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"Notes sur Les Chiens de L'ile de Phu-Quoc" / "Notes on the Dogs of the Phu-Quoc Island"

Page 198-201

Written in 1892

Authored by M. Emile Oustalet

Translated into English by Kamiko Kourtev

Translated into Vietnamese by Như Ý

"Phu-quoc or Fou-kouoc island, also called Troue island, is located in the Gulf of Siam, almost opposite Hatien, a city on the western coast of Indo-China near which it ends the limit of Cambodia and Cochinchina. It extends from south to north over a length of approximately 50 kilometers and presents a rugged terrain including the highest point, Mount Bay-doc, rises to 603 meters.


"From a few years ago a French post was established there and yet we we still have insufficient knowledge about the vegetation of this land neighboring the continent and on the animals, perhaps quite numerous, that it contains. However, we know today that Phu-quoc feeds a race of wild dogs or rather very remarkable brown dogs, of which M. F. Doceul, administrator of indigenous affairs in Cochinchina, recently gave to the Museum three beautiful specimens, two males and one female.


"These Dogs, medium size, are a little smaller than an ordinary Pointing Dog and a little larger than the English Dogs called Fox Terriers to which they resemble each other in their slender shapes, their tapered heads, and their almost close-cropped hair, but they differ essentially in their erect, not drooping, ears. Their color varies from fawn to reddish brown, the coat of the female being much lighter than that of the males which are not of the same shade and one of which appears more robust than the other, although, as I have been told, all these animals are of the same birth.


"In one of the males, the most robust, the coat is a reddish brown, which becomes lighter towards the lower parts and on the sides of the neck and turns blackish on the muzzle; in the middle of the forehead and between the eyes, we see several dark lines which diverge slightly towards the top and which call to mind the lines and folds of the skin that we see on the forehead of some of our domestic dogs and, among others, Bull Terriers.


"On the other hand, along the back, between the withers and the rump, there is a another dark strip along which the hairs appear a little shaggy or even brushed back. This band is naturally more apparent in the other male which is a paler brown and especially in the female which is an isabella fawn. I don't know anything like this in any of our domestic dog breeds and I could at most point out a distant analogy between this dark band and the dark line, moreover much more elongated and less distinct, which goes from head to tail following the middle of the back in brindle coated dogs.


"Perhaps this is an atavistic trait, one particularity that the Dogs of Phu-quoc have inherited from their ancestors, like the light spots which surmount the eyes of our Spaniels or the rudimentary fifth finger, the Wolf's claw, that we observe not only on the front paws, but on the hind paws in many domestic dogs. In any case, we can see that in some wild canines, the middle of the dorsal region is darker shade than the rest of the body: this is how in the Maned Wolf {Canis jubatits) or Red Pampas Wolf of South America, the hair lengthens a little in a mane on the nape of the neck and between the shoulders taking on a blackish color, that in the Indian Wolf {Canis pallipes) or Bheria the coat of a brownish red or tawny is spotted with blackish on the back, and that in the Japanese wolf {Canis hodophylax) or Jamainu the hairs on the back are colored black at the end and contrast by their color with the gray shade of the rest of the coat. We also know that the mullet stripe which exists in most wild equines is found in certain light-colored domestic horses.

"The ears, as I said earlier, are erect in Phu-quoc Dogs as in wild Canids; they end in a slightly obtuse point and direct their conch forward; the muzzle is quite fine, the legs are sinewy, the extremities are elegant, and the tail is of medium length, furnished with slightly longer hair than on the body, is sometimes left slightly drooping, sometimes a little raised above the line of the back and curved in its terminal portion.


"It is this last trait which leads me to think that the Dogs of Phu-quoc are brown Dogs or that, if their ancestors were never reduced to captivity, they were at least undergone some crossing with domestic dogs. We know that Linnaeus considered the curling of the tail on the left side {Cauda sinistrorsum recurvata) as the distinctive sign and exclusive prerogative of the Canis familiaris or domestic dog. This was not entirely correct, because it has been sufficiently observed a certain number of domestic dogs, of different breeds, to be convinced that not all of them have tails curled on the left side, many of them having curved it on the right side, in relation to the axis of the body, and then that some, notably among the Shepherd Dogs, have tails rather drooping, with the extremity only slightly curved. It is no less true that the latter case is the exception among domestic dogs, while in wild dogs, the tail, which is moreover always more or less bushy, usually hangs loosely at the back of the body and only rises when the animal runs or is excited, but never curls up on itself, as with our Spitz or Guard Dogs.


"This particularity had been perfectly grasped by the ancient Egyptians who, having to represent on their monuments certain hounds, more or less analogous to Greyhounds, gave them a strongly coiled tail at the same time which they put around their necks, a collar sign of domesticity. We have sometimes seen, I know, in Europe, Dingoes whose tails were quite slender and slightly curved, but, in the opinion of competent judges, these animals were not of pure breed and were certainly the result of the crossbreeding of Australian Wild Dogs or Collies or Dogs of Scottish Shepherd.

"Since I am talking about the Dingo, I must not forget to point out the truly astonishing resemblance which exists between this Canid, perhaps representing a wild species, and the Dogs of Phu-quoc Island. Just like these, the Dingoes, of which we can currently see a very beautiful specimen at the Jardin Zoologique d'Acclimatation, are medium-sized dogs, with strong but fairly thin legs, a conical head, and a tapered muzzle, with a coat generally light, fawn or reddish in color; but they have bushy tails and well-furnished coats, as befits animals living in a climate much less hot than that of Cochinchina. If we take into account the difference in habitat and the possibility of a crossing of the ancestors of the Phu-quoc Dogs with some domestic dog, we do not see any serious difficulty in relating the Dogs of Cochinchina and those of Australia to one and the same original type. However, to be certain in this respect, it would be necessary to study comparatively the characters of the skeleton and the dentition in these two kinds of Canidae.

"If this relation of the breed of Phu-quoc and the Dingo were constituted, the still obscure problem of the origin of the wild dogs of Australia would be very close to being resolved. The existence in an island neighboring the southern extremity of Indo-China of a form of Canidae closely allied to that of New Holland would, in fact, provide serious arguments in favor of the theory of the Asian origin of the Dingo which is built on the model of the Dogs of the Old World and which seems lost among the Mammals belonging all, or almost all, to the category of Marsupials. Perhaps it would then be possible to connect, more surely than Mr. de Pelzeln did, the Dingo to the Canis pallipes or Bheria, considering it either as the direct descendant of the Indian Wolf, or as a very close species, long since detached from the primitive trunk.


"In this last hypothesis, adopted by Dr. Trouessart, the Dingo would have emigrated, following a few Asian rodents in Australia, towards the end of the Tertiary period, when New Holland was still partly attached to New Guinea and undoubtedly to the Asian continent; in the other hypothesis, on the contrary, the Dingo, reduced to domesticity, would have been imported at a very remote time, and perhaps from prehistoric times, by peoples who invaded Australia, and later returned to the wild in their new homeland. In turn it would have given birth to various breeds of Dogs which are found in the Solomon Islands, the Fiji Islands and other islands of Oceania and which, according to Mr. Ch. Morris Voodford, offer, in despite some variations in size, the greatest analogies with the Dogs of Australia.

"Mr. Jeitteles has already pointed out Bheria as being the probable strain not only of the dogs of certain tribes of the age of bronze, but still of some of the Dogs which wander around the villages of India and which are commonly known under the name of Pariah dogs. Why would we not derive from the same type the Dogs of Phu-quoc which seem to have preserved some distinct signs of the Indian Wolf and in particular the dorsal ridge? These Dogs do not appear, moreover, to be nearly as friendly as our domestic dogs and even as certain jackals, and though the female approaches visitors, even sometimes letting herself be caressed through the bars of her cage, the males maintain a defiant and almost fierce attitude. Their bark is briefer than that of ordinary dogs, it is more of a sort of yip that they do, heard only at rare intervals.

"In ending this Notice, I must not forget to recall that several years ago an English amateur, Mr. W. K. Taunton had received directly from the Celestial Empire a Dog of which Mr. Vero Shaw gave the portrait in his Illustrated Book of the Dog and which, judging by the description and the figure, must offer great analogies with the Dogs of Phu-quoc, although it had shorter hair, more velvety, and the nose is pink in color. This dog, at first very angry, only became tamed over time. It therefore seems probable that the breed is not confined to a single point in Indo-China, but is also found in southern China."

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