India Today - - LEISURE - —Ila Bose

‘Indige­nous’ ca­nines have a long his­tory in this coun­try, and have been revered in mythol­ogy as the guardians of both heaven and hell. To­day, how­ever, the life they live is, sadly, one for the dogs

Afew years ago, au­thor, film his­to­rian and wildlife conservationist S. Theodore Baskaran set out on a jour­ney to un­earth the story of In­dian ca­nines. Dogs have a long his­tory in our mythol­ogy; epics re­fer to them as both crea­tures of wor­ship and sym­bols of suf­fer­ing, as guardians of the gates to heaven and the en­trance to hell. There are de­pic­tions of dogs in Ajanta paint­ings, and nu­mer­ous ref­er­ences to them in Vedic verses. But ac­cord­ing to Baskaran, the 25 indige­nous breeds that were once cher­ished by the peo­ple of this land are rapidly dis­ap­pear­ing. While re­search­ing The Book of In­dian

Dogs—slated to hit the shelves this month—Bhaskaran dis­cov­ered that th­ese breeds are as strik­ing in char­ac­ter as any that were pop­u­larised by the West, such as the Afghan Hound or the Ti­betan Mas­tiff. Some, like the Jo­nangi breed from the Kolleru re­gion of Andhra Pradesh, were used widely for herd­ing ducks, while the

Ram­pur Hound, known for speed, en­durance and courage, was used while hunt­ing tigers, leop­ards and jack­als. There were many oth­ers, with equally proud pedi­grees, but the be­gin­ning of the end for them came with the ar­rival of the Bri­tish in the 17th cen­tury. As the Bri­tish colonised In­dia, they brought with them nu­mer­ous breeds to aid a favourite pas­time—hunt­ing for plea­sure. The In­dian dog was grad­u­ally re­placed by its for­eign coun­ter­part.

There has, how­ever, been a re­cent push to change that. The gov­ern­ment of Kar­nataka has al­lo­cated land specif­i­cally for the breed­ing of indige­nous dogs, and or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Eth­nic Ca­nine So­ci­ety and the So­ci­ety for In­dian Breeds are work­ing to pre­serve our her­itage. Be­ing nat­u­rally suited to the In­dian cli­mate, one would think the In­dian dog would be a pop­u­lar choice. Sadly, indige­nous breeds are adopted mostly as guard dogs, and rarely as beloved pets.

“Epics de­pict dogs as both crea­tures of wor­ship and sym­bols of suf­fer­ing”

Ram­pur Hound Also known as the Ram­pur Grey­hound, it is known for its speed and en­durance

Bully-Kutta Orig­i­nated in west­ern Pun­jab; known for its strength and courage

Mud­hol Hound Also known as the Car­a­van Hound, it is com­mon in Dec­can In­dia

The Book of In­dian Dogs By S. Theodore Baskaran Aleph Book Com­pany 148 pages Rs 350

Hi­malayan Sheep­dog Also known as Bhote Kukur; used to guard live­stock

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