Primitive Dogs of the Southeast
When the first primitive humans crossed
the Bering land-bridge into North America from Asia, they were accompanied
by a primitive form of dog. The animals resulted from the domestication
of southwest Asian wolves in the region of Iraq a few thousand years earlier.
These small, non-descript dogs moved quickly with their human companions
down through the western part of North America. Skeletal remains and mummified
bodies of these dogs have been found along with artifacts from primitive
From the Southwest, these primitive dogs moved into the eastern United
States. Archaeological investigations have indicated their presence in
the southeastern forested woodlands. There they were companions of the
Indians of the Southeast long before the arrival of the first European
explorers of the New World.
Recent studies of free-ranging dogs in parts of South Carolina and Georgia
have revealed the continued existence of medium-sized, foxlike primitive
dogs. Their appearance, as well as behavior and general ecology, suggest
a close ancestry - if not direct descent of type - from the first primitive
dogs to enter North America more than 8,000 years ago.
Called the "Carolina Dog," these animals most closely resemble
Australia's Dingo, which may indeed be among their closest living relatives.
Scientists suggest that the striking resemblance between Carolina Dogs
and the Dingo stems from the way in which both animals have filled a free-living,
or "pariah," niche, on the fringe of human civilization and
Free-ranging Dogs of the Savannah River Site
Long-term studies of foxes, bobcats and other fur-bearers on the U.S.
Department of Energy's 310- square-mile Savannah River Site (SRS)
near Aiken, S.C., have revealed the presence of Dingo-like, free-ranging
dogs. Their appearance suggests a loose resemblance to the primitive Carolina
Dog body type described above.
In the late 1980s, scientists from the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory
brought these dogs into captivity from public lands bordering SRS and
other large tracts of protected natural habitat, such as the U.S. Army's
Fort Gordon in nearby Augusta, Ga. Studies of the dogs' behavior under
semi-free-ranging conditions in a captive breeding program have revealed
unique behavioral traits. These traits had never before been described
in any form of domestic dog or wild canine species.
One of the most unusual of these traits is the tendency for some of these
dogs to ritualistically cover their droppings with sand. But they only
do this during certain seasons of the year or phases of the reproductive
cycle, such as when females are nursing puppies.
Towards the Development of a New Breed
Offspring born in captivity to wild-caught Carolina Dogs - when properly
socialized from an early age - have proved adaptable as family pets under
a wide variety of household conditions.
Ecology Laboratory senior researcher Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin has established
a studbook for these animals. Also, both the American Rare Breed Association
and the United Kennel Club have recognized the Carolina Dog breed registry.
Now, the dogs' versatility and trainability is being demonstrated in show
ring competitions, suburban homes and farmsteads.