The history of Indian dogs spread across 30,000 years of human civilisation. We can’t capture their origin in depth. If you want to know more about Indian dogs, we urge you to read ‘The Book of Indian Dogs‘ (2017) by S. Theodore Baskaran.
In ancient India, Indian dog breeds were prized for their strength and loyalty and were exported to Rome, Egypt, and Babylon to work as guard dogs.
Their origin is not certain, but historians believe the Indian wolf is the Indian dog’s ancestor. The significant difference between the two is that our Indian breeds can understand human emotions, whereas the wolf cannot.
Indian tribes developed most indigenous Indian breeds. For instance, the Banjara tribe developed the Banjara Caravan, which is well versed in hunting and guarding.
As royal as our dogs may seem, by the onset of British colonisation, Indian royal families started choosing western breeds over native dogs. Naturally, our Indian breeds were pushed lower in the hierarchical status. This is especially true for South Indian Dog breeds.
Indian dogs were classified as working dogs who found shelter among Indian farmers and hunters. They never gained a family dog status and were kept outside with livestock. Hence, the decline of Indian breeds was not because of natural causes but because of our indifference towards them.
There wasn’t a lot of representation of Indian dogs in Indian sculpture, literature and oral stories. They weren’t as prised as elephants, horses, and cows. There are very few holy rituals that celebrate dogs.
Though with limited representations, Indian dogs were believed to be loyal and faithful. Kalbhairava, Lord Shiva’s reincarnation, mounted a dog (Shvan). In his idol, he is shown to carry fewer weapons because Shvan’s barring teeth was enough to ward off enemies.