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Papuan Dogs – the first companions of man

Dogs of the sub – montane and inland hill tribes:

The region inland between the central cordilliera and the lowlands is sparsely populated. There exist several ancient ethnic groups in this region on the southern and the northern sides of the mountain ranges with partly semi-nomadic ways of life – because of the poor fertility of the soils in small garden clearings and because of only limited supply of wild sago from the forest. Settlements were small, often consisted of only one single dwelling for all the community. Narrow foot tracks connected the settlements which were dispersed over very wide areas. All this region was densely forested until recently, when commercial logging and other resource exploitation began to destroy both the natural equilibrium and the well-being of the people.

In 1966 we had the privilege to work as the first scientists (F31) in the foothills of Mt. Bosavi (2.896 meters a.s.l.) – an isolated, extinct volcano south of the Southern Highlands.The tiny pockets of human population in this area which extends to the Great Papuan Plateau, at an altitude of 800 meters a.s.l. and above, were much scattered. At the time of our visit, the Kaluli and Waragu people on the northern side of Mt. Bosavi had no use of money, no direct access to modern trade goods and had been contacted as yet by four patrols of the Australian administration only.

No feral dogs lived in the forest, according to the local people. All dogs were owned by individual men or kinship-groups in the one communal house. They had uninhibited access to the interior and were fed with sago, sweat potatoes and other tubers, as well as remains of human food collected in the forest, both of vegetable and meat diet. The dogs searched also for edible stuff, small animals etc. in the vicinity of the settlement. In order to restrict the range of movements of their dogs, Bosavi people often tied one fore-leg up by a piece of bush-string fitted around the neck (fig. 56, 50). All these dogs were very skilled in climbing up ladders to the platforms of houses on stilts (figs. 57, 58).

I did not see any dog suffering from the ulcers and other infections as they were frequent for the coastal areas (cf. my remarks above). But I already referred to the contagious and deadly disease that had spread prior to our field work through the Bosavi area.

I distinguished two strains of native dogs in the Kaluli communal house of Didessa – close to our base camp during the expedition: the more common type (but still much reduced in numbers by the epidemic) was a fairy stout and stocky strain that reminds of the Southern Highlands strain or the Punan dog of Borneo (fig. 60). With relative short tail and legs and with a broad, triangle-shaped face (photos). Measurements are given in caption No... The fur was similiar to that of the highland dogs, much coarser and longer than that of lowland dogs. Colouration varied from light to darker brown with white and blackish marks, to all black with some white markings ( figs. 45 - 54.). With a white tip on the tail.

The second strain at Didessa reminds more of the lowland dogs: it is smaller, slim, with elongated head, fawn to reddish brown colouration, blackish face markings, again a white tip on the tail (figs 55 - 58). As was poined out earlier, BOESSNECK and MEYER - LEMPPENAU (1969) in their study of the skulls collected by us , could not find such distinction of two types in their osteo-morphological comparision (F32). But it is clearly demonstrated by our photographs. On the other hand, a „weitestgehende“ (= most far-reaching) conformity with a „Torfhund“ skull from the neolithic settlement of Burgäschisee-Süd in Switzerland was pointed out by the two authors in 1969 (cf. alsoBOESSNECK 1963). There is a general difference in size, though: Torfhunde (named Canis familiaris palustris) were in average larger than Bosavi dogs. These Torfhunde again resemble much the dogs of the Batak people on Sumatra Island („Battakerspitz“: ANTONIUS 1922). In their outer appearance two more strains were noted as being very similiar: the „village dog“ of New Guinea and that of the Bismarck Archipelago. STUDER 1901 assembles these dog populations under the name Canis novae hiberniae Lesson (F33). And again the close similarity to the neolithic Torfspitz is mentioned. I will present a description further below when dealing with the coastal strain of Papuan dogs. BOESSNECK and MEYER – LEMPPENAU (loc. cit.) argue that this similarity is not a result of close blood kinship („Blutsverwandtschaft“). It rather reflects an adaptation to similiar living conditions at the margins of settlements as they are characteristic for the so called pariah or shensi dogs in the wide realm between eastern Asia and central Africa, including the islands of Indonesia and Oceania. Dogs in this region are employed in guarding and in several ethnic districts are eaten, but „never used in hunting“ (cf. also ANTONIUS 1922 and WERTH 1944). I shall return to this point in chapter G and correct (further) this view – after having quoted Barry Craig's observation alread.

The pygmies around Mt. Ayom on the middle course of the Ramu River (north of the central cordilliera) keep „short - legged dogs with a pointed snout. Some possess a pendent, densely but short – haired tail that is similiar to the one of the European fox; while other individuals wear their tail almost horizonally. The coat shows mostly a fawn greyish yellow colour or dirty white with a few irregular large black spots. In their body size these dogs almost match the European fox (M. Gusinde quoted after STERLY 1962).

Again on the southern side of the central ranges, in the Mafulu territory and in the Chirima Valley, WILLIAMSON (1912) found „...small black, brownish – black, or black and white dogs with very bushy tails, and not the yellow dingo dogs which infest the villages of the Mekeo“ in the coastal lowlands; and even those (only rarely seen) „Mafulu dogs are, I was told, not truly a Mafulu institution, having been obtained by the people, I think, only recently from their Kuni neighbours.“

Veröffentlicht am Kategorien Gulf of Papua, Papuan Dogs, Rare breeds, Zoological ResearchSchlagwörter , , , ,

Über Thomas Schultze-Westrum

Dr. Thomas Georg Hans SCHULTZE-WESTRUM Author of Scientific and Popular Publications Producer and Director of Documentary Films and Videos Adviser in Nature Conservation and Preservation of Rural Cultures Initiator of Conservation Programmes German national. Born 1937 (Berlin). Classical education at the Benedictine monastery of Ettal in Upper Bavaria. Graduate of Munich University, with degrees in Zoology, Geology and Cultural Anthropology (Ethnology). Scholarship by “Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes”. Research (University of Munich, other scientific institutions) and publications on social and population physiology of marsupials and other vertebrate fauna of New Guinea and the Mediterranean Region, cultural anthropology, conservation and resource management on the village level, mainly in Greece and New Guinea. Author of the books “New Guinea” (Berne 1972) and “Biologie des Friedens” (Biology of Peace), Munich 1974. Dr. Schultze-Westrum has joined for several years the Commissions on Ecology and Environmental Planning of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). He is the founder of the working group (IUCN Commission on Ecology) “Conservation and Traditional Life Styles” 1979; the “ECOCULTURE” Movement 1981; the “Gesellschaft für die Erhaltung alter und gefährdeter Haustierrassen” GEH (Society for the Preservation of Old and Endangered Breeds of Domestic Animals) 1981; and the non-profit-making society “KALLIERGIA”, for traditional agriculture and village conservation in Greece, 1993. As a consultant he has worked for the EU, IUCN, OECD and WWF. As a film maker he has produced, directed and mostly also shot, for German television and international TV networks, 75 documentaries, mainly ecological portraits with emphasis upon the integration of local and traditionally living people into conservation projects. His first film (1974) was about alternative (sustainable) utilization of tropical rainforests in New Guinea, for ZDF. Never Dr. Schultze-Westrum has entered any of his films into an award winning competition, because he is more concerned about the effects of his TV work in actual conservation and public awareness. One of these real awards was the creation of the Marine National Park Alonnisos Northern Sporades in Greece as a result of his film “The Coast of the Monk Seals” in 1976/77 for ZDF (ratings 36 % - shown in 11 countries). His programme “Green Desert”, about traditional water management in the Sultanate of Oman was distributed by the Television Trust for the Environment TVE to 44, mainly Third World, countries. Another leading aspect of his film work was the production of environmental films for the people of the country where he was filming. So, he produced the first TV series of films on ecology, rural life styles and conservation for Greece (in the early 80’s, 14 programmes) and for the Sultanate of Oman (late 80’s, 12 films). His deep interest in ancient human traditions inspired him to produce “Omani Seafaring”, for Oman TV; “Im Kielwasser Sindbads” (In the Wake of Sindbad), for the series Terra X of ZDF; and “Insel der Magier” (Island of the Sorcerers: Waigeo) for ARTE TV. After retiring from TV film production at the end of 2002 he is returning to his earlier scientific work (abandoned in the early 70’s) about the social and population physiology of marsupials ( Petaurus breviceps papuanus and closely related species); village based conservation; the evolution of human communal behaviour and cultural diversity; and the evolution of art styles in the Papuan Gulf province of New Guinea. Since 1992 he is also involved in eco- and agrotourism programmes that are based on his earlier promotion of this alternative “soft” tourism through publications and films, in Greece and West Papua. His conservation activities are continuously focussed on Greece and New Guinea, since 1957 and 1959, respectively. Dr. Schultze-Westrum now is writing up his experiences of many years field work and he is keeping communications alive through his homepage, from the ancient village of Kazaviti on the island of Thassos in the northern Aegean Sea. The conservation and re-activation of outstanding traditional values of Kazaviti stand at the centre of a local museum and documentation centre to be set up in one or even two old Macedonian stone houses.