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The Carolina Dogs Link Us To Prehistory

We came around a curve on theold, rarely used, wagon trail and there in front of us stood a "big mamma"dog - we stopped and watched. She cast a furtive glance towards the thicketand then started loping along in the other direction across the newly plantedcotton field. She was a dark cinnamon color with pointed muzzle and sharpears - at first we thought she was a fox.Wepulled the truck closer to the thicket where she had cast her glance andquietly got out of the truck and made our way into the briars and underbrush- about fifty feet in front of us was an old tumbling down building, perhapsa corn crib, with a floor some 18 inches above the ground - the entirefalling down structure was about 15 x 15. As we looked into the shadowsof the old interior, there suddenly appeared, standing with its front pawson the floor in the opposite doorway, a fox faced, sharp eared dog, itsshort coat gleaming a pale orange in the sun. It barked voraciously. Waistup it did not appear to be a female - certainly not a nursing one! We stoodstill and watched. The gleaming dog continued barking on one side of thebuilding and we continued watching it on the other side. Then we saw thefirst of the several rolly polly balls of reddish tan fluff run from underthe floor, out the back, for the deeper thicket towards the pond. We sawone after another bounce down a narrow path beyond the crib. We knew wheretheir mother was - who was their guardian? Suddenly, in a gold flash, theirguardian disappeared behind them. 

On our way back to the housewe discussed how much these dogs looked like the dogs that a governmentscientist had been trapping in the Savannah River Nuclear Project some40 miles away. While househunting, we, two equestrians from Virginia, along with our realestate agent, had come upon this cotton plantation on a ridge north ofAiken,  SC. Having heard about these dogs through our horse circlesin Aiken, we realized we had stumbled upon these wild Carolina Dogs intheir natural environment. 

Intrigued by the coincidenceof finding the perfect horse farm occupied by the perfect dog, we feltit was our destiny to do our part to preserve these little-known treasuresof the Deep South. As fox hunters, we realized the introduction of thedeadly and prolific coyote to these isolated areas of the South spelledcertain doom for this unique breed of free ranging dog. It was up to us,along with the help of other dedicated dog enthusiasts, to save the CarolinaDog for generations to come. 

Several other dog enthusiastshad been studying these dogs for about five years and called them CarolinaDogs. They are now registered with the American Rare Breed Associationand they appear as a primitive breed in the new Encyclopedia of the Dogby Dr. Bruce Fogle, published in the United States by DK Publishing, NY.The hypothesis is that these dogs are the pure descendants of the feralpariah canids who came across the Bering land mass 8,000 to 11,000 yearsago following the human tribal masses. These dogs originated in the Tigressand Euphrates basin and some dogs followed various tribes as they meanderedover the world - to North Africa, here the dogs became the African Pariahs,to Australia to become the Australian Dingo, to New Guinea to become theSinging Dogs, and to the Americas. But they all shared this common ancestry. 

Occasionally the descendantsof these shy, timid dogs can still be found in the under populated partsof the Southeastern United States. 

Could these wild dogs in theold corn crib be part of such a sacred and majestic past? Some were capturedfor DNA testing. When the tests came back the information was overwhelming- these were the primitive Carolina Dogs. The puppies' guardian dog, alsoa Carolina Dog, was an 8 month old male not closely related to the litterhe was protecting - a distinct trait of wild canidae. These dogs have manyfascinating wild traits: the puppies are born deep in the ground in a smallchamber dug by the female and other pack members bring the family fooduntil the pups can live on their own; they have small pointed feet andwebbed
toes and fish hook tails; they use their front legs and paws like armsand hands; the puppies are very mature at four to five weeks and can andwant to "run with the big dogs", a main source of food is under the surfaceof the ground and they are constantly listening and digging little holeswhen they hear something move. 

These dogs found at the SRPand subsequently throughout the Southeast are, indeed, a primitive breed- the strong resemblance to the primitive dogs of the world is not an accident.If America is to have Dingoes - they are the Carolina Dogs!

Here in our midst is a NationalTreasure. The Carolina Dogs make gentle pets, winning show dogs, and goodhunting/hiking companions - even when wild caught. They are willing, smartand never aggressive towards humans and other breeds of dogs - althoughthey will stand at a distance and bark at strangers. They look upon theirhandler as the pack leader and they respond best to a gentle hand and aquiet manner. 

But this remarkable primitivebreed faces extinction without our human intervention. How could that be? 

As we mentioned earlier, a rapid change in the ecological balance has been taking place in the Southeastin the last ten years. A change that could, in the next ten to twenty years,cause the end of the Carolina Dog after 8,000 years of existence in theSoutheastern United States. 

Across the Mississippi and acrossthe Alleghenies, thought the East and especially the Southeast Piedmontand Midlands, has come, by truck or on his own, the vicious, wily, untamable,prolific Coyote. The larger, stronger, and more competitive Coyote's foodchain includes foxes and dogs, sheep, calves, foals, chickens, housecoats,etc.. Coyotes are always preying and reproducing. Their rapid increaseis rather terrifying. 

Those who fox hunt can tellyou their concerns about the eradication of the red and grey foxes by theCoyote. Those who farm have grizzly stories of the carnage caused by Coyotesin sheep and cow herds. Those with barns can tell stories about the Coyotescoming that close and devouring young cats and dogs with relish. And theCoyotes very existence as an interloper in this land is re-writing history. 

Certainly the Carolina Dogshave some guardian angels, too. 

Thanks to a small but dedicatedgroup, officially known as the Carolina Dog Association, efforts are underwayto preserve the Carolina Dog. Through scientific research sponsored bythe University of South Carolina,  the owners and breeders, as wellas interested individuals who have sacrificed their time, talents and resources,we are definitely on our way to saving this heretofore unrecognized nationaltreasure. 


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