The Bamboo Dog

The Chinese Chongqing Dog has been called one of the rarest breeds in the world, a phrase that gets tossed around a lot these days. It is not hyperbole. There was an all out effort to intentionally eradicate this – and other Chinese breeds – from China during Mao Zedong’s rule.

Official Communist doctrine held that pets dogs were useless playthings of the rich, a “symbol of decadence and a criminal extravagance at a time of food shortages,” and untold millions of dogs were slaughtered during this time. The purge resulted in the total and complete extinction of many Chinese breeds, and those that survived were either breeds that had already become established in the West before the purge, dogs that lived in a remote mountainous regions where governmental control was comparatively weak, or were working dogs exempt from the worst of the slaughter.  The Chinese Chongqing dog was saved because of the latter two reasons, and also because a small number of owners in remote Sichuan Valleys continued to reproduce them, presumably under a clock of secrecy. This allowed the breed to hang on long enough for a change in attitude to occur once Mao Zedong died. 

After more than 30 years of being slaughtered and banned, pets became allowed again, and indeed popular by the early 1990s. The only source of dogs was the countryside,  and residents in cities like Chongqing took to importing dogs from these rural regions. It was not enough, however, to ensure a secure future for the breed. A SARS virus outbreak meant a culling in large numbers, and though there was no scientific evidence linking dogs to the epidemic, dogs became victims nonetheless if only by fear. The stories of what befell dogs during this time were horrifying and gut wrenching.

In 2001, the Chinese Chongqing Dog Promotional Committee was founded, its aim was to promote the breed and increase its population throughout China and the world. In 2006, however, an outbreak of “mad dog disease,” (rabies) triggered a second major dog cull, and one county in Yunnan province alone clubbed, electrocuted, or buried alive 50,000 dogs to control the disease. Regardless of vaccinations, no animal was spared apart from police and army dogs, and among those killed were Chinese Chongqing dogs.

In 2006, the same year as the rabies cull, the Chinese Chongqing Dog Breeding Centre was founded in Beijing. The CCDBC collected the finest available breed specimens from around Chongqing to use in its breeding program, but still, it’s a marvel that any living dogs are found in China at all. And yet the Chinese Chongqing dog survives. It is considered extremely rare with fewer than 2,000 left in the world.

We came across a ten minute video produced by Animal Watch that is worth seeing to see the dogs in action:

Luckily for the Chinese Chongqing Dog, there are now has four separate organizations designed to protect and promote the breed around the world, the CCDBC, Chongqing Pet Association, Chongqing Kennel Club, and Chinese Chongqing Dog Promotional Committee. There is also a Facebook page worth visiting if only to see more photographs of this remarkable breed.

It is sometimes called the Bamboo Dog for its bamboo tail carried completely straight without any curve and resembling a bamboo stick.  When the dog is in motion, the tail is usually carried slightly upright at approximately a 45 degree angle from the back.  The tail is quite thick at the base, but tapers to a very sharp point at the end.  Perhaps most interestingly, it is almost completely hairless.

Image by Markus Monroe – Markus Monroe, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75407158

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