Author Sian Hall offers insights gained through extensive study on African history, people, the land and the dogs in her book, “The Dogs of Africa”.
Dogs fit in extremely well with ancient nomadic lifestyles, where great distances were covered in search of game. The dog was involved in the family group and regarded as a permanent member of the camp, vital in driving the herds, guarding the camp and an aid in the hunt. This effect is very evident in some of the African dogs. The Rhodesian Ridgeback, a descendent of the nomadic Khoi dog, regards people as much more important than property. Unlike working breeds, the Ridgeback guards territory because it belongs to his family, not simply because he is territorial.
In contrast, the Canaan Dog of Israel, also from nomadic ancestry, behaves with very different standards. This breed is under the impression that the territory belongs to him together with all the moveable property and humans that come with it. He guards the humans simply because they come with the property. The Canaan Dog also has the ability to turn from domesticated to wild, or vice versa, as the situation dictates, offering him the greater opportunity of returning to the wilds if his home situation in the Bedouin camps became too miserable.
The indigenous Southern Dogs of Africa, with their loyal disposition, will not leave their domestic setting and owner no matter how horribly treated. In between, are the dogs of the Bantu-speakers. For these dogs, their home ground and property is defended, no matter who inhabits the settlement.
Further south, in the arid searing sands of the Kalahari regions, the egalitarian Bushmen of Africa included their dogs in the Zhavo relationship of gift-sharing. Dogs were warmly welcomed to share the food with their owners around the campfire. Whatever was available in camp was shared equally among members – if the dog’s owners were well fed, so was the dog. The reverse held true as well. When the Bushmen came upon hard times, the dog would suffer just as a member of the band.
The lifestyle of the Bushmen included myths and legends that read like fairy-tales, many featuring animals thought to be people and vice versa. An ideology that helps explain why the dogs of the Bushmen were so well kept and highly integrated into their society. The Bushmen saw a world in which animals lived side by side with humans and other creatures, a world in which there were no class distinctions and all creatures were important in the eye of the maker.
The Dogs of Africa provides a detailed examination of dog breeds that have historic connections to the African continent: the Southern African Dogs, Basenji, Canaan Dog, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Saluki, Azawakh, Sloughi, Podenco Canario, Cirneco Dell’Etna, Pharaoh Hound, Ibizan Hound, Presa Canario, Boerboel, Bichon family, Maltese, Bichon Frise, Coton De Tulear, and the Maltese Poodle. Hall paints vivid word pictures of the physical, cultural and historical environments in which these dogs of Africa evolved. She weaves a breathtaking journey through the vast Serengeti, the searing arid deserts, the towering pyramids of Egypt, the granite boulders of the Zimbabwe and the dense, impenetrable jungles. Available only in pdf format from Alpine Publications (www.alpinepub.com).
Hall resides in South Africa where she gives tours and lectures about the native dogs, the country, and African history.