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West Asian Village Dog

West Asian village dogs were instrumental in dog evolution. From this region, dogs spread across Africa and Europe, where eventually they were bred to become most of the hundreds of dog breeds we know today.

Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club

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About this Breed

Village dogs are the free-breeding, “outside” dogs found around the world living in and around human settlements big and small. They’re also known as island dogs, pariah dogs, or free-ranging dogs. Many village dog populations precede the formation of modern breed dogs. They make up about 3/4s of the billion or so dogs living on Earth today. They serve as trash cleaners, sentinels, and even sometimes companions while still retaining much of their freedom.

Because village dogs are found all over the world and pre-date modern breeds, they don’t have a breed standard— they come in many colors, a variety of sizes, and can have short or medium length fur.

Dogs were originally domesticated in Central Asia (in fact, Central Asian village dogs are suspected to be the closest living relative to the earliest ancestors of domestic dogs) and followed humans into Europe where they found a living eating scraps and trash everywhere they went. Over time, some of them adapted to roles helping humans hunt, tend and guard livestock, and guard homes. They also changed humans wherever they went, making dog lovers of many people.

Prospective owners are unlikely to find a breeder of village dogs because they have developed in rural areas and are often strays. Village dogs should be appreciated for their historical and genetic significance. Without their contribution to the doggie gene pool, it is possible we wouldn’t have the myriad of breeds that we love and appreciate today.

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