Moving south again to Taiwan, I would like to share a picture of an aboriginal dog from the Atayal village of Smangus in the mountainous center of the island. I hope to see many more of these beautiful, intelligent animals during my research trip beginning in December.
These dogs are boar-hunters, companions, and guards for the tribal villages of the mountains. They are always inky-black, with sharp upturned ears, alert brown eyes, and muscular, compact bodies. I was sorely tempted to bargain for a puppy…
If Taiwanese tribes are indeed related to seafaring Austronesian peoples as suggested by linguistic similarities, then these unusual Taiwanese dogs may be ancestral to the extinct poi dog of Polynesian cultures in Hawai’i. Below is a historic picture of a Hawai’ian woman with her poi dog. These dogs were small and short-legged, showing how quickly dog breeds can be altered in size and appearance.
I encountered a variety of native dogs while working with the Pumé hunter-gatherers of southern Venezuela. These puppies, photographed by me in 1993, were being toted by a young lady and her grandmother packed for a wet season camp move several miles away.
Unlike Taiwanese Atayal dogs, Pumé dogs are typically white with black spots. But the two breeds are similar in their athletic wiry build, keen intelligence, and excellent value as hunters, companions, and sentinels. Many native special breeds (like the poi dog) are now extinct. But where would we be without them? Hats off to Native dogs everywhere!