The story of how Indians came to love elitist European dogs
In spite of the famous line which still causes nationalistic fervor ‘Dogs and Indians are not allowed in hotels’, few dogs were ill-treated by the British during Colonial times. In fact, even the mis-named Indian paraiah dog, is not named so because they were considered outcasts. They were named so as they were spotted with the Pariyars or Parayas of Tamil Nadu, a Dravidian tribe.
Did Brits bring canine culture?
It has been assumed that the British brought in their love for the canines to India. That could be true, but only partly. The British, known for their obsession with the Horse and the Hound, brought home a variety of European dogs.
After many years of occupation, a new set of confused and educated Indians copied Britishers and started rearing dogs at home. Since, owning a dog became a cultural identity, it would put them on par with the upper societies of the British. So they assumed.
Dogs however have long been domesticated and many Indian families would regularly feed and pet them, within and outside their homes. Most of the love for cats and dogs was yet to become official, and few were recognized as pets. The dawn of the British brought in the culture of rearing pets into commoners too. Earlier, only the Royalty would raise and maintain dogs for hunting and other purposes in India.
Tribal bred dogs
There was another set of unrecognized set of dog owners who never received ample attention, the tribals. While Royal families maintained a pack of dogs, forest-dwelling tribes too with their extensive knowledge of animals, would regularly breed dogs. In addition to the Paraiah dog, Indian tribes also bred Gaddi Kutta, which is a mountain dog common in the Northern mountain regions of Kashmir and Himachal. The Banjara Hound was bred and reared by nomadic tribes in Maharashtra, who used it for its extensive stamina in sight and sound instead of scent like most dogs do.
Europeans & Commoners
It could be possible that Britishers brought in their own breeds due to their ability to understand their nature and behaviour. However, upper class Britishers have been proud of their pure strain dogs and have been breeding them, to ascertain their superiority. Since new-fangled European breeds that came in were exotic and rare, Indians started adopting them as opposed to the ‘common’ Indian dogs which were seen everywhere.
Mutts on streets
The common Indian friendless dogs also fell in favour much faster, due to the emergence of mixed breeds. Extensive interbreeding between the various Indian varieties have resulted in what is now referred to as the Indian street dog. A derogatory term called mutts was used to describe them and found no takers as it was sacrilege to own one when popular culture was against it, especially among the new-age classy Indians. As a result, Indian breeds were sadly relegated to the streets. Streets is where they unfortunately stay even today as few Indians can recognize or even name their own breeds.
Katya Naidu was a former business journalist who changed tracks to chug along her real passion, pets and parenting.