A Brief Breed History
By Ellen Minto

Bedouin Canaan Dogs
Bedouin and Canaan Dogs

The Canaan Dog is an ancient breed and they, like the other pariah dogs of the Middle East, are thought to have originated with the Indian Wolf. However there is another theory that the pariah dog descends from a southern species of canine distinct from the wolf, though closely related to it. (For a more in-depth look at this theory request a reprint of THE INDIAN WOLF, THE AUSTRALIAN DINGO AND THE INDIAN "PARIAH DOG" by Gautam Das as appears in the January 1999 issue of THE CANAAN DOG NEWS and originally printed in the January 1998 issue of MERIGAL.) Drawings have been found on the tombs at Beni-Hassan dating 2200-2000 BC depicting dogs that show unmistakable resemblance to the Canaan Dog of today. The breed belongs to one of the oldest families of dogs, the Spitz family, whose members exist all over the world. Although dogs of similar type appear throughout the Middle East, the specific type of the Canaan Dog is found primarily in Israel.

The Canaan Dog is said to have been the guard and herd dog of the ancient Israelites. They were plentiful in the land of Canaan (from which they get their name) until the dispersion of the Israelites. The dogs then too dispersed, the majority ending up in the Negev Desert that harboured much Israeli wildlife. Basically a wild dog that has evolved through natural selection, only the strongest, most fit and most intelligent specimens survived the demanding conditions of the harsh Israeli environment. Some of the dogs did retain a form of domesticity by living with the Bedouin and earning their keep by guarding the herds and camps.

In 1934 Dr Rudolphina Menzel, a noted authority on dogs, immigrated to Palestine - the future state of Israel. She was recruited by the Haganah, Israel's first defence force, to develop a service dog organisation for guarding the isolated Hebrew settlements and fighting the War of Independence. Finding that the breeds traditionally used for war tasks suffered impaired efficiency from the adverse climactic conditions, Dr Menzel turned her attention to the pariah dogs (semi-wild dogs) she found living in the area. She concluded that this was a true native breed of dog ideally adapted to the conditions of this difficult land. She was the one who named the breed the "Canaan Dog" for the land in which it was found.

Dr Menzel began working first with wild and semi-wild adult dogs near her home by luring them with food. She also captured litters of puppies, which she raised and found very adaptable to domestication. She then began her own breeding program and introduced the Canaan as a working dog. The Canaan Dog was used extensively during and after World War II for patrol, tracking and guard work. One of the first dogs trained to detect mines effectively was a Canaan Dog.

Today the Canaan Dog can still be found guarding the Bedouin camps and flocks. The Israeli public has also come to value the qualities of its native breed and use the Canaan Dog as home guard dogs. The Israeli army continues to rely almost exclusively on Canaan Dogs for guard and patrol work. Although Canaan Dogs still exist in the wild their numbers are dwindling due to the encroachment of civilisation. The breed has established worldwide recognition with populations firmly established in Israel, England, Western Europe and the USA.

Table of Contents | Our Canaans

Last updated on the 5th October 2015