Bali’s Very Special Dog – Perhaps the oldest dog breed on Earth: Barry’s Gleanings

“Bali’s Very Special Dog” by Ibu Kat

“Visitors to Bali often comment on the many dogs roaming the streets and guarding the gates to family compounds. Because of the wide variation in colouring they are often mistaken for mutts or mongrels, but in fact the Bali Dog is a distinct breed. Researchers at the University of California Davis believe that the Bali Dog, with its unique and valuable gene pool may be the oldest dog on earth.

The Bali Dog - comes in many colors.  It may be the oldest breed on Earth

The Bali Dog – comes in many colors. It may be the oldest breed on Earth

Between 2000 and 2003, Dr. Niels Pederson from the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at University fo California Davis led a team that tested the DNA of 3,500 indigenous dogs from all over Bali. Bali has two unique indigenous dogs, the Bali Dog and the highland Kintamani which have been living on the island virtually unaltered for at least 5,000 years. Genetic research shows that the ancestry of the Bali Dog can be traced back about 15,000 years.

According to Dr. Pederson, Bali’s dogs are the richest pool of genetic diversity of all the dogs on the world. ‘The true pure canine breed is the indigenous Bali Dog,’ said Dr. Pedersen. ‘Its lineage goes all the way back to the first proto-dogs that evolved from the wolves. Their genes are highly valuable for further research, as they are a window on the ancestral dog.’

A Bali Dog walks along the rice fields

A Bali Dog walks along the rice fields

Although expats and tourists become emotional about vanishing species such as the orangutan, Bali Starling, Java rhino and the many other creatures which are rapidly disappearing across Indonesia, the ubiquitous Bali Dog remains invisible to conservationists. There seem to be so many of them – too many, some say. Yet this precious and unique pool of DNA is quickly becoming contaminated by the introduction of imported dogs.

Because the Bali Dog is not yet a formally recognized breed, it is not being bred for purity. After thousands of years of uncontaminated DNA, the Bali Dog is now under threat from casual inbreeding with imported dogs. The so-called “breed dogs” are a status symbol here, but many are products of uncontrolled puppy mills where extreme inbreeding is the norm. Casual interbreeding with imported dogs introduces their weaker genes. The Bali Dog is so genetically diverse, it presents many different ear and tail types as well as colours.

A Bali Dog - at Kitty Villa

A Bali Dog (brown with a black muzzle and face) –  safe at Villa Kitty near Ubud, Bali

[Villa Kitty, a rescue and adoption site especially for cats and kittens, is run by the fabulous Elizabeth and her caring staff.  They rescue dogs too.

Every Sunday, Villa Kitty offers a great meal as a fundraiser to anyone interested in visiting the facility near Ubud.  <>]

The Bali Dog may be black or white, or white with black or brown spots or patches of various sizes. There’s a wide variety of beautiful brindles including grey and black, solid brown with caramel and black stripes, and the more common sandy brown variety with black stripes. The most unusual colours for a Bali Dog are pure golden and grey. Also rare and highly sought after for ceremonial sacrifice is the un-neutered male pure brown variety with a black muzzle and face. [Yikes, I don’t know if this is still happening. I hope not!]. Genetic testing proves that regardless of the wide range of colour and markings, all these dogs shared the same pure DNA pool.

Bali Dogs make wonderful pets. Once the owner has won its trust, it can be highly trained. This is naturally a very clean dog and many owners claim that it seems to house train itself from an early age.   The breed is extremely adaptable to many situations and climates, even growing a thicker coat when moved to colder parts of the world. Its wide genetic diversity makes it immune to the diseases and genetic disorders typical of selectively bred dogs. If well looked after, the breed can live over 16 years. There are stories of Bali Dogs traveling many miles across country to return to their original homes.

A Bali Dog

A Bali Dog

Although they like to run in packs and make a lot of noise, the breed is seldom aggressive and bites are rare if the dog is not provoked. They hate to be confined and can easily clear walls of over three meters [almost 10 feet] high, from the tops of which they also like to survey their territory. They’re commonly known as ‘street dogs’ because of their love of running free and socializing with each other, and although they many seem feral almost all Bali Dogs are in fact owned. They’re commonly seen hanging out in the doorways of their home compounds, alert to intruders. These dogs are smart and funny and often have huge personalities. They are great guard dogs, their distinctive barks alerting their owners to different kinds of intruders (‘Snake!’ ‘Stranger!’ ‘Evil Spirits!’).

Before plastic arrived in Bali, these dogs played an important part in the ecosystem by consuming the organic waste. Enthusiastic ratters, they also had a strong role in managing the rodent population on the island. When the government started culling dogs after the 2008 rabies outbreak, the rice harvest in some areas where the dogs had been eliminated was destroyed by the uncontrolled rat population. Bali Dogs also keep snakes and other unwelcome wildlife away from the house.

Because of the heat and huminity xx, many of the Bali dogs suffer with skin problems.

Because of the heat and humidity, some of the Bali dogs suffer with skin problems – even if they are owned.  This Bali Dog got all of Chris’s and Barry’s leftover rib bones.  That didn’t help his skin, but he started looking for us 🙂

So if you’re in the market for a dog, why not choose the breed with the oldest and strongest genetic heritage, best adapted to the local climate, a terrific guard dog and a smart, funny companion – the Bali Dog.

A wonderful companion - the Bali Dog

A wonderful companion – the Bali Dog

To adopt a Bali Dog or if you see an injured dog on the street, call BAWA at 081 1389004 or BARC at 0361 975 038. [These organizations are doing wonderful work in educating people and in rescuing dogs].  Remember that these are charities, so please make a donation when you take a rescued dog in for care.”

Written by Ibu Kat in UbudLife No. 21 Dec. – Feb. 2015, p. 68-69.

Aloha & Sanpai jumpa, Renée


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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

21 responses to “Bali’s Very Special Dog – Perhaps the oldest dog breed on Earth: Barry’s Gleanings”

  1. Rosita says :

    Hi! I’m new here at this blog, and I liked the post about the Bali Dogs. I’m not Balinese, but yes Brazilian, and I have a profound respect to life, I DON’T eat bovine meat, I simply love dogs and they love me, but one of my beloved dogs, a black pug, died due to a negligent vet. His name was Black. My beloved Blackie…. The dog was dying of skin and kidney diseases at the vet clinic, and the vet refused attend him, so, it died 😦 I hate animal cruelty! I only have idyllic memories of an idyllic childhood with Black. I’m with a 3-years-old yorkshire terrier and a kintamani puppy, who a friend gave me 🙂 they’re my dogs now. And I hope I wouldn’t lose them stupidly. My dream is found a kennel, because I simply love dogs and they love me.
    Your new Brazilian buddy,

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Brazilian Rosita: I’m sorry about your Blackie. My family always had dogs, so I grew up with those loving, loyal beings always in my life – and I still remember and miss each one that is gone. I think dogs are particularly good for children (and all of us who want unconditional love in our lives). Although she mainly focuses on cats, Elizabeth of Villa Kitty outside of Ubud is doing great work; you would like that rescue haven. Good luck with your dream of founding a kennel. Do you have a rescue shelter near where you live in Brazil?

      Since I was in 4th grade and read about the Amazon River and the anaconda snakes, I’ve wanted to come to Brazil. Now I’ve added Carnival, Brazilian wineries, samba dancers, Iguaçu Falls . . . to my list of what to see there. I know I would have much to share on this blog if I get to come.

      And perhaps one day, I will visit you at your great kennel in Brazil. Aloha, Renee

      • Rosita says :

        Oh, thank you, my dear! I’m from Belém, in Pará state, and we have some animal shelters here. I live on a Balinese style house with my dogs, but I would like to build a KBD (Kintamani Bali Dog) kennel in my city and also shelter stray dogs at this kennel. It’s my dream. I’m Christian, but I believe that dogs can guide good persons to the Heaven, so, I would like to build the KBD (Kintamani Bali Dog) kennel and the BSD (Brazilian Street Dog) sanctuary at my house, one day. And you’re welcome, when I make this.
        Bye, your Brazilian buddy,

  2. reneeriley says :

    Thanks, Rosita: I would love to visit you and your kennel and sanctuary some day. Good luck with your dreams. Aloha, Renee

  3. reneeriley says :

    Hi Rosita: Aren’t Kintamani dogs similar to (or the same) as the Bali dogs? Did you get your puppy in Bali? If so, how challenging was it to have the puppy shipped to Brazil? Aloha, Renee

    • Rosita says :

      Hi! I don’t know how difficult was to have the puppy shipped to brazil, because I received it from a friend. It’s a solid white puppy. Her name’s Bali. I have some photos of her at my celular. And I have a yorkie female too! Her name’s Cleo. And we have a brown dog with a black muzzle, his name is Djoko (you can read it as “Joko”). An un-neutered male. It’s a purebred malinois shepherd. We live on an apartment. It’s a cozy chaos. Hahaha I really don’t know if it was challenging to bring Bali from Brazil, but I love my dogs and I believe that dogs can guide good persons to the Heaven. And you? In what do you believe about dogs and their masters after death?

      • reneeriley says :

        Hi Rosita: Bali is a great name for your Kintamani! Besides all those other great qualities that dogs have, they are also incredible listeners. That’s another quality that we humans can strive for – on our way to heaven.

  4. Rosita says :

    Only another information: KBD (Kintamani Bali Dog) is NOT the same as the BSD (Bali Street Dog). Kintamani dogs have a long coat, erect ears and are generally white. So, they’re different breeds 😉 and I’m so grateful that you liked my answer. I’m Christian, but I believe that dogs can accompany good persons to the heaven. And in what do you believe about dogs and their masters after death?

    Your Brazilian dog-lover buddy,

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita – my Brazilian dog-lover buddy: I don’t know for sure, of course, but I like the children’s book, “Dog Heaven” by Cynthia Rylant. Go to – . The author gives a great picture of what heaven would be like for dogs. I think that most dogs naturally act in ways that Christians aspire to be – full of unconditional love, forgiving, accepting, loyal. Perhaps, if more of us could act in those ways, we could make it to heaven too – and be able to toss balls again to our beloved pets. Aloha, Renee

  5. Rosita says :

    Oh, thank you, my dear! If the Heaven don’t have dogs, I wouldn’t like to go to the Heaven. I simply LOVE dogs. Sometimes I think I was a dog on my past life hahaha and I’m so grateful that you liked the name of my kintamani. And I have ANOTHER dog: a malinois shepherd called Djoko. A brown puppy with black muzzle. He’s an un-neutered male. Do you know what it’s mean? 🙂 it mean that he could have puppies with Bali, when they get grown up. I call Djoko as “meu filhote bangbunken” (“my bangbunken puppy”, in Portuguese), because he’s of the color of the dogs used for the ceremony of the same name in Bali. I love my dogs and I miss so much Black (the dog who I talked you at the first comment). I never had a mixed breed dog, only purebred dogs, but I feed stray dogs on my trips around the world, and I would like to bring all them with me hahaha 😝 I would like to work as a doctor when I end university, but I would like to use my dogs as therapy animals in hospitals. I know they would be old dogs at this moment, but none dog is too old to learn new tricks and make a sick person smile. I think a dog working as therapy animal in a hospital is a very noble attitude. What do you think about therapy dogs? 🐾🐕

  6. reneeriley says :

    “I read on internet that rabies in dogs is common in Bali. It’s true? When you was in Bali you heard about any rabies case in dogs?”- from Rosita

    Hi Rosita: Rabies have been a problem in Bali. A few years ago, the Balinese government did a big culling of dogs to try to stop the spread of rabies 😦 ; many dogs were killed. One unintended result is that the following year, rats ate lots of the crops. So now, the effort is more on education and getting dogs neutered or spayed so the dog population does not get out of control. Most dogs now seem to have homes – at least unofficial ones – because people realize how important dogs can be. Bali also has non-profit agencies for animal rescue now.

    However, Bali is not rabies free. Last year, I saw a dog that I’m pretty sure had rabies – his eyes looked wild and he was drooling. I jumped behind a big truck to avoid the poor dog. 😦 This is a really good reason NOT to bring your dogs to Bali. Aloha, Renee

  7. reneeriley says :

    “Great post! Hi! Do you like KBD (Kintamani Bali Dog)? Here in Brazil we have two types of dogs: the local and ubiquitous BSDs (Brazilian Street Dog), who looks like the Balinese Street Dog and the unique Pastor da Mantiqueira (Mantiqueira Shepherd, in Portuguese), originated from the Brazilian highlands. This breed look like something between the German Shepherd and the Siberian Husky. Mantiqueira Shepherd is an emerging dog breed from Brazil, as KBD (Kintamani Bali Dog) is from Bali 🙂 they have much more similarities than we think. These two breeds (KBD and Pastor da Mantiqueira) have so much mysteries to show to the world. Sincerely, I think that Mantiqueira Shepherd is more beautiful than BSD (Brazilian Street Dog), but I also admire BSDs by their endurance” – message from Rosita

    Hi Rosita: You certainly know a lot about dogs and breeds. Your information will have us all paying attention to know about these rare (at least for Hawaii) dogs. Can the BSD and the Mantiqueira be exported? I hope you are feeling better. Aloha, Renee

  8. Rosita says :

    My dear, sorry for the late reply, but I don’t know if BSDs and Mantiqueira’s Shepherds could be imported to Hawaii, but I think that the correct answer is probably “yes, they can!”, but very few people would like to import BSDs, because they’re similar to Balinese street dogs at all, and Mantiqueira’s Shepherds are indigenous from Brazil and they’re being a popular pet for Brazilian people, specially at rural Brazil 🙂 and they’re an emerging dog breed from Brazil, without official recognition 😦 so, I believe that if you leave a couple to Hawaii, you can strive people’s knowledge about that breed 😀 and about the ubiquitous BSDs, they’re very similar to Bali street dogs, usually mangy, rabid and with a nasty appearance, who can difficult to adopt them at the local animal shelters, because people prefer buy than adopt their own dogs 😦 I also play with BSDs in my travels around Brazil, but they can be dangerous, specially if they’re rabid – recently, we had a rabies outbreak in some Brazilian cities -, but in general they’re sweet and docile dogs, trying to make a friend and receive a snack at the streets 🙂 but their life can be harsh, specially if they live at the streets 😦 and if you would like, you can import a BSD and a Mantiqueira’s shepherd from Brazil to Hawaii, only don’t forget to vaccine the dog against rabies and buy an adequate crate to leave it to Hawaii! 😀

  9. reneeriley says :

    Hi Rosita: Because you have such a love for dogs, I just mentioned you in my latest post. 🙂 Thanks for answering my question about Brazil breeds. We too have dogs that need homes, but most end up at the Maui Humane Society where we can go and pick out a pet. Not all are adopted – so we do need more “no-kill” shelters, but spaying and neutering strays keep down births of more uncared for animals that would have harsh lives.

    Because my husband and I travel a lot, we don’t have a dog now – but we get to enjoy my son’s dog, Nalu, a terrier mix, and John’s girlfriend’s dog, Kailani, a black labrador mix. It’s great to have their enthusiastic dog personalities in our lives.

    As for bringing in dogs to Hawaii, the government laws are very strict. Our Hawaiian islands are rabies free! When I moved to Maui, the quarantine for pets was six months in special facilities on Oahu (a different island), and the process was very expensive. So the process was very hard on our pets and on our wallets. Now people can start the observation and vaccine process where they live, but it’s still expensive to get your pet certified that it is rabies free.

    Perhaps someone will import a Mantiqueira Shepherd to Maui, and we will get to know them here. Thanks for your advice. Aloha, Renee

  10. reneeriley says :

    Hi Rosita: Greetings from Panamá. Here’s a link from the Smithsonian that I think you will find interesting since it is about the illusive Bush Dogs of Panamá- .

    Also, you are correct about Hawaii being rabies free. Animals have strict quarantine periods and are monitored very closely before they are allowed to come onto any of the Hawaiian Islands. When I first moved to Maui, it was 1985. If I had brought my cats, I would have had to leave them in quarantine on Oahu (the main island) for SIX months – at great expense to me and I’m sure, trauma to my two cats. Now the process can begin on the Mainland, U.S. and isn’t nearly so long, but it is expensive. But it means that the Hawaiian Islands are rabies free.

    As for Bali, when we were there last year, there had been a rabies outbreak and many dogs destroyed (even rabies-free ones). Now, rabies isn’t so bad there, and the humane society organizations seem to be doing a good job of educating the local people. The dogs we saw looked cared for and healthy – although mange can be an issue in hot places. Rabies can be treated, but the shots are very painful – and probably expensive. I didn’t know that cattle can be infected too – so that’s very bad. I hope Brazil can help eradicate it (without destroying animals needlessly). Aloha, Renée

    • Rosita says :

      Oh, thank you! The Panamanian bush dog sound to be an exotic, unique animal 🙂 I feel sad by those poor Bali dogs 😦 And about Brazil, luckily we DON’T do a canicide or felicide (what would be basically a genocide of poor dogs and cats, respectively) as they do in Bali. I’m not judging Balinese people, I only think that they’re doing ANYTHING that the government says that’ll control rabies outbreak, but we can see that isn’t too simple as they think. It’ll take some years to control rabies, or even decades, on a less optimistic perspective. Bali government is killing stray dogs because it’s cheaper than vaccinating them, but it’s inhuman and painful for both animals and people who’re seeing it. Without counting the chances of a small child be poisoned by mistaken, as they sometimes give poisoned food for dogs, and all of us know that children are very, very curious and can eat poisoned food. Bali government is doing the cheaper option, but it still wrong, because one life is one life, independently of its specie. And killing healthy dogs will not solve rabies problem, it’ll only improve the problem. If the government isn’t doing rabies control and prevention of the correct form, I hope that people collaborate, don’t letting their dogs free roaming at the streets neither letting them have contact with strange animals and contact immediately any animal acting in a strange way, and, obviously, vaccinating their dogs against rabies 😉 rabies is a very painful disease for both animals and people, with a high mortality rate of almost 100%, who can give us a notion of how horrible can be suffering of this illness.

      • Camelia says :

        Well, animal rights is not a concern in Indonesia, for the government and most people. They don’t care about dogs, cats, monkeys, etc until it causes harm to human population. I used to have a bunny- a dwarf angora until it’s about a year old, before getting stolen and most likely being eaten.
        And if you let your dog outside, if it’s a good clean dog, s/he will probably got stolen and eaten too (I lived in Java). Compare to other Indonesians, i think Balinese which majority of the population is Hindus, respect dogs more than Indonesian muslims. It’s in islam, that dog is considered unclean animal, or what they called najis. Getting licked by a dog is a nightmare for them. So you can only see dogs roaming free in the community of non-muslims. In Bali, dogs have been roaming free on the island until that rabies outbreak. It was threatening human’s life and threaten its tourism, which is the major asset of Bali. So cheaper, faster way was to kill those stray dogs. There is no law against it, no protest against it either.

      • reneeriley says :

        Hi Camelia: Thanks for sharing your experiences. Sorry it’s taken me a long time to respond since I was off island for a month and didn’t have good Internet connection.

        You are right that a few years ago in Bali many dogs were killed because of an outbreak of rabies. However, a result was a record number of rats the following year, and the rats did much damage to the rice fields ! So the Balinese saw that dogs are beneficial in essential ways.

        BAWA, a non-profit animal protection organization, educates people and rescues dogs in Bali. BAWA and other animal protection advocates led the way to view dogs as valuable. When I was last in Bali, especially in Ubud, most of the dogs I saw looked cared for and healthy. (I did see one dog that looked rabid – and I jumped in front of a moving truck to avoid that dog). So my experience is that at least in Ubud, Bali, many people see dogs as useful and valuable. I hope these ideas spread to Java and other places in Indonesia (and beyond). Aloha, Renee

  11. Camelia says :

    Back in Indonesia, i used to have a kintamani mix dog. One of his parents is a kintamani. His built still resemble Kintamani, except his ears can’t stand straight like Kintamani and his head covered with brown color mask like beagle. Sadly, i must go to america and he is with my parents now. It broke my heart when i heard after a few days i left, he was waiting for me in front of my bedroom’s door. Very smart and independent dog.

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Camelia: You would love the movie, “Hachi” about the Hachikō an Akita dog born in Japan and remembered for his remarkable loyalty. (You are likely also to cry). Good luck with your stay in the U.S. Aloha, Renee

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