Herding Dogs

In India, stray dogs are common. As are herds of things –goats, sheep, cattle. The dogs often co-exist with the herds but it appears more like they are customers dining together from the same garbage pile, rather than there being any stronger bond between the street dogs and the cows et al.

But as one approaches Hampi things change. The further outside of urban areas one gets, the larger the herds are. (That’s consistent with other road trips I’ve taken outside of Bangalore.) And, the closer one gets to Hampi, the more pigs appear. Pigs are everywhere. They are eating garbage, wallowing in mud (there does seem to be something to that phrase, “Happy as a pig in sh!t”) and roaming the street. Pigs acting like, well, street dogs.

In Hampi there are almost no street dogs.The few dogs you see without owners are donning collars and, sometimes, bells. Clearly, they are between appointment, rather than just street dogs. It appears that the ubiquitous pigs have replaced street dogs here. (Pork isn’t popular here, but the pigs are eventually sold for consumption elsewhere.)

But there are tons of dogs –they are just working dogs! In Hampi, EVERY flock of goats/sheep/cows attended by a shepherd/shepherdess* has 1 or 2 sheepdogs. They look like the same “bred” of mongrel street dogs you see everywhere else in India; more mutt than Lassi. The AKC would likely take umbrage at me even categorising these mutts as “herding” — certainly not what you’d find at Westminster! But by way of occupation, if not breeding, herding is indeed what they do.

I loved seeing the dogs looking so fit and healthy. And the herding dogs’ posture / movement seemed so happy and confident. The Hampi dogs appear so joyful!

Why all the herding dogs here and no where else in South India? Wolves. The boulder strewn landscape, climate, plentiful livestock and lack of suburban sprawl make this wolf territory. The loveable mutts are not only herding dogs, but guard dogs to detect and deter the local wolves.

Seeing the happy dogs with tails wagging and a spring in their step did make me miss a couple of Hungarian sheepdogs back home in the US terribly!

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Herding dog in the distance, behind the shepherdess in the sari…

*i am not sure if it’s politically correct to use the term “shepherdess” any longer. I mean, is it like “actress” which should now be “actor” (unless of course your winning an Academy Award…)?!?

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