Posts Tagged ‘breeds’

A Spotted Dog Story

February 20th, 2010

It’s interesting how when you travel to the more remote parts of the world, you still see dogs. I remember being stuck in a raging sandstorm on the western fringes of the Sahara some years ago, and there was a recognisable family group of dogs there, whose coats were virtually the same colour as the sand. They were living on the fringes of human society, just as their ancestors would have done – scavenging for whatever food and leftovers they could find.

It’s easy to see how localised breeds would then have developed under these circumstances. There are somewhere around 400 breeds today – some ancient, others modern – and barely half of these are officially recognised for show purposes in the UK, Australia and North America. Many breeds in the world are still largely unknown therefore, outside their area of origin.

When you think about it, what sets dog breeds apart is their physique, rather than their coloration. While there are various breeds such as the Russian black terrier which can be defined by their coloration, there’s only one – the Dalmatian, which is distinguishable by its spotted patterning.

That’s what makes this particular pet dog, photographed on the streets of Kalimpong, a hill station in India’s famous tea-growing district of Darjeeling, West Bengal, so remarkable. It has a very distinctive and unique spotted patterning, but clearly isn’t of any particular breed type.

Spotted dog © Sukantho Debnath

Spotted dog © Sukantho Debnath

There’s no physical resemblance to a Dalmatian evident in its appearance, but perhaps surprisingly, I don’t think the possible influence of this breed can be ruled out entirely. Kalimpong was a town famous for its educational institutions established there during British rule, which began in the 1860s.

It became home to many expatriates, with a particularly strong Scottish representation amongst them. This unusual dog may represent an unexpected legacy from that era. A Dalmatian brought from Britain during colonial rule may well have ended up transferring its spotted patterning into the dog population of the region. This would then explain how such markings could emerge in litters of puppies today.