Just as there are people who are rare in the world of human beings, there are dogs that stand out in the dog world because of something unusual about them.
Basenji did you know there is a dog who cannot bark? He is called a Basenji. No one knows why he does not bark like other dogs, but this fellow gives sharp little cries that sound like a Swiss yodel. Because he did not bark to frighten the game away, and because be had such a very keen sense of smell that he could scent as far as eighty yards, he was used long ago in Africa to hunt rats, to retrieve, and to drive small wild game into nets. But he was so little that when the Africans wanted to know where he was in the high grass of the jungle, they tied wooden bells to his body so they could follow him by the sound they made.
The Basenji is about sixteen inches tall, with a smooth, glossy coat of red or pale tan. Many people think that he resembles a baby deer. He always has a white tip on his tail, which is tightly curled over his back. His ears are sharp and pointed. His forehead is wrinkled and his eyes look sad. But he really loves to play.
He licks himself with his tongue, like a cat, and never smells doggy. Because he is so clean and gentle and pretty to look at and quiet, city children should be happy to have him for a pet. And because he still likes to hunt and is a smart watchdog, he is also a good small dog for the country.
The Lhasa terrier, or Lhasa Apsos, is used especially to guard precious jewels in the far-off land of Tibet. He gets his name from the city of Lhasa there. In this city, which very few white men have visited, this dog is trusted to guard the treasures inside the palaces. He is very strong for his small size and has an unusually sharp sense of hearing. This makes him the fine watchdog he is.
The Tibetans call him a “lucky” dog. They like him so much that they will not sell him. Once in a great while, they will give a puppy to some famous person from another country, and that is one way we came to know the Lhasa terrier in Europe and America.
He is a short, square dog, sometimes nicknamed the Tibetan “lion dog” because he looks somewhat like a tiny lion and because his color can be the same as a lion’s. He can also be black and white, or golden brown and white. He has a heavy, long coat of hair, with whiskers and a beard. If he has dark tips on his ears and beard, he is very distinguished indeed. He likes lots of attention, but he is really very hardy for his size and loves to run out of doors.
Maybe you have heard of a dog that has no coat of hair at all? He is called the Mexican Hairless and is one of the oldest purebred breeds in the world. He lived in Mexico way back in the days when the Indians ruled that country. No one knows exactly what special work they used him for, but it is known that he was the prized pet of many families for many hundreds of years.
The only hair this dog has is a bunch that grows right on top of his head and sometimes is so long that it hangs down over his eyes. He is about the size of a fox terrier, black or gray in color, with a pretty, slim, arched body. His tail is long and his eyes are either tawny or dark. Because he has no hair to protect his skin, you have to put sun oil on him if he is to stay out in the sunshine a long time. And also because he has no hair, his skin is hot to touch. For this reason, persons suffering from rheumatism long ago used to place this little dog on their aching feet, like a hot-water bottle!
Even though he may look funny, he is smart and loving and easily trained. Since he needs protection from cold, rain, and sun, he would probably make a better city pet than a country one.
The antelope is one of the fastest runners in the world, but there is a dog that can run fast enough to catch an antelope. He is called a Saluki. He used to hunt gazelles, the fastest kind of antelope, on the great Sahara. Carvings of this kind of dog have been found in Egyptian tombs that are about seven thousand years old. The Saluki is still the Royal Dog of Egypt, and is believed to be the oldest known breed of tame dog.
He was considered a sacred dog and no one was allowed to sell him or take him out of his own country. But in the days of the Crusades, when knights from France and England and Germany traveled far into the Eastern lands, some of the knights brought a few of these dogs back with them. Much, much later, the first Salukis came to the United States.
The Saluki is a graceful dog with a slender body. His coat is short, with silky feathers on his ears, legs, and curving tail. He can be cream colored, tan, red, or black, with a black nose. His feet are hard, with protective hair between the toes so that no matter what rough land he runs over, the pads seldom get cut. He is gentle with people and never gets tired when he is on the track of the animal he is hunting. His eyesight is remarkable and he can stand any kind of climate. Because he still loves to chase anything that runs, and because he is rather a large dog, he would probably be happier in the country.
The main work of a sheepdog is to help man watch his flock and lead it home. But there is one sheepdog who does his work in a very special way. Instead of running around and around a stray sheep to force it to go back to the flock, this dog jumps right up on the sheep’s back! He digs his claws into its thick wool and rides the runaway as if it were a horse. Pretty soon, the sheep gets tired of running and the dog then guides it back to the flock.
The name of this dog is a Pulik, or Puli. He was first known in Hungary about twelve hundred years ago. He is not very large but he can do many remarkable things, such as climbing over a fence that is six feet high. He has been known to learn as many as sixty-five commands. Most dogs learn only about sixteen commands. One of the most important things a Pulik seems to know is the boundaries of his master’s property. Once he learns this, he never wanders away from it.
The Pulik wears a long, thick coat of fine black, gray, cream, or white hair. His eyes are dark, brave, and intelligent. His hair falls over these bright eyes, and he carries his ears close to his head. His tail is low, with a curling end. He is very smart and easy to train. He does not like strangers but is usually devoted to one family. This makes him a good watchdog for a country home-especially for a farm where they also need a good sheepdog as well as a pet!
The chowchow is one of the strangest of all dogs, as well as one of the oldest. He is a bushy red or black dog with a frown on his face and slanting eyes. There are many chows in this country.
Originally, the chow came from China. It is known that 2500 pairs of chows were kept as official hunting dogs by one of the T’Ang emperors about thirteen hundred years ago. Some people think this dog got his name because “chow” means food in Chinese, like chow mein. They think that perhaps the chow dog was raised for food way back then, but this is only a guess. A better reason for his name is probably the fact that when European explorers first came back from China, they called the oriental souvenirs they brought with them “chow chow.” Probably from this habit they named the first Chinese dogs they brought to Europe, too.
Today, the chow is the only dog that has a black tongue. He grunts more than he barks, but he is a good watchdog. He has paws like a cat’s and, unlike any other dog, he has perfectly straight back legs.
Although he was originally a hunter, the chow was so loved by the rulers of China that he became their pet and stayed in the palaces with them instead of working in the fields. Now he is a fine playmate and protector for children if he has grown up with them from his puppyhood. He can hunt and guard and is just as happy in the city as in the country. And this is one dog it would be very hard to lose. No matter how crowded the streets nor how far away he might wander, the chow is said to be able to find his way back home better than any other dog.
When you go to the circus, you see dogs that stand on their hind legs or front feet, climb stairs, dance in time to music, juggle balls, and do all sorts of other amusing things. These trained dogs are usually small breeds of one kind or another. Those most often used for this work are smooth-haired fox terriers, poodles, who have been doing such tricks for hundreds of years, Pomeranians, and mongrels.
A mongrel is sometimes rudely called a “mutt” or a “cur:’ But since some of the best-loved pets in the dog world are mongrels, it is silly to make fun of them. The word mongrel simply means that a dog’s father and mother, or grandfather and grandmother, were not of any known breed. Some dog trainers say they like mongrels better than other dogs because they are so willing to learn and easy to teach.
Dogs do an extra special and important job when they help people who cannot see. Maybe you have seen a blind person walking down the street with a dog beside him? These dogs wear a special harness with a high, firm handle instead of a leash. They are the only dogs allowed to ride in the subway or on a bus or train with their masters without being in a crate or valise. They are called Seeing-Eye dogs.
Many different breeds are trained to become SeeingEye dogs, but the breeds most used for this valuable work are German shepherds and boxers. More female dogs are used than male, because they are usually quieter, gentler, and easier to train.
A Seeing-Eye dog has to go to school for a long time to learn many difficult things before she “graduates” to become the “eyes” for a blind person. She has to learn to steer her master through a crowd without bumping into people; to let him know when he comes to an obstacle in his way; to step in front of him to prevent him from tripping or falling or being run over. She is trained to watch which way cars are moving so she will move with a green light and stop at a red one. And the hardest thing of all that she must learn is to disobey her master!
If a Seeing-Eye dog thinks there is some danger for her master, she must stop him even if he gets cross and orders her to go on. No Seeing-Eye dog can graduate from her training school until she has proved that she can use her own brains to refuse to mind her master when she sees danger that he cannot see.
One of the first known dogs to help a blind person is believed to be a tiny dog that came from Spain to Italy and then to France. You can see this little dog, called a papillon, in many famous paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck. He has a long, silky, white coat with patches of other colors, bright eyes, and a lovable disposition.
“Papillon” means butterfly in French, and this dog was probably so named because he has ears that are fringed with soft hair. When they stand up, they look like the open wings of a butterfly. Many French queens and princesses owned these little dogs, and today the papillon is the most popular toy dog in France. Because he resembles a small spaniel, he is sometimes nicknamed the “dwarf spaniel.”
There is an old English print which shows a young blind girl holding a leash. A little papillon is leading her by this leash down a crowded street. This may well be the first known Seeing-Eye dog. From his skill may have originated the idea of teaching other dogs to lead the blind.
Nowadays, together with all the sporting and working dogs and household pets, hundreds of these carefully trained animals are doing their share to prove that the dog is truly “Man’s best friend.”