The AfriCanis is a slim but brawny and agile hunting dog that has been existing in South Africa for more than millennia. It is praised by native Africans not only for its stamina and hunting prowess but also for its quit-wittedness and loyal nature. Today the dog suffered a significant loss of popularity in its homeland because of spread of more fashionable foreign breeds.
Actually the AfriCanis is not a dog breed in is original scense. It is a so-called landrace, which means that it represents a local animal that was domisticated by people living in South Africa. The dog's conformation wasn't changed by selective breeding programms. The AfriCanis is the result of environmental adaptation an as such it must fit the requirements of a South African human society.
Photo: © Johan & Edith Gallant ( www.africanis.co.za); "The Story of the African dog" is available as Kindle book
The AfriCanis was formed by centuries of natural selection and it’s considered to be a not so distant descendant of a wolf. However it’s rather well-known that wolves didn’t inhabit Africa so it’s assumed that this landrace was developed from canines that were domesticated in the East. Early Egyptian merchants are believed to introduce first variants of domestic dogs to the regions of the Nile Valley and present-day Sudan. Seasonal migrations promoted the diffusion of these dogs deep into Sahara.
The immediate progenitors of the AfriCanis were brought to South Africa by the Bantu speaking people during the Iron Age. This folks travelled through the Central Rift Valley, Lacustrine region, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and eventually reached South Africa. The mummified remains of the domestic canines, which were discovered in the Botswana border, go back to 570 AD and serve a sound proof of above-mentioned migratory trajectory.
By 800 AD these dogs could be frequently seen in all parts of the Lower Thukela valley and were widely used for hunting indigenous game. For several centuries the landrace became well-adjusted to diverse climate and tough terrain of South Africa. There exists an opinion that the blood of the original AfriCanis was contaminated by the blood of canine varieties that arrived to this area with Arab traders, Portuguese explorers and Eastern seafarers.
However this theory didn’t meet with support from canine experts who reckoned that other dogs may have been involved in the breeding process after Transkei and Zululand were colonised in the XIX century. In particular, during that century the specimens of the AfriCanis were actively crossed with the Greyhound in order to enhance the dogs’s agility and make it even a more accomplished hunting dog.
Population of the modern-day AfriCanis is predominantly concentrated in the rural areas of Southern Africa where people remain faithful to traditional lifestyle. Today the landrace is going through harsh times because the vast majority of African dogs’ fanciers show exceedingly more interest in exotic foreign canine varieties. The Africanis Society of Southern Africa was founded in order to preserve the original gene pool of this ancient dog that is deservedly considered the integral part of the biological and cultural heritage of the African continent.
Nowadays the AfriCanis is used as a tracking dog, farm dog, herder, protector and also plays a role of an extremely loyal companion.
The AfriCanis is a smart and calm dog with somewhat independent personality. Although it can’t be described as very affectionate or gentle, its unflinching loyalty to its owners is undisputable. This dog doesn’t need an extensive socialisation to become the member of a human family since it has been a human companion for more than thousand years. It loves spending time with familiar children and patiently puts up with occasional demonstration of rough-housing from them.
The AfriCanis is commonly reserved and fairly standoffish in interaction with strange people. It’s notable for a well-developed territorial instinct so without some early obedience training it may acquire a nasty propensity to attack every guest in your house. On the other hand this dog will make a fearless and ferocious guardian. It exercises constant vigilance and always warns its masters about any suspicious activity in the vicinity. That’s why this landrace can be recommended for the job of a watcher.
The canine aggressiveness is rather untypical for the AfriCanis and it gets on perfectly well with one or several of other dogs. However it should always stay leashed while being walked because it may clash with strange canines of the same sex. This dog usually takes every small animal for a prey and should be kept away from stray cats. Of course most landrace members will tolerate the presence of a family cat in the house provided that animals have been introduced to each other early enough. If you are keeping your AfriCanis in a farm you can be sure that all creatures are safe. This dog not only gets on well with other farm animals but it will also protect them and is a good herder that can bring the cattle to the grazing areas and return to them kraal.
The most common problems for the dog include:
The maintenance of the AfriCanis is a very easy task. Its short coat needs only an occasional brushing to always look well-groomed. Bathe your pet only when it gets extremely dirty.
The dog’s ears should be checked regularly and cleaned with a soft cotton cloth. Long nails cause the dog a great discomfort, so make sure to trim them every other month. The AfriCanis is a very moderate shedder.
The strong-willed AfriCanis poses serious training difficulties. For an unprofessional trainer it’s very hard to earn its obedience since this dog senses very accurately his position in the packing order and won’t follow orders of someone who isn’t a true pack leader. Furthermore it’s highly prone to selective listening and has problems with focusing its attention for a long time.
Reasonably firm training techniques and short sessions bring the best results in the work with this dog. Its successes should be rewarded with its favourite food and its failures must never be punished physically (otherwise instead of a docile and calm dog you will get absolutely unmanageable and even aggressive dog).
The AfriCanis needs a great deal of daily physical activity in order to stay well-behaved and healthy. This dog got used to spend most of its life outdoors and unleashed so it must always have an access to a spacious but securely fenced yard. Therefore it’s a bad idea to keep this landrace in an apartment.
The AfriCanis certainly suites best for a rural area where it would have plentiful of opportunities to run and explore. Remember that if it has to stay at home all day long it will probably express its frustration with such a situation by becoming destructive and extremely vocal.