‘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