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.
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.’
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.
[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. <http://www.villakitty.com>]
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.
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.
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.
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