Pariah dogs of the Middle East
July 15, 2002 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Pariah dogs of the Middle East No, not these two jokers, but the real thing: Canaan dogs. Like the more refined Saluki, Sloughi, Azawakh, Afghan Hound and "barkless" Basenji (among many others), Canaan dogs have been known for thousands of years. They guard herds for modern Bedouins like they did for ancient Israelites. During the 1930s, when traditional "war dogs" were having trouble adapting to Palestine, Zionists carefully redomesticated the semi-wild animals, turning them into seeing eye dogs and guards for isolated settlements. Canaan dogs became one of the first breeds trained to detect mines effectively, although their use for bomb-sniffing remains a touchy subject [LAT, reg'n]. You also might enjoy pondering the provocative question raised by this detailed essay: Why have all three major monotheistic religions considered dogs "a threat to the authority of the clergy"?
posted by mediareport (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Mediareport: having never used the word "awesome" about a post, I'll gladly throw it in here. I decided to post "hot" rather than mull over all the many possible journeys you suggest.

I'm Jewish and my dog-owning rabbi recently joked that German shepherds were unkosher. Still... apart from the Shoah connotations, there does seem to be a prejudice against violent dogs. Isaac Bashevis Singer, for instance, often mentioned in his stories how much he hated and feared barking and, well, animated dogs in general.

Your post got me thinking that cats are far more congenial to religion - whether monotheistic or not (think Egypt, of course) - than dogs can ever be. Even though cats are, in essence, much more aggressive and unreligious, in the sense that they're so absolutely selfish.

I like dogs and cats equally but a cat's indifference and standoffishness seems much less threatening to holistic world views. Am I barking mad in thinking such a thing? ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:36 PM on July 15, 2002

Posts like this make baby Jesus smile.
posted by bshort at 8:38 PM on July 15, 2002

Especially interesting was the problems with bomb sniffing and the threat to the authority of clergy.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:32 PM on July 15, 2002

Oh Miguel!! Cats standoffish?, cats much more aggressive?. This book provides a truely wonderful insight into just how the social life of the cat works. :-)
posted by Arqa at 4:02 AM on July 16, 2002

What great and to-the-point links, Arqa! It took me aback a bit to find the first link actually deny standoffishness. Very shaming! I tried to find some desperate way out (cats don't hate or, if they do, they prefer to do so from a distance, without threat or noise) but I just crumbled. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:08 AM on July 16, 2002

Cheers Miguel. Though 'tis now my turn to crumble. It seems that whilst cats may hate each other from a distance, some are more than happy to hate us close-up! ;-)
posted by Arqa at 5:06 AM on July 16, 2002

We've had a basenji for 12 years. She's cooler than Neal Stephenson. We've pretty much decided that our house will need to have at least one basenji for the rest of our lives.

Great post, mediareport.
posted by dglynn at 9:11 AM on July 16, 2002

Thanks for all the love -- and for those great cat links, Arqa. For Miguel: "The vast number of dog mummies and dog cemeteries, especially in the vicinity of the city named Hardai (called Cynopolis or "Dog City" by the Greeks), stand as a silent testament to the bond of affection between dogs and their Egyptian masters."

I heart primitive dogs:
New Guinea Singing Dogs (listen)
Ridgebacks of Southeast Asia
The secret history of the dingo
Carolina dogs may be a remnant of packs that accompanied humans across the Bering Land Bridge 8,000 years ago. A wild population was discovered near the S.C. Savannah River nuke site in the 1970s.
Chapters from two books about the evolution of wild dogs (NYT)
The Animal Mummy Project
The amazing history of Ashkelon, a Canaanite, Philistine, Persian, Palestinian and now Israeli port city and site of a huge dog cemetary (and where Samson supposedly killed a bunch of people)
posted by mediareport at 11:50 AM on July 16, 2002

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