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Pariah dogs: 9 ancient and wild dog breeds

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on June 26, 2014, 12:55 p.m.
pariah dog dingo on rock

Photo: Nicolas Lee/Shutterstock

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What is a pariah dog?

Dogs have been by our side for more than 10,000 years. While it is unknown just when dogs diverged from wolves to companion animals in the evolutionary timeframe (it could be anywhere from 33,000 years ago to 16,000 years ago depending on which studies you read) one thing is certain: they have been an integral part of human existence for ages. Yet some have stayed on -- or returned to -- the very edges of human civilization. These are pariah dogs.

The exact definition of a pariah dog varies depending on the expert you ask. But essentially these are the dogs that have lived a free-ranging life, foraging on the outskirts of or entirely away from human settlements and changing little over the course of their history. Some have been the helping hunters for human companions for millenia and are considered pure breeds by kennel clubs, while others are semi-feral and primitive "pariah-type" dogs that skirt the edges of villages.

The following breeds are examples of pariah dogs that straddle the spectrum of wild to re-domesticated to ancient breeds hardly changed in centuries. Some have been left entirely to their own devices and have developed their characteristic looks with little or no direct influence by humans. A few other breeds were perfected thousands of years ago and, while their characteristics have been maintained at least in part by human selection, they have changed little since their beginnings and so fall into the pariah group.

Wherever they fall on the spectrum, each reminds us of how deeply intertwined humans and dogs have been since farther back than memory can reach. (Text: Jaymi Heimbuch)