Dog of Africa
Africanis is the real African dog - shaped in Africa, for Africa. It is part of the
cultural and biological heritage of Africa. In fact, its African heritage goes back 7000
years. Africanis is descended from the dogs pictured on Egyptian murals, the earliest
record of the domestic dog in Africa being from the Nile delta, dated 4700 BC. Today,
Africanis is found all over the Southern African subcontinent. It is known by various
names, in different languages. That is why we use a universal name, canis [dog] of Africa
But is it a mongrel or dog of no definable type or breed?
Decidedly not! Africanis is the true dog of Africa. The type has been accurately defined,
despite some variations in appearance. Africanis is the result of natural selection and
physical and mental adaptation to environmental conditions. It has not been
"selected" or "bred" for appearance.
It is the dog for Africa. In traditional Southern African philosophy, the most important
requirement for a dog is that it should be "wise". For centuries, the fittest
and cleverest dogs survived to give us one of the rare remaining natural dog races in the
What does it look like?
(See full description of the Africanis
The beauty of this dog is embodied in the simplicity and functionality of its build. The
Africanis is a medium sized dog, slenderly built and well muscled. It is agile and supple,
moves in a very natural and easy manner, and can run at great speed. The dog is found in a
wide range of colours, with or without markings. A ridge of varying form can sometimes be
seen on the back. The head is wedge shaped and the face is most expressive. The ears may
be erect, half erect or drooping. The carriage of ears and tail is linked to the dog's
awareness of the environment. These variable physical features are of no direct influence
on the physical and mental well-being of the dog.
When in good condition, the ribs are just visible. The coat adapts to the seasons, and can
be kept shiny with the minimum of care.
Because the Africanis has for centuries roamed freely in and around rural settlements, it
combines attachment to humans with a need for space. Traditionally it is always close to
humans, other dogs, livestock and domestic animals. Africanis is well disposed without
being obtrusive: a friendly dog, showing watchful territorial behaviour. The dog displays
unspoiled social canine behaviour with a high level of facial expressions and body
language. Its nervous constitution is steady but the dog is always cautious in approaching
new situations. In other words: it displays a high survival instinct.
Where does Africanis hail from?
Even before the time of the
Egyptian dynasties, domestic dogs spread quickly along the Nile river. At the same time
seasonal migrations and trade took them deep into the Sahara and Sahel. Iron-using people
brought their domestic dogs along when, from about 200AD, they left the grasslands of
Cameroon in a massive migration which eventually led to their settlement in Southern
The earliest record of a domestic dog in South Africa is dated 570 AD, on the farm Diamant
in the Ellisras district, near the Botswana border. At the same time, domestic dogs lived
south-west of Francistown, Botswana. By 650 AD the dog is found in the lower Tugela
valley, and by 800 AD in a Khoisan settlement at Cape St Francis.
Is the Africanis a
dog for you?
From the moment we take the Africanis away from his natural habitat, we are interfering
with his evolution. On the other hand, his historic rural habitat is changing and
shrinking faster than people realise. To conserve the Africanis, we must look for a
different but still suitable environment. If you can provide some space and freedom, and
contact with other animals and people, the Africanis will thrive at your side.
It is a dog which needs neither pampering nor special food. It is consistently healthy and
has, over the years, developed a natural resistance against internal and external
The Africanis simply needs your company. As a primitive hound it is guided by the instinct
of subservience, the very drive that made its distant ancestors prime candidates for
domestication. It is bound to its pack leader - you - and its territory. It will follow
you for hours without being on a lead.
From a health care point of view, the routine vaccinations are needed. But you won't need
to open an account at a veterinary clinic. The Africanis is a cost effective dog.
Society of Southern Africa
This is a body unique in the world of humans and canines. Its purpose is to conserve a
natural dog. Not to "develop" the breed, or artificially "breed" dogs
for selective characteristics.
The society is strictly a conservation body, launched in 1998 by Johan Gallant (promoter
of the Siyakhula project since 1994) and Dr Udo Küsel (director of the National Cultural
History Museum). It maintains a code of ethics, guidelines for breeding, regulations and a
procedure for registration, and a register of inspected and approved Africanis dogs.
Advanced DNA testing is standard.
Only registered dogs are recommended for breeding, in order to conserve the Africanis.
Membership costs R 50 entry plus R 50 per year and is a prerequisite for the ownership of
a registered dog. New members receive literature and guidelines, and membership includes a
Enquiries may be directed to the Africanis Society, PO Box 28088, Sunnyside 0132,
Pretoria, RSA or telephone Mrs Eunice Botha, Tel +27 (0) 12 341 1320, fax +27 (0)12 341
|Johan Gallant -
||P O Box 126,
Lidgetton, 3270, RSA
|Tel: +27 (0)33
Fax: +27 (0)33 2344166
|Udo Küsel -
|P O Box
Magalieskruin, 0150, RSA
|+27 (0)12 567
|Machiel Scholtz -
Box 8783, Pretoria, 0001 RSA
|Eunice Botha -
Malabor Street North, Lynnwood Glen, 0081
+27 (0) 12 348 2149 (H)
+27 (0)12 322 7632 (W)
||P O Box 413
|+27 (0)12 654
||P O Box 178
|+27 (0)11 802
||P O Box 4430
|+27 (0)12 329
Box 14996, Farramere, 1518
(0)11 894 6628
Description of the AFRICANIS land race.
Compiled by Johan Gallant,
advised by the late Joseph Sithole.
Date of publication : 1
Copyright The Africanis Society of Southern Africa 1999 ©
The traditional dogs of
Southern Africa, together, make up what we could call a "land race". This land
race, because of natural environmental conditions and a certain degree of selection by
man, did evolve into different "ecotypes" with sub-varieties. The custodians of
the dogs emphasise on physical and mental aptness rather than on superficial external
homogeneity. However, they differentiate between types, not so much at birth, but rather
when the dog has reached adulthood and displays certain properties and abilities common to
a specific type.
Selective breeding on
specific features could split this heterogeneous land race into multiple so called
"improved breeds". To start with, one could differentiate between the sub
varieties as they are described in various communities and breed selectively within these
parameters. Further segregation could take place based on size, type of coat, colour, ear
and tail carriage, etc.
The aim of the Africanis
Society is to avoid such differentiation and to conserve the traditional dogs of
Southern Africa as an heterogeneous entity that has been forged primarily through
thousands of years of natural selection. Natural selection is still the best recipe for
creating individuals which are adapted to their environment, tolerant against parasites
and common diseases, and which are virtually free of hereditary disabilities. Conservation
of the "Africanis" is aimed at preserving this "acclimatised" gene
Not many primitive dogs -
as they occurred in ancient human cultures - are left. The "Africanis" has its
origin, and is linked to the sight- and pariah hounds which in pre-dynastic times were
introduced into the Nile valley from the Levant. With the consecutive migrations of Early-
and Later Iron Using people, they spread into Southern Africa where they became endemic.
Since their arrival as from the 6th century AD, they have played a social and cultural
role in the different societies to which they belonged. They mean a cultural and
biological heritage. Conserving the Africanis would also be conserving bio-diversity.
The description which
follows broadly applies to any primitive dog breed which originated in the Levant. Where
variables occur, they are respectively due to the predominance of graioïd features above
pariah particularities, or vice versa. These were the ingredients which seven thousand
years ago formed the corner stones of the proto-Africanis.
Description of fixed and
variable features :
(When after several
thousands of years of predominantly natural selection, variables still occur in certain
features, it only means that such characteristics are of no direct influence on the
physical and mental well being of the dog. Tampering with them to obtain fashionable
homogeneity would therefore simply be inappropriate).
Regions of Occurrence :
Southern Africa (Similar dogs occur further north in the lacu- strine region and beyond.
(In Swahili they are called Umbwa wa ki-shenzi or traditional dogs).
: Watchful companion in and around the homestead, able to work with livestock. Also a
hunting hound combining sight and scent with great efficiency.
Classification : Primitive Hound.
General Appearance :
- Medium-sized, slender built, dry and well
muscled. Gives the impression of a swift, enduring and efficient dog. When in good
condition the ribs are just visible.
Important Proportions :
- The length of the body measured from the
point of the shoulder angulation to the buttock slightly exceeds the height at the
highest point of the withers.
Demeanour and Character :
- Because the Africanis has for centuries
roamed freely in and around rural settlements, it combines attachment to humans with a
necessity for space and freedom of movement.
- The people to whom these dogs traditionally
belong do not tend to make body contact with them. However their settlements are seldom
deserted from humans, other dogs and livestock, ensuring adequate socialisation and
environmental adaptation. This also entails that the Africanis displays watchful
- They are well-disposed without being
obtrusive. When pushed around the Africanis can demonstrate reactive aggression.
- The Africanis displays unspoiled social
canine behaviour with a high level of facial expressions and body language towards
congeners and humans. Therefore, when approached correctly, it is easily trainable.
- Although it is a hound with a swift chase
response, it is able to live in and around the homesteads in the company of livestock
without ever harming it. This is a result of correct environmental adaptation and
- The rather demanding conditions, imposed by
its environment, have over the years induced the Africanis into an energy conserving life
- It has a steady nerve constitution but is
always cautious in its approach to new situations. In other words it displays a high
- During the hunt it is active and alert,
shows great eagerness and toughness.
- It is a great opportunist that easily adapts
to modern western lifestyle without however losing its natural need for space and a
certain degree of freedom.
- It has to be noted that the Africanis has
never been used to the western concept of dog obedience training. However, because of its
innate subservience and a high sense of attachment to pack leader, it follows its handler
in a natural way.
Head : Indicating
the Africanis ancient origins, its head simultaneously features particularities
found in primitive sight- and pariah hounds. Although the head is streamlined, elongated
and wedge shaped, it gives the impression of strength.
Top skull: Flat, moderately wide between the ears. Frontal furrow gradually becomes
less pronounced across the upper head until it disappears when it reaches the not
pronounced occiput. The top skull runs parallel to the ridge of the nose. Its skin may
wrinkle when the dog is attentive.
Fore face :
Muzzle : Prolonged wedge without exaggeration, about as long as the skull. Ridge is
Nose : Rather large, full, pointed, usually black. (Note: partly unpigmented noses are
sensitive to the African sun).
Lips : Usually black, clean with often a little bell in the corners. It seems to play a
role in facial expression
Teeth: Normally a full set of strong, healthy, white teeth meeting in a scissors or
pincers bite. (Dogs born in rural areas can show deteriorated teeth. This is
usually due to an onslaught of distemper at a very young age).
Eyes : Medium to large, oval, slightly slanting, colours range from yellow to
black. Often accentuated by a black rim and/or expressive eyebrows. Alert, mild and
intelligent expression. No entropion, nor ectropion.
Ears : Set on laterally, V-shaped, of medium size, carried erect or drooping in any
position. The most important facet is that they are mobile and linked to the dogs
awareness of its environment.
Neck :Clean, dry, well muscled and of medium length. Flexible - In stand and
alert, carried at approximately 45° to a horizontal line, on the move, the neck tends to
follow the bodys top line.
Body : Slender, slightly longer than high.
Withers : Tips of shoulder blades wide apart and just perceptible above the
Back (Thoracic part of the spine): Slightly sloping towards the anticlinal
Loin (Lumbar part of the spine): Strong, fairly broad, raises slightly to the first
Pelvic slope : Steep (±30-40°). Huckle bones are generally somewhat prominent,
always equal to, or slightly higher than the withers.
Croup : Short, sloping to set on of tail.
Tail : Set on half way between huckle bone and ischial protuberance, harmoniously
continuing the slope of the croup, reaching approximately to hock. The tail is closely
coated, medium thick, narrowing to the gently upward curved tip (The tip of an entirely
straight tail is prone to injury). Functionally mobile - carriage varies in function of
mood and/or environmental stimuli. A darker triangle at the upper outer part of the tail,
approximately one quarter from its onset, is often present. It indicates the place where
the caudal gland used to be.
Chest : Shallow, moderately broad, oval in shape, roomy. Ribs well arched, slanting
rearwards. Sternum not reaching to elbows. (Depth of chest - sternum to ground : ratio 1 -
General : The fore legs are straight, long, dry, with strong big oval bones.
Muscles and tendons are clearly visible. Seen from the front the upper part forms an
Shoulder blades: Wide apart, long and oblique, dryly muscled. Angle between
shoulder blade and upper arm is obuse (±120-130°).
Upper arm: Equal in length to shoulder blade.
Fore arm: Longer than upper arm.
Pasterns: Strong, slightly sloping.
Feet: Large, oval, strong, supple. Toes are well arched, neither splayed out nor
cat-footed. Pads are thick, hard and pigmented. Unpigmented pads and nails are
undesirable. The front paws larger in area than rear paws.
General: Hind legs are long and dry.
Upper thigh : Broad with well developed and dry muscles.
Stifle : Moderately bent - i.e. when standing normally with rear pastern vertical
to the ground, the front edge of the paw is directly under the rear of the buttock.
Under thigh : Long, with well developed and dry muscles.
Rear pastern : Longer than the front pastern.
Hind feet : As fore feet but slightly smaller. Extra 5th toes or rear dew claws
Gait :Walk, trot,
canter and gallop are common ways of moving. The Africanis normally uses the pace-like
walk or the pace in the slower rate of travel. He should be able to trot and/or canter for
long periods on rough terrain and in a hillside environment, going into gallop when real
speed is required. The trot is light and effortless, with moderate stride. Viewed from the
front or rear, the trotting movement reveals, as the speed increases, a natural tendency
for the limbs to converge towards a central line of travel (nearly single tracking).
Texture :Compact short coated, harsh and thick, very short on head and limbs. The
length and density of the undercoat varies with the seasons. Wire-haired dogs are
possible. A ridge on back: (symmetric or non-symmetric of indefinite length can occur).
Colour : Any colour or combinations permissible.
Skin : dark and loose to body. (In the event of a superficial injury, a loose skin
ensures that the damage remains skin-deep and that subcutaneous tissue and muscles stay
Size :For dogs and bitches usually between 50 and 60 cm at the withers, but even
2-3 cm smaller or bigger individuals can occur.
Note : Male Africanis have two
testicles normally descended into a tight carried and well protected scrotum.
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