The Battle to Save the “Biblical Dog”

The Canaan dog has roamed the harsh desert climate since biblical times, but it is in danger of fading away.

photo by Brulliard/Washington Post

A fascinating story in the Washington Post describes an effort in Israel to save the Canaan dog, a breed that has been around since biblical times. However, Canaan dogs are now in danger of becoming lost forever because of a battle between the Israeli government and a kennel working to rescue the breed. According to the Post story:

In recent decades, scores of Canaan dogs were destroyed in rabies eradication programs, and now only a few hundred subsist in the Negev desert, often living at the edges of Bedouin camps. But as Bedouins increasingly settle in cities, the Canaan dogs either are left to fend for themselves or lose their breed’s traits by mating with urban dogs.

If Sha’ar Hagai Kennels is forced to close, there may be no one willing to do the work of collecting the rare specimens in the desert and breeding them. There are currently between 2,000 and 3,000 Canaan dogs across the world, but the actual gene pool is much smaller. ‘“Unless some true effort is made, they will just fade into history, and that would be a shame,” says Janice Koler-Matznick, an Oregon-based biologist and expert on primitive dog breeds.’

The story of the Canaan dog’s rediscovery in the 1930’s is very interesting, as is their savior’s path to building a kennel in the desert. Read the whole story here.

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