While hiking through Peru I had been struck by the sheer number of seemingly wild dog packs that roamed the streets. They appeared healthy, well fed and not feral. I learned that many of these dogs had actual homes – but they were allowed to roam free during the day in packs, checking out their territories.*
While I was not surprised that India too had many roaming dogs I was struck at how almost all appeared to be of the same breed. After a bit of research I learned that most of these dogs can be traced back to one of the most primitive and ancient breeds of dog known . These dogs have existed for more than 15,000 years and share a genetic likeness to other primitive breeds such as the Australian Dingo and the African Basenji. Some scientists believe that the breed is descended from Chinese dogs that were domesticated and brought to India.
The name of this ancient breed is “INDog.” It is also considered to be a “Pariah Dog,” which in ecological terms refers to any free-ranging dogs that occupy an area based on waste from human habitation. This is what the pure bred INDog looks like, from the internet:
The breed is known to be very smart, and energetic. They adjust well to the tropical climate of India that ranges from sweltering wet summer months and cold winter months. Although the breed is thought to be fairly healthy, the street INDogs are often lice and mange-ridden (which may be due to lack of human care, given the economic stresses of many) and some have been known to be rabid. Keep your distance – as you should from any animal when you are traveling. I may desperately want to pet a puppy or a goat – but no, no, no.
Most of the dogs we came upon seemed happy and sprightly. Some took it upon themselves to trot along with the train as it brought us from the pier to the steps that led to the caves at Elephanta Island,
Others took the more sedentary route:
Others lounged around like any other dog:
Typically, the puppies were more interested in playing:
Who’s a “good boy?”
*N.B. I have read recently that the dog packs in Peru have reached dangerous levels due to overpopulation and many dogs are now hungry and sick – however there are a number of projects underway to alleviate the situation – I surely hope so.