5 Semi-Wild Dogs From Around the World

Nathan Rupert, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Nathan Rupert, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Many dogs are the products of decades of selective breeding at the hands of humans. Others have been free to adapt to their environment, whether it's the streets of Dubai or the jungles of New Guinea. Feral or semi-wild dogs aren’t just mutts: Many are distinct breeds with unique features and abilities. From America’s Carolina dogs to the tree-climbing dogs of New Guinea, here are the five types of free-ranging dogs you should know.

1. Potcakes

Potcake puppy.
bookfinch, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In between snorkeling and lounging on the beach, tourists to Turks and Caicos should find time to interact with the local dogs. Potcakes are the islands’ own feral (and adorable) dog breed. Weighing 40 to 55 pounds, the medium-sized dogs are likely a hybrid of the pets brought by the indigenous Arawak people, rat terriers left behind by supply ships, and the dogs of the British loyalists who moved to the Bahamas during the Revolutionary War. The dogs became a fixture of the region in the 20th century, earning the name potcakes because locals fed them the caked-on food from the bottom of their cooking pots. Today, potcakes can be found wandering Turks and Caicos begging for scraps like their ancestors. They’re also available to adopt—or take for a no-strings-attached walk on the beach—from the dog rescue charity the Potcake Place. The Bahamas have their own breed of potcake, too, which is officially known as the Royal Bahamian Potcake.

2. Carolina dogs

Carolina dog with ball.
Steve McDonald, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

You don’t need to leave the U.S. to find wild dog breeds. Visit certain corners of the American South and you might find roving packs of Carolina dogs, also known as American dingos. As their nickname suggests, the feral canines closely resemble their cousins in Australia. They have pointed ears, long snouts, and muscular bodies that help them survive in the wild. Carolina dogs are the oldest dog breed in America—with their earliest ancestors arriving on the continent 9000 years ago after crossing the Bering land bridge with the first Native Americans—but they weren’t recognized as a distinct breed until the 1970s. That’s when a University of Georgia ecologist named Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin noticed a pack of them near the Savannah River. The dogs are thought to be the only wild dog breed native to the country, and though they are instinctive hunters, they also make great pets.

3. New Guinea singing dogs

The New Guinea singing dog is an ancient dog breed that arrived on the island of New Guinea more than 4000 years ago. They stand about 17 inches tall at the shoulder and look like a cross between a dingo and Shiba Inu. But this wild dog is unlike any other on Earth: It has a flexible spine like a cat that allows it to scurry up trees after prey. Its high-pitched howl has been compared to the vocalizations of a humpback whale, which is how it got the name “singing” dog. (You can hear it in the video above.) The canines are also incredibly rare. Before a population was recently discovered in New Guinea, scientists feared that they had gone extinct in the wild.

4. Indian pariah dogs

Two Indian pariah dogs.
traumschoen/iStock via Getty Images

Indian pariah dogs have been present on the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years. They arrived in India by way of China, the country thought to be the home of the world's first domesticated canines. The lanky pariah dogs have adapted to living among people, often populating urban areas, but they generally fend for themselves. Unlike other so-called “village dogs,” the Indian pariah dog is a distinct breed and not just a general term for stray mongrels. They’re remarkably friendly for a semi-wild dog breed, and many people adopt them into their homes.

5. Sato dogs

Two sato dogs.
Geoff Gallice, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Sato is slang for “street dog” in Puerto Rico. Though they tend to vary in size and appearance, they’re typically small dogs with folded ears and short coats. Experts believe they descended from the first hunting and working dogs brought to Puerto Rico in the 1500s. The dogs have been abused and neglected for centuries, with so many people abandoning their unwanted pets on one part of the island that it earned the nickname “dead dog beach.” The strays are still stigmatized, but rescue groups are working to rehabilitate their image. The Sato Project is dedicated to rescuing, sterilizing, and finding forever homes for Sato dogs, with many of them ending up in the U.S.

Therapy Puppy Provides Comfort to Grieving Families at North Carolina Funeral Home

AllenSphoto, iStock via Getty Images
AllenSphoto, iStock via Getty Images

Emotional support animals have become common sights at places like airports, and now the funeral industry is embracing their therapeutic benefits. As WGAL reports, Macon Funeral Home in North Carolina now has a Bernese mountain dog puppy to provide comfort to grieving clients.

Nine-week-old Mochi isn't a fully trained therapy dog yet, but she's already winning over visitors. Tori McKay, Macon's funeral office administrator, had dreamed of bringing a grief-support dog into the business for a decade. Shortly after her 30th birthday on January 4, she and her husband "decided that Mochi would make a wonderful addition to our family and this decade of our lives," she wrote on the funeral home's website.

McKay chose a Bernese mountain dog for the breed's affectionate personality, relaxed disposition, and successful history as an emotional support animal. Between ages 6 months to 1 year, Mochi will receive therapy dog training in Asheville. The plan is to eventually make her available to families upon request and bring her to nursing homes to meet with residents. Until then, the puppy is meeting guests in a more casual setting as she gets used to socializing with strangers.

"Stop by and meet her, she loves making new friends!" a post on the funeral home's Facebook page reads.

[h/t WGAL]

One of the World’s Most Dangerous Spiders Could Invade Homes after Australia's Recent Rainfall

Ian Waldie, Getty Images
Ian Waldie, Getty Images

While recent rainfall has been a welcome change in Australia after destructive bushfires caused a widespread crisis, it hasn’t come without an asterisk. According to the Australian Reptile Park, the wet and warm conditions have made Sydney funnel web spiders highly active—and the funnel web spider happens to be one of the most venomous arachnids on the planet.

In a video the park shared on Facebook, officials warn that the weather might cause a marked increase in the spiders' activity, as males cover territory in search of a mate. They might be found in shoes, in laundry, or in yards. Fortunately, Atrax robustus is easy to identify, with its shiny body providing a helpful visual cue to immediately begin walking in the other direction.

Male funnel webs are thought to have venom up to six times more dangerous than females and also tend to move around more, making human encounters with them more likely. Because they can’t climb smooth surfaces, funnel webs are also prone to burrowing in piled-up clothing or other hiding spaces, providing an unwelcome surprise for anyone looking to retrieve their discarded shirt or socks.

The funnel web is also aggressive, quick to attack when provoked, and packs a powerful enough bite to pierce shoes. After being bitten, pain, muscle spasms, and pulmonary edema follow. Victims should use a compression bandage and limb immobilization to compress surface tissue until they receive medical attention.

Though the species is believed to have caused 13 human deaths, there haven’t been any fatalities attributable to a funnel web bite since 1981. That’s due in large part to antivenom made from milked spiders, an advancement that saved the life of a 10-year-old boy, Matthew Mitchell, bitten by the spider in 2017. The spider was loitering in his shoe and bit him on the finger. After 12 vials of antivenom, Mitchell made a complete recovery.

The Australian Reptile Park is actually encouraging citizens to trap the spiders and bring them in to drop-off sites to aid in the antivenom production effort. They advise nudging the spider into a plastic or glass container with a spoon. Extreme caution should be exercised, but you knew that.

[h/t CNET]

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