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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

Pariah Dogs

Pariah Dogs.

All over Egypt and Palestine, especially in towns and villages, Pariah dogs abound. They are sneaking, semi-savage animals, more or less attached to some locality, but owning no man as master. Often at night it is almost impossible to sleep for their howling and barking. They hunt in packs, wandering through the streets and over the fields. Always half starved, Pariah dogs will eat anything, and many of their nocturnal meals are gruesome. As scavengers, they perform useful service.

The Psalmist was a keen observer of animal life, and in Ps. LIX, 14, 15, the habit of these Eastern dogs is well described: "At evening let them return; and let them make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city. Let them wander up and down for meat, and grudge if they be not satisfied." The Arab name for dog is kelb, and the Hebrew, keleb. Probably the term "kelpie,' applied to those splendid sheep dogs in Australia, is derived from the Arabic word. And some "kelpies" I have seen in the Riverina were not unlike refined editions of the Eastern canine. But give me a "kelpie" every time. The ancient Egyptians possessed several breeds of dogs; one kind was used for hunting. The Bedouin dogs resemble those of the Esquimeaux race, which Polar explorers have made famous. The puppies are delightful little furry creatures. At Gaza a Light Horseman found two pups about a fortnight old, coiled in a big broken "chatty," lying by the door of a deserted hut. They were adopted and became mascots.

In the Bible dogs are mentioned some 40 times, in nearly every instance with great contempt or, at least, aversion. The Israelites did not like dogs, though they used them for guarding their flocks. It seems strange that animals which we class with horses as our faithful friends should have been thus condemned. No wonder that dogs in the East are such undesirable company nowadays; they have never had a chance to cultivate good manners.

That Pariah dogs are intelligent and docile if properly treated was proved by Dr. Tristram. He took a puppy from the street in Beyrout and it became a delightful pet. "It showed the warmest attatchment to its friends and to all our party, discriminating them at once from strangers; and while intimate with all the horses and asses of our convoy, would not tolerate the intrusion of a stranger." This Pariah dog lost the desire for attatchment to places, but followed its master as the lamb of the nursery rhyme followed Mary. It disdained to associate with street dogs after attaining the dignity of being "owned." It had a genius for selecting camping sites, showing unmistakably where it thought the tents should be pitched; and expressing disgust as plainly when the party declined to halt there.

In general appearance the common dog of Palestine resembles a jackal, with its short, pointed nose, sharp ears and tawny-colored coat.