They’re everywhere you go in India, sleeping under cars, on roadside benches, sprawled across pavements, even perched on narrow walls. The street dogs of India are so integrated into the scenery you’d miss them if they weren’t there. However, few know of the long history of India’s Pariah dogs, or INDogs (Indian Native Dogs), and their ancient connection to humans.
One of the oldest breeds of domestic dogs, Pariah dogs have lived alongside man for over 14,000 years in Asia and North Africa. They are physically similar to dogs whose fossilized remains have been found all over the world, and to some breeds found today as far away as the Mediterranean. In India they were traditionally used as hunting dogs by the aboriginal peoples, as far back as the Neolithic or Stone Age. Even now they are kept as working and companion animals in tribal villages, as they have been for centuries.
Today the INDog can be found throughout urban and rural areas of the sub-continent. Most are scavengers, living on the refuse of India’s large and growing human population. Although technically strays, many people rely on the Pariahs to guard their property and encourage them to stay in the area. Many others, however, see them as a nuisance and as carriers of disease such as rabies.
Efforts are being made to control this canine population and vaccinate the dogs, but with their overwhelming numbers, it seems a daunting task. Yet organizations working with the dogs say there has been progress in terms of both disease and population control, and in time they hope to bring the problems more fully under control.
Recently, efforts have been made to register and preserve the INDog breed, which is in danger of being lost through interbreeding with introduced animals, particularly in towns and cities. Unfortunately, aficionados of the INDog still have to battle misconceptions about Pariahs and the lowly status accorded them by most of Indian society. However things are looking up for this native dog, as more people come to appreciate their unique looks and characteristics.