Bakerwali Dog

Dr. Javaid Rahi

Apprehensions among  the Tribal Gujjar and Bakerwal communities of North-western Himalayas of Indian subcontinent are growing high   that they may lose the  rare breed of Bakerwali  Dog due to  a number of reasons. The tribals are exceedingly  worried that the oldest  variety of mastiff which    protects big herd of livestock during bi-annual seasonal  tribal migration may become a part of history in the nearest future as the population of this rear breed is  declining rapidly .
The dog is a world-wide known breed of vegetarian dog and is  considered to be among the rarest  herding mastiffs in view of  their  power and honesty. It only feeds on milk and bread made of maize or Phak (an outer part of a  type of rice) . The tribals knowingly serve only vegetarian food to their dogs  as it  helps  them keep   away from attacking the flock for want of meat.
Origin of Bakerwali Dog
Some  scientists  say that this is an oldest  herding dog originating in Central Asia. While others are of the view that this breed  is an outcome of Tibetan Mastiff and the Indian Dog. Some trace its  origin in India only saying that this is an oldest Indian Dog which surviving since centuries  with the Gujjar tribe.
In some works of history,  this dog is shown as  an ancient working breed found in the Hindukush, and  Himalayan belt of Indian subcontinent , where it has been bred for many centuries by the Gujjar/ Bakerwal  nomadic tribes as a livestock guardian and settlement protector.
Some  historian trace the origin  of Bakerwali Dog to some   3000 year back.  This dog is much older than many dogs suggested as relatives to the breed.  The animal annalists define the lineage of  Bakerwali Dog with some older breeds of Molosser including the Hyrcanian Mastiff, the Molossus tis Epirou, the Sylvan, the Tuvan Sheepdog, the Siah Sag, and the Iranian Sage Mazandarani and their descendants.
Largest population of this Bakerwali Dog  species is  found in Indian  side of Jammu and Kashmir and they are in good numbers in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir besides frontier areas of Pakistan.
They also exist in some areas of Afghanistan. According to a raw idea around  less than a 1000 pure Bakerwali dogs are still surviving in upper reaches as against 10,000 population in 90s.
Characteristics  of Bakerwali dog
Bakerwali Dog has a large in body. Commonly  known for its deep-chest, muscular and agility, the Gujjar/Bakerwal  sheepdog has a straight back, broad shoulders and long legs. The body  is strongly boned, with a powerful neck and large head.
Threats to Bakerwali dog
The nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals of  Jammu and Kashmir  are losing  the rarest of rare traditional and indigenous species of world famous “Bakerwali Dog” and they are asking that this dog may be given the status of endangered  species .
In next few decades, the rugged, courageous and serious, this shepherd  dog will become  history as this is  among the most threatened  species in the world.
The population of the dog started declining gradually since 1970 when some of the people of the  tribe  relinquished their  nomadic life, sheep, goats and dogs  owing to various reasons and   settled at various places.
After 1990 a steep decline in population of Bakerwal Dog was observed as a  number of  dogs were  killed during insurgency/conflict  in the State in higher reaches of the State. During the gunfights many  dogs were killed by the militants  or the security forces  when they were interrupted  during night operations..
Low productive issue
Another interesting part of their decline is their low productivity/ population tendency. The Bakerwali shepherd bitch  which  gives birth to a pup   only once in a year that too less in number.
It gives one to four pups  as compared to  other breeds which gives birth  to  as many as twelve pups simultaneously in a year.
Bakerwali Dog in Indian Market
Owing to  less  number , the Bakerwals /Gujjars do not sell these Dogs to anybody. with the result they are  stolen from higher reaches and taken illegally out of the state to be sold . The approximate rate of this dog is  between 75000 to Rs.150000 or above keeping in view the appearance of the dog.
Age and health
The Bakerwali dog has a natural life that averages between 12 and 15 years.  After death Bakerwal/ Gujjars  bury the dog in nearby area. Barring  minor throat  infections the breed being tough generally stand firm against all type of sickness.
Powerful Bakerwali  dogs
A Bakerwali dog is extremely courageous with a power  to kill a lion, a tiger or a bear alone. This dog can fight with an  animal larger in double  than itself. The breed cannot attack any  human being during migration in the day light especially in thickly populated areas.
But in night they can kill a human being without giving any alarm to him/her  if he/she  enters into the flock area they guarding of. One Dog can guard nearly 300 to 500 sheep/ goats/horses.
Folk-lore about Bakerwali dog
A number of folk tales are popular among Gujjars and Bakerwals which narrate the bravery sagas of this dog.  There is a belief among Gujjars/ Bakerwals that if the dog starts crying or weeping  in the night, it is believed that the owner of the dog or some family members may face a  great trouble in nearest future including the threat of life. If dog is reluctant to move on the occasion of start of annual migration, it is  believed  that they may face a big disaster in the year.
Its  bark is a very high and authoritative in tone   tune, which is a main tactics of this Dog to warn away predators and avoid first confrontation. This is the most active breed which can guard the livestock 24X7 without taking even a short sleep. This dog is very  intelligent and inflexible to a fault.
As family dogs they are considered as an excellent companions due to their extra ordinary alertness .
The Gujjars / Bakerwals treat this Dog like a family member and give them due attentions as and when required.
( The author is a tribal researcher)