Let’s face it. We have an obsession with dogs of foreign breeds. Call it a colonial hangover or a lack of awareness about Indian hounds, dog lovers often opt for foreign breeds rather than an Indian one like a Pashmi or a Mudhol Hound. Sadly, Kolkata also lacks an Indian hounds breeder. However, the scene is slowly changing. “People of our city have started embracing Indian breeds in recent times. Earlier, only a few used to keep these dogs, but now, the trend is changing. The best thing about these dogs is the fact that they are easy to handle, are friendly and much more adaptive to our climate, which makes them almost free of health issues,” said Imtiaz Qasem, a dog-lover who teamed up a few friends recently to make a documentary on Indian dog breeds — The Breed Without Borders — to spread awareness about these animals.
“Historically, these dogs, including, Mudhol Hounds, Rampur Hounds, Chippiparai and others, were bred in India by erstwhile landlords and Maharajas to protect their land and help them hunt. So, these dogs are usually hunters or guard dogs,” said Aneesh Sivaraman, a Kerala-based breeder, who helped some of the Kolkata’s pet lovers to get Indian breeds. “Awareness about these breeds grew after the Kennel Club of India took an initiative around 10 years ago to encourage people to keep Indian pets. Things have been better since then,” he added.
Armed with this knowledge, we looked around a bit and found a few Indian hound owners in the city. Here’s what they told us.
Origin: Bred by the landlords of Chippiparai, a small town near Madurai district of Tamil Nadu, these dogs were their prized possessions. The landlords also appointed staff to look after the canines.
Features: A sighthound primarily hunts by dint of its good eyesight and speed. A Chippiparai can reach speeds of almost 63 km per hour! It’s a majestic dog with an exceptionally gentle temperament, is great with kids and has fewer health issues.
Dog name: Lalu
Age: 2 years
Owners: Suman Roy and Namrata Majumder
Personal story: Suman and Namrata decided to get a pet when they were expecting their first child. “We always felt it is important for a child to grow up with a pet. This develops a strong human-animal bonding,” Suman told us, adding, “Initially, I thought I’d get some English breed, but after a bit of research, I found that Indian hounds are much more adaptive to our climate. So, we got this pup from Kollam, Kerala. Lack of awareness about these Indian breeds prompts people to opt for other dog varieties.”
Origin: Found mostly in Maharashtra and Karnataka, they are working dogs capable of withstanding extreme Indian climates and terrain.
Features: A Caravan’s primary function is that of a swift and agile hunter. It’s also a reliable and efficient guardian of his masters and their property and livestock.
Dog name: Bruno
Age: 12 years
Owner: Sudip Neogy
Personal story: In 2005, Sudip and his son Soham went to his friend’s house to see a bundle of new-born pups. “Soham got attracted to a pup and we brought it home. And ever since, it became a part of our family. I call Bruno my second son. Ek chheler lyaj ache, ek chheler nei. Then my daughter, Ishita, was born in 2009 and the dog protected and guarded her when her mother was busy elsewhere. Ishita practically grew up with Bruno,” Sudip said.
Origin: Bred by the Ghorpade family, the erstwhile rulers of Mudhol — a feudal state near today’s Bijapur, Karnataka — the hound gained high popularity across Indian royal families. On one of his trips to England, Mudhol’s Raja Maloji Rao Ghorpade had gifted a pair of these hounds to King George V.
Features: These large sighthounds are intelligent, sensitive, reserved, loyal and courageous. These hounds have been recently inducted in the Indian Army and already won accolades for their discipline and hardworking nature. It is also one of the tallest Indian breeds.
Dog names: Maduli and Dhunuchi
Age: 1 year & 5 months
Owners: Sourish and Sudeshna Dey
Personal story: Sourish spotted the first Indian breed after his Doberman died. “I saw a Chippiparai and was floored by its agility. As the breed was unavailable, I did some research and found out about Mudhol Hounds. Then I got in touch with a breeder in Karnataka and got Maduli. And as there’s no Mudhol Hound breeder in Kolkata, I later got a female, Dhunuchi,” Sourish told us.
Origin: The term, Pashmi, literally means furry or soft. Two distinct types of dogs in Maharashtra are addressed by this name. While the origin of the Pashmi is debatable, it’s largely believed that the breed was brought in by travelers from the Middle East.
Features: It looks very similar to Mudhol Hounds and Caravans and according to some, it is just a furry version of these breeds. Historically, it was used for hunting due to its agility and high endurance. Pashmis are excellent companions and hardy animals who can sustain themselves in arid regions.
Dog name: Sheya
Age: 1.5 years
Owner: Imtiaz Qasem
Personal story: Imtiaz, whose Sheya has won several prizes, is also the owner of her parents, Kelu and Bulio. “Kelu is with us for four years and Bulio, for six years. Sheya was born right in front of me. Having Indian breeds as pets was a conscious decision. They are much healthier than their foreign counterparts. I also wanted to spread awareness about Indian hounds and that’s why I made the documentary on them,” Imtiaz told us.
Origin: Primarily bred during the Nayak dynasty’s reign in Tamil Nadu, the Rajapalayam have a recorded history of being used in the Carnatic and Polygar wars. Thanks to their fierce loyalty and guarding potential, the Indian Army has deployed them as guard dogs on the borders along Kashmir.
Features: The breed has a milky white coat and a pink nose. They are good family companions and generally develop a special bond with any family member. Though active, they are also very obedient, making them suitable for people residing in apartments.
Dog name: Cinderella
Age: 10 years
Owner: Paromita Neogy
Personal story: Paromita wanted to adopt an Indian hound and hence got Cinderella 10 years ago. “Like a German Shephard is a status symbol in a family, so is a Rajapalayam. It’s prestigious to own one. My Cinderella is pristine white and has a pink nose. Obviously, she is totally adorable,” Paromita told us with a smile.
Origin: The Nawab of the erstwhile Rampur state, Ahmed Ali Khan, bred the Rampur Greyhound by cross-breeding Tazi and English greyhounds. The breed is more than 200 years old and was used by the kings and landlords for hunting.
Features: Rampur hounds have a muscular build, characterised by a flat skull, powerful jaws, pointed nose, high-set folded ears and a long and tapered tail. About 25-30 inches tall, these hounds are intelligent, playful and active.
Dog names: Gublu and Billi
Age: 4.5 years & 5.5 years
Owner: Sukanta Mondal
Personal story: Sukanta couldn’t find a breeder of Rampur Greyhounds in Kolkata, so he got in touch with a breeder in Lucknow. “I brought the pups from there and ever since they have become a part our lives,” he told us, adding, “My dogs are very friendly. They are obedient and efficient, both indoor and outdoor. I find them faster than any foreign breed.”