On my first trip to Bali I was overwhelmed by the amount of dogs roaming the streets and sitting at the gates of family compounds. I thought they were so beautiful with their wide varieties of coloring & their delightful upright ears. It wasn’t until I moved to Bali to work with the street dogs that I discovered just how special Bali dogs are
The way the Bali dog is treated you would assume it’s a mutt or a mongrel, when the truth is that the Bali dog is in fact a specific and special breed all of its own. Researchers at the University of California Davis believe that the Bali Dog, with its unique and valuable gene pool may be the oldest dog on earth.
Between 2000 and 2003, Dr. Niels Pederson from the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at University of California Davis led a team that tested the DNA of 3,500 indigenous dogs from all over Bali. Bali has two unique indigenous dogs, the Bali Dog and the highland Kintamani which have been living on the island virtually unaltered for at least 5,000 years. Genetic research shows that the ancestry of the Bali Dog can be traced back about 15,000 years.
According to Dr. Pederson, Bali’s dogs are the richest pool of genetic diversity of all the dogs on the world. ‘The true pure canine breed is the indigenous Bali Dog,’ said Dr. Pedersen. ‘Its lineage goes all the way back to the first proto-dogs that evolved from the wolves. Their genes are highly valuable for further research, as they are a window on the ancestral dog.’
While the world mostly focuses on the extinction of high profile species like the orangutan, elephant, tiger etc, the beautiful Bali Dog remains unspoken about in conservation circles.
According to the Indonesian government there are “too many” Bali dogs and the routinely undertake elimination programs. Add to this that the Bali dog DNA is being diluted by interbreeding with imported western style dogs. Unfortunately the Bali dog is not yet a formally recognized breed, and because its considered common on the island of Bali locals prefer to have “breed dogs” which they consider to be a status symbol. Of course most of these dogs are imported illegally, bred in horrendous puppy mills and then thrown away like garbage once they become sick or too old to breed.
Bali dogs come in a wide variety of colors, ear types and tail types, but regardless of this diversity in appearance they all retain the same pure DNA pool. Bali dogs make wonderful companions, they are naturally a very clean dog with many owners reporting that they are easily house trained from a very young age. They are highly adaptable to different climates, with Bali dogs now being re-homed all over the world, Including, Australia, America, Canada & Europe.
The Bali dog’s genetic diversity means it is less likely to suffer from certain diseases and genetic disorders that are so prevalent in “breed” dogs. If looked after well the breed can live to well over 16 years. The Bali dog is rarely aggressive and will only bite if provoked or cornered. Bali dogs are high jumpers and can clear walls over 3 meters high. They like to be up high and survey their territory. While they are roaming the streets of Bali they may seem feral but most Bali dogs are “owned” or have families or people who care for them.
Bali dogs are great guard dogs, with very specific barks for different kinds of warnings – his bark for “snake” is different to his bark for “scorpion” or “Intruder (of the human variety)”. Bali dogs are smart, have a great sense of humor and big personalities.
At Rob’s Dogs we are working to preserve the precious Bali heritage dog by lobbying to have the breed recognized as an official breed. Population control through sterilization not elimination. Facilitation of overseas adoptions and re-homing & education of Balinese community on how special their Bali dog is.
Anecdotal evidence collected during my 2.5 years of living in Bali working with Bali heritage dogs.