The Alopekis is commonly referred to as an ancient dog breed that originated in Greece. While there are those that claim it to be an actual distinct breed of dog and profess to breed purebred Alopekis, it is more likely that the Alopekis is a type or category of dog and not an actual breed. A situation similar to that of the Alaskan Husky, which is also not a breed, but is a term used to describe a highly efficient sled dog. The Alopekis likewise would be the term used to describe the common street dog of Greece. Furthermore, like the Alaskan Husky, it falls short of being an actual breed as there are no restrictions on ancestry, preferred type, or a breed standard to define its appearance.
The Alopekis is believed to have gotten its name from the Greek “alopecis” which means small and fox like; a definition that would adequately encompass the majority of feral, semi-feral or tamed street dogs of Greece. Having never had the benefit of a formal breeding program these dogs would have been forced to evolve through the process of natural selection. In such an environment, living on the outskirts of man, large size would have been of no benefit due to limited food resources. Thus, smaller dogs that were competent hunters and scavengers would have been more likely to survive to pass on their genes.
It is believed that this type of dog has been present in Greece for centuries. Recovered artifacts dating to the time of the Pelasgians ; the ancient, primitive and presumably indigenous people who preceded the Greeks in the Greek world between 3000 B.C. and 2500 B.C. depict small dogs resembling the Alopekis. However, this is not definitive evidence of its existence during this time. As with many ancient breeds or types of dog, its true origin has been lost with the passage of time; leaving behind only theory and conjecture.
Contributing to the loss of their historical origin is that Greece placed no emphasis on rediscovering its ancient dog breeds until the late 1950’s; at which time the emphasis was placed on researching and rediscovering its ancient sheepdog breeds not the common street dog. Thus, the Alopekis was largely ignored and considered unimportant until the late 1980’s. When a group of patriotic dog lovers formed a group and started researching the native “Meliteo Kinidio“ or “small Greek house dog”. The “Melitieo Kinidio”, a term for another group or type of dog, was until very recent times interchangeable with the Alopekis as they were believed to be one in the same, albeit different strains.
In more modern times dating from the mid 20th century on, elders can easily recall these common little street dogs. It is said that they were everywhere, from small towns, to villages, to large modernized cities. Ever adaptable, they were used in much the same way that they are used today; as house pets, watch dogs, farm dogs, rat catchers, and for various other tasks. Indeed it is this versatility that has helped them to survive and thrive to modern day. A highly useful little dog, they adopt the lifestyle and requirements of their master, and can be used to guard property, protect livestock, herd a flock of chickens or geese, kill vermin such as rats and mice or hunt small game for the stewpot.
There is a movement today to recognize both the Alopekis and the Meliteo Kinidio as separate and unique Greek dog breeds. However, as of this writing no formal breed clubs exist, nor has either been recognized by any reputable registry or kennel club.
Today these common little street dogs can still be found in plentiful numbers in homes, on the streets and throughout most of Greece from Epirus and Macedonia , Thrace and Attica to Peloponnesus and the islands.
The Alopekis, like its name suggests is generally described as a small fox-like dog. In general, these dogs are longer than they are tall with slightly wedge shaped heads resembling that of a fox. The most common colors for the Alopekis are a combination of black, beige and white. However, there is no standardization as to color; so they may be any pattern or color or combination thereof.
It has been reported there are two distinct coat types, a long haired and short haired variety. The long haired version of the Alopekis is typically bigger in size, with drop or semi-folded ears; while the short-haired Alopekis is typically smaller with slender prick ears. It is also reported, that there is a wirehaired version of the Alopekis but it is exceptionally rare and little is known about its standard attributes. There was also allegedly a hairless version similar in appearance to the modern day miniature Xoloitzcuintli present in ancient Greece, which has since become extinct.
Size varies widely within the type and dogs may be anywhere from 8 inches to 15 ¾ inches tall with weights being as low 8lbs or as high as 26lbs.
The Alopekis is a product of natural selection and life on the streets of Greece. A highly adaptable and resilient type of dog, the Alopekis to this day can be found living much as it has for centuries; on the streets, in homes, alongside, and on the outskirts of man. It is noted that it is an intelligent type of dog that has been blessed with a bountiful supply of street smarts and survival instincts.
The Alopekis is perfectly capable of fulfilling whatever role it is assigned. On the streets it is a hunter and scavenger, capable of hunting rats, mice and other small animals for food. It is equally capable of rummaging through the refuse of man for food. In the home, the Alopekis is a valued member of the Greek family. A useful companion animal, the Alopekis can protect the household by alerting to the presence of a stranger or by fulfilling a working dog role herding ducks and geese for the farmer. Above all this dog is a survivor, capable of taking what the world gives to it and adapting itself to thrive in any given situation.
A loyal type of dog the Alopekis is noted to bond well with the family. They are commonly described as very obedient, out-going, even tempered, and happy by nature. They get along well with children, and have often times been observed escorting them to and from school like a watchful parent. Although, like any breed or type of dog, play with smaller children should be supervised to ensure the dog is not being teased or put in a situation where it may feel it needs to react aggressively to protect itself or its space.
Playful energetic little dogs that are eager to please their human master, they will need to be exercised regularly to keep them both physically and mentally healthy. Owing to a history of growing up on the streets, they can be rather independent or stubborn. As such, owners of this type of dog should be firm and consistent during training to achieve the best results. It is important that the dog understand the human head of household is the pack leader and sets the rules. Alopekis living under lax or nonexistent rules, boundaries and limitations can be quite mischievous and are prone to behavioral problems associated with dominant dogs. These can be small nuisances such as bolting out the door at every opportunity to escape or acting aggressively towards other humans in the household to enforce its status as Alpha dog.
A jack of all trades and master of none, the Alopekis is commonly referred to by the Latin phrase “multum in parvo”, which in English means “much in little” as this dog, is a lot of dog, in a little package.
Grooming requirements for an Alopekis is dependent upon the coat type. With the short coated version, a weekly or bi-weekly brushing with a slicker brush or its equivalent would be enough to remove dead undercoat and cut down on shedding. With the longer haired version, whose hair can reach lengths in excess of 2 inches, a more frequent grooming schedule will need to be adhered to. Brushing for the longer haired version should be done at least once a week, paying careful attention to remove any matts or tangles that may have developed. For both varieties bathing should be kept at a minimum so as not to strip the coat of its natural oils.
As a product of natural selection, and a diverse gene pool from life on the streets, the Alopekis is not known to have any congenital health issues.