Tuesday, February 16, 2010
By Linda Cole
Rare dog breeds fascinate me. There's a mystic and awe that surrounds their existence. Rare breeds are not family dogs for the average owner, but rather have a specific purpose that aids us in certain tasks. They’re intelligent, independent and absolutely amazing animals that deserve to be recognized for what they do and how they make life easier (and safer) for the people who work with them.
The Peruvian Inca Orchid, pictured, is an ancient hairless rare breed that was found in the Inca homes amidst their orchids, and the Spanish named them “Perros Flora” or “flower dog.” When Spanish explorers visited Peru in the 1500s, they found the Peruvian Inca Orchid (PIO) living with royalty who used them as bed warmers, but their history goes back to around 750 AD. Nearly wiped out during the Spanish conquest of Peru, the remaining dogs retreated to rural areas where people thought they were mystical. They were originally bred to hunt and run messages between tribes.
The Peruvian Inca Orchid is an energetic, independent and intelligent dog with a quick wit. Because they are usually hairless, they need protection from the elements. Not all PIO are hairless, however, and a litter can have some with hair and some without. Hairless PIO have tufts of hair on their heads, tails and feet. They have “hare feet” that are webbed with long toes. They are a small dog, but they need regular exercise. As a sight hound, they’re always on the lookout for something to chase, and are quick and agile. They need to be supervised around young children and small pets, but generally get along fine with other dogs. Wary of strangers, this dog needs an experienced owner.
The Thai Ridgeback is a rare breed outside of Thailand. This primitive dog is believed to have evolved from the Asian Wolf in eastern Thailand, and cave drawings depicting the dog have been found dating to around 3,000 years old. They were used for hunting, guarding and pulling carts. One of only three breeds with a ridge running down its back, the Thai Ridgeback is also recognized by large ears that stand straight up. They were originally bred to keep snakes away, and are capable of attacking and killing Cobras. Today, they are primarily used in Thailand as a guard dog.
There are only about 1,000 Thai Ridgebacks found outside of Thailand, with just 100 in the United States. This muscular dog needs to be active, is territorial and needs an experienced dog owner. It can have aggression issues and is not good with other dogs, but can make a nice pet for the right owner. A warm weather dog, the Thai Ridgeback would not like playing in snow.
The Lagotto Romagnolo has its origins in Italy, and was initially bred to hunt water fowl. During the 19th century when the marshlands were drained, this rare dog breed was on the brink of extinction when lovers of truffles brought them back with the remaining breeding stock. The only breed recognized for their ability to sniff out truffles, this working dog has a thick neck, wide chest, curly Poodle-like coat, and sheds very little.
The Lagotto Romagnolo predates the Romans and is considered to be the great-great-grandfather to all water dogs. Medium size with powerful long straight legs, this robust little dog is easy to train. They do like to dig, however, and need room to roam. This dog needs brain exercises to keep him from finding his own “entertainment” but gets along well with other dogs as long as he is well socialized.
The Karelian Bear Dog (KBD) was almost extinct after WW II. Today's Karelians can all be traced back to 40 dogs that were rescued after the war. A fierce hunter, this rare dog breed can and does stand up to and fight bear, which is what they were bred to do. They are as loyal as they come but difficult to train. Only an extremely qualified and experienced owner who can manage a Karelian Bear Dog with proper discipline and affection should adopt this breed.
A primitive dog that dates back to Finland thousands of years ago, the KBD was originally from Karelia, an area in eastern Europe. With only around 300 KBD dogs in the U.S., this rare breed has a distinctive double black/white coat designed to protect them from frostbite. Small pointed ears stand erect and point slightly outward. Powerful jaws with a biting pressure of 230 lbs. give this medium size, hardy dog enough power to hold onto any prey until they choose to let go.
This is not a good family pet for novice dog owners, and they need lots of room to roam. They can interact with other dogs, but you need a firm hand to successfully train, socialize and control them. This beautiful rare breed is energetic, intelligent and independent. They will defend their owner and family with their life and have the utmost determination and bravery. Today, specially trained Karelian Bear Dogs aid forest workers in bear conservation efforts by helping to teach bears it's in their best interest to avoid humans.
Read more articles by Linda Cole