Papuan Dogs – the first companions of man

Published by: Thomas Schultze-Westrum

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Papuan dogs developed or retained from their wild ancestors peculiar features that only these dogs and partly the closely related dingo possess (F2 and KOLER – MATZNICK et al. 2001, 2003). The long isolation of these varieties of dogs on New Guinea and its geographical extension, the Australian continent, was certainly supportive towards a significant adoption of eventual mutations which these dogs do not share with any others, no matter if their status is regarded as domestic or wild. But it is still not sufficiently understood why these dogs were presumably conservative in their genetic features to that large extent over such long periods of time.

I assume that the selective process over several thousands of years in isolation has favoured retention or rather continuity of those genetic properties which belong to the original spectrum and which we now regard as primitive.Generally the process of increasing domestication by no means should be seen as an improvement only of qualities: we know from comparative research that „domestication“ goes alongside with a reduction of mental and somatic activities, for instance (HEMMER 1983). The frequently noted high intelligence and inquisitive character of NGSDs (F16, F18) I am putting forward as just one example for a „primitive“ property preserved from the ancient past.

These factors which had a prime influence on the evolution of Papuan dogs can be identified:

  • The genetic characteristics of the dogs that were brought into New Guinea at the times of pioneer immigrations [possibly in several waves], cf. chapter D),
  • the selective qualities of regional climate and other environmental effects (cf. chapter E),
  • and the utility aspects of the villagers aiming at specific objectives, like abilities of their dogs for game hunting (cf. chapters F and G).
  • In case of the feral populations in the grasslands of central New Guinea a survival strategy was significant which influenced their social behaviour and their food gathering habits.

Primitive domestic dogs are reared and utilized under traditional conditions which differ in principle from modern society’s husbandry. In our urban world there exists considerable wrong perception, even prejudice about the way dogs live in villages and how they are treated by their masters. Why should „ Stone Age tribes“ not be capable to integrate dogs into their homes and ways of life adequately – I rather should say: even better – as compared with NGSDs which „adapted well to living in the modern home as a pet … with proper training and socialization,…“(F3). Are the kennel cages shown on the same web page, or the bedroom of another NGSD fancier (F12) really a more suitable place for these dogs than a Papuan village compound (cf. chapters F and H)? (figs. 23 – 27, 34, 35).

When comparing photographs of traditionally kept Papuan highland dogs with those of the NGSDs bred in the USA and in Germany (SCHULTZ 1969), the differences in colouration and proportions become obvious: By selective breeding according to the standards set by the New Guinea Singing Club of America and the United Kennel Club the former greater variation and future variability in external (and certainly also invisible) genetic qualities are being reduced to a similiarily narrow band of genetic properties as in other recognized dog breeds. In addition to this elimination and further genetic manipulation one has to bear in mind the fact that all those NDSDs originate from just 4 founder individuals only (F13). The majority of New Guinea highland dog populations was never considered nor represented in any scientific investigations or conservation measures.

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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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