dogs are large and extremely fluffy, owing to their native region being parts of the western Himalayas and parts of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Although originally bred as hunting dogs, they are now widely used by local shepherds, a South Asian tribe called the Gaddis, for protection.
This breed is heavy-built, thick fur and size equips this mastiff to not only survive extreme climate conditions but also deflect attacks from wild animals around, especially as guard dogs for livestock.
Originating in the hilly regions of Western Ghats, Combais are known for their perseverance and loyalty. Although lack of awareness and demand for domestication has pushed it to the brink of extinction like Rajapalayam and other rare breeds, Combai dogs are extremely intelligent, sharp and powerful.
Excellent as guard dogs, this breed of tan-coloured dogs is known to be energetic, fierce and equally friendly. Like other rare breeds in the region, they were also historically used for boar hunting and guarding needs. Recently, the CRPF recruited Combai dogs for their Dog Breeding and Training School.
Fierce and powerful, this dog breed from Uttarakhand is considered to be one of India’s most prized home guardians. Originally known to guard and protect livestock of villagers in the hilly areas of Kumaon, this breed is also at the verge of extinction, and that only a few hundred of them continue to exist today.
Muscular with a short and soft coat and a thick neck, Kumaon Mastiffs’ appearance is quite similar to that of old Great Danes.
A rare short-fur breed of dogs that originated in Himachal Pradesh, Vikhan dogs are usually bred to guard livestock. Known to be fearless and courageous they are extremely fast and are said to run as fast as leopards.
Owing to their luxuriant coats, these dogs are also compared to the breed of Giant Rough Collies from Scotland.
Another ancient hunting dog found in Andhra Pradesh, this breed originated in the Pattikonda taluk of the Kurnool district. A medium-sized hound well-suited to harsh climate conditions, this breed was commonly domesticated by shepherd families as a guard dog.
Known for their protective instincts and intelligence, Pandikona dogs are extremely courageous and friendly all at the same time, making them one of the best options for watchdogs.
While most of these breeds are dwindling in numbers, ethical breeders and conservationists like Krishnan Ramanan are making efforts to revive them.
“For us this is not a business, it is our passion. We love dogs and hate to see these breeds being denied happy homes or human companions because of lack of awareness. But things have started to change since 2015, especially in South India, owing to the debate that roused around the Jallikattu controversy. More dog lovers are now looking to adopt or buy native breeds and are willing to educate themselves more. It is a dream for people like us who have dedicated their lives to the conservation of these breeds,” says Ramanan.
Featured image credits: iah_jazzi
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)