Canaan dog is a breed of pariah dog, and has been part of the Middle Eastern landscape for thousands of years. It may have existed in the Eastern Mediterranean seaboard for millennia, as referenced in ancient cravings and drawings. There are 2,000 to 3,000 Canaan dogs across the world, mostly in Europe and North America.
The Canaan dogs originated as a primitive feral in ancient Canaan, where the Canaanites and Israelites lived, roughly corresponding to the region encompassing modern-day Israel, Lebanon and the western parts of Jordan.
This is one of the oldest dogs of the biblical times. The caves of Einan and HaYonim are sites in which the oldest remains of dogs have been found (more than 10,000 years ago). In Old Testament, there are a number of references to roaming dogs and dogs that worked for humans. In the Sinai Desert, a rock carving, from the first to third century AD, depicts a dog of the size and shape similar to Canaan type dog.
In Ashkelon, a graveyard of the fifth century BC was found which contained around 700 dogs, all carefully buried in the same position, on their sides with legs flexed and tail tucked in around the hind legs. According to the Archaeologists, there was a strong similarity between these dogs and the Canaan dog. During 1930s, Dr. Rudolphina Menxel came up with the idea to use these intelligent scavenger dogs found in the desert, as guard dogs for the scattered settlements. She captured a select group of semi-wild individuals, tamed, trained and bred them. She found these dogs highly adaptable, trainable and easily domesticated. It took her about six months to capture her first dog and within a few weeks she was able to take him out into the town and even in buses. She began a breeding program in 1934, providing working dogs for military and pups as the pets and home guard dogs. She initiated a selective breeding program to produce the breed known today as the Canaan dog.
Many of the Canaan dogs living in the open were destroyed by the Israeli government in the fight against rabies. The spread of the human population into areas that were formerly isolated, along with their pets has also caused a loss in the natural habitat of the Canaan.
The Canaan do is a typical primitive dog in appearance. It is a medium sized square built dog, with a wedge-shaped head. It has erect and low set ears with a broad base and rounded tips. Its outer coat is dense, harsh and straight of short to medium-length. The undercoat should be close and profuse according to the season. Colour ranges from black to cream and all shades of brown and red, usually with small white markings or all white with colour patches. Spotting of all kinds is permitted along with the white or black masks.
Rudolphina Menzel classified these canines into four types:
- Heavy, sheepdog appearance
- Dingo-like appearance
- Border Collie appearance
- Greyhound appearance
Menzel concluded that the Canaan dog is a derivative of the Type III pariah-the collie type.
Canaan dogs have a strong survival instinct. They are quick to react on the strangers and will alert to any disturbances with prompt barking, thus making them excellent watchdogs.
They are defensive but not aggressive and are very good with the children in the family, but may wary of other children and can be defensive if the child is playing with another child. They are intelligent and learn quickly but get bored with repetitive tasks and may not pay attention if find something more interesting.
Canaan dogs can compete in dog agility trials, obedience, and showmanship, flyball, tracking and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be checked at non competitive herding tests.
In general, the Canaan dog does not suffer form known hereditary problems. Although this breed is one of the healthiest breed, George A. Padgett. DVM, listed diseases that have been seen, at one time or another, in it: hypothyroidism, epilepsy, progressive retina atrophy (PRA), cryptorchidism, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, luxating patella and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).
It was first recognized by the Israel Kennel Club in 1953 and by the FCI in 1966. The first accepted standard was written by Dr. Menzel.
The Kennel Club in the United Kingdom officially recognized the Canaal Dog in December 1970.
The Canaan Dog is today recognized by the entire world’s kennel clubs and is being bred in many countries. There are breed clubs in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Finland, Germany, France and Israel.