Canaan Dog Ancient Herding Dog
Was this the dog used by the shepherds in the Bible? In church, I have heard numerous references to sheep and those people who tend the sheep but I don’t recall any references to the sheepdogs that helped the shepherds. When I think about it, I am sure they must have had dogs to help. And the Canaan dog was very likely the kind of dog they had. The Canaan dog, according to the website Dog Breed Center dogtime.com., is, “Believed to be the dog the Hebrews used in Biblical times to herd and guard their flocks.” In Bedouius and Druse they may still be used. Wikipedia says they are a Canaanite breed and could have been in the Eastern Mediterranean Seaboard for thousands of years and are referenced in ancient sculptures.
Doctor Rudolphina Menzel was a student of the desert pariah dogs and classified them in four types. These were the:
Heavy, sheepdog appearance
Border Collie appearance
She put the Caanan dog as coming from the Border Collie appearance, somewhat similar to today’s Border Collie-Dr. Menzel placed importance on points that made the dog different from the German Shepherd, which it sometimes resembles.
-information from Wikipedia.
Canaan dog Picture
The Canaan Dog ,as described on the Dog Breed Center, is a pariah dog. I had to look for a definition of the term Pariah dog. ” I found itdefined as being a ownerless, mongrel dog common in Asian villages for thousands of years.. They are somewhat like what used to call a farm collie back in the 1920’s. They would be more like a Border Collie than the Rough Collie of today.
Dogs were important in ancient Middle Eastern cultures to herd and guard sheep. according to the Dog Breed Center these dogs were called Lelef Kanani which is Hebrew for Canaan Dog. Thus they got their name from the Hebrews. They have survived for thousands of years and have traits that allowed them to survive in the harsh deserts. The website goes on to say” This agile dog can change directions quickly and moves at a brisk trot…” This reminds me of a Collie I had many years ago who would chase a ball, stop and turn around and jump up to catch the ball. It seemed like one fluid motion.
The Canaan Dog can learn to track, herd and compete in obedience trials. According to the mentioned website they probably will not jump into a cold lake like some hunting dogs will do. They have some herding instinct but not as strong as some other herding breeds. It is also said they make good watchdogs. Seems that guard instinct would normally go with herding. In some cases they may be overly into guarding and not know friend from foe.
History of the Canaan
This dog was a pariah dog in ancient Canaan which would be approximately the area covering modern Israel, Palestinian territories, Lebanon and parts of Jordan on the west. It is among the oldest dog breeds. Some of the oldest remains of dogs have been discovered on the caves of Einan and Havonim. Some go back 10,000 years. A rock carving found in the Sinai Desert from the first to third Century AD shows a dog similar to the Canaan Dog. A graveyard of 700 dogs was found in Ashkelon, which may have been Phoenician of the fifth century BC. The dogs are all buried in the same position on their sides and legs flexed. Archaeologists have noted a similarity to the Canaan dogs. Source Wikipedia.
As the Dog Breed Center points out the Bible describes Ancient Palestine and Phoenicia to be prosperous in terms of flocks of sheep and goats. It stands to reason that there would be dogs employed to help with herding. Events, such as the invasions of Rome and the scattering of the people the dogs lost their purpose. The dogs, as a result, went to the desert of southern Israel and became feral, depending cunning and strength to survive. They went their way, occasionally teaming up with humans but mostly living wild.
In the 1930’s Dr. Menzel, a professor of animal and comparative psychology at the University of Tel Aviv, got the idea to use these dogs as guard dogs for Jewish communities. The Haganah asked her help to build a service dog organization. She was and decided to take on the task. Originally thinking she would work with established breeds she recalled the Canaan dogs she saw ran across in the desert.” They had survival skills, and that is what she needed,” the Dog Breed center states. She and her husband began breeding the desert dogs and improving their bloodlines. They started training the dogs for sentry work. Land mine detection and delivering messages. According to The Dog Breed Center website the couple got their dogs active with the Middle East forces during World war II. After the war some of the dogs were used as guide dogs. The Palestinian Kennel club registered 150 of the dogs by 1948
Since I am the owner of a Siberian Husky and have owned closely related dogs I find it interesting that the Canaan Dogs have a double coat to insulate them from the heat. The Siberian Husky has a similar coat to protect it from the cold.
The Dog Breed Center describes their personalities endearing and responsive. Surviving as a wild dog in the desert gives some element of independence. This dog is very adaptable if properly socialized. They are adaptable to many living conditions. Apartment life with several short walks will do fine. But they are also adaptable to suburban life with kids. They are active but not overactive. They suggest early socialization, confident attitude in training. Possibly not the dog for those inexperienced with dogs. They respond well to motivational techniques but get bored with repetitive training. They should have strong and firm leadership and should not be allowed to take charge. They can be aggressive toward other dogs and aloof with people they do not know. Sources differ as to use as guard dogs.. They should have a secure fenced in yard Like sled dog breeds they like to dig and can make a mess out of a yard.
They are still a rare breed and if you want one, you might have to get on a waiting list.
Website for Dog Breed Center
Wikipedia article on Canaan dogs
copyright 2012 Don Hoglund
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