Annie -- A Typical Carolina Dog

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The American Dingo/Carolina Dog...Linking us to Prehistory

Old mutt on the porch might be related to Carolina dog

The Associated Press

AIKEN — 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 dog."

   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 the pool.

   "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."

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Jane Gunnell
Banbury Cross Farm
Phone: (803) 215-6166 or
            (803) 649-0045



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