If you haven’t heard of the Rajapalayam dog, don’t be surprised. This incredibly rare breed lives in small, isolated pockets of southern Tamil Nadu in India. Outside of those pockets, it’s practically unheard of. And that’s unfortunate. A dignified, elegant dog with a graceful appearance and a loving personality, it deserves much more attention than it gets. To help put the matter right, here are ten things you didn’t know about the Rajapalayam.
1. They hail from India
The Rajapalayam was developed in a small town in the Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu in India. An ancient breed, they grew to prominence during the Polygar and Carnatic Wars of the 18th century. Bred to be a consummate hunter and estate guardian, they were widely used to guard farms, homes, and rice fields. Legends about the breed abound, with one story claiming that four Rajapalayam’s once worked together to save their owner from a tiger.
2. They’re incredibly rare
As Indian Dog Breed notes, the Rajapalayam’s numbers have dropped steadily over the years, to the point that it now borders on the brink of extinction. These days, it’s found only in small pockets around southern Tamil Nadu… although if the Animal Husbandry Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu has anything to do with it, that could soon change. To help raise awareness of the breed and encourage more people to favor native Indian breeds over foreign varieties, the department has established a cooperative to give female dogs to interested families along with advice on how to manage large scale breeding. The Kennel Club of India has also joined the effort, setting up the “Save the Rajapalayam Project” to help plump up the breed’s numbers.
3. They aren’t suitable for novices
The Rajapalayam is an incredibly loyal, loving, and intelligent breed, but it’s not for novices. Headstrong to the point of stubbornness, they can be challenging to train unless you have experience in raising and training dogs. To encourage them to keep an open mind, it’s vital to earn their respect with consistent rules, boundaries, and plenty of positive reinforcement.
4. They don’t care for strangers
The Rajapalayam is a friendly breed…. up to a point. As thesmartcanine.com notes, they tend to bond hard and fast with their family, but don’t care too much for strangers. Not that you can’t really blame them, though – this is a breed that was bred to be watchdogs, so it’s only natural that they’ll react with suspicion to anyone who sets foot on their patch without prior notice.
5. They need lots of exercise
The Rajapalayam was bred to hunt and protect, not lie around on the sofa snoozing. Although they love a nap, they need plenty of exercise to stop them from getting bored and frustrated. If they aren’t provided with an outlet for their energy, they’ll often resort to destructive behaviors as a way of burning off steam. Unfortunately, their high energy levels mean they’re off the table for anyone who lives in a cramped apartment – ideally, they’ll need a decently sized family home and an equally decently sized yard to romp around in.
6. They’ve got a distinct appearance
When the Rajapalayam was first developed, its breeders were adamant about creating an all-white dog. They got it. Although puppies of others colors would occasionally arise, they weren’t bred, leading to a narrow genetic heritage and an even narrow color selection. Other than their milk-white coats, Rajapalayams are noted for their pale pink nose, their golden brown or green eyes, and their muscular, heavy-boned structure. They’re also recognizable for their double suspension gait, which gives them the walking style of a trotting horse.
7. They’ve got a unique hunting style
As Wikipedia notes, the Rajapalayam was primarily bred to hunt wild boar independent of the handler. The way it hunts is unique to the breed. For a start, its acts as both a bay dog and a catch dog. Secondly, it can hunt by sight as well as track by scent. Relentless in its pursuit, it’ll not flinch at crossing rugged terrain or water while it hunts. Once it finds its mark, it’ll bring it down and return it to the handler. If it can’t bring it down, it’ll injure it and then keep it corned until the handler arrives.
8. They’re easy to care for
If you’re looking for a dog that doesn’t need a whole heap of grooming, the Rajapalayam might be for you. Their short, fine coat rarely sheds, requiring only the occasional brush to stay sleek and shiny. They don’t tend to smell and do a good enough job of keeping themself clean to avoid the need for frequent baths. Like all dogs, their ears and eyes should be regularly checked and cleaned to guard against infection. Teeth will need to be brushed a few times a week to keep them gleaming. If they’re regularly walked on hard surfaces, their nails will usually take care of themselves – if they don’t, give them a trim when they start making a clipping noise against tiles.
9. They have a strong prey drive
As you’d expect of a dog that was bred as a hunter, the Rajapalayam has an incredibly strong prey drive. Even if they’ve never seen a wild boar in their life, those instincts still run strong and deep. Unfortunately, what makes them star hunters makes them lousy walking companions. If they’re unleashed and spot a cat, a squirrel, or anything else that could be mistaken for prey, they’ll be off before you realize. Once they’re in hot pursuit, good look on seeing them again until they’ve either caught whatever it is they’re after or been outsmarted by it. No matter how much you call and no matter how well behaved they normally are, those instincts are too strong for them to ignore. Matters aren’t exactly helped by the fact they were bred to work independently of their handler, meaning it would take a major mindset adjustment for them to suddenly start working off commands and instructions rather than base instinct.
10. They’re not good mixers
If you’ve got cats, rabbits, rodents, or any other small, furred creature in your house, be wary about adding a Rajapalayam to the mix. Their strong prey drive can make them a menace, and even though early socialization can help, there’s no guarantee they won’t suddenly decide to turn your cat into a chew toy. It also pays to keep a watchful eye on them around other dogs – although they’re unlikely to turn on similar sized or bigger pooches, they can be dangerous around toy and miniature breeds if they don’t automatically recognize them as dogs.