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Africanis (1).jpg
Other namesAfrican Dog
Bantu Dog
Hottentot Hunting Dog
Khoikhoi Dog
Tswana dog
Zulu Dog
OriginSouthern Africa
Breed statusNot recognized as a standardized breed by any major kennel club.
Height 50–60 cm (20–24 in)
Coat Short, hard, thick coat;
wire-haired variation possible
Color Any
NotesRecognized by the Kennel Union of Southern Africa; Africanus breed standard
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Africanis is a landrace of Southern African dogs. It is believed to be of ancient origin, directly descended from hounds and pariah dogs of ancient Africa, introduced into the Nile Valley from the Levant. Africanis is also an umbrella name for all the aboriginal dogs in Southern Africa.

While the Africanis Society of Southern Africa has conceptualised the Eurocentric term of "Africanis" to encapsulate all African breeds of dog, there do exist numerous specialised types developed by various African ethnic groups with their own indigenous and ancient names. These types are not "landraces" as dictated by the Africanis Society, but rather unusual types developed for certain specific conditions and that do exhibit differences in one type from the other.

The Africanis Society of Southern Africa aims to conserve the Africanis as a landrace rather than develop it as a breed. While the Africanis is recognized by the Kennel Union of South Africa (KUSA) as an emerging breed, researchers on the ground, such as anthropologist Sian Hall, hold that the various different types of indigenous African dogs have already developed, over thousands of years, as types suited to their specific conditions by Africa's own indigenous peoples. They therefore have no need to be Eurocentrically regarded as an "emerging breed" by European canine institutions. Hall holds that the dogs have already developed as distinct types among the various African groups and that each deserves to be regarded and recognised as such. It follows that one breed description cannot be allocated to the many different types of indigenous dogs on the African continent.


The Africanis is a short-coated, medium-sized dog, well-muscled and slightly longer than tall. It can be of any colour and occasionally comes with a ridgeback (regarding the ridged back, according to the Africanis Society of South Africa: A ridge of varying form can exceptionally be seen on the back. It has sadly been established that this mutation can be associated with a dermoid sinus. Therefore, ‘ridged’ individuals are not recommended for breeding). There is also a wirehaired variety of the breed, but it is relatively rare. The height usually varies from 50 to 60 cm (with the tolerance of 2–3 cm).[1]


The Africanis is well disposed without being obtrusive: a friendly dog showing watchful territorial behaviour. The breed is independent and territorial, but highly trainable. They can however, become grumpy as they grow older and may also become quite difficult when kept with other dogs in a pack.

It is my experience that the Africanis is a marvellous pet and house dog. Guided by its instinct of subservience it will steal your heart before you realise it.
- Johan Gallant, President of the Africanis Society of Southern Africa (September 9, 2005).


One view holds that it has over the years developed a natural resistance against internal and external parasites, although they do appear to be very susceptible to introduced diseases such as distemper and parvovirus and to tick-borne biliary. Others suffer from cancer. Rabies is very prevalent among the indigenous dog populations of southern Africa. It is therefore essential to ensure that any indigenous African dog, including the Europeanised Africanis, be inoculated annually for all the usual contagious diseases and understood that they are as susceptible to other diseases as any other domesticated dog.


Canis Africanis.jpg
Africanis dogs resting in the grass and enjoying the sun.

There is some evidence that dog domestication occurred in Europe or Siberia, see Origin of the domestic dog. The traditional African dog is a descendant of dogs that had been interbred with local wolves in the East and came to Africa. Their earliest presence has been established in Egypt and dated to 4700 BC. Archaeological records show that, from then on, the dog spread rapidly along the Nile into Sudan and even beyond. At the same time, migrations, trade and transhumance took it deep into the Sahara. By 2000 BC, this moving frontier stopped for a long period. Meanwhile, throughout the Egyptian dynasties, the breeding of swift and slender hounds together with a variety of common dogs became very popular.

For thousands of years, the aboriginal San (Bushman) populations in Southern Africa hunted without the help of dogs. Although the Khoikhoi brought domestic sheep along a western migratory route to the Cape of Good Hope just before the Christian era, there is no conclusive evidence that dogs were part of their party.

The domestic dog first arrived in Southern Africa with the migration of the early Iron Age Bantu-speaking people. Dogs of Nilotic origin consecutively joined the early and also later Iron Age migrations. It is generally accepted that these migrations traveled along the Albertine Rift and the Lake region. They followed tsetse-free corridors through Zambia and Zimbabwe to reach Botswana and finally South Africa. The earliest evidence for the presence of a domestic dog in South Africa has been established by Dr. Ina Plug, deputy director of the Transvaal Museum. The remains were found near the Botswana border and dated at AD 570. By AD 650 the presence of the house dog is established in the Lower Thukela valley. By AD 800 it is part of a Khoikhoi settlement in Cape St. Francis, indicating that contact and trade between Bantu and Khoikhoi had been established.

Africanis Zulu dog
Africanis Kwazulu Natal

For hundreds of years this exclusive primitive canine gene pool adapted to various conditions of the Southern African landscape and, through natural selection, evolved into ecotypes all belonging to the same landrace. It is sometimes argued that dogs brought by the Arab trade, Eastern seafarers and Portuguese explorers might, over the years, have "contaminated" the traditional African dog. In other opinions, these chances are scant. Exotic canine influences became more likely after the colonisation of Transkei and Zululand during the 19th century.

The true Africanis is still found today in tribal areas where people maintain their traditional lifestyle. The fast-changing South Africa and the impact that this causes on rural societies, together with a certain disdain for the traditional dog and the status that the ownership of an exotic breed provides, poses an increasing threat to the continuation of the aboriginal Africanis. The Africanis Society of Southern Africa was founded to conserve this ancient gene pool. Conserving the Africanis as a landrace stands for conserving biodiversity. The society has been praised as an ethically responsible canine association.[2]

The Africanis is recognized by the Kennel Union of Southern Africa (KUSA) as an emerging breed.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ KUSA. Breed Standard: Africanis Archived 2014-05-12 at the Wayback Machine. KUSA. Accessed May 10th 2014.
  2. ^ Arman, Koharik (September 2007). "A new direction for kennel club regulations and breed standards". Canadian Veterinary Journal. 48: 953–965. PMC 1950109. PMID 17966340.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gallant, Johan, The Story of the African Dog. University of Kwazulu-Natal Press ISBN 1-86914-024-9
  • Hall, Sian, "Dogs of Africa". 2003. Alpine.

External links[edit]