Papuan Dogs – the first companions of man

Published by: Thomas Schultze-Westrum

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I. Preservation of strains – but how ?

No one possibly can envisage with reasonable perspectives a continuity of traditional Papuan dog strains in situ, in the villages of New Guinea. Both the introduction of foreign dogs and the dramatic change of life style have put an end to it.

But equally no chance of survival exists under the eyes and ruling imput by kennel clubs in countries of our western civilization. The broad spectrum of variability that is so characterstic for primitive dog strains, is being exterminated in favour of narrowly set standards, largely at random and liking (cf. ALDERSON 1978).The reader may take the NGSD as an example: what has been selected for further breeding was only a section of the genetic diversity mainfested in the four founder individuals. And the original wide spectrum of the uncounted individuals in the free roaming populations was not considered nor involved from the very beginning of keeping New Guinea dogs abroad. Most descriptions by early field researchers refer to a considerable variability even before the influx of foreign genes (cf. chapter E: Differenciaton and Adaptation). In the modern NGSD this peculiar wide spectrum in the gene composition has not been maintained – rather just another breed with a defined standard set of characteristics was created – outside of the traditional setting.

To my opinion, it is primarily a matter of re-consideration by breeders taking a stand against the directives imposed by the kennel clubs if there will be reasonable perspectives for preserving Papuan dog strains. The various clubs‘ representatives ought to pay tribute to the nature of strains in distinction to breeds – only under these auspices one may raise hopes for a survival of primitive dogs in general including the so called pariah and shensi dogs. These are not inferior cretatures, they just have to be evaluated from other angles as compared with judging the acknowledged breeds. Too often the various strains of pariah dogs are looked at as if they just were some kind of inferior class stray dogs. These forbidding prejudices remind of human racial discrimination in bygone times; the touching truth was resting in all those old field reports which were never reckognized nor made accessible to a wider public (cf. chapters G and H). There are certainly more to be unveiled…

The current unfortunate mis-conception of those pariah dogs and of primitive strains in general including the Papuan dogs and the dingo led to a false image of their husbandry: as if there existed only loose dog – man relations without any defined funcions in hunting etc. Of course there were mechnisms of selection in the domestication process on the tribal level of human society, but they were certainly not identical with those directive measures as they are exclusively ruling now in modern dog breeding.

There has to be made a distinction in principle between breeds that were bred as such already prior to adoption by western society and recognized by kennel clubs, and those rather undefined general dogs. The majority of our modern breeds belongs to the first category. The second class consists of those primitive strains of dogs which evolved under environmental, and only to a lesser extent under direct human (cultural) influences – as we have demonstrated in chapter E. But which had, nevertheless, an evident function in the overall symbiotic system of man-dog relations (including assistance in hunting). For these strains as distinguised from breeds (cf. chapter C) the criteria for „pureness“ ought to be set in a matching wideness and acceptance of the strain’s specific history, living conditions and traditional role in village communities. Here variability both in morphology and behaviour is a significant part of the characteristics and must be registered and maintained; it has here another dimension and functional significance. To preserve a strain one has to apply an adapted and wider set of criteria in selection. An alternative strategy is imperative!

This publication may be seen as a guideline towards those goals – and only once they were adopted the genuine Papuan dogs will have a chance to survive.

Set up an Alternative Kennel Club and proceed from there in due respect for the qualities of all those ancient strains – which are still keeping their true company with mankind in disregard of all the weird ways of earlier spiritual treatment, beating and today’s discrimination.

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This entry was posted on November 11, 2010 at 21:05 and is filed under Gulf of Papua, Papuan Dogs, Rare breeds, Zoological Research.

7 Responses to “Papuan Dogs – the first companions of man”

  1. Janice Koler-Matznick sagt:

    I just wanted to let people interested in primitive and aboriginal dogs know that there are now Facebook sites dedicated to them: ‎The INDog Project for the Indian village dogs, Village Dogs and Primitive Pariahs World Wide, and African aboriginal dogs. There is also a web site for the Primitive and Aboriginal Dog Society:

    Contrary to the statements made in the good Dr. Schultze-Westrum’s major contribution to the knowledge about Papuan dogs, the New Guinea singing dog has never been selected in captivity to any „breed“ standard. In fact, after an initial short false start with United Kennel Club, we started the NGSD Conservation Society with its own stud book and no more Singers were registered with UKC. As soon as we had genetic proof they are dingoes, we had them removed from the UKC which does not register AU dingoes. I wrote the standard (required by UKC) after surveying all owners of Singers and having them measure their specimens. All variation in the unavoidably inbred population was included in the written standard/description. The only selection that has gone on is against badly kinked tails as if continued or bred together this can result in problems in the spine. We facilitated the establishment of the NGSDCS Papua New Guinea, a recognized non-profit group in Papua, and have tried for a decade to get field work done on wild Singers, sending equipment, but so far due to lack of major funding not much has been accomplished there. We are still doing what we can but we are a tiny group.

  2. Thomas Schultze-Westrum sagt:

    Hi, many thanks indeed for your encouragement. I am still working on the assemly of papers and notes In the Name of Conservation,
    Keep in touch!

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