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Papuan Dogs – the first companions of man


Troughout Melanesia the dog is used to accompany the hunter; according to STERLY (1962) this is the main reason for keeping dogs. There are exeptions, though, as I have pointed out above (cf. also the remarks by WILLIAMS 1924, and FINSCH 1888, as quoted in chapter E and F35 respectively).

Ownership usullay is with individual men in the community. This owner gives the dog a name, trains it for hunting and dispenses magic medicines prior to a hunting expedition. We are indepted to STERLY (1962) for his assemly of widely dispersed literature references:

Training of hunting dogs:

Little has been documented about this subject. From various observations it can be concluded that a strict training does not exist – which would prevent the dogs from ripping the game apart: often the hunter must interfere, strow stones at the dogs or beat them with a stick. There are certain words used to command a dog, mostly applied in combination with the the name of the particular dog addressed. The Keraki people in the Transfly region of southern Papua New Guinea alert their dogs by calling „ush, ush ...“. Sometimes male dogs are deprived of both testicles in order to make them run faster. These castrated dogs are regarded as the best hunters. In the same region flutes made of coconut shells (with two holes) are used to call dogs. Further to the west, across the West Papuan border, the Marind-anim and the Jagba tribes had short flutes made of bamboo, for that purpose. The Marind shouted „hei“ and added the name of a mythological („dema“) dog: „Hei Jodkap“, or „Hei, Mizerangib“ or Hei, Jod-a-jod“, to provide some examples.

In the Papuan Gulf region dogs are called by their names or by short words of order, for instance „to“ (that means „come here“), or just a lip-whistle. They are driven off by a short, pressed exhalation or inhalation of air through the theeth or a similar staccato release of air in the bronchial tract that produces a deeper sound of exhaled air. If a dog has done something against the rules, the handler inhaled a confined body of air through his teeth or/and produced a short click of the tongue; it means „don't!“.

SEMON (1896) notes that the Papuan dogs in south-eastern New Guinea are less trained than the similiar dogs (dingoes?) of the Australian Aborigines.

Hunting rituals and magic:

All over Melanesia, in traditional times, the most important element in preparing a dog to become a good hunter was the application of magic substances and rituals. The objective was to make the dog fit for performing, as well as obtainting the support by the spirits which are involved in game hunting. Both hunter and dogs have to possess particular power, they have to become „hot“ for that performance to be successful.

BLACKWOOD (1935) describes an initiation ritual for hunting dogs on the Solomon island of Bougainville: Men who undertake this initiation, first scrap particles of bark from different trees, and while doing so they howl like a dog and spit chewed betel nut into this mixture. On the following day one of the dogs to be initiated is grabbed and some of that substance is smeared around its mouth, more of it is being mixed with sea water and given to swallow. Then sections of the stem of the karamusis – plant are placed onto the dogs' noses. After blowing air at the nose it starts bleeding. That is an omen for the dog getting a stronger sense of smell. Then also any other dog to be initiated is treated the same way. After that they are fed with betel nut, then grabbed by the tail and wirled round several times.

On the second day the dogs are fed by a mixture of boiled plant substances with added coconut. On the third day the owners of the initiated dogs take them on a hunting expedition. The pig killed in the bush is eaten by all the men in the village. If there are recently married couples or men whose wives are pregnant, the pork has to be prepared by addying leaves of the gunasgu – plant; otherwise the dogs would have no success in hunting. Another pig killed on the forth day is eaten by the women. The hunting prey of the fifth day is distributed to all the households of the village. In case these rituals show no effects on the dogs, they will be reapeated, and the spirits of three deceased great hunters are called upon for assistance.

Another way to make a dog hot is to put specially prepared food onto an ant-hill. The bites of ants are believed to make the dog a good figther. Again another method is reported from the Sulka people of New Britain: a mixture of human bone particles, taro,the buds of certain trees and ginger are spoken a charm over and then stuffed into the throat of the dog, its jaws being held open by strips of old cloth. Then betel is chewed and with this red mash the paws, ears and snout of the dog are touched, while certain magic words are pronounced. After this procedure the dog is thrown onto the roof of the house so that it descends on the other side (F48). On the following early morning the dog is fed with warm taro and – again while spelling certain verbal charms – it's eyes are whiped with a wet leaf of the vaul – plant. Then it is taken to the bush on a hunting probe.

In northern Papua New Guinea, among the Wewak – Boitin people, a hunter, before setting out on a hunting trip, is feeding his dog(s) with a magic mixture (gombi) consisting of the ash of Alang – Alang grass, a certain black soil, stinging nettels and other plants. And he called on the spirit of his spear: fisimbó, help my dog that it tracks and kills a pig!

All facettes of human behaviour are covered by these ritual performances: There are also methods to make a dog useless; a yellous neighbour may collect the dog's faeces, bury them in a coconut shell and plant on top a wanis – shrub. If that plant growths well, that dog is no good anymore for hunting.

The Wewak natives believe that if a hunter has sexual intercouse before going on the hunting trail, his dog would loose its high mood and be useless. But there is also a cure for that: In order to regain the dog's spirit, the hunter jews a piece of a certain vine together with flowers of the wild sugar cane, fills that mix into a small bamboo tube and puts it on the fire: the bambo explodes in the heat - and the spell is gone.

In many other parts of New Guinea dogs are given some magic medicine prior to going for hunting so they are getting hot, by application of wild ginger, lime powder and betel nut; most of these treatments are kept secret.

Hunting practizes:

Larger, ground - dwelling game on New Guinea is limited to feral pigs, wallabies, cassowaries, bandicoots and bush rats (Mallomys). Pig hunting (both by single men or in groups of several) is by far the most common practize. Boars can become quite dangerous when held at bay by a pack of dogs, and I heard several stories of dogs being killed both by boars and by cassowaries – the latter using their elongated middle claw as a formidable weapon. Usually the game is killed by spear or arrow once surrounded by the dogs. In some areas nets are in use and the game is driven by men, their dogs and set fires towards this net or a trap. Usually not more than 10 dogs are taken on a hunt. If it was successful, the dogs are rewarded back home by pieces of meat (at Ero village in the Papuan Gulf).

From the Mamberamo River MOSZKOWSKI (1911) reports that a single dog is capable of holding at bay a medium – sized bush pig. At the end of a hunting expedition dogs have to be collected again as they roam over quite some distances in persue of game. The author (loc. cit.) notes: „I have often watched Papuans searching for hours the banks of the river and calling their dogs: maries – es, – es – es.“ So far the references as presented by STERLY (1962).

WILLIAMSON (1912, p. 187) notes about the Mafulu (cf. also chapter E, Adaptation and Differentiation, section: Dogs of the sub-montane and inland hill tribes) (quote): „The people generally hunt in large parties for pigs (hunted with either spears or nets), kangaroos and wallabies (hunted with nets only), and Macgregor bears (note: = tree kangaroos), cassowaries, and big snakes (hunted with spears only). The hunters may be members of a single village or of the whole community ... They usually take out with them large numbers of young boys, who are not armed,and do not take part in the actual killing, but who, when the party reaches the hunting ground, spread out in the bush, and so find the animals. While doing this the boys bark like dogs. Sometime dogs are taken instead, but this is unusual, as they have not many dogs.“

Village dogs as pets:

Any of these utilitarian points of view have to be balanced out by references to the affection which clearly exists between man and animals in tribal society – and not just in our pretentious more civilized world. The German institute IWF Wissen und Media GmbH, at Göttingen, holds edited footage of dogs and people taken in the Eipomek Valley from where five dogs were brought to the Kiel University Institut für Haustierkunde, in 1977 (F13). Film no. E 2985 shows (quoted from the Internet) „dogs being searched by children and adults for parasites and fed mouth to mouth with saliva and sugar cane sap“. In film no. E 2770 „dogs were petted (liebkost) like children. They are greeted, hugged and kissed and adressed in baby talk. Pups are reared together with children, so that the soul of the dog strengthens the child's soul. Dogs are carried like infants in a net.“ (Comments and film editing 1979 by Prof. Dr. I. Eibl – Eibesfeldt) – (F49).

In the Papuan Gulf villages we had to watch people beating their dogs quite frequently: the dogs took it with much whining that extended for considerable time. But I have no hesitation to say that the overwhelming richness in mutual relations of so called primitive people with their domestic animals and the wildlife of their realm is far beyond any means of balanced comprehension or of imitation by our modern urban society if taken as the complex entity it used to be in traditional times. The reader may just look at the following chapter...

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.