Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

First Dogs

Pariah, primitive and landrace dogs found around the world

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

One of the things I enjoy about travel is seeing different dogs around the world. Last year, I went to Ethiopia in search of wild dogs -- rare and endangered Ethiopian wolves (Canis simensis) -- but I also saw many domestic dogs in forested villages and high-altitude plains, sometimes with flocks or humans, but more often trotting along on their own business.

No matter where you go in the world, you are likely to see some canine representative who looks much the same as the earliest-known dogs, based on rock art or remains of dogs discovered by archaeologists. Whether they are called aboriginal, landrace, pariah, primitive or village dogs, and whether they are found on islands or mountains or in dense forests, they tend to have a similar form: medium size, prick ears, wedge-shaped head, curved tail and short coat.

Color and coat vary. In the Seychelles, an archipelago off the east coast of Africa, and in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean, I saw mostly tan or brown dogs. In Ethiopia, I saw many black-and-tan and black-and-white dogs as well as ones dressed in basic brown. Sometimes they have feathering -- or furnishings -- on legs, ears and tail, or longer fur, depending on where they evolved. Sometimes these dogs have maintained a particular look over centuries simply because geographic isolation ensured that they did not interbreed with dogs from other areas.

Pariah-type dogs who live on the streets and forage for themselves, as well as those who live in homes as companions, can be found from India to Taiwan to Thailand and everywhere in between. You may have a dog who looks like this in your own home, mixed or purebred.

Some purebreds who live in our homes and sleep on our beds still maintain primitive behavior characteristics, such as reproducing only once a year. The Federation Cynologique Internationale -- Europe’s answer to the American Kennel Club -- has a “primitive” category of dogs that includes the basenji, Canaan dog, cirneco dell’Etna, pharaoh hound, Xoloitzcuintli, Portuguese podengo and Thai ridgeback. In the same FCI group as primitive dogs are the spitz breeds, including the Akita, Alaskan malamute, chow chow, Finnish spitz, Icelandic sheepdog, Jindo, Karelian bear dog, Norwegian elkhound, shiba and Siberian husky. While in their current forms, most of these breeds are not much more than a century old (no matter what their breed standards say), the types of dogs that were their progenitors have been around for millennia.

The United Kennel Club describes pariah dogs as having short, smooth coats and large, erect ears, saying they are believed to be the ancestors of sighthounds -- those tall, skinny, fast dogs such as Afghan hounds, Azawakhs, greyhounds, salukis and sloughis.

Some dogs are considered not purebreds but landraces: domestic dogs adapted to a particular locale or culture. Their characteristics developed more in response to survival in a particular environment than to human design. One such dog I saw on a visit to Mongolia in 2016 is the bankhar, kept by nomadic herders to guard flocks, and able to survive, thrive and work in harsh conditions. That’s more important to their human partners than whether they meet specific criteria regarding appearance or size. Bankhars have greater genetic diversity than their purebred cousins who come from a closed gene pool and are selectively bred by humans for specific physical or behavioral characteristics.

Landraces sometimes become breeds through human intervention. In the United States, for instance, the Carolina dog began as a landrace but is now considered to be a standardized breed, registered by the American Rare Breed Association and the UKC.

Some primitive dogs retain more wild behaviors than others, among them Australia’s dingo and New Guinea’s singing dog. A few live as companions, but more often they live a wild life, fending for themselves.


Is shy cat good

adoption choice?

Q: I’ve found a cat at the shelter I’d like to adopt, but she seems very shy. Should I look for one who’s friendlier?

A: Bashful cats appeal to our nurturing instincts. We want to care for them and help bring them out of their shell.

Some cats are born with a reserved nature, and some are that way because they lacked socialization during the critical period of their kittenhood, while others may retreat from people because they’ve had previous bad experiences with them. The cat you adopt may or may not be able or willing to change how she reacts around humans. Building a relationship with her will take time and patience.

Some things to consider before deciding to take her home: Shy cats can take months or even years to adjust to new people, places and experiences. They often seek safety beneath the bed or in the closet when visitors come over. Will that bother you? Would you prefer a cat who greets guests happily?

Even more so than typical cats, shy cats like a routine. Do you leave and return home on a regular schedule? Are you able to provide regular feeding and playtimes?

Is your home environment calm and quiet, or filled with noisy, active kids or dogs? A shy cat will prefer the former.

Can you devote time to interacting with your cat to help build her confidence? Ways to do that include teaching tricks and giving her choices regarding toys, food, litter and other aspects of her environment. You can learn more about trick training and giving cats choices at

If your shy kitty never becomes more outgoing or much of a lap cat, can you accept that? It’s important to be able to place the cat’s needs above your own. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to or visit


How to set up

pet emergency kit

-- A pandemic isn’t the only reason you should have an emergency kit and care plan ready to go for pets; it can also be useful if you are injured in a car accident or face some other emergency that would require someone else to care for your animals. Pet emergency kit essentials are daily care instructions, vaccination records, veterinarian contact information, a two-week supply of food and medication, a collar with identification tags, a leash, a crate or carrier, and toys and treats. Identify a friend, neighbor or family member who is willing to serve as your pet’s caretaker in an emergency, and make sure they know where the kit is located.

-- Cats may be susceptible to infection from COVID-19, transmitted to them by humans carrying the virus. Reuters reports that World Health Organization epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said at a news conference, “We don’t believe that they are playing a role in transmission, but we think that they may be able to be infected from an infected person.” If you have been exposed to the virus or are ill from it, ask a friend or family member to care for cats and other pets in the home -- social distancing is just as important to protect them as it is to protect humans.

-- The term “bird’s-eye view,” meaning a large overall view, or panorama, first entered the English language in about 1600. When humans were finally able to take to the air, they developed other bird-related terms to describe people who flew and the machines they piloted. Aviators were nicknamed “birdman.” Helicopters are referred to as “whirlybirds.” Aircraft carriers are known as “bird farms.” Shipments combining the use of airplanes and trucks are said to be sent “birdieback.” -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.