Hawaiian Poi Dog
Hawaiian Poi Dog (center) in sketch by Louis Choris, c. 1816–17
|Other names||ʻĪlio, ʻĪlio mākuʻe, Hawaiian Dog|
|Origin||Hawaii (United States)|
|Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
The Hawaiian Poi Dog (Hawaiian: ʻīlio or ʻīlio mākuʻe for brown individuals) is an extinct breed of pariah dog from Hawaiʻi which was used by Native Hawaiians as a spiritual protector of children and as a source of food.
The original Hawaiian poi dog were descended from the Polynesian dogs brought to the Hawaiian Islands by the Polynesian people. Referred as the ʻīlio in the Hawaiian language, the modern name of this breed is derived from poi, a Hawaiian staple food made from kalo or taro root. Poi was used to fatten the dogs for use as food because meat was too valuable to be used as dog food. Since the Hawaiian Islands did not have large land mammals other than feral hogs, Poi dogs were not needed for hunting. The dogs were never deliberately bred to a standard, but human and natural selection still came into play.
European explorers like Captain Cook encountered pot-bellied, short-legged poi dogs that freely associated with hogs in the village. The dogs had very short hair that could come in any color, but brown poi dogs were regarded as distinct enough to warrant a specific name. The dogs also had peculiarly flattened heads. The latter trait is sometimes ascribed to the diet of the dogs in some unspecified way. Considering that poi does not require chewing, the dogs might have lost the need to maintain strong temporalis muscles; a reduced temporal fossa will cause a dog's head to appear flattened. Poi dogs were considered rather dim-witted and sluggish – any good hunting dog with acute senses would neither make a good poi dog, nor be particularly useful on the islands – however, the dogs were strong-willed and not easily commanded.
The poi dog was a two-purpose breed – used for food and as a lucky charm. Unsuited for anything else, the breed declined to extinction as the native religion was abandoned and eating dog meat became unfashionable. Feral dogs of European settlers interbred with the poi dogs, and by the early 20th century at latest, the breed disappeared as a distinct entity.
No surviving artwork or photograph from Hawaiian history are authentically attributed as poi dogs. Often Western artists infused Euro-American characteristics in their 18th-century depictions of the dogs of Polynesia and by the 19th century, the dogs being depicted were of foreign breeds. The lack of details has led historians to guess at what works may be realistic depictions of the breed based on the physical characteristics.
Writers Katharine Luomala and Margaret Titcomb both agreed an unfinished line drawing, dated to c. 1816–17, by French artist Louis Choris, who was part of the exploring expedition of Otto von Kotzebue, may show one of the dogs in center which may resemble the extinct breed. Luomala also claims French artist Barthélémy Lauvergne possibly captured a dog with the same traits in his colored drawing of Honolulu Harbor in 1836.
In 1967, Jack L. Throp, director of the Honolulu Zoo, attempted to bring back the breed through selective breeding of local dogs based on morphological characteristics. The project studied 18th and 19th century descriptions of the dog before 1825 and also the surviving skeletal remains of the ancient breed to set a standard. From this they selected local dogs in Hawaii, who were then bred for the desired traits. By the third generation from the original dogs selected in the program, a female was born with the desired appearance of the ancient breed. Commenting in 1969, Throp noted:
The Honolulu Zoo undertook a project in 1967 to re-create the Polynesian dog. The purpose behind such a project is to tell the story of the animal life of the Hawaiian Islands in a living Hawaiian exhibit. The dog is an important part of the Polynesians' contribution to this story.
The program is thought to have discontinued shortly afterward. In 1976, the crews on the Hōkūleʻa on their expedition to recreate the historical Polynesian voyage between Hawaii and Tahiti brought along a dog from this program which they named Hoku.
Today, the term "poi dog" is most often used to refer to mutts or mixed breed dogs, but also attribute specific characteristics to Poi dogs, including the ability to eat anything, a strong will, and a unique appearance composed of different breeds. The term "poi dog" is also colloquially used to describe people of mixed heritage, although the more common term in use is hapa.
- Kurī – breed of Polynesian dogs native to New Zealand
- ʻŪrī Mā’ohi – breed of Polynesian dogs native to the Society Islands
- Marquesan Dog – breed of Polynesian dogs native to the Marquesas Islands
Footnotes and references
- Compare the high head of fighting dog breeds that typically have extremely strong temporalis muscles attaching to large and deep temporal fossae.
- Coren 2006, pp. 137–168.
- Luomala 1960, pp. 195–197.
- Titcomb & Pukui 1969, pp. 2–3, 5–6.
- Luomala 1960, pp. 195–197, 209.
- Luomala 1962, pp. 170–180.
- Luomala 1960, pp. 197, 216, 221.
- Titcomb & Pukui 1969, pp. 22–23.
- Coren 2006, pp. 138–140.
- Hemmer 1990, pp. 33–34.
- "To revive early poi dog". The Honolulu Advertiser. Honolulu. May 18, 1967.
- Williams 2015, pp. 30–31.
- Lewis 1978, p. 187.
- Sharma2011, p. 122.
- Haas 2011, p. 25.
- Reinecke & Tsuzaki 1967, p. 110.
- Coren, Stanley (2006). The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions. New York: Free Press. ISBN 978-0-7432-8087-7. OCLC 61461866.
- Haas, Michael (2011). Barack Obama, The Aloha Zen President: How a Son of the 50th State May Revitalize America Based on 12 Multicultural Principles. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-313-39403-4. OCLC 658117495.
- Hemmer, Helmut (1990). Domestication: The Decline of Environmental Appreciation. Translated by Neil Beckhaus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-34178-3.
- Lewis, David (1978). The Voyaging Stars: Secrets of the Pacific Island Navigators. Sydney: Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-216404-7. OCLC 4722789.
- Luomala, Katharine (July 1960). "A History of the Binomial Classification of the Polynesian Native Dog" (PDF). Pacific Science. Honolulu: Pacific Science Association. 14 (13): 193–223. OCLC 78130351. hdl:10125/8347.
- Luomala, Katharine (April 1962). "Additional Eighteenth-Century Sketches of the Polynesian Native Dog, Including the Maori" (PDF). Pacific Science. Honolulu: Pacific Science Association. 16 (2): 170–180. OCLC 16324444. hdl:10125/5950.
- Reinecke, John E.; Tsuzaki, Stanley M. (Winter 1967). "Hawaiian Loanwords in Hawaiian English of the 1930's". Oceanic Linguistics. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 6 (2): 80–115. OCLC 883144524. doi:10.2307/3622760.
- Sharma, Dinesh (2011). Barack Obama in Hawai'i and Indonesia: The Making of a Global President. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-313-38533-9. OCLC 548555647.
- Titcomb, Margaret; Pukui, Mary Kawena (1969). Dog and Man in the Ancient Pacific, with Special Attention to Hawaii. 59. Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publications. OCLC 925631874.
- Williams, Carys (2015). "For the Love of Dog – A Discussion on Dog Domestication with an Ethnographic Focus on the Islands of the South Pacific". Oxford: University of Oxford.
- Bay-Petersen, Jan (1983). "Competition for Resources: The Role of Pig and Dog in the Polynesian Agricultural Economy". Journal de la Société des Océanistes. Paris: Societe des Oceanistes. 39 (77): 121–129. OCLC 930608583. doi:10.3406/jso.1983.2793.
- Bryan, William Alanson (1915). Natural History of Hawaii: Being an Account of the Hawaiian People, the Geology and Geography of the Islands, and the Native and Introduced Plants and Animals of the Group. Honolulu: The Hawaiian Gazette Company, Ltd. OCLC 3395236.
- Clark, Geoffrey R. (April 1997). "Anthropogenic Factors and Prehistoric Dog Morphology: A Case Study from Polynesia". Archaeology in Oceania. Sydney: Oceania Publications, University of Sydney. 32 (1): 124–130. OCLC 6015358906.
- Day, Arthur Grove (February 1951). "How to Talk in Hawaii". American Speech. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 26 (1): 18–26. OCLC 5552733720. doi:10.2307/453309.
- Engebretson, George (1997). Poi dogs & Pōpoki. Honolulu: Hawaiian Humane Society. ISBN 9780963115461. OCLC 39089454.
- Luomala, Katharine (1960). Stanley Diamond, ed. "The Native Dog in the Polynesian System of Values". Culture in History: Essays in Honor of Paul Radin (1st ed.). New York: Columbia University Press: 190–240. OCLC 16324448.
- Luomala, Katharine (1958). "Polynesian Myths about Maui and the Dog". Fabula. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. 2 (1): 139–162. OCLC 4958364642. doi:10.1515/fabl.19188.8.131.52.
- Svihla, Arthur (March 18, 1957). "Dental Caries in the Hawaiian Dog" (PDF). Occasional Papers of. the Bernice P. Bishop Museum. Honolulu: Occasional Papers of. the Bernice P. Bishop Museum. XXII (2): 7–13. OCLC 38440630.
- Wood-Jones, Frederic (February 1931). "The Cranial Characters of the Hawaiian Dog". Journal of Mammalogy. Lawrence, KS: American Society of Mammalogists. 12 (1): 39–41. OCLC 5726063100. doi:10.2307/1373802.
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