Perhaps the oldest Dog Breed on Earth

Visitors to Bali often comment on the many dogs roaming the streets and guarding the gates to family compounds. Because of the wide variation in colouring they are often mistaken for mutts or mongrels, but in fact the Bali Dog is a distinct breed. Researchers at the University of California Davis believe that the Bali Dog, with its unique and valuable gene pool may be the oldest dog on earth.

Between 2000 and 2003, Dr. Niels Pederson from the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at University fo California Davis led a team that tested the DNA of 3,500 indigenous dogs from all over Bali. Bali has two unique indigenous dogs, the Balidog and the highland Kintamani which have been living on the island virtually unaltered for at least 5,000 years. Genetic research shows that the ancestry of the Bali Dog can be traced back about 15,000 years.

According to Dr. Pederson, Bali’s dogs are the richest pool of genetic diversity of all the dogs on the world. ‘The true pure canine breed is the indigenous Bali Dog,’ said Dr. Pedersen. ‘Its lineage goes all the way back to the first proto-dogs that evolved from the wolves. Their genes are highly valuable for further research, as they are a window on the ancestral dog

Although expats and tourists become emotional about vanishing species such as the orangutan, Bali Starling, Java rhino and the many other creatures which are rapidly disappearing across Indonesia, the ubiquitous Bali Dog remains invisible to conservationists. There seem to be so many of them – too many, some say. Yet this precious and unique pool of DNA is quickly becoming contaminated by the introduction of imported dogs.

Because the Bali Dog is not yet a formally recognized breed, it is not being bred for purity. After thousands of years of uncontaminated DNA, the Bali Dog is now under threat from casual inbreeding with imported dogs. The so-called “breed dogs” are a status symbol here, but many are products of uncontrolled puppy mills where extreme inbreeding is the norm. Casual interbreeding with imported dogs introduces their weaker genes. The Bali Dog is so genetically diverse, it presents many different ear and tail types as well as colours.

Bali Dogs make wonderful pets. Once the owner has won its trust, it can be highly trained. This is naturally a very clean dog and many owners claim that it seems to house train itself from an early age.   The breed is extremely adaptable to many situations and climates, even growing a thicker coat when moved to colder parts of the world. Its wide genetic diversity makes it immune to the diseases and genetic disorders typical of selectively bred dogs. If well looked after, the breed can live over 16 years. There are stories of Bali Dogs traveling many miles across country to return to their original homes.