A bit of background: The Dhangar community are nomadic shepherds of this region, and kuttra of course means 'dog' in marathi.
Though the name Dhangari Kuttra is well known in Maharashtra, no-one seems to have consistently documented the breed or tried to preserve it in any way since W V Soman included it in his book 'The Indian Dog' (Popular Prakashan, 1963). That's the only book on Indian dog breeds till now, by the way.
Major Soman's description mentions a moderate coat, tufted tail turned over the back, weight about 25 to 30 pounds (that's 11-13.6 kilos), height of males about 20 inches, strong legs, mixed colours; '...occasionally met with tan mixture but very seldom...body not very long but with a wide chest and strong muscular legs. Face a bit long with small dropped ears...Very strong and can work for the whole day. A perfect watch dog.'
Judging by the few Dhangar dogs and crosses I've seen, and the photos clicked by others, the weight and height estimated by Major Soman are rather low. These dogs seem on average larger than INDogs. For comparison you can read our Breed Description for the INDog (check 'size').
Even in 1963 Major Soman mentioned that the Dhangar Dog was threatened by mixing with other dogs: 'The breed is getting extinct as they are being crossed with local dogs forming mongrels.'
Ryan Braganza, of our INDog Project team, is an avid biker and has been looking for these dogs on all his trips in the Western Ghats. He and his friend Prafull Sakharkar clicked these photos below. I can't tell whether the dogs are naturally very varied, or mixed with other breeds as Major Soman wrote.
It's not always easy (or safe) to photograph these dogs from close quarters though. They are known for being excellent and ferocious guard dogs, and do not take kindly to strangers approaching too close or staring at them.
Here are some more wonderful Dhangar dog photos, clicked by Malaika Fernandes.
Gayatri Ganesh recently sent in some beautiful pictures including the one at the top of the post, along with this interesting description:
'We do a lot of work with Dhangar shepherds, through the organization Anthra.
The Dhangars migrate in small groups of three to four (husband, wife, mother-in-law or sister), with their flock, about 200-800 sheep, five horses and two dogs, across the Deccan Plateau for about six to nine months of the year...
These are some of their beautiful, intelligent and hardworking dogs. The spike collar they told me is to keep leopards away.
They won't let anyone they don't know touch the lambs or the horses. And the dogs learn from each other - they receive no special training from the shepherds in how to be sheep dogs.'
What a shame it would be to let this unique breed get swamped out of existence!
The fate of indigenous village dogs everywhere?
Photos: Prafull Sakharkar, Ryan Braganza
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