The story of man’s relationship with dogs is as old as time itself. For millennia, dogs have been by our side, evolving, adapting, and serving in roles ranging from hunters to companions.
However, not every breed that once walked beside humans has made it to the present day. Many have vanished, leaving behind only traces of their existence in art, literature, and ancient artefacts.
Let’s embark on a journey to explore the histories of some of these extinct breeds and understand what led to their disappearance.
4 Extinct Dog Breeds
1. Talbot Hound
Originating from Normandy, France, the Talbot Hound was brought to England by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. It was a slow, heavy white hound, famed for its keen sense of smell and was primarily used for hunting. With the evolution of hunting techniques and the need for faster hounds, the Talbot eventually merged with other breeds, leading to its extinction. Its legacy, however, remains as it’s believed to be an ancestor of the modern Beagle and Bloodhound.
Mentioned by ancient historians like Aristotle, the Molossus was a breed from ancient Greece, known for its strength and ferocity. Primarily kept as a guard dog, this breed was the forefather of many modern mastiff breeds. It is speculated that as empires expanded and contracted, the Molossus was crossbred with other local breeds, leading to its eventual dilution and disappearance.
3. Tahltan Bear Dog
Native to North America, the Tahltan Bear Dog was a small, fox-like dog utilised by the Tahltan people to hunt bears. Their agility and spirited nature made them adept at this challenging task. With the influx of Europeans and their dogs to North America, many indigenous breeds like the Tahltan Bear Dog began to wane, either due to diseases brought by the foreign breeds or interbreeding.
4. Cordoba Fighting Dog
Bred in Argentina for the sinister sport of dog fighting, the Cordoba Fighting Dog was a mix of Mastiff, Bulldog, Bull Terrier, and Boxer. Known for its aggressive nature, the breed often fought to the death in the ring. Ironically, its extreme aggression was its downfall. These dogs were often more interested in fighting than mating, leading to a decline in their numbers. Eventually, they were crossbred to create the Dogo Argentino, causing the original breed’s extinction.
Factors Leading to Extinction
The diverse world of canine breeds is a testament to human ingenuity and adaptability. Yet, in this mosaic of breeds, several have faded away and vanished entirely. Understanding the reasons for their extinction provides insights not only into the history of dog breeding but also into the socio-economic and environmental trends of different eras. Some of the factors include:
Changing Societal Needs
As human societies transitioned from hunting and gathering to agrarian and then to industrialised entities, the roles of dogs also evolved. While once, a dog’s primary role might have been hunting or guarding, modern societies might value them more for companionship. Breeds that couldn’t adapt to these changing roles faced decline.
War and Conflict
Throughout history, certain breeds were employed in warfare. As the nature of warfare changed, especially with the advent of modern weaponry, the need for such breeds diminished.
Many times, breeds were crossbred to combine desirable traits (which are evident in the increase of people selling their dogs online). For instance, a breed with great stamina might be bred with another known for its speed. While this could produce a new, coveted breed, the original breeds might see a decline if the newer breed became more popular.
Introduction of Foreign Breeds
As explorers and traders travelled, they often took their dogs with them. These foreign breeds sometimes carried diseases that local breeds had never encountered, leading to epidemics.
Lack of Veterinary Medicine
Historical lack of advanced veterinary care meant that diseases could rapidly decimate entire breeds, especially if those breeds had small populations to begin with.
As more people moved to cities, space became a premium. Larger breeds that required vast open spaces either had to adapt or saw a decline in their numbers. With modern lifestyles, the preference shifted towards breeds that were easier to maintain in apartment settings, leading to a decline in breeds that didn’t fit this mould.
Due to concerns about aggression or other undesirable traits, certain breeds have faced bans in various jurisdictions. Such bans can significantly decrease a breed’s population.
In some societies, particular breeds might become associated with negative connotations or myths, leading to a decline in their popularity and numbers.
Understanding these factors is essential as they not only provide a historical context but also guide current conservation efforts. In an era of rapid globalisation and change, being aware of the challenges breeds face, like knowing the right food for them or having the perfect environment can help us ensure their survival and continued legacy.
The Dynamics of Dog Breeding and Conservation
Dogs have been selectively bred for thousands of years, resulting in the myriad breeds we see today. While selective breeding has given us breeds tailored to specific tasks or aesthetics, it has also resulted in the loss of genetic diversity. Today, conservationists and breed enthusiasts strive to maintain the purity of existing breeds and, in some cases, even attempt to resurrect breeds that are on the brink of extinction.
The story of extinct dog breeds is a testament to the ever-evolving relationship between humans and dogs. While we’ve lost some breeds to the sands of time, their legacies continue, either in the DNA of modern breeds or in the stories, art, and literature they’ve inspired. As we look to the future, understanding the past can guide responsible breeding and conservation efforts, ensuring that the rich tapestry of canine history continues to grow.