Canaan Dog: Proto Dog

Figures vary as to when the first dogs descended from wolves, but most scientists believe it occurred somewhere between 14,000 and 40,000 years ago, give or take a millennia. Those early critters have been called,”proto-dogs,” and there’s a breed in our midst that gives us insights into how they lived: The Canaan Dog.

Before the Israelis actively sought to preserve this ancient breed named after the biblical region from which it originated, Canaan Dogs lived a life style as described in the Proto-dog’s story. They followed Bedouin Nomads and lived on the fringes of camp while scavenging for a living, not really belonging to anyone. On occasion, a Bedouin would notice an exceptional pup in a litter and take ownership of it to use as a herding dog or guard, but the dog still lived on the edge of camp and either foraged or lived off of scraps. According to the site, Better Canine Health, if a Bedouin was asked to whom the dog belonged, they would answer, “Allah” because they didn’t view the dog as theirs.

The Canaan Dog’s story is a fascinating one, and a blog that appeared in a recent “Times of Israel” offers better insight into the breed’s history. Find it here.

Photo by Myrna Shiboleth

4 thoughts on “Canaan Dog: Proto Dog”

  1. The photo is mine, taken several years ago in the Negev in Israel, showing wonderful Canaans working as they traditionally have with the Bedouin flocks.
    There are many more photos, including more photos of Bedouin and free living Canaans, on my webpage, and on my Facebook page, Myrna Shiboleth.

    Shaar Hagai Kennels has been closed by the Israel government agencies, I and the dogs evicted, and the place demolished. I have been forced to relocate in Italy, but I am continuing as best as I can with the work of preserving the breed and bringing in new dogs from the desert to refresh the bloodlines, through cooperation with other serious dog people in Israel. We feel it is very important, and the window of opportunity to do this is rapidly closing.

    We are also initiating a project to build up a DNA profile of the Canaan, to be able to identify dogs from the desert and other unknown sources as Canaans. We also hope as part of this project to be able to examine DNA from pariah dogs of surrounding areas, primarily the Arabian peninsula, and to be able to compare with the Canaan DNA. We feel that this is a relevant and important project, and hope that other dog lovers will support us in raising funds for it. All information of this sort that we can collect is very valuable in the continuing investigation of the origin and development of the dog. For those interested in helping, the site can be found on my FB page or in a message to me.

    Thanks for the article and thanks for the interest!
    Myrna Shiboleth

    • Myrna, we’re well aware of your heroic efforts to save the Canaan Dog – please let us know how we can help in the future?

  2. Let me first say that I fully respect all Myrna has done for this “breed” and I appreciate she currently has difficulties and could say more on that but will not. What I must say is that until a few weeks ago Myrna was telling people that DNA testing was a waste of money. I initiated a project over 3 years ago, after a number of years trying to interest other geneticists, to look at the DNA of these free living dogs, initially with Niels Pedersen at UC Davis and then in an agreed collaboration with Elaine Ostrander at the National Institute of Health and Adam Boyko who also runs Embark. There have already been close to 50 of these dogs on the Arabian Peninsula tested and awaiting final analysis and publication. This is MY project NOT Myrnas “initiative.” If she and her connections wish to carry out a separate investigation she is welcome to and if she wants to include some of her dogs in my programme that could be discussed but I do not accept her or Carol Beuchet attempting to take over my project. Myrna, while once telling me privately that if she saw my dogs I had in Saudi Arabia, in a show ring, she would consider them very good Canaan dogs. Despite that she has persisted propagating the idea that this type of dog Israeli only. Canaan dogs can already be identified by Embark and other DNA testing companies. Numbers of pedigree Canaan dogs tested are less than 30 for EMBARK so are too low to draw statistical conclusions as to the overall breed situation. She recently stated in her “Open letter to Canaan dog people” that with regards to Canaan dogs “For many years, my breeding was laughed at and it was hardly possible to even give puppies away, no one wanted an “Arab dog.” ” Dogs know nothing of human borders, politics or religion. The evidence is that these dogs lived throughout the Arabian peninsula, eastern mediterranean and Egypt long before the time of Moses. Calling them Israeli or Jewish no doubt improved the chance of selling them in Israel and perhaps to Israelis overseas. The true significance is far greater. Please read my recent blog and all the verifiable factual information it links to. I’m not seeking fame or trying to make a living from selling dogs I just want the facts out there for people to make their own minds up. Freeborn dog I have publically available DNA results for (2 from UAE and one from Saudi have all tested 100% pure.

    • Thanks for the information, Duncan. This is not a conflict we want to get in the middle of, but we’ll share your information for the edification of readers. Thanks for writing.

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