Canaan dogs and desert pariahs

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Canaan dogs versus desert dogs

Posted by duncanschroeter on March 1, 2013 at 1:55 AM

There is much evidence that dogs with the appearance of todays “desert dogs” as well as sight-hounds have lived in the middle-east and North Africa for thousands of years. This makes them one of the oldest dog types in the world. One of the differences between wolves and dogs is dogs preference for scavenging from mans’ leftovers rather than hunting as do other truly wild canine including wolves. Indeed it may be that this difference was a major factor in initial domestication of today’s sub-species we call dogs.

 

Canaan dogs were established as a registered breed by the work of Dr. Menzel who selected out certain desert dogs, with characteristics she fancied, from populations in areas she could access. This is the time honored method that has led to the many breeds we have today and indeed cross breeding to create new breeds continues today. The description of Canaan dogs used by most kennel clubs today is based on Dr. Menzel's work though not are all identical and some modifications have been controversial. Observations by any individual or group of individuals may by nature be biased from a purely scientific point of view. This may be true of black and tan coloured Canaan dogs – is it truly an indication of impurity or is it simply uncommon in the original desert stock. Perhaps it does not matter since any pure breed by definition is also bent to conform to mans’ desires.

Among the many breeds many non-pedigree dogs are referred to loosely, based on appearance, as a particular breed. For example we would not mistake a fox terrier with no pedigree as a German shepherd. Recently there has been some move towards taking into account the negative effects that excessive breeding for certain characteristics has had on the health of some dogs. These may include breathing problems in dog breeds with short snouts or the crippling effect seen in some German shepherds.

As an increased awareness of the Canaan breed builds among dog lovers, in countries where dog shows have not been of much importance, so more Canaan like desert dogs are being recognized. They are seen from Yemen throughout the Arabian peninsular to Jordan and possibly Afghanistan. These desert dogs of the Bedouin are the stock registered Canaan dogs have been drawn from.

Genetic testing to differentiate or identify an unknown dogs’ breed makeup is offered commercially but sometimes leads to glaring mistakes. Much work is still needed in this area. In humans we may be able to distinguish various racial trends and confirm parentage but could not determine a random individual’s family name. So it is with dogs.

While they may not be easily registered in any kennel club, if at all, we should not see these dogs as in anyway inferior to those drawn from a relatively small group and as with the examples above. I see no reason not to refer to them as unregistered Canaan dogs. They are after all the very basis of this important breed and dogs to be proud of.

 

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