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How many of these dogs of bygone days have you heard of?
Before there were breed standards, there were simply dogs with jobs! Bred almost solely to reinforce the characteristics that made them useful to human survival, dogs of the past tended to have more variety when it came to appearance compared to today’s purebreds.
Does your dog have an ancient ancestor? Read on and find out!
Thylacine, the Australian Tiger Dog
The Thylacine or Thylacinus cynocephalus (Greek for “dog-headed pouched one”) was technically not a canine but a marsupial. An apex predator, British settlers to Australia and Tasmania hunted the “Tasmanian tiger wolf” to extinction to protect their sheep herds. The last known specimens died in captivity, although the same folk who keep an eye out for the Loch Ness Monster and Yeti believe they will find evidence of this unique looking critter in the hinterlands of the outback.
Hare Indian Dog
The Hare dog was thought to be a domestic dog and coyote hybrid—a crossing known as a coydog. The Hare dog was kept by a number of Athabaskan tribes for sight hunting and trap lining in the Great Bear Lake region of northern Canada. Over time, the Hare dog interbred with other dog breeds as they were introduced by encroaching settlers and trappers.
Salish Woolly Dog
Prized by the Salish coast Indians for their fur, these little dogs were kept separate from other village dogs to preserve the white coat and hair length and sheared like sheep every spring. The fibre was spun for traditional blanket weaving. The availability of Hudson Bay trade blankets, inexpensive sheep wool, and the interbreeding of woolly dogs with other breeds all contributed to the extinction of the breed.
Grandfather of some of the biggest and most majestic breeds today such as the mastiff, St. Bernard, Bernese mountain dog, Rottweiler, and Great Dane to name a few, the Molossus can be traced back to Greek antiquity. Molossian dogs have performed many jobs over the centuries, most particularly as guardians of people and livestock.
The Talbot hound was the pure white predecessor of the modern beagle and coonhound. The Talbot was a slow but thorough scent hound, which was closely related to the bloodhound, and thought to be absorbed into that breed over time.
St. John’s Water Dog
Most of our modern water retrievers owe a debt to Newfoundland’s St. John’s dog, including the Newfoundland, golden retriever, and Labrador retrievers. A naturally occurring crossbreeding of the resident dogs of Newfoundland and water dogs brought over from Portugal by fishermen, St. John’s dogs caught the attention of British hunters, who imported the hounds to improve their water-retrieving stock. Over the years, the breed was absorbed into the Labrador.
The predecessor to the modern border collie and Australian shepherd, the Cumberland sheepdog was once popular all over northern England. The breed is thought to have been absorbed into border collie stock over time.