The Germans have their shepherds

I was watching the Westminster Dog Show and learned about the most improbable breed of dog. It’s Jewish.

Anti-anti-semitic hundWould you believe it? It’s called the Canaan Dog. It’s named after the biblical lands, and it shares the mystical stewardship connection the Jews have with the Holy Land. Only they are fit to look after it.

Who knows why, or who knows if it’s really true. The Bedouin keep these dogs, as have the Druze, but because the Kelef K’naani is the official dog of Israel, the exclusive lineage, which we are informed is deserving of preservation, excludes the Arab connections like they were pariah.

(Exclusive- Do you think you might have a Canaan dog? Well you don’t. They’re that exclusive. And the Canaan Dog Rescue is only interested in saving real ones.)

In spite of the Westminster Kennel Club’s waspish ambiance, the voice-over description of the Canaan was similarly Kosher, which is what caught my attention.

Bred in Ancient Judea to be shepherds and watch dogs for the Israelites, the breed suffered a setback when the lands were overrun by the Egyptians. When the Hebrews were scattered in the Great Diaspora their dogs were left to go feral in the Negev desert. There they lived in the wild for, are you ready for this, 2000 years! When Zionism brought the Jews back to Palestine, master and faithful hound were reunited. The Canaan was re-domesticated again in the 1930s [to protect their unpopular owners from their historic rivals]. Bracketed notation mine.

Actually, an animal behavior specialist was recruited from Austria in 1934 by the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization protecting the Zionist settlements in Palestine since 1907. They needed a working dog for what would become the Unit Oketz, the Israeli K-9 special forces. Bred from the pariah dogs which attended the Bedouins, the Canaan dog, actually a Spitz, is noted for its alertness, its bark and its distrust of strangers. I’m reminded of the attack dog trained to be racist in Sam Fuller’s 1982 film White Dog, banned in the US.

Canaan, by the way, encompassed an area which covered present day Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and parts of Lebanon and Syria. Who is dragging politics into the dog show?

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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