I had been to a reputed pet shop to buy food for my dogs. In the shop there was this important looking man conversing with the owner, the conversation largely being about how great his show winning Great Dane and Labrador were. As I was about to leave, the he asked me what dogs I have. “A Rottweiler and a Desi (Indian Pariah Dog)”, I said. “N******t for a Desi?!” he exclaimed. “Lucky dog… that stray must have done some really great deeds in his last birth to deserve this!” How wished I could rub it into him that Desis are not necessarily strays or mongrels, and that they deserve a LOT more respect than they are being given. But I had neither the time nor the inclination for an argument right then, so I tried wrapping it up saying “it’s not that my dog is extraordinarily lucky, it’s just that the breed is extraordinarily unlucky to have been ignored for so long.” “Today’s kids talk a lot” he snickered.
The Indian Pariah Dog has been abused like this since a long time. Its name alone makes it an outcaste. Very few people even acknowledge it as a breed. It is better known as “stray” and “mongrel” than as a specific breed. No kennel club recognizes it. Not even the Kennel Club of India. These dogs have roamed the streets of India since years living upon garbage and scraps and are rarely considered worthy of being kept as pets. So much so, that many people are embarrassed if somebody in their family has one- “Oh, it’s just a friendly stray, not our dog” they tell guests. Why such bias? I don’t think I can as yet correctly answer that, but all I can guess for now is this- the British were the ones responsible (largely) for introducing the practice of keeping and showing dogs as pets in our country. They were too busy importing aristocratic canines from ‘back home’ and never bothered to develop local breeds. May be they even actively dissuaded local breeds (we know they did this with a lot of other local stuff, including people). The few Indian breeds that did get recognition were mostly the ones promoted by a few enterprising Maharajas. Little wonder then that most Indians, especially the snobbish kind, believe the Pariah (I’m tired of that name, lets just call it the Desi) to be the scourge of the canine world rightfully belonging in the streets and never to be seen in any self respecting man’s yard.
Dogs are not wild animals. They are just domesticated wolves that have changed morphologically due to years of isolated, selective breeding. They don’t ‘exist’ naturally on streets. All stray dogs, Desi or not, are on the streets because they have been dumped there by their owners, or, have been born to dumped dogs. Again, I repeat, no dogs ‘belong’ to the streets. Experts opine that the origin of the domestic dog can be traced back to Asia, particularly India, and that it is in fact a direct descendent of the Indian wolf Canis lupus. Here are a few facts about apna Desi for those of you who still need proof about their eligibility to the show ring:
The breed is fast losing its purity to mixed breeding. It is extremely crucial to preserve the breed now. Like minded promoters of the breed need to get together, set a high standard, and start breeding these dogs selectively to achieve that standard. Every effort should be made to get the breed recognized at least by the Kennel Club of India and give it the respect it so truly deserves. A lot of us Indians need to stop being snobs and start appreciating the fact that the very purpose of keeping a dog is to have a companion for life. They are not status symbols born for the show ring and nothing else. The purpose of dog shows is to promote a breed and encourage breeders to strive for making every litter better than its parents. Glamour is not the point of a dog show. Even if you are looking for glamour, take this- the Desi is the oldest living breed of domestic dog. It’s the original domestic dog. The one that started it all! To me, nothing can be more glamorous than that, because it is impossible for any other breed to ever achieve that.