An ode to the Bakharwal dog

Some of our exotic Indian breed dogs are on the verge of extinction. One such rare but enduring breed is the Bakharwal dog. Here’s more on this fascinating Kashmiri Sheepdog.

The provenance…

The origin of the Bakharwal dog is Pir Panjal mountain area of Hindukush and the Himalayan belt of the Indian subcontinent habitat for more than 300 years. They are the oldest breed of central Asia, rarely found in other parts of the world and belong to Asian Molossers variety. It is believed that they are the descendents of Tibetan Mastiff dog, but no such scientific reference exists. They have some popular names like Gujjar Dog, Bakharwal, Kashmiri Bakharwal Dog, Kashmiri Sheepdog, Kashmiri Mastiff, Gujjar Watchdog and Bakharwal Mastiff. The traditional native variety is usually reared by nomadic tribes like Gujjar and Bakharwal. Bakharwal dogs are commonly found during migration of nomadic tribes, guarding large sheep and goat flock.

The disappearance…

The shepherd dogs are at the brink of extinction as per the report of the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation (TRCF). Only few hundred dogs of this particular species are left which are also declining more rapidly. The possible reasons may be smuggling, theft and assassination during insurgency at higher altitudes.

The countenance…

The dog is active and alert with muscular, deep-chest, straight back, broad shoulders and long legs. The dogs are strong, stout having powerful neck and large head. The body coat is very thick and undercoat densely covered to give protection against the harsh climate. Female dogs are able to produce one to four pups per year. Their height at withers is 24 to 30 inches and they can be found in colours like black, tan and tricolour.

The demeanour…

They are intelligent, rough, ferocious, protective, brave, solemn, loving, affectionate and trustworthy in disposition. They are not suitable for indoor living. Training of the dogs is difficult due to their dominant, stubborn and independent habit. They are best-suited for trained, patient, strong, and confident person with dominant attitude, who can train them effectively to compel them for doing similar kind of activities repeatedly. Although, they can chase tiger in time of need to protect livestock and master but they are not excessively ferocious or unmanageable at any time.

The fodder…

They have non-vegetarian food habits.

The health issues…

In general, the dog is healthy and vigorous. Some common health problems are hip dysplasia, dislocation of the knee, cryptorchidism, obesity, bloat, throat, rabies and other infections.

The appeal…

There is need to conserve the ancient working dog breed. Government and NGOs should take initiative to locate the dog breed and try to propagate them for better conservation.

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