Desi Dogs: Everything about INDogs or the Indian Pariah Dog Breed
The Indian Pariah, commonly known as the Desi Dogs or INDogs (Indian Native Dogs), is one of the oldest and most common breeds of aboriginal dogs on the Indian subcontinent. You can spot them in almost every nook and corner, in rather overwhelming numbers, across parts of India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. They’re known by different local names across the region and may slightly differ in appearance and size, based on the temperature, terrain & other climatic factors – but they’re truly Desi at heart.
Having been a subject of neglect and contempt for hundreds of years, the Indian Pariah dogs are gradually getting some attention & acceptance in recent years. Even though they are not yet recognized as a standard breed by major kennel clubs across the world, they’re being widely accepted as pets, companions and even as working line and service dogs. The INDogs also featured on National Geographic Channel’s film, Search for the First Dog, first aired in the year 2003.
Smart, friendly & agile, the Indian Pariahs are in no way less than their pedigreed counterparts. What they lack in trainability and tenacity, they make up for in their genetic buildup and resilience to diseases. They’re independent and yet highly adaptable, making them the perfect pet for every household.
The History & Evolution of the Indian Native Dog
Pariah Dogs refer to free-ranging dogs that survive on waste from human settlements. The term “Pariah” is derived from the Tamil word paraiyar which translates to “social outcast”. Some believe its root in the Anglo-Indian word pye (pae) or Hindi term pahi, which means “outsider” – an ironical name for one of the oldest known indigenous dog breeds.
The exact origin of this breed is unknown but archeological evidence dates it back to the Neolithic times, also known as the Late Stone Age – approximately 12,000 to 15,000 years ago. They’ve been a part of the journey of human civilization ever since. For years, the INDogs have been used as hunting companions by several tribes across the country. The Indian Pariah dogs have been celebrated in various sculptures and paintings throughout history. They have been a part of Indian mythology and folklore, making them an integral part of our art, culture and heritage.
The Indian Pariah dogs, as we see today, are a result of thousands of years of Evolution. They’re one of the only breeds of dogs that are originated out of Natural Selection, not selective breeding. Selective Breeding (or Artificial Selection) is a breeding practice that’s used to accentuate certain desirable traits and diminish undesirable characteristics in pedigree dogs. That’s what makes a Poodle so different from a St. Bernard, even though both belong to the same genetic species (Canis lupus familiaris). Desi dogs have evolved over time to develop characteristics that were essential for their survival in their local environment. They’re part of the primitive group of dog breeds. All other dog breeds are believed to be bred out of them using artificial selection.
SEE ALSO: The Evolution & Types of Dogs
It’s fascinating to note their close resemblance to primitive breeds from other continents – namely the Australian Dingo, the Canaan Dog of Israel, the New Guinea Singing Dog and the Central African village dog, ancestor of the African Basenji. Even though these breeds evolved naturally in different parts of the world – with no genetic mingling – the similarities among them are astounding. It’s like Nature brought them all to a common equilibrium – the perfect prototype of the domestic dog.
The INDogs VS the Indian Street Dogs
India accounts for the largest population of stray dogs in the world and people often assume they’re all Indian Pariahs. Yes, desi dogs are native to India – but a vast majority of urban free-ranging dogs on our streets are either mixed-breed dogs or urban landraces similar to the Indian Pariah. While more accurately referred to as mutts or mongrels, these dogs may sometimes resemble the Indian Pariah and often colloquially called ‘the Indies’.
Mongrelization or the mating of a primitive dog breed with a pedigree breed dog or another mixed-breed dog is one of the biggest threat to the Indian Pariah Dog breed. Second to that, is our love for foreign and exotic breeds – a probable byproduct of British colonization – neglecting and condemning our very own INDogs. It’s important that we recognize the Indian Pariah as a standard breed to preserve and flourish this smart, intelligent and versatile specimen of heritage and Evolution.
The Physical Appearance of the Indian Pariah Dog
Since the INDogs have evolved naturally over the millenniums and a wide geographic area, they differ in appearance across regions. Unlike pedigree dog breeds that are artificially created by humans through selective breeding, the breed standards of Pariah dogs are often more flexible and allow room for natural variation in size, colors, etc. There is also a variation seen in the rural and urban specimens of the INDogs. However, these variations are limited to physical appearance only, the temperament of all dogs remain pretty much the same.
They’re medium sized dogs, with adult males ranging in 20 – 25 inches height and 20 – 30 kgs weight. Adult females are a few inches shorter and few kilos lighter. They have a short, but dense double coat that ranges from fawn to dark brown color, sometimes pied with black or white. Solid black INDogs are rare. Spots and white markings are usually observed in the undercoat, ends of limbs and tail. Their long and straight forelimbs and slightly curved hindlimbs allow them to run really fast in short trots.
They have a medium-sized, wedge-shaped head, a long, pointed muzzle that’s usually darker than the rest of the body, and jaws with a clean, scissor bite. Their eyes are almond-shaped and dark brown in color, ears are held firm and erect – broad at the base and pointed at the tips. The tail is curled, held high in the excited state, wags vigorously on spotting a friend.
Long coats, drooping ears, short muzzle, light-colored eyes, pure white or dalmatian-like spotted coats are considered faults. Similarly, oversized, undersized, overweight dogs or dogs with loose or drooping skin are also considered breed faults.
The Personality of an Indian Pariah Dog
It’s important to acknowledge & understand that the Indian Pariahs have evolved as independent dogs living in packs. Thus, their personality is a net effect of the evolutionary changes they had to undergo to survive their environment. Let’s look at various aspects of their personality and understand what they mean for us as pet parents.
Easily trainable but gets bored quickly
The Indian Pariahs are extremely smart, intelligent and pick up training commands really quickly. However, these dogs get bored early and do not indulge in the typical, repetitive dog games like ‘fetch’. They constantly need mental stimuli and love exploring new things, smells and experiences.
Friendly but needs to socialize early
The INDogs are very social animals. They love to live in packs and are extremely good with children and other pets. But if not socialized early, they may develop anxiety and distrust amidst other humans. They do not trust strangers easily and may exhibit signs of aggression when confronted or cornered by new people.
Territorial and protective of their pack
Their natural habitat and the evolutionary journey has made them extremely territorial in nature. They’re usually very protective of their family/pack and may resort to extreme measures if they sense a danger to their pack. If you’re parenting an Indie, you may want to put up that “Beware of the Dog” door-sign.
Very active breed and thrives on regular exercise
Desi dogs were bred for a life in the wild (or urban wild, in the case of our city dogs). They are a very active breed and never shy away from a long walk, run or swim. But if for some reason, your INDog doesn’t receive enough physical workout every day, beware that they may resort to destructive behavior. Large houses with vast open spaces are ideal for these dogs, apartments with a terrace or parks nearby could also work.
Modest eaters, but can easily turn fussy
The Indian Pariah dogs are very modest eaters, can eat and survive on almost any food, and have a small appetite. But that means that we can easily tend to overfeed them – which triggers behavioral problems such as selective or picky eating. It’s important that you watch out your Indie’s diet and only feed as much is necessary. Overfeeding can have serious consequences – obesity and behavioral shift to selective eating habits, to name a few.
Extremely alert but sometimes noisy
Their evolution, often close to wild (or urban setup of the cities) – where predators or threats are common, have made them extremely cautious and alert of their surroundings. They bark at the slightest doubt – making them a perfect watchdog. However, this habit may cause some trouble for apartment dwellers – especially if your neighbors often complain of noise.
Common Medical & Health Problems with INDogs
The Indian Pariah is one of the healthiest breeds of dogs. Being a naturally evolved and perfected breed, they possess minimum to no genetic disorders. Common problems such as hip dysplasias and cancers that are common among artificially inbred dogs, are rare in INDogs. Even if a genetic defect occurs, it’s usually bred out in the coming generations by means of Natural Selection. Their vast ‘gene-pool’ means that only the fittest survive and get to extend their race.
They breed once a year and may deliver a litter of 6 – 8 pups each season. They are a healthy dog breed overall with minimum to no veterinary expenses except the vaccination routine. The average lifespan of INDogs is 13 to 16 years, under good care.
General Care & Parenting Tips for Desi Dogs
INDogs are generally very low-maintenance dogs. Having bred for the Indian conditions, they can easily adapt into any setting. However, the following few basics must be kept in mind while parenting a Desi Dog:
The Indian Native Dogs have traditionally been scavenging human waste or hunting small prey animals for food. They are not big eaters and need minimal food to survive. They have a strong digestive system, healthy metabolism and can digest a variety of diets. Their bodies are designed to make the best out of the food they receive.
But it’s important that as responsible pet parents, we give them a healthy and balanced diet. Like most other canines, a bulk of your Indian Pariah dog’s diet must consist of meat-based proteins and fats. Since they are always full of energy, some carbs are needed to fuel their agility & activity. But it’s important to keep a tab on their diet. It’s very easy to overfeed a Desi Dog, and that can have its consequences.
Obesity is very common in Indian Urban Dawgies. Indian Pariahs tend to gain weight easily, especially if they eat more and burn fewer calories. Overfeeding also gives way to selective eating. When we overfeed a dog and offer little or no exercise to burn those calories up – he hardly feels hungry or excited for the next meal. Such a dog is almost certain to reject the meal when served. If we replace that meal with something more exciting than the last, the dog may eat it – but we may be thrown into a vicious circle – gradually pushing the dog to a negative behavioral pattern that none of us enjoy after a certain point.
It’s important that we watch out for what and how much our desi darlings eat, and ensure that they feed on a nutritionally balanced and biologically appropriate diet.
Desi Dogs need minimum to no attention to their grooming. They shed very little, and their coat requires almost no maintenance. They’re well suited for the tropical weather but may not handle extreme cold that well. These dogs are relatively very clean and have almost zero body odor. They can be given an occasional bath and can dry themselves up really quickly in the sun – thanks to their short coat.
They are prone to ticks and fleas and may need regular inspections to weed out any parasites that may infest them.
SEE ALSO: Skin Problems in Dogs
As mentioned earlier, Desi Dogs need a lot of physical & mental exercises. They have a smart mind and a very energetic body. If not put to good use, their mind and body force them to resort to destructive behavior. A tired dog is a happy dog. A tired Indie, though, means a happy and untattered couch and mattresses.
These dogs have traditionally been used to hunt and kill, and enjoy almost all kinds of adventure. A house with big open spaces is ideal for them to run around and expend all the energy that bubbles up inside their athletic body. If that’s not available, make sure you take your dog out for regular walks, runs, and occasional swims.
The Indian Pariah has been officially recognized by the Primitive and Aboriginal Dog Society (PADS), but still longs for the love and social respect that an amazing breed such as the INDogs deserve. It’s time we acknowledge and take pride in the fact that the oldest known dog breed in the world runs and barks in our country. Its vast ‘gene-pool’ makes it one of the healthiest dog breeds and opens up unlimited possibilities. Studying their genetic makeup can help us eradicate some of the most dangerous diseases from the face of the Earth. Above all, they’re a beautiful chronicle of how Evolution works its way across generations to create the most perfect version of man’s best friend.
We’d like to thank The INDog Project for years of research & hard work to help us all understand our Desis a little better. Their work has been instrumental in helping us compile this article.
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