Carolina Dog

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This article is about the wild dog. For the type of hot dog, see Carolina style.
Carolina Dog
Dakota, the Dixie Dingo (or Carolina Dog).jpg
Origin USA
Weight 30–44 lb (14–20 kg)
Height 17.75–19.75 in (45.1–50.2 cm)
Colour Preferable: red ginger with pale buff markings over the shoulders, and pale white along the muzzle.
Classification / standards
UKC Sighthounds & Pariahs standard
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Carolina Dog was originally a landrace or naturally selected type of dog which was rediscovered living as a wild dog or free roaming dog by Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, and originally documented in American dog breed publications in the 1920s. Carolina Dogs often live in isolated stretches of longleaf pines and cypress swamps in the Southeastern United States.[1] A breed standard has been developed by the United Kennel Club that now specifies the appearance of these dogs.[2] Carolina Dogs are a medium sized dog, that comes in varying shades of red ginger, buff, fawn, black, black and tan or piebald[3] with or without small white markings on toes, chest, tail tip and muzzle. Frequently puppies have a melanistic mask that usually fades as the adult coat comes in.[4]


One of the earliest publications to document Carolina Dogs was the article "Dogs of the American Aborigines" by Glover Morrill Allen, published in 1920 by the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College. Allen postulated that these "Larger or Common Indian Dogs" were descended from Asian primitive dogs: "The probability therefore is, that the Domestic Dog originated in Asia and was carried by primitive man both east and west into all parts of the inhabited world. That this migration began in late Pleistocene times seems highly probable."[5] Allen cites late 19th century studies of skeletal remains of these dogs excavated from Indian mounds as well:

Cope (1893) was the first to describe the jaw of this dog from a specimen collected by Moore from a shell-mound on St. John's River, Florida. He was struck by the fact that the first lower premolar was missing and appeared not to have developed. The strong development of the entoconid of the carnassial, he also noticed. Moore, in the course of various explorations in Florida and Georgia discovered many remains of dogs, apparently of this type. In a large mound on Ossabaw Island, Georgia, he (1897) found several interments of human and dog-skeletons, the latter always buried sepa rately and entire, showing that the dogs had not been used as food. Other dog-skeletons of a similar sort were found by Moore (1899) in aboriginal mounds on the South Carolina coast.[5]

Later in the 20th century these dogs were rediscovered by Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin Jr., a Senior Research Ecologist at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Lab, first came across a Carolina Dog while working at the Savannah River Site.

Horace, a ginger piebald (white with brown markings) stray, was wandering the site's boundary when he caught Brisbin’s attention. Brisbin, who had seen many rural dogs chained to the back of porches and doghouses, assumed this was just a normal stray. Many of these dogs roamed the woods and would turn up in humane traps, and Brisbin began to wonder how many more of these were in the wild. On a hunch, he went to the pound and was surprised by the resemblance the dog had to dingos.[1]



Carolina dog

The ears are large and erect and can be individually turned to the direction of the sound.[6] Height: 17-24 inches (45–61 cm.) Weight: 30-65 pounds (15–20 kg.)


Carolina dogs

Female dogs had three estrus cycles in quick succession, which settled into seasonal reproductive cycles when there was an abundance of puppies.[1] Brisbin noted that this was most likely to ensure quick breeding before diseases, like heartworm, take their toll. Some pregnant dogs also dug dens in which to give birth.

After they gave birth or while pregnant, the dog would carefully push sand with her snout to cover her excrement. They were excellent at locating and catching small mammals e.g. shrews and mice, using a pouncing technique similar to a fox. The dogs also dug “snout pits”, or hundreds of tiny holes in the dirt that perfectly fit their muzzles during this time. More female dogs dug them than males.[7]

In the wild, Carolina Dogs often live in sparsely settled land instead of the highly populated areas stray dogs commonly occupied. However there are sizeable wild populations in metro Atlanta's wooded areas even near industrial plants and major highways. More study is required to accurately document their habitat behaviors.

Carolina Dogs were first noted on the Savannah River Site which by design was depopulated and secured of all trespass and traffic for decades beginning in 1950. The Savannah River Site was also one of two sites secluding South Carolina's deer population at the time of the discovery of the Carolina dog.[citation needed]


Carolina Dogs are natural runners. They have excellent noses that help them hunt wild animals, when in the wild. When kept as pets, the breed requires moderate exercise and sufficient space. They need to be exposed to a lot of social activity from a young age. Once they are trained enough, they are said to make excellent family dogs.[8]

DNA testing[edit]

Carolina dog "Hunter" that participated in DNA testing[9]

It was proposed that Mitochondrial DNA testing might prove a link between primitive dogs and Carolina dogs. Brisbin stated, "We grabbed them out of the woods based on what they look like, and if they were just dogs their DNA patterns should be well distributed throughout the canine family tree. But they aren't. They're all at the base of the tree, where you would find very primitive dogs." This was not conclusive, but it did spark interest into more extensive DNA testing.[1]

In 2013, a study looked at the mDNA haplotypes associated with samples of the Carolina dog. The study showed that 58% of the dogs carried universal haplotypes that could be found around the world (haplotypes A16, A18, A19, and B1), 5% carried haplotypes associated with Korea and Japan (A39), and 37% carried a unique haplotype that was not recorded before (A184) and that relates to the a5 mDNA sub-haplogroup that originated in East Asia.[10] As the dingo and the New Guinea singing dog belong to haplotype A29[11][12] that relates to the a2 sub-haplogroup,[13][14] there is no genetic relationship.

In the same year, a study of several dog breeds in the Americas — among them the Peruvian hairless, the Chihuahua and the Carolina dog indicated a migration from Asia.[15][16]

In 2015, a large-scale survey of autosomal, mitochondrial, and Y-chromosome diversity in 4,676 purebred dogs from 161 breeds and 549 village dogs from 38 countries was conducted. Testing for the degree of admixture with European dogs, the study found no yDNA haplotypes in indigenous North American dogs outside of the Arctic, however the mDNA of Carolina dogs contained between 10% and 35% pre-Columbian ancestry (mDNA haplotype A184) that clustered with East Asia.[17]

Breed recognition and domestication[edit]

Carolina Dogs can be registered with the American Rare Breed Association[18] and the United Kennel Club.[19] ARBA includes the breed in its "Spitz and Primitive Group", which includes primitives such as the dingo and Canaan Dog. The UKC has classified them as a pariah dog, a class which includes other primitive breeds such as the Basenji of Africa and the Thai Ridgeback.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Handwerk, Brian (2003-03-11). "Did Carolina Dogs Arrive With Ancient Americans?". National Geographic News. 
  2. ^ "Carolina Dog". American Rare Breeds Association. Retrieved August 30, 2013. 
  3. ^ Appearance: The Carolina Dog Rescue and Conservation Project
  4. ^ Weidensaul, Scott (1999-03-01). "Tracking America's First Dogs". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2006-10-11. 
  5. ^ a b Allen, Glover Morrill (1920). "Dogs of the American Aborigines". Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College. LXIII (9): 431–517. 
  6. ^ "Carolina Dog". Rare Breed Network. 1996. 
  7. ^ "Primitive Dogs Of The Southeast". University of Georgia. 2001-04-13. Archived from the original on 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2006-10-15. 
  8. ^ Rittenhouse, Jane (1 January 2004). Carolina Dogs, The American Dingos, Perfect Dogs: Remnants from Ages Past (First ed.). Self-Published. ASIN B001VDC4GI. 
  9. ^ van Asch, Barbara; Zhang, Ai-bing; Oskarsson, Mattias; Klütsch, Cornelya (2012-05-09). "MtDNA Analysis Confirms Early Pre‐Colombian Origins of Native American Dogs". 
  10. ^ Van Asch, B.; Zhang, A.-b.; Oskarsson, M. C. R.; Klutsch, C. F. C.; Amorim, A.; Savolainen, P. (2013). "Pre-Columbian origins of Native American dog breeds, with only limited replacement by European dogs, confirmed by mtDNA analysis". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 280 (1766): 20131142. doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.1142.  Table 1
  11. ^ Savolainen, P.; Leitner, T.; Wilton, A. N.; Matisoo-Smith, E.; Lundeberg, J. (2004). "A detailed picture of the origin of the Australian dingo, obtained from the study of mitochondrial DNA". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 101 (33): 12387–12390. doi:10.1073/pnas.0401814101. 
  12. ^ Oskarsson, M. C. R.; Klutsch, C. F. C.; Boonyaprakob, U.; Wilton, A.; Tanabe, Y.; Savolainen, P. (2011). "Mitochondrial DNA data indicate an introduction through Mainland Southeast Asia for Australian dingoes and Polynesian domestic dogs". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 279 (1730): 967–974. doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1395. 
  13. ^ Pang, J.-F.; Kluetsch, C.; Zou, X.-J.; Zhang, A.-b.; Luo, L.-Y.; Angleby, H.; Ardalan, A.; Ekstrom, C.; Skollermo, A.; Lundeberg, J.; Matsumura, S.; Leitner, T.; Zhang, Y.-P.; Savolainen, P. (2009). "MtDNA Data Indicate a Single Origin for Dogs South of Yangtze River, Less Than 16,300 Years Ago, from Numerous Wolves". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 26 (12): 2849–64. doi:10.1093/molbev/msp195. PMC 2775109free to read. PMID 19723671. 
  14. ^ Duleba, Anna; Skonieczna, Katarzyna; Bogdanowicz, Wiesław; Malyarchuk, Boris; Grzybowski, Tomasz (2015). "Complete mitochondrial genome database and standardized classification system for Canis lupus familiaris". Forensic Science International: Genetics. 19: 123–129. doi:10.1016/j.fsigen.2015.06.014. 
  15. ^ Hitt, Jack (15 July 2013). "D.N.A. Backs Lore on Pre-Columbian Dogs". N.Y. Times. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  16. ^ van Asch, Barbara; Zhang, Ai-bing; Oskarsson, Mattias C. R.; Klütsch, Cornelya F. C.; Amorim, António; Savolainen, Peter (10 July 2013). "Pre-Columbian origins of Native American dog breeds, with only limited replacement by European dogs, confirmed by mtDNA analysis". doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.1142. 
  17. ^ Shannon, Laura M.; Boyko, Ryan H.; Castelhano, Marta; Corey, Elizabeth; Hayward, Jessica J.; McLean, Corin; White, Michelle E.; Abi Said, Mounir; Anita, Baddley; Bondjengo, Nonokombe; Calero, Jorge; Galov, Ana; Hedimbi, Marius; Imam, Bulu; Khalap, Rajashree; Lally, Douglas; Masta, Andrew; Oliveira, Kyle C.; Pérez, Lucía; Randall, Julia; Tam, Nguyen Minh; Trujillo-Cornejo, Francisco J.; Valeriano, Carlos; Sutter, Nathan B.; Todhunter, Rory J.; Bustamante, Carlos D.; Boyko, Adam R. (2015). "Genetic structure in village dogs reveals a Central Asian domestication origin". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: 201516215. doi:10.1073/pnas.1516215112. 
  18. ^ "American Rare Breed Association". Archived from the original on 2006-10-13. Retrieved 2006-10-15. 
  19. ^ "United Kennel Club". Arienne Associates. 1996. Archived from the original on 2006-09-02. Retrieved 2006-10-15. 

External links[edit]