TN’s native dog breeds are dwindling; govt apathy and craze for 'exotic' dogs are to blame

Rajapalayam and Chippiparai breeds have reduced drastically in number.
TN’s native dog breeds are dwindling; govt apathy and craze for 'exotic' dogs are to blame
TN’s native dog breeds are dwindling; govt apathy and craze for 'exotic' dogs are to blame
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Ask an average dog lover what their favourite breed is and the answers come flying – labrador, golden retriever, pug, beagle. An odd one would even mention the Indian stray. But chances are, no one would say ‘chippiparai’, ‘rajapalayam’, ‘kanni’ or ‘combai’. That’s because hardly anyone knows about these breeds that are native to Tamil Nadu. They also wouldn’t know that their numbers are dwindling due to a lack of demand.

The depleting market for Indian breeds has left breeders of indigenous dogs in a bind. Auto Murugan belongs to one of the oldest Rajapalayam breeding families from Virudhunagar.  Three generations of his family have been breeding Rajapalayam dogs, with Murugan himself being a member-breeder at the Kennel Club of India, Tamil Nadu.

“Five years ago, I had 19 (Rajapalayam) dogs. Now I just have 4-5 of them,” rues Murugan, who spends close to one and a half lakh rupees every year taking care of the dogs and feeding them a rich diet of rice, beef and select vegetables.

Murugan says that the number of breeders in Rajapalayam town has also dropped drastically. He adds that the government has done nothing to help breeders of Indian breeds. “What has the Tamil Nadu government done for these breeds?” he challenges, “they (government) have let them die.”

Dr Selvakumar of Tirunelveli Medical College, who has been studying these Indian breeds, agrees with Murugan. "Rajapalayam and Chippiparai breeders have reduced. Only the breed called Kanni is faring okay," he says.

According to Selvakumar, Kanni is bred in three Tamil Nadu districts (Thoothukudi, Virudhunagar and Tirunelveli), and therefore their numbers have always been higher, as compared to Rajapalayam and Chippiparai that are bred mainly in Virudhunagar district only.

“They are hounds, which means they are natural hunters. But since hunting is banned, the number of breeders came down," says Dr Selvakumar. "This was expected. Most people prefer exotic dogs, not many want to buy Indian breeds. Those who still breed them do it only out of their own interest and passion.” He adds that most of them are farmers or agriculturists and that they do not have the surplus income to breed dogs.

Dr. BC Ramakrishna, founder-president of the Society for Indian Breeds of Dogs (affiliated to KCI) says that a Rajapalayam or Chippiparai would usually sell at 15,000 - 20,000 rupees. However, Dr Selvakumar says that due to the lack of demand, some dogs are sold for as low as Rs 5,000. He adds that the government needs to intervene to provide financial help to these breeders.

However, Dr. Ramakrishna says that unless locals and people themselves take interest in Tamil Nadu’s indigenous breeds, their numbers will continue to fall. There is an acute need to raise awareness – through conferences, seminars and even dog shows, he adds.

Dr Ramakrishna also warns that the preference for foreign breeds comes at a price. While they may be exotic, animal rights activists have argued time and again that many non-Indian breeds often develop problems here due to their inability to cope with the Indian climate. Indian breeds do not face this problem. “They are more hardy,” says Dr. Ramakrishna, adding “they can withstand local conditions much better.”

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