The Bakharwal Dog is an ancient breed, originating in the majestic Himalayan Mountains of India. As the breed is a very old type, the Bakharwal Dog has been known by many names throughout its lengthy history. These names include the Kashmir Mastiff, Kashmir Sheepdog, Bakarwal Mastiff, Kashmiri Bakarwal Dog, Gujjar Wathdog, Gujjar Dog, or simply the Bakarwal. The breed is believed to have descended from the prehistoric Molosser dog and, as such it has an archaic and noble past.
Since man began documenting his world through writing, painting, and sculpture; canine companions have been included in these written and visual records of the ancient world. The primitive races of canine were as unique and varied as their ancient human companions. With different types of dogs evolving into their own specific breeds; man used each dogs’ natural instincts, talents, and skills for their own purposes. Over time, some of these ancient dogs would become hunters or workers and some would become companions. Through natural development and selection, and a little interference by man of course, an ancient and noble race of working canine would emerge, it would be known as the Molosser.
The first records of a Molosser dog come out of ancient Greece, where the breed is mentioned as having traveled with the sea-fairing Greeks as long ago as the prehistoric Trojan War. As the Greek people continued to explore the ancient world by land and sea, they brought with them their powerful and impressive Molossers. The breed would go on to mate with the indigenous dogs of the new lands, creating more diverse and varied ancient breeds. Time and evolution would, from the few original dog breeds that existed, produce many new types. Many specific geographic locations throughout the world would then see the development of dog breeds uniquely suited to survive and work in their challenging climates and varying terrains.
As the ancients were primarily hunter/gatherer societies in prehistoric times, dog were needed less as companions and more as working members of the group. Many dogs would first be used as hunting companions, and as the nomadic peoples of the ancient world settled into more permanent communities, each dog breed was developed and perfected by their human masters to perform specific tasks within that community. The Molosser type would prove to be most useful as a guardian dog, responsible for the defense and protection of the livestock and property belonging to their group.
The Molosser breed would become the foundation stock for the Mastiff breeds that exist today. Mastiffs existed throughout the ancient world and although the Molosser in its original form has since been lost to time and legend, the Mastiffs that they fathered continued to develop and evolve. Centuries ago, Central Asia saw the genesis of a noble and proud breed of Mastiff from Tibet. The Tibetan Mastiff is thought to be one of the oldest breeds of dog that is still living. This dog would lend its genetics to other Mastiff breeds coming out of the ancient Asian continent.
Although the precise genesis of the Bakharwal Dog is unknown and undocumented, the breed is thought to have originated from the lineage of the ancient breed of Tibetan Mastiff. Although some debate does exist as to the breed’s exact ancestry; some believe the Bakharwal Dog is much older than many dogs suggested as relatives to the breed. The Bakharwal Dog is thought by some to have been in the early lineage of some older breeds of Molosser including the Hyrcanian Mastiff, the Molossus tis Epirou, the Sylvan, the Tuvan Sheepdog, the Siah Sag, and the Iranian Sage Mazandarani; and their descendants. The Bakharwal Dog is considered to be the rarest of all the ancient herding breeds.
The Bakharwal Dog breed was developed roughly 300 years ago in the Pir Panjal Mountains of the inner Himalayan region; an area that now includes modern day India and Pakistan. The Bakharwal Dog is believed to have originated with the nomadic Gujjar tribe where the breed was used as a livestock guardian and guard-dog for the tribe’s camp. The Bakharwal Dog was most useful to the Gujjar people during tribal migration where the breed was used to protect livestock while it was being relocated from one settlement to another. The Bakharwal Dog is considered to be among the rarest of herding dogs, a most resilient breed, and oldest of the herding dogs originating in Central Asia.
The Bakharwal Dog has remained a livestock guardian/herding dog for the people occupying the Pir Panjal mountain ranges for centuries. Little historical information exists for the Bakharwal Dog breed throughout more recent history as the breed has changed little over time in appearance, breeding, or function. The Bakharwal Dog breed has maintained its status as the rarest of the rare breed herding dogs, and has gained minimal recognition outside of India, its homeland. Unfortunately the breeds rarity and lack of recognition outside of its homeland has put the Bakharwal Dog is in danger of becoming extinct. According to a survey conducted by India’s Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation there are only a few hundred Bakharwal Dogs in existence today. The National Secretary of the Foundation, Javaid Rahi tells The Hindu: “The Bakerwali Dog is one of the oldest breeds and urgent steps are needed to protect it.” The Gujjar and Bakharwal communities have requested that the Bakharwal Dog be listed as an endangered species, as the breed’s population has seen a rapid decline over the last several decades.
One reason for this decline is that the native tribes living in the region have given up their historically nomadic lifestyle for a more permanent existence. When there were fewer herds traveling throughout the Pir Panjal Mountains, there were fewer Bakharwal Dogs needed to guard them. Other factors in the decline of the Bakharwal Dog population include a rebellion that occurred in India, in which Bakharwal Dogs were used by the security force when pursuing the militants. Many Bakharwal Dogs were therefore killed by the militants in the rebellion.
Also, the Bakharwal Dog is highly valued and well known for its work ethic and skills. Because it is so desired for its working abilities, many Bakharwal Dogs are stolen and taken illegally out of the country to be sold, further diminishing the native Bakharwal Dog population. Those breed members have managed to survive into the present day live in extremely harsh and challenging conditions. The climate and terrain of the Himalayan Mountains is difficult for survival and the incidence of rabies and other infections among the population has added to the declining numbers of the Bakharwal Dog breed. Another concern is that the Bakharwal Dog breed is hard to replenish as a female members of this breed produce very small litters consisting of just 1 to 3 puppies once a year.
In response to the previously mentioned request that the dog to be listed as endangered, Farooq Ahmed Kaloo, Director of the Department of Animal Husbandry told The Hindu that there was no real threat to the Bakharwal Dog but that they were “ready to draw a conservation plan and help the community with breeding, etc.”
The Bakharwal Dog is extremely rare. There are currently no breed clubs for the Bakharwal Dog and the breed is not recognized by any of the major kennel clubs. Those wishing to obtain a Bakharwal Dog will find this to be a difficult pursuit, as locating a Bakharwal breeder can be challenging, and once you have found one the cost of the dog may be extreme, or you may be put on a long waiting list.
The Bakharwal Dog is a leaner type of Asian Molosser breed; heavily boned and well muscled. A large breed, the Bakharwal Dog stands 24 to 30 inches tall at the withers. The Bakharwal Dog is characterized by a large head that displays the typical Molosser style pendant ears and short muzzle. The Bakharwal Dog breed also has a thick, muscular neck that leads into a straight back. The chest is deep and the shoulders are well-developed and broad. The Bakharwal Dog possesses powerful, long legs.
The coat of the Bakharwal Dog is extremely thick; the outer-coat being dense and full with a thick undercoat. The coat has protected the breed for centuries from the harsh climate of the great Pir Panjal Mountains from which the breed originated, but being that the coat is so thick; it also provided protection from the attack of predators. The Bakharwal Dog’s coat is medium in length and flat in texture. Black and Tan is the most often occurring color combination for the Bakharwal Dog, although tri-colored and piebald have also been seen in this breed. Piebald is when the coat of the animal displays a spotting pattern of unpigmented (often white) areas, spotted with colored areas (often black). The skin underneath these piebald pigmented areas is often pigmented as well. The coat of the Bakharwal Dog comes in a variety of colors including tan, tawny, beige, black, and white.
Rugged and pastoral, the Bakharwal Dog has been developed as a livestock guardian and settlement protector since ancient times, in the challenging and harsh terrain of the magnificent Himalayan Mountains. The Bakharwal Dog has been described as audacious, serious, and resilient; famous for their ferociousness, the breed takes its guarding duties very seriously. Its development throughout the centuries has made the Bakharwal Dog a protective breed, exhaustively shielding the animals in its care and its master from harm.
Due to the unforgiving climate and demanding terrain in which this Bakharwal Dog was developed, the breed grew to be a robust and enduring mountain dog. The Bakharwal Dog has been described as “agile and fleet-footed”. The breed is adept at guarding the livestock against predators such as wolves; however, the Bakharwal Dog’s courage is limitless when it comes to the animals under their care. The Bakharwal Dog is not easily intimidated, even by predators much larger than itself and they have been known to fight tigers, lions, or bears when necessary. The breed is a highly valued working dog, and its serious nature is a much desired trait in a livestock guardian dog.
The Bakharwal Dog does not only take its livestock guardian duties seriously, but it guards its master with the same dedication and fierceness as it would a flock that is under its care. The Bakharwal Dog is a protective, reliable, and loyal companion. It displays affection for its master openly and is capable of forming strong attachments to its human companions. The Bakharwal Dog is known to be good natured and well behaved with children, as it will consider them part of its “herd” therefore guarding and protecting the child with enduring intensity. Children should be supervised when in the company of a large breed like the Bakharwal Dog, especially smaller children as they can easily be injured accidentally. The Bakharwal Dog would; however, never intentionally harm a human. The breed is playful, and will enjoy being included in family activities. The Bakharwal Dog is generally tolerant of other pets, often including them among the herd as it does with children; however the breed may not act so well toward other dogs. Behavior such as excessive aggression, dominance, and jealousy has been noted when one Bakharwal Dog interacts with another, and it is therefore recommended that a Bakharwal Dog be the only dog in a household.
As the Bakharwal Dog was, and is still today mainly used as a working dog and livestock or property guardian, the breed has an independent nature that has been perfected over the course of time and through its working development. Obedience training is therefore, a challenge with the Bakharwal Dog breed. Often this dog, while working in the field, would be required to make decisions individually, and separately from its master. This type of development creates a dog that is an independent thinker and a creative problem solver; not one to take to training and the performance of parlor tricks lightly.
In a working capacity, the master’s command was unnecessary for the Bakharwal Dog to take action, making the breed somewhat stubborn and a challenge to train. Because of this, an owner that can display confidence and strong leadership is absolutely necessary to successfully train a Bakharwal Dog. The breed can also be dominant and if the leadership of the owner is not strongly established, the Bakharwal Dog may become hard to handle because of its strong will, independent nature, and large size.
The Bakharwal Dog is also known to become bored with repetitive tasks and if required to perform them, the dog may become agitated. If allowed to get away with poor behavior, a Bakharwal Dog may think it is in charge and try to take advantage. Therefore, the Bakharwal Dog’s training and socialization should begin early in order to firmly establish the leadership of the owner and for the dog to truly understand its place in the family and in the world. Patience and strength will need to be displayed by the owner in order to create a strong bond between themselves and the dog. A serious nature and a stern approach to the dog’s obedience lessons will be needed and the owner will need to acquire the dog’s trust and respect in order to properly control and train a Bakharwal Dog.
The Bakharwal Dog was part of a nomadic tradition from the beginning of its development, which continued into its modern history. This fact created in the Bakharwal Dog breed, a strong desire and necessity for regular and close contact with its human companions. For a breed like this, if separated from or denied the close relationship with its human family that is so crucial to the dog’s mental health, the breed may actually become irritable and uneasy. The breed is very sociable, often quite tolerant of crowds as it has been raised as a societal member of large groups of people throughout its history.
The Bakharwal Dog is adaptable, and will adjust fairly well to new surroundings and change. This makes it an ideal companion and family dog. Because the Bakharwal Dog can be protective and territorial, it excels in its familiar role as guard dog or herding dog. The Bakharwal Dog is alert, often making the presence of strangers and guests known; and the size and sound of the dog is deterrent to anyone approaching the home. The Bakharwal Dog breed is active and accustomed to being required to perform rigorous physical exercise while it was developing amongst the nomadic tribes of the Indian Himalayas. Because of their past, the Bakharwal Dog requires a lot of daily exercise and time spent outdoors in order to maintain its physical and mental health. The Bakharwal Dog is; therefore, best suited to a large home with a yard and space for the dog to run and play. An apartment lifestyle will not due for the Bakharwal Dog as its large size and daily activity requirement will just not be met in this type of urban setting.
A Bakharwal Dog that is bored, or not receiving the proper amount of physical stimulation that a lot of exercise provides may display poor behaviors such as destroying property, chewing, barking, whining, and even ignoring basic skills such as housebreaking. Because they are herding dogs by nature, the Bakharwal Dog may give chase on occasion. When this occurs, the dog may pose a threat to others as it is fast and large and can easily cause accidental harm or injury to those in its path. Therefore, a leash should always be used when walking a Bakharwal Dog, and when playing outdoors, the breed should always be in a secured, fenced area.
An interesting feature about the Bakharwal Dog breed is that they are vegetarian. Being raised in a nomadic community as livestock guardians, the dog subsided on bread, milk, and milk products. The Bakharwal Dog avoids eating meat completely, and would prefer hunger as opposed to showing any predatory instinct or aggression toward the animals in their care.
Overall, the Bakharwal Dog has a pleasing and protective nature and is playful and loving. They make ideal companions to those with a large home or area for the dog to run and to those families who maintain an active, outdoor lifestyle. A serious working ethic and a charming demeanor make this rare herding breed a delight for anyone able to acquire one.
The coat of the Bakharwal Dog is medium length and flat, making it relatively low maintenance. Brushing through the dog’s coat once or twice a week should be sufficient to maintain the cleanliness and appearance of the Bakharwal Dog. The breed sports a dense double coat, so some trimming may be required to maintain its good condition.
As with all dog breeds, special grooming and care should be given to certain areas. The eyes, ears, teeth, and nails of the Bakharwal Dog should be examined regularly to ensure that they are clean and healthy, and to prevent any injury or health problems from developing.
The Bakharwal Dog is a robust and healthy breed. Rarely suffering from common canine health disorders, the Bakharwal Dog enjoys a lifespan that averages between 10 and 12 years. The breed generally resists infection and sickness, overall not suffering many illnesses. The following is; however, a list of possible health concerns that have been identified for the Bakharwal Dog breed: