These were clicked during an 8-day long birding trip in North Bengal. I was glued to my binoculars almost throughout, but the few times I lowered the binocs I picked up the cam to click the local hounds. My arms are still aching!!!
This was my first time birding and dog-watching in the Eastern Himalayas. The dogs were very different from the Western Himalayas, which I've visited three times. In the Western Himalaya I saw some INDogs only around Dehradun. As you reach higher altitudes the dogs start getting bulkier with coat colours of the famous Bhutia/Himalayan Mastiff. Keep ascending and the coats become heavier, and the dogs look much more Bhutia than INDog. (Some photos of a typical Western Himalaya dog in this post.)
In the lower altitudes of North Bengal there don't seem to be any large livestock-guarding breeds like Bhutias, and the village and town dogs mostly look quite uniform.
We went from Bagdogra airport to Siliguri, which are both at around 122 metres altitude. The free-roamers look very INDog there, except for a few mix-breeds as one sees in all cities. They are usually shorter and sometimes stockier than the INDogs of Central and Western India.
|INDog at Bagdogra airport|
|This dog was outside the homestay we were in at Latpanchor. I think she gets fed by the owners.|
She even comes up to the first-floor balcony.
|A mix-breed dog we saw walking through Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary with his owner|
On to Lava which is very near the Sikkim border, and very close to Bhutan. Altitude: 2100 metres. Again the dogs are short, about as high as the top of my knee-cap (that's 21 inches). Thick coats and in one dog the remnants of a thicker winter coat. Ears dropped at the tip. Mostly very uniform in appearance. Perhaps the Apso + INDog mix goes back a long way and all the free-roamers now look very similar? There were a few 'modern' looking mix-breeds too, but they were a minority. I also saw a couple of dogs that looked like tall Apsos.
|Kale (black) with friends. They were a group of four living near the Forest Department bungalows up the hill at Lava.|
But they came down to the town as well.
|Kale was the kingpin this side of town. He still had some of his rusty winter coat |
but you can see the short summer coat below.
|One of Kale's friends|
|A lady from Kale's gang. I love how she posed near the poppies.|
|Another lady with a dark muzzle, met on the way down the hill|
All the dogs were very sweet-tempered and many seemed attached to one or more houses. They had a polite, safe way of approaching people. None of them demanded attention; they would wait for a friendly gesture before coming close. Our guide Mr Joseph told us they are all fed by people and none are ownerless. They have names (like Kale, 'black'). Mr Joseph had once named a dog Dhan Bahadur. I love dogs with human names!
|Tricolour outside Mr Joseph's restaurant: quite a popular dog hangout, and no wonder. The food was yummy.|
There were only three dogs I saw that weren't friendly: two of them were largish mix-breeds sitting at the gate of the monastery. They barked at everyone passing and even chased someone walking by the gate. It didn't seem a good idea to make eye contact or point a large lens at them. The third was a very scared-looking puppy eating from a garbage dump just outside the town. It ran towards the town when I looked at it. Perhaps it had run out of its home and got lost.
The dog below was at Rishyap, 2590 metres. Like many dogs in the area he was much troubled by fleas. I had to wait a few minutes for him to stop scratching before I could click!
On the way back we drove through the Darjeeling district down a very pleasant road with tea gardens on either side, passing through Gorubathan and Dam Dim. Saw some beautiful and pure-looking INDogs along the way, but we were in a rush to reach Siliguri before dark so I didn't stop to click.
Here are two dogs from the Siliguri-Bagdogra region. I clicked them on my way to the airport the next day. It seems the dogs of the North Bengal plains are mostly true INDogs, like all the rural dogs around Bengal.
|Street dog in Siliguri, amid normal urban Indian squalor|
|Female on the Siliguri-Bagdogra road: taller than the norm in this area|
For more indigenous dogs of North East India, see Manipur INDog and dogs of Nagaland; INDogs of Upper Assam and Eastern Arunachal Pradesh; On the banks of the Brahmaputra; Assam INDog portraits by Azaz.
Photo of dog with poppies: Kalpana Malani
Latpanchar, Lava, Siliguri, Bagdogra
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