Old mutt on the porch might
be related to Carolina dog
The Associated Press
Those short-haired, dingo-looking pack dogs with straight white
tails who live under old cars and porches may have more of a
lineage than anyone thought.
Today's Carolina dogs,
a term which didn't exist in the world of dog breeders 20 years
ago, may have links to the first humans who crossed into North
America maybe 8,000 years ago.
I. Lehr Brisbin Jr.,
a senior ecologist at the Savannah River Site's Savannah River
Ecology Lab, was at a dog pound in Augusta, Ga., when he saw
a canine face he recognized. "I thought, 'My God, She's
a dingo,'" he said, comparing it to the Australian animals.
Soon, Brisbin saw the
dogs everywhere, from porches and homes to SRS. He found they
all had lean physiques, short tan coats, long tails arching over
their backs and foxlike faces.
"If these are just
mutts, then why do they look so similar?" Brisbin wanted
to know. "Why does this dog come out of the mix?"
He soon found the dogs
resembled those on cave paintings, fossilized canine remains
and wild dogs in other parts of the world.
Their behavior was fascinating,
Brisbin said. The dogs would pile small pyramids of dirt over
their droppings with their noses during cold weather or when
females were nursing. The dogs would continually dig holes in
the same spot, putting their heads in to chew on the loose dirt.
Brisbin got genetic researchers
at the University of South Carolina to study the dogs' DNA. Early
results show the dogs have a genetic marker linking them as a
breed. They also have a genetic similarity to other wild dogs,
like the Australian dingo.
"Honestly, we were
surprised," said University biology professor Roger Sawyer.
"I thought they would show up as more of a mongrel-type
Billy Benton and Jane
Gunnell, who have a pack of about 30 Carolina dogs at Banbury
Cross Farms in Aiken, fell in love with the breed after a visit
to Brisbin's ecology lab.
"They don't shed.
They have no aroma, and they're also very conscious about where
they do their business," Benton said. "They're very
easy to housebreak."
The dogs were recognized
as a breed in the early 1990s by the American Rare Breed Association.
The American Kennel Club has not followed suit because, researchers
say, it wants a pure stock with no wild-caught dogs added to
"We're finding new
dogs in the woods all the time, and we want to continue to do
that," Benton said. "We want to keep our gene pool
open and wide."
Benton said the dogs
are social animals who work well within a family pack and quickly
adapt a new family to their group.
He doesn't know what's
next for the Carolina dogs, but is glad to help their journey.
"We pretty quickly fell in love with them, and they haven't
done anything to disappoint us."