Dogs are amazing! Big or small, guarding or companions, they all have one thing in common – they selflessly and devotedly show us love and affection. While many settles for western breeds there are gems here in India who get unnoticed. Of course, all dog breeds in India are precious, and we want to discuss how amazing Indian dog breeds are.
In this article, we will look at the general characteristics of Indian dog breeds, their brief history, different Indian breeds, and why it is vital to protect them.
About Indian Dog Breeds
Though we have a few companion breeds, Indian dog breeds are, in many regards, the quintessential guard dogs. Unlike Pugs and Chihuahuas, their genes aren’t tampered with as such. This is why Indian breeds are often tall, usually lanky, characterised with a dome-shaped head, broad chest, and have a unique eye position.
Their built allows them to run long distances, chase intruders and fight. They are also sturdy dogs, and since we bred them in the Indian temperatures, they thrive the various regions of India they were bred in. They don’t fall sick as often as foreign breeds.
Nature wise, Indian dogs are not the ones to take abuse. If you hit them, they will bite back – a defense mechanism that helps protect them from unlicensed breeders and animal abusers. On the other hand, if you take time with them, socialise, train, and treat them with love and respect, they will put their lives in danger for you.
Their personalities make them majestic animals to set foot in our country. Unfortunately, because of westernisation, few of us know anything about Indian breeds. Have you ever seen a pet parent with a pure Indian dog breed? Probably not. Or maybe you have seen them a handful of times – nowhere near as much as you have witnessed Labradors and Golden Retrievers.
Why Are Indian Dog Breeds Perfect For Indian Climate?
India has a range of climatic conditions. From the freezing winters and cool summers in the Himalayas to the hot and humid southern regions – we have it all! Each part of our country has at least one native dog breed.
North Indian dog breeds comprise of the Tibetan Mastiff, Indian Mastiff, Bakharwal, etc. These dogs are massive when compared to other Indian breeds. They have a thick double, sometimes triple-layer, coat and are great herding dogs. Since there was minimal tampering in their genes, they don’t handle hot temperatures very well.
Indian companion dog breeds also belong to the north. The Tibetan Terrier, Tibetan Spaniel, and Lhasa Apso are to name a few.
On the other hand, South Indian Dog Breeds are made for the hot and humid temperatures. The Rajapalayam, Mudhol Hound, Kanni, etc. are native to the south. They are lanky and have short, sometimes sparse, fur. Since they have very little fat in their body, they can thrive in the heat but do not handle the cold well.
If we keep a pure Indian breed from our respected region, we will notice our dogs fall sick less often. Since we developed them in India, seasonal problems are out of the question. More importantly, Indian dogs weren’t bred for looks; instead, they were bred to hunt and guard. Hence, they are sturdy dogs, less likely to have respiratory problems, allergies, and infections.
The History of Native Indian Dog Breeds
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.
Maharaj Chatrapati Shivaji’s love for his Indian dogs remains quite popular as well. He loves them for their faithfulness. His dogs mourned his death on his funeral pyre and died soon after. Statues of his dogs are positioned near his Maharaj Shivaji’s Memorial. No one knows the exact breed, but many argue that it may be the Royal Mudhol hound.
The Rajapalayam was known to fight by our side during the Carnatic and Polygar wars but never gained any popularity.
Our north Indian breeds did gain some popularity in the west. They could handle cold temperatures, so many British officials took them back to the direction and used them to create new breeds. The Tibetan Terriers and Tibetan Mastiffs are popular breeds because Western travelers popularised them.
Sadly there were more than 50 Indian breeds, but because of neglect, many of them are extinct. Indian dog breeds are a symbol of pride and valour. Let us all learn about the most amazing Indian dog breeds present today!
Top 12 Indian Dog Breeds
All Indian dogs are amazing, but if we were to pick 12 Indian dog breeds, we would pick the following. All the below breeds have their merits and considerations. From the least to the most, here is a list of the 12th most to the most amazing Indian dog breeds.
12. Indian Spitz
The Indian Spitz is very similar to the German Spitz. During the 1960s and 70s, it was tough to import foreign dogs to India. So, the German Spitz was bred in India to the extent that their bloodlines diluted and they formed a separate breed.
The Indian Spitz was recognised as a breed by the IKC in the 1970s. Naturally, they are similar to the German Spitz, but their differences lie in their height and their behaviour.
- They are bigger than the German Spitz and thrive in both warm and cold temperatures
- Unlike the German Spitz, the Indian Spitz is affectionate towards children
- They are also wary of strangers and therefore make lovely tiny guarding dogs
- They are relatively sturdy that can live very long
11. Banjara Dog
The Banjara dog, also known as the Vanjari hound, was first created by the Banjara tribe. Native to the harsh Rajasthani summers these dogs are incredibly sturdy.
Since they lived with a nomadic tribe, they can guard livestock and stay on their feet for long hours every day.
Currently, the Vanjari hound faces extinction because with hunting being banned, these dogs don’t have a lot of use. With the Banjara tribe slowly reducing in numbers so are their dogs.
Earlier, the tribe was protective of their dogs and didn’t allow outsiders to take the Vanjari hound. Now, this breed is at risk of having their bloodline diluted and lost.
- Tall dogs, with a stocky build; not as lean as the Mudhol hound and not as bulky as the Rottweiler
- Have a slightly thicker tail and small ears that droop from the tip, much like the Doberman
- It’s an ancient breed with many stories that depict its’ loyalty and intelligence
- These dogs are said to have to speed of a Greyhound and the stamina of a Collie
The Jonangi is a beautiful dog from Andhra Pradesh. They have long ears that stand erect on either side of their dom shaped head. Jonangis have a broad face, muscular built and hair so short that you can see their pinkish skin.
Once, this breed was prevalent in the west coastal region in India. From Tamil Nadu to Maharashtra, the Jonangi was easy to spot. Many farmers kept them to herd ducks and livestock. But now, because of our preference for western dogs, the Jonangi is almost extinct.
- Muscular dogs with males weighing up to 55 kilos
- Since they are working dogs, they need a lot of exercise and training
- As a one-person or one-family dog, they are wary of strangers and can attack if provoked
- The Jonangi’s have very little tolerance to cold temperatures. Their bodies are all muscle with low-fat storage
9. Tibetan Mastiff (Himalayan Mastiff)
The Tibetan Mastiff, or the Himalayan Mastiff, is popularly known when compared to the other Indian breeds on this list. They are one of the few Indian breeds to be registered by the AKC. Native to the Himalayan region and often kept as pets in the central north region namely Punjab.
The Tibetan Mastiff needs timely upkeep both in terms of maintenance and training. They have double layer coats that must be brushed frequently and, as intelligent, powerful dogs, they require training and adequate space to run and play.
- Big and robust – they can weigh as much as 74 kg
- Their coat protects them from the winter, and since they aren’t exposed to the summer as other south Indian breeds, they have little tolerance to hot temperatures
- These ancient Mastiffs may have led to the creation of the English Mastiff, Boxer, and the Saint Bernard and plays a significant role in creating Molosser breeds
- They come in two varieties – the short and long coat Mastiffs; both are double layered and ideal for the winters
8. Chippiparai (Kanni)
We often confuse the Kanni and the Chippiparai as two separate breeds, but they are the same. In most cases, handlers refer to two – colour coated dogs as Chippiparai and single coloured coated dogs of the same breed as Kanni.
These are bony dogs with short fur and thin skin. Their skin is so thin that you can see their veins on their droopy ears and wrinkles around their neck and buttocks. Don’t be fooled by their delicate look because these dogs are warriors. Their structure allows them to thrive in the hottest villages in India where they protect their families and ward off intruders.
- Sighthound; it relies mainly on its sense of vision to ward away intruders and hunt prey
- Native to Tamil Nadu and are now on the verge of extinction
- Since these dogs have a lot of energy, they don’t do too well in confined spaces
- They require minimal grooming but, they do need to be exercised for a few hours every day
- They are older breeds and therefore have some primitive instincts – they are aggressive around kids and other animals; proper training is a must
The Bakharwal dog is an ancient breed originating from the Jammu and Kashmir region. It was initially bred by the Bakharwal tribe to herd sheep. Hence this dog is intelligent and agile. Sources state that the Bakharwal dog is a vegetarian dog which is astonishing because it is known for its’ strength and agility.
Visually, since they share the same bloodline as the Tibetan Mastiff, they have a few things in common. To start with, they are sturdy dogs with a short double coat. Their tail is curled and bushy. They have a slightly wrinkled molossel face like the Mastiff, but their snout is broad and less wrinkled much like a Rottweiler’s muzzle.
The Bakharwal currently faces extinction, and one of the main reason for this is because they take longer to procreate. A female Bakharwal usually liters once a year with 2 – 4 puppies at a time.
- Don’t be fooled by their vegetarian appetite; the Baharwal dog is swift and protective of their family
- They don’t like harsh summers
- As active dogs, they need daily exercise and work best if they have a job around the house
- Socialisation and training from an early age is a must if you want a well behaved adult Bakharwal dog
6. Rampur Hound
The Rampur hound is calmer than other Indian hound dog breeds. It’s native to the Rampur region in the north, which is why it has short but dense hair. It’s a large hound at 15 – 25 inches. They are lanky but have a lot of muscles.
They look very similar to south Indian hound breeds; the difference lies mainly in their face and their fur. The Rampur hound has a long and narrow snout and short but dense hair. They are just as skinny as south Indian dog breeds, but because for the fur around their tail, their bony structure remains hidden.
- Fastest sighthounds in India
- Affectionate towards their family but take command from only one adult
- Their coat requires minimal maintenance, and they don’t fall sick as often
- Can thrive in hot and cold temperature; they don’t enjoy harsh winters
- Like any other hounds, Rampurs also have a lot of energy and need to be exercised every day.
5. Indian Mastiff (Kumaon Mastiff/Bully Kutta)
According to S. Theodore Baskaran, the Alangu is an extinct Indian dog breed. They were responsible for creating the modern Indian Mastiff and therefore the Indian Mastiff we see today is often called the Alangu in local regions.
Indian Mastiff, popularly known as the bully kutta is found abundantly in the northern and central northern India as well as Pakistan. They look and behave like the Pit Bull. Bull Terriers were used to make the Bully Kutta, so, even if Bully Kuttas are not classified as terriers, they do exhibit terrier-like characteristics.
Their sheer strength and temperament have unfortunately given the handsome Bully Kutta a lousy rep all across the northern region. They are often used in dog fights and abused by their handlers. If you plan to keep them as pets, remember they do make excellent pets, but training and socialisation is a must. Since they are moody dogs, they need a firm handler who is experienced with dogs.
- They are known for their muscular physique, and strength
- Though Bullies are generally believed to be aggressive, recent studies have shown they have varied personalities; some are even scared of squeaky toys
- Nevertheless, expert handlers proper training and socialisation can turn them into versatile dogs
- These are ancient breeds with visible depictions on the walls of the Darasum Mandir
4. Gaddi Kutta (Himalayan Sheep Dog)
The Gaddi Kutta or the Himalayan Sheep Dog looks very similar to the Tibetan Mastiff, partly because, they share the same bloodline. The Tibetan Mastiff gave birth to so many new breeds, and the Gaddi Kutta was one of them.
The difference between the Himalayan Sheep Dog and the Tibetan Mastiff lies mostly in their face and their temperament. The Gaddi is slimmer and has a less wrinkled look. They do however have a thick coat making them ideal for the winter.
- These dogs can show aggression when they aren’t trained regularly
- As strong and independent dogs they need a firm and dedicated handler
- They may be the most massive Indian breed with males weighing as much as 105 Kgs
- Since they have a short coat, they are reasonably easy to manage
The Kombai (also spelled as ‘Combai’) is native to Tamil Nadu. Since it is not a hound, it looks strikingly different from other Indian sighthounds. It has a box-like body, not as skinny as hounds but leaning towards the thinner side.
This muscular dog usually comes in a reddish-brown colour and is identified by their brown muzzles. These dogs are very sturdy and intelligent. They have a high tolerance for pain and can differentiate between family and intruders. Nevertheless, early training is a must with Kombais.
- They were initially bred to guard, which is why they don’t attack as readily as a Rajapalayam. However, if provoked repeatedly, they can attack to kill
- Just like the Gaddi Kutta, they also have terrier blood in their genes which is why they may sometimes be difficult to train
- These dogs are prone to skin allergies and yeast infections
- If raised well, they grow up as affectionate, loving dogs towards their owners
2. Mudhol Hound (Caravan Hound)
The Mudhol hound recently raised our heads with pride when it was trained and inducted into the Indian Army in 2017. They were gifted to our armed forces by the Karnataka state government as an attempt to raise awareness about these lovely Indian breeds.
They are registered in the Indian Kennel Club (IKC) and Indian National Kennel Club (INKC) as the ‘Caravan Hound.’ Unfortunately, Mudhol Hounds don’t have a separate breed identity by the AKC because the concept of ‘sighthounds’ is not understood by Anglo speaking nations.
- Believed to have the same bloodline as the Saluki and Tazi which is why they sometimes have dense fur around their ears
- As sighthounds, they mostly rely on their vision to hunt and guard
- Their eyes have a unique position on their face, allowing them to have a 270-degree view of their immediate surroundings
They require very little maintenance like most short-haired Indian dog breeds
Finally, the most popular Indian dog breed is the Rajapalayam. They are ancient majestic dogs native to a place called Rajapalayam in Tamil Nadu. These dogs are said to have many historical depictions.
They are believed to be an ancestral parent to the modern-day Dalmatian, and resources believe they were mentioned in the Bible as well. These dogs are indeed India’s Rajas!
Though the Raja has a keen sense of smell, they are classified as sighthound breeds.
- Unfortunately, the Rajapalayam also face extinction
- To keep their breed alive many locals have over bred the Rajapalayam leading to genetic defects like deafness and ear problems
- Being ancient breeds, the Raja’s are harder to tame. If they live with a good handler, they grow up into versatile dogs who guard their family with their life
- They are usually not the ones to show affection like a pug or a Golden Retriever would, but they show their loyalty to their humans by protecting them from danger
Why Should You Protect Indian Dog Breeds?
As a dog lover, you may be wondering why differentiate between dogs aren’t they all the same? You’re right, all dogs are the same, and it is our responsibility to preserve what is inherently ours.
Indian dog breeds are India’s pride. We have some of the most sturdy purebred dogs who need little maintenance and can live exceptionally long lives if kept well. Not only that, our dogs are loyal and loving towards their handles.
Unfortunately, because of westernisation, most of our breeds are not even recognised by the IKC, let alone the AKC. The condition is so grievous that most Indians know very little about Indian dog breeds. There is little information available about Indian purebred dogs, and so far, we have made small efforts to conserve Indian breeds.
Most purebred Indian dogs are labeled as aggressive but to be quite honest; there is very little information available for us to understand their aggression. When breeds like Rottweilers and German Shepherds are kept despite their aggressive tendencies, why can’t we support our breeds?
The Karnataka government gifted the Mudhol hound to the Indian Army. But it seems like similar initiatives need to be taken to keep all our breeds alive.
Lastly, attaining a breed status is very important to conserve Indian dogs. As stated in an article published in Scroll that if an International Kennel club identifies a breed, it plays a significant role in funding for their conservation.
In India, before we can even give our breeds an identity, they are dying out. Our lack of interest in Indian dog breeds is the main reasons why we don’t think twice before diluting their bloodlines.
How Can We Protect Indian Dog Breeds
There are many ways to protect our very own Indian dog breeds. Here are to name a few:
- Media Coverage – If you influence media as an advertiser, producer, filmmaker, or just someone who uses social media, talk about Indian dog breeds. Represent Indian breeds in movies and advertisements and spread awareness among your friends. If you can’t create content on Indian dog breeds, support content that talks about them.
- Funds and Campaigns – We know it isn’t possible to shell out large sums of money for conservation projects. It is possible to donate time. If there is an awareness campaign for Indian dog breeds, take part in them, show your support. Or best, offer to set up a campaign to spread awareness about Indian dog breeds.
- Keep one – But of course, there is nothing better than keeping one. India has a range of guard dogs and companion dog breeds (like the Indian Spitz and the Tibetan Spaniel). If you plan to get a dog, we suggest you look into Indian breeds first. Keeping an Indian breed will make a lot of difference.
- Spread Awareness – Anytime you talk about dogs and breeds, be that friend who tells everyone about an Indian breed, no one knew about. We cannot save a breed if we don’t know it exists in the first place. We are all in this together, and our words have a lot of value.
We hope you learned something new about the mighty Indian breeds. While we search for gems from different parts of the world, we forget that some jewels are right among us. If we don’t save them who will?
Which Indian dog breed is your favorite? Let us know in the comment section. We are always eager to continue the discussion with you.
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