About Me

My photo
Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier, birder and amateur arachnologist. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. Before that, worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai from 1993-2007. Also a wildlife conservationist working in the tiger reserves of central India with Satpuda Foundation.

This blog is for aboriginal breed enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah) and INDog-mix mongrels are featured here. The two are NOT the same, do please read the text on the right to understand the difference. Our aim: to create awareness about the primitive natural breed called the Indian Pariah Dog/INDog. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Nana - primitive dog of Russia?

Veera Antsalo of Helsinki entered the fascinating world of primitive breeds when her new dog Nana arrived from a shelter in St.Petersburg. Like primitive dog owners across countries, she has become increasingly intrigued by her dog's appearance, unique behaviour and ancestry, all the more mysterious because such dogs are virtually unknown in Finland. One possibility is that Nana is descended from the Yakutian Laika. There are lots of really gorgeous photos in Veera's blog - click here.

Veera tells us about this beautiful dog:

I adopted Nana in October 2007 from a Russian dog shelter with the help of a Finnish voluntary organization. I had been thinking of getting a dog for some time and my natural choice was a rescued dog as I knew there are a lot of homeless dogs in need of new owners and because I had always disliked the idea of having an expensive pedigreed dog as a status symbol. I also knew some people who had adopted dogs from our neighboring countries Estonia and Russia (where there a lot of stray dogs unlike in Finland where ownerless dogs are extremely rare). These dogs had adapted fast and become wonderful pets.

Nana was brought from Russia to me in Helsinki and before this first meeting I had only seen a few pictures of her and a description of her character. She was described as "quiet, calm and dignified" and I learned fast that she truly is like that. But she also has another side because she is also very playful (outdoors), lively and attentive. She can also be noisy even though she doesn't bark much because she has a set of wonderful howls and other kinds of strange vocalizations, mainly for greeting and expressing her enthusiasm (or just to join the cry of an ambulance).

My first intuitive thought upon meeting her was that she looks a bit like a wolf and a bit like a fox. Then I came to think that actually with her red coat she looks very much like a dingo - the shape of head, ears, eyes, proportions, and the way she walks with her head lowered - it all made for a striking resemblance. And it was not only the way she looked but the way she moved, the way she observed the surroundings and her extraordinary alertness and passion for both seeking, stalking and catching any kind of prey. I learned quickly that Nana is a kind of dog that can never fully be trained to obey and to be off leash: her natural insticts are simply too strong. Even though she always follows me in the woods she does not come when called but when she pleases. In a city with both hares and busy streets with cars this is not a good thing so I always have to think carefully where and when I turn her loose.

Needless to say I love Nana to pieces, and so does everyone else who knows her. She is a real character. She is simply so loving and attached to people and will roll on her back very quickly when meeting them. Indoors she is very calm and she never destroys anything so she is perfect to have in an apartment. Outside she becomes lively and her main activity is trying to locate prey. No animal seems to escape her keen senses - and if there is a fly inside the house she doesn't rest until it is firmly placed between her jaws.

She loves to play with other dogs (except bulldog type dogs that she seems to avoid as much as possible - dog racism?) and it is a great joy to watch her in intense play because her body language is so clear and she is so fast and agile and makes funny jumps and boxing movements with her paws while playing. She also has her hackles up all the way along her back forming an impressive mohawk - never seen anything comparable on any other dog.

One of the most curious things about Nana is how well she fits into the description of long-term pariah morphotype. She could well be a Canaan Dog, a Carolina Dog or (with slightly different fur) an INDog by appearance and her mentality is definitively of an independent animal who relies more on her own senses than her owner's. She will never carelessly approach a strange person, animal or object without first making sure it is not dangerous or ill-meaning.

Yet she is a Russian street dog and most typically their ancestry is made up of modern European breeds - GSDs, labradors, rottweilers, schnauzers, terriers, spitzes and more; pariah type dogs would be well-mongrelized and thereby vanished among the street dog population of Northern Europe. One possible explanation is that she is a landrace laika (laikas are original spitz type dogs of the native people in Russia and Siberia who have traditionally survived in partly pariah existence in many areas) but I have no idea how likely it is that one would be found in an urban environment.

Veera Antsalo



Bea said...

Very interesting to read about your beautiful dog, my dog from Sri Lanka also has a mohawk which pops up in moments of excitment or stress - I wonder if it is a pariah dog thing? I've not seen another dog with this in the UK.

Veera said...


this is also something I have been wondering. My dog's hair is also longer and stiffer on the back where it stands up so it really is quite impressive. She has it up very easily, she only has to see another dog. I saw a picture of an Australian dingo with similar mohawk and also on a basenji, even though the hair was very short so it was not so visible. Thanks for your comment!