Papuan Dogs – the first companions of man

Published by: Thomas Schultze-Westrum

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It should be sufficently clear from what has been said above: the supporters of Papuan dogs either follow a strategy of preservation in continuation of traditional practizes (in situ) or they follow the rules of the Kennel Club. Both are not compatible. In the latter case a different animal evolves that eventually will have lost most if not all the unique and most valuable qualities of primitive strains: it has become the NGSD Breed – sealed and granted.

I follow therefore a line of strict distinction between what is specified as the New Guinea Singing Dog (NGSD) and the in situ populations of New Guinea highland dogs. It is uncertain if the latter still exist; and I am asking why there has been no more focal attention and action of rescue in the field… (cf. chapter I).

For the NGSD Breed I am presenting this summary of peculiar genetic and traditional (=not genetically fixed) properties as compiled from various published sources:

Molecular and DNA analysis :

It should be noted that there are only erratic results available and no data – to my knowledge – from any wolf population in the region east of the (lowland) Indian Peninsula, both of the Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes – if this distinct sub-species extends that far eastwards – cf. F14), and of the extinct Canis lupus variabilis further to the east.

  • The NGSD is said to have two proteins that are not found in other domestic dogs, nor in the wild canids wolf (which sub-species?) and jackal, but are identically present in coyotes. (SIMONSEN 1976; F2).
  • A mitochondrial DNA sequence was identified that is unique for the NGSD as compared with 33 other dog breeds (WAYNE et al. 1992).
  • According to a preliminary report of a pilot nuclear study, DNA profiles of NGSDs were found to contain genetic markers that were also present in dingoes, but not in the Alaskan grey wolf or seven domestic dog breeds (I.L. Brisbin and W. Gerits – data gathered from F2).
  • According to a personal communication (Wilton), as quoted in KOLER-MATZNICK et al. 2003 there is „a big [NGSD] separtition from the dogs but not very much from the dingoes (captive). Therefore, the NGSDs look genetically very much like the dingoes.“

Behaviour :

  • While NGSDs show „all of the common behaviors of C. lupus and C. familiaris“, of the total of 246 behaviors described for the NGSD, 25 (about 10 %) are unique to this breed or are expressed differently (cf. table in KOLER-MATZNICK et al. 2000). „17 of these behaviors (about 7%) have not been described for any other Canis species.“ (KOLER -MATZNICK et al. 2001 increase these figures: 251 behaviors in total, 18 of which are unique to the NGSD as compared to any other canid).
  • Of these behaviours unique to the NGSD breed there has been particular notice to the „head toss solicidation; cheek rub marking behavior; tooth chomp threat; auto-erotic stimulation; genitally-oriented biting; female copulation scream; and copulation contractions; several vocalizations (KOLER-MATZNICK et al. 2003).
  • Distinctive vocalizations are described in the same publication: The chorus howl; the dramatic pitch changes of the NGSD howl; a trill emitted during high arousal (of „bird-like“ character).
  • The absence of the stereotyped „play bow“ invitation to engage in play (BEKOFF 1977) has also been noted ( KOLER-MATZNICK et al.2000).
  • Attached to this section I wish to refer to the peculiar estrous cycle of the NGSD: There is sufficient indication available to assume that a single estrous is characteristic for wild canids (CLUTTON-BROCK 1984) and for the most primitive domesticated dogs (F15, CARPENTER 1963 – cf. chapter D). While populations of more advanced domestication (all modern breeds ?) have two regular estrous cycles. KOLER-MATZNIK et al. 2000 indicate for the NGSD one regular estrous per year. But if there was no impregnation, the bitch may enter a second and sometimes even a third period of heat.

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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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