Notes on the Ancient Dog of the New Zealanders
Colenso.—Notes on the ancient Dog of the New Zealanders
Colenso.—Notes on the ancient Dog of the New Zealanders.
Art. X.—Notes, chiefly historical, on the ancient Dog of the New Zealanders.
[Read before the Hawke Bay Philosophical Institute, 8th October, 1877.]
For several years I have been aware of much error being commonly entertained concerning the original New Zealand dog, and I have been desirous of combatting it, as far as I could, by putting together what little I have learned respecting it, and the valuable testimonies yet extant of those of our earliest voyagers in these seas who frequently saw the animal. And this, I cannot help thinking, is the more needed just now; for, in the last volume of the “Transactions,” there is a paper by Dr. Hector “On the remains of a dog found near White Cliffs, Taranaki,” in which there are some statements and remarks concerning the New Zealand dog, which, I think, will be found incorrect—e.g., where Dr. Hector says:—“A few dogs of this primitive breed were known within the last twenty years,” that “it is improbable that the same dogs were both highly-prized domestic pets and also used for food;” and “a bitch and full-grown pup were known for several years in the densely-wooded country between Waikawa and the Mataura plains, and did great damage among the flocks of sheep, etc., they were (at last) shot and presented to the Colonial Museum. Of the smaller specimen both skin and skeleton were taken to the British Museum by Sir G. Grey, and the skin of the mother was preserved here, and has been recognised by many old Maoris as a genuine kuri or ancient Maori dog. * * * It is a large-bodied dog with slender limbs, large ears, etc.”*
From an early period (in our modern times) I travelled pretty much in this North Island of New Zealand (particularly from 1834 to 1854), and that always on foot, zig-zagging about and visiting the Maori pas and villages in the interior and on the coast from Cook Straits to Cape Maria Van Diemen, and often crossing the island from sea to sea. I mention this, because I failed to see a single specimen of the true Maori dog, although I made every exertion to obtain one, offering, too, a high price. But they had become wholly extinct, or very nearly so, at least fifty years ago.
* “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” IX., 243, 244.
† Hani, Taiaha or Maipi, of the natives.
To a paper which I wrote on the moa in the year 1842, I added the following note:—“The New Zealand dog (kuri) is a small animal (some-what resembling the variety known as the pricked-ear shepherd's cur) with erect ears and a flowing tail; its cry is a peculiar kind of whining howl, which, when in a state of domestication, it utters in concert at a signal given by its master, and it is most unpleasant. This variety of dog has, however, become very scarce in consequence of the continued introduction of other and larger varieties.”* At that time I supposed that some of the many dogs I had seen in my early travels were of the old New Zealand or South Sea breed; but, since then, I have had good and ample reasons for believing I was mistaken. It was, however, quite possible, or even probable, that those dogs alluded to by me in my old note quoted above, were mongrel half-breeds, or mixed descendants of the New Zealand and the introduced foreign dogs. And it is such dogs or others like them, but with still less of the true Maori breed in them, that have deceived later enquirers and the early settlers.
* Published in “Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science,” vol. II., p. 97; and in “Annals of Natural History” (London), vol. XIV., p. 93.
So long back as 1814–15, Mr. Nicholas, who visited New Zealand in company with the Rev. S. Marsden, made a similar error. He says:—“On our return from the place where we cut down the spars, we met one of the native dogs running about in a wild state. It was considerably larger than any of the dogs that we had seen domesticated among them, and bore a strong resemblance to the shepherd's dog so well known in England. The moment it came in sight of us it set up a terrific howling, and never ceased the same baleful discord till we had left the place. There are numbers of dogs running wild in this manner through the different parts of the island, but I could not discover that they ever offered any injury to the inhabitants, who prize them very highly, as well for the sake of their flesh, which serves them for a delicious article of food, as for their hide and bones, which they convert to a variety of purposes, in the way of ornamental devices.”* Both Mr. Marsden and Mr. Nicholas, who spent some months together in New Zealand, and travelled too, pretty much—from Hokianga to the Thames—seemed never to have seen a single New Zealand dog of “the primitive breed.”
The South Sea dog was first seen by Captain Cook and his companions at Tahiti; and it is worthy of something more than a mere passing notice to bear in mind, that, while it was also found by them here in New Zealand, there were several intervening islands and groups at which Cook called where the dog was not found. Generally speaking, the natives of the various Polynesian isles he visited possessed three domestic animals—the pig, the dog, and the common poultry fowl; but few possessed all three: some had but two, and some (as New Zealand) only one. And yet it seems to me pretty evident that the natives of those isles in which one or two of those animals were wholly wanting, both knew and gave the right common name for them to Cook's party when they saw the animal for the first time in his ship!
Captain Cook, on his first voyage anchored at Tahiti on the 10th April, 1769, and though he and his party were daily on shore and had strolled miles in the country to visit plantations and villages, and had also held daily markets for purchasing food, etc. of all kinds which the islanders brought for sale, yet his first entry concerning the South Sea dog was on the 20th of June! which, being in every respect peculiar, I may in part copy. Writing of Operea, a great lady of the island, he says:—“As the most effectual means to bring about a reconciliation between us, she presented us with a hog and several other things, among which was a dog. We, had lately learnt that these animals were esteemed by the Indians as more delicate food than their pork, and upon this occasion we determined to try the experiment. The dog, which was very fat, we consigned over to Tupaea, who undertook to perform the double office of butcher and cook. He killed him by holding his hands close over his mouth and nose, an operation which continued over a quarter of an hour. While this was doing an oven was made in the ground. * * The dog, being well cleaned and prepared, with the entrails and blood in cocoa-nut shells, was then placed in the oven: in about four hours it was opened and the dog taken out excellently baked, and we all agreed that he made a very good dish. The dogs which are here bred to be eaten taste no animal food, but are kept wholly upon bread-fruit, cocoa-nuts, yams, and other vegetables of the like kind. * * We all agreed that a South Sea dog was little inferior to an English lamb; their excellence is probably owing to their being kept up and fed wholly upon vegetables. * * Here are no tame animals except hogs, dogs, and poultry, and these are by no means plentiful.”*
* Cook's Voyages, 4to. ed., 1773, vol. II., pp. 152, 196.
On shore at Tolago Bay, Cook and his party first saw the New Zealand dog. Cook says:—“No tame animals were seen among the natives except dogs, which were very small and ugly.” And, again, on leaving Tolago, he says:—“We saw no four-footed animals, nor the appearance of any, either tame or wild, except dogs and rats, and these were very scarce; the people eat the dogs like our friends at Tahiti.”
Parkinson's entry in his Journal at Tolago respecting the dog is:—“Of quadrupeds we saw no other than dogs, which were like those on the island of Tahiti, and of them but a few.” Another entry of his in his Journal respecting a dog, made in March, on leaving the south coasts of New Zealand (on the day they discovered those dangerous shoals called the “Traps”), is also worthy of notice. Parkinson says:—“This day the weather was more moderate than it had been for many days, and being one of the inferior officers' birthday, it was celebrated by a peculiar kind of festival; a dog was killed that had been bred on board; the hind-quarters were roasted, and a pye was made of the fore-quarters, into the crust of which they put the fat; and of the viscera they made a haggis!” (We must remember that Parkinson was a Scotchman).
* S. Parkinson's Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas, pp. 20, 81.
* Forster's Voyage round the World, 4to. (London), 1677, vol. I., p. 219.
† At p. 135, Forster says:—“Here at Dusky Bay we had a young dog with us, which the officers had got at the Cape of Good Hope, and intended to try whether we could not train him up to the gun, but we had no sooner discharged the first fowling-piece than he ran into the woods and would not return, though we used all possible means to recover him.” I suppose they managed to do so before they left Dusky Bay.
About a month after this, at Huahine, he says:—“We collected upwards of twenty hogs this day for large spike nails, and about a dozen of dogs, which seemed to be the most stupid animals of their kind, but were reckoned most excellent provision by the natives.” At this island dogs were in great plenty. Forster says:—“Dr. Sparrman and myself in our walk saw great numbers of hogs, dogs, and fowls. The last roamed about at pleasure through the woods, and roosted on fruit trees; the hogs were likewise allowed to run about, but received regular portions of food, which were commonly distributed by old women. We observed one of them feeding a little pig with the sour fermented bread-fruit paste, called mahei. She held the pig with one hand, and offered it a tough pork-skin, but as soon as it opened the mouth to snap at it, she contrived to throw a handful of the sour paste in, which the little animal would not take without this stratagem. The dogs, in spite of their stupidity, were in high favour with all the women, who could not have nursed them with a more ridiculous affection if page 8 they had really been ladies of fashion in Europe. We were witnesses of a remarkable instance of kindness, when we saw a middle-aged woman, whose breasts were full of milk, offering them to a little puppy which had been trained up to suck them. We were so much surprised at this sight that we could not help expressing our dislike of it; but she smiled at our observation, and added that she suffered little pigs to do the same service. Upon enquiry, however, we found that she had lost her child, and did her the justice among ourselves to acknowledge that this expedient was very innocent, and formerly practised in Europe. The dogs of all these islands were short, and their sizes vary from that of a lap-dog to the largest spaniel. Their head is broad, the snout pointed, the eyes very small, the ears upright, and their hair rather long, lank, hard, and of different colours, but most commonly white and brown. They seldom, if ever, barked, but howled sometimes, and were shy of strangers to a degree of aversion.”
Again he says:—“The quantity of live stock which we had purchased during our stay there was amazing. * * * The ‘Resolution’ alone had 209 live hogs, 30 dogs, and about 50 fowls on board when she sailed; and the ‘Adventure’ had not much less.” And a little further on he says:—“The want of room occasioned the death of several hogs; and the obstinacy of the old dogs in refusing to take any sustenance deprived us of the greatest number of those animals.” About a month after, when their ship was near to the coast of New Zealand, he says:—“Some of our people who examined the pump-well found there a dog, which they brought up on deck. This creature, which had been purchased at the island of Huahine, like many others of the same species, had obstinately refused to take any nourishment, and in all probability had lived ever since in that hole without the least support of food for a space of thirty-nine or forty days. The whole body was reduced to a mere skeleton, the legs were contracted, and he voided blood at the anus. The torments in which this poor animal must have lived were a lesson to our people to purchase only young puppies of this race for the future, as the grown dogs constantly refused to eat on board.”
The elder Forster in his work also says:—“The dogs of the South Sea isles are of a singular race; they mostly resemble the common cur, but have a prodigious large head, remarkably little eyes, prick-ears, long hair, and a short bushy tail. They are chiefly fed with fruit at the Society Isles; but in the low isles and New Zealand, where they are the only domestic animals, they live upon fish. They are exceedingly stupid, and seldom or never bark, only howl now and then; have the sense of smelling in a very low degree, and are lazy beyond measure; they are kept by the natives chiefly for the sake of their flesh, of which they are very fond, preferring it to pork. * * * The New Zealanders continually living on fish are page 9 glad when they can get a dog or bird to eat, which with them always is reckoned a dainty.”*
Captain Cook in his Second Voyage, and while in New Zealand at anchor in Queen Charlotte Sound, incidentally remarks (when writing of the then proved cannibalism of the New Zealanders and its not being owing to their want of animal food):—“In every part of New Zealand where I have been, fish was in such plenty that the natives generally caught as much as served both themselves and us. They have also plenty of dogs; nor is there any want of wild-fowl, which they know very well how to kill.” And again he says:—“While here we were visited by several strangers in four or five canoes, who brought with them fish and other articles, which they exchanged for cloth, etc. These new-comers took up their quarters in a cove near us; but very early the next morning moved off with six of our small water-casks, and with them all the people we found here on our arrival. * * * They left behind them some of their dogs and the boar I had given them the day before, which I now took back again as I had not another.”
Mr. Anderson; who was with Captain Cook on his third voyage, also states that their dogs were plentiful. He says:—“It is remarkable that in this extensive land there should not even be the traces of any quadruped, only excepting a few rats and a sort of fox-dog, which is a domestic animal with the New Zealanders. * * * The natives sometimes, though rarely, find means to kill rails, penguins, and shags, which help to vary their diet. They also breed considerable numbers of their dogs (mentioned before) for food, but these cannot be considered as a principal article of diet; from whence we may conclude that, as there is not the least sign of cultivation of land,† they depend principally for their subsistence on the sea, which indeed is very bountiful in its supply.”
* Observations made during a Voyage Round the World, 4to., London, 1778, pp. 189 and 208.
† Mr. Anderson was only in the Middle Island of New Zealand.
Dr. Sparrman, the Swedish naturalist (who, I think, was a better zoologist than the two Forsters, judging from what he has published in English of his travels and discoveries in Africa), who also accompanied Cook in his second voyage, has unfortunately not given us any particulars of this voyage to the South Seas, although I believe such were published by him at Stockholm in his own language—at least he intimates as much in his “Voyages.”* If so, perhaps some scientific gentleman of that country may ere long inform the colony of New Zealand of it.
Further: It may be also well to see to what uses the New Zealanders put their dogs besides that of using them for food. Captain Cook gives us very little information under this head, contenting himself with saying, (in his First Voyage) “that the people of Tolago Bay adorn their garments with the skins of their dogs, as we do ours with furs and ermine”—and, that “some others whom he fell in with in their canoes near Cape Brett, had weapons of stone and whalebone, and also the ribs of a whale carved, and adorned with tufts of dog's hair.” Mr. Anderson also briefly says, “their work (of clothing flax-mats) is often ornamented with pieces of dog-skin; sometimes they cover their flax-mat with dog-skin, and that alone we have seen worn as a covering.” But, while Cook and Banks and Solander and Anderson are so provokingly concise, Parkinson and the two Forsters are much more profuse and clear.
* 2 vols. 4to., London, 1786.
* Cook's Voyages: first voyage, vol. III., Plate XVI.
J. R. Forster, in his “Observations,” also observes:—“The New Zealanders employ the skins of dogs for their clothes, but merely for convenience, namely, to keep them warm. They also make use of their hair in various ornaments, especially to fringe their breast-plates in the Society Isles, and to face or even line the whole garment at New Zealand.”‡
It appears, therefore, from the united testimony of the first visitors to this country that the ancient New Zealand dog was much like those of Tahiti and other South Sea isles—that it was merely a domestic animal, small in size, with pointed nose, prick ears, and very little eyes; that it was dull, stupid, and ugly; that it was of various colours, white, black, brown, and parti-coloured, with lank long hair, and a short bushy tail; that it was fed on fish and refuse offal, and that it was quiet, lazy, and sullen, had little or no scent, and had no proper bark. Further, that its flesh was used by the New Zealanders for food, its skin for clothing, and its hair (particularly the long white hair of the tail) for ornamental purposes. And Captain Cook incidentally remarks on the great attachment of the New Zealanders to their dogs; for, in speaking of a native chief whom he had known, a father giving him his son to go away with him in his ship, he says:—“When about to sail, a boy of about ten years of age, named Kokoa, was presented to me by his own father, who I believe would have parted with his dog with far less indifference.”§
* This chief, of whom a portrait is given in Cook's Voyages, I have ascertained to be Tuanui, the ancestor of the present Henare Matua, of Porangahau, so well known among us. Tuanui put off from Poureerere, and Cook's gifts to him were well remembered and circumstantially related. From some of those “garden seeds” sprang the “Maori cabbage” of the coast, which, thirty years ago, grew very thickly there and on to Palliser Bay, and often served me, when travelling, for breakfast.
† Much like that one of mine, mentioned above, p. 135.
‡ Observations, pp. 189, 208.
* Note.—To a superficial observer such must have been much the same in the tropical islands, but there is this great difference, viz., the New Zealanders were, from the earliest times, split up into small tribes, who were ever at deadly enmity; hence the circle of breeding a strictly domestic animal must have been very contracted and limited: it was not so in the islands, which were under kingly rule.
† For this I am indebted to Dr. Sparrman, whose entry in his Journal is so highly characteristic, that I copy it. He says,—“On the 7th June we sailed from New Zealand. * * * After we had been at sea a few days we resolved upon killing a fat, though ugly Dutch dog, before the scurvy, together with the short commons of the ship, should render his flesh unfit for eating. Already used in our run between the Cape and New Zealand to put up with sheep that had died of the scurvy or other disorders, diseased hens and geese, we certainly were not now in a condition to turn up our noses at a roasted dog, which was really very palatable and well tasted.” Sparrman's Voyage, 4to., London, 1786, p. 88.
They succeeded, however, in taking alive to England one of the South Sea dogs on their return from their second voyage. And this dog had been a peculiar sufferer, for he (with others) had eaten of some very poisonous fish while in the tropics, and, after severe and long suffering, had nearly died; and he had also been repeatedly operated on, by inserting in his flesh poison scraped from the points of the poisoned arrows of the islanders, and yet he got over all! “and was brought alive to England”—the first and only one of his race!
I have already said, that at some of the Polynesian Islands, our early voyagers found no dogs. J. R. Forster says:—“In all the low islands they have dogs (a race with long white hair), but no hogs; at the Friendly Islands, and at Tanna (New Hebrides), they had hogs but no dogs; at the Marquesas, also, they had hogs but no dogs; while at New Caledonia they had neither hogs nor dogs. We gave at Amsterdam (Tongatapu) and at Tanna the first dogs; at New Zealand the first hogs and fowls; and at New Caledonia we left a couple of dogs, and another of pigs. They must formerly have had dogs at Amsterdam, because they knew the animal and were acquainted with its name, kuri, but have lost the species, as it should seem, by some accident.” G. Forster's graphic description of this introduction of the dog at Tongatapu is worthy of notice. He says:—“Early the next morning Capt. Cook's friend, Ataka (the principal chief of the islands) came on board in one of the first canoes and breakfasted with us. * * * After breakfast the captains and my father prepared to return to the shore with him; but just as he was going out of the cabin he happened to see a Tahitian dog running about the deck; at this sight he could not conceal his joy, but clapped his hands on his breast, and, turning to the captain, repeated the word kuri near twenty times. We were much surprised to hear that he knew the name of an animal which did not exist in his country, and made him a present of one of each sex, with which he went on shore in an ecstasy of joy. That the name of dogs should be familiar with a people who are not possessed of them seems to prove either that this knowledge has been propagated by tradition from their ancestors, who migrated hither from other islands and the continent, or that they have had dogs upon their island of which the race, by some accident, is page 15 become extinct; or, lastly, that they still have an intercourse with other islands where these animals exist.”
G. Forster also says of the natives of Mallicollo (one of the New Hebrides group):—“Hogs and common poultry are their domestic animals, to which we have added dogs by selling them a pair of puppies brought from the Society Islands. They received them with strong signs of extreme satisfaction; but as they called them hogs (puaha), we were convinced that they were entirely new to them.”
And Capt. Cook, in his third voyage, states that at the island of Mangaia which he discovered they had no such animals as hogs and dogs—both which, however, they had heard of. This information he obtained from Mourua, a chief of that island, who visited his ship and conversed on board with the Tahitian native Omai, who was now returning to his own country from England in Cook's ship. Another interesting item Cook relates concerning this chief. He says:—“As soon as Mourua got out of the cabin, he happened to stumble over one of the goats. His curiosity now overcoming his fear, he stopped, looked at it, and asked Omai what bird this was, and not receiving an immediate answer from him, he repeated the question to some of the people upon deck.” And a few days after, at the next island, Atiu, which Cook also discovered and visited, he found that they had hogs but no dogs, though they knew the name of it, and “were very desirous of obtaining a dog, of which animal this island could not boast, though its inhabitants knew that the race existed in other islands of their ocean.” Of the people of this island Cook further says:—“Our visitors were conducted all over the ship. * * * They were afraid to come near the cows and horses; nor did they form the least conception of their nature. But the sheep and goats did not surpass the limits of their ideas, for they gave us to understand that they knew them to be birds. * * * The next day, soon after daybreak, we observed some canoes coming off to the ships, and one of them directed its course to the ‘Resolution’ (Cook's own ship). In it was a hog, with some plantains and cocoa-nuts, for which the people who brought them demanded a dog from us, and refused every other thing that we offered in exchange. One of our gentlemen on board happened to have a dog and a bitch, which were great nuisances in the ship, and might have been disposed of on this occasion for a purpose of real utility, by propagating a race of so useful an animal in this island. But their owner had no such views in making them the companions of his voyage. However, to gratify these people, Omai parted with a favourite dog he had brought from England, and with this acquisition they departed highly satisfied.”page 16
It remains for me to show what I have been able to glean from the old New Zealanders, during the course of many years' residence and enquiry, concerning their ancient dog, now a creature of the past, equally so with the moa and the kiore, or New Zealand rat.
From the reliable old natives I gathered that their dog was of small size, and but few in number in a pa or village; that it did not bark,* only howled plaintively at times; that it would not bite man; and that rats (the old edible rat) and birds were (in part) its food; that the owners of the dogs were greatly attached to them, gave them names, and prized and petted them (just as I have known the New Zealanders to do to their pigs and mongrel dogs forty years ago); that some of them were trained to seize ground-birds, such as wekas and kiwis, for their masters, and this was effected in great part through stratagem on the part of the native, who, when he went a bird-catching, would take his dog with him, always leading him securely tied by a cord, and, squatting down concealed in a fit place, held his dog, and imitating the cry of the bird he was in quest of, the bird came near, when the little dog was let go, and he ran and seized the bird, and held it or brought it to his master. Sometimes they lost their dogs, owing to its stupidity or laziness; but the true New Zealand dog never became wild in the woods. Sometimes they were stolen or killed, which of course always led to reprisals, and not unfrequently to murder and to war. Their loss or untimely death was lamented in songs and monodies, of which several are still extant. The white-haired dogs were greatly prized, especially if they had long-haired tails. Such were indeed objects of envy, and were fitting presents for a king! These dogs were taken the greatest possible care of; they slept in a house on clean mats, so that their precious tails should be kept as white as possible. Their tails were curiously and regularly shaved, and the hair preserved for ornamental use. This operation of shaving its tail was quite unique (and would take some time to describe), and was never performed by a common person.
* The New Zealander has different words to describe the cry of the old and of the new or more recent dog. The former is called and written ao ao, and au au; the latter, tau tau, and sometimes haru, and pahu pahu.
* Vide ante.
* Hence the many errors in Maori names of plants, etc., given in the “New Zealand Institute Transactions” (passim) and in other modern publications, which seem to have been collected by any and everybody and set down at random, and so doing positive and lasting injury!
The other circumstance I have alluded to is mentioned by Mr. Banks in Cook's first voyage to Tahiti, who saw within the sacred marae (or paved court of their great temple) “several small stages which seemed to be a kind of altar, as upon these are placed provisions of all kinds as offerings to their gods * * * and we found here the skulls of above fifty hogs, besides the skulls of a great number of dogs.”
And while such sacrifices were rare, if not unknown, in New Zealand (where hogs were not and dogs but few), still we may see a remnant of them in a dog having always to be killed on great ceremonial observances as a sacred food for the officiating priest or tohunga.
* Cook's Voyages: first voyage, vol. I., p. 451.
† Vide ante.
Another famed dog was in the canoe of another lot of emigrants from Hawaiki, led by the chief Manaia. On its way to New Zealand, the dog, scenting the land before it could be seen, and a dead whale that had been cast on shore, sprang overboard, and swam howling towards the land; the canoe followed all that evening and night, guided only by the cries of the dog, and so not only reached the land in safety, but also came in for a feast on the stranded whale,—and more good things afterwards.
Another strange dog legend is told of Irawaru, who was brother-in-law to the famed demigod Maui—the hero who, among several other equally strange adventures, fished up the North Island of New Zealand, and caused the sun to travel more reasonably through space for the benefit of man. The story is too long to relate here, but I may just say that Irawaru had displeased Maui, who, getting him unsuspectingly into his power, pulled his ears upwards and his back-bone out, so as to form a tail, and then transformed him into a dog! Cruelly sending his sister, on her enquiring after her husband in the evening, in ignorance of what had happened, to call him by the usual dog-call of “Moï, moï,” which the poor newly-metamorphosed dog plaintively answered; on which the wife committed suicide by throwing herself into the sea. Hence, it is that Irawaru is said to be the father or precursor of all dogs.
* The New Zealanders have several common names for the dog, as kararehe, kirehe, kuri, pero, peropero, pape, and moi—though this last word is more properly the call for a dog.