America's First Dog

The Carolina Dog

One of the greatest phenomena we experience today is our relationship with animals, and more specifically dogs.  In America, the relationship between a dog and its owner is a beautiful thing, but where did it all start?

The answer may be South Carolina, along the Lynches River and Savannah River.  As quoted by the American Kennel Club (AKC), "As of 1539, when De Soto's expedition landed in Florida and began their odyssey throughout the Southeastern United States, there was only one species of domestic animal in all of North America, the Native Indian's dog.  This dog was described by members of De Soto's expedition as looking exactly like the wolf except that it barked and the wolf only howled."

Again, documented in the 1700's by renown naturalist and explorer, William Bartram spoke of a similary animal.  Wild dogs that roamed in packs throughout Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.  They appeared very similar to the Grey Wolf, but were distinct in that they communicated by barking.

In the early 1800's Lewis and Clark noted the dogs of the Native Indians west of the Mississippe were pied or piebald in color (or "painted" meaning full of colors).

It wasn't until the late 1900's that we heard of this dog again when Dr. Brisbin began writing about the ecological system of the Savanah River, noting several packs of wild dogs that resembled that of the Australian Dingo.  Some were ginger, while others were piebald or black and tan.  Confirming his find was Dr. Anderson, who lives on over 1,000 acres in the Lynches River Wildlife Preserve where he now breeds these rare dogs.

It was Brisbin's knowledge of Australia's dingo that first led him to look at a familiar local canine in an entirely new way.

National Geographic recently wrote, "Brisbin was studying the origins of the world's remaining wild, ancient dogs, including the dingo, which may have reached Australia walking alongside that continent's original human inhabitants thousands of years ago. Such primitive dogs are uncommon because the canine passion for choosing diverse mates often complicates breeding patterns."

Another suggestive piece of evidence is comparison with dogs that remain on the other side of the long vanished Asia-North America land connection. 

"It's a hypothesis," Brisbin stressed, "but we might infer that if dogs look similar on both sides of the Baring Strait land bridge, maybe our first American dogs came over from that area." On Chindo Island, Korea, local free-ranging dogs exist that have apparently been free from hybridization by other breeds. "That native Korean breed, the chindo-kae, is indistinguishable from Carolina Dogs, Brisbin noted. "If they were mixed in a group, I couldn't tell who was who."

There are other traits the Carolina Dog exhibits the lend most to believe it was indeed the first dog to cross into America.

  • Breeding patterns built to survive.  Unlike other domesticated dogs Carolina Dogs may breed 3 times a year.
  • Digging of small and select pits during specific seasons.  While all dogs may dig, the Carolina Dog seems to dig only at the same select places each year and in specific patterns. 
  • An entire range of hunting and prey catching techniques uncommon to domestic dogs.  They hunt snakes in packs.  It is not uncommon to see them among the marshlands bounding up and down.  They jump up to get a better view of smaller critters, such as frogs or rodents.
  • The underside of their tails are white and fold over their backside, which are used for pack signaling in the wild.

Although Carolina dogs still exist in the wild in South Carolina, human encroachment is threatening to make that a thing of the past.

If you are interested in owning a Carolina Dog here are a few things you should undoubtedly know first:

  • You've likely read about the intelligence level of Border Collie's and their ability to memorize hundreds upon hundreds of unique commands.  Carolina Dogs are smarter.  Imagine a Border Collie with the ability to solve riddles. 
  • A Carolina Dog would make the single best watch dog.  Their ears stand naturally priced and operate independently of each other to pick up sounds.
  • Their blood scent is unrivaled and many times these dogs are used to hunt boars.
  • There are not many enclosures that can withhold a Carolina Dog.  They have the ability to grasp things with their paws, similar to a cat.  They often watch their owners alertly in order to learn new things, such as opening doors.
  • They can climb fences.  That's right, climb, not jump.  Imagine a dog climbing vertically up an 8 foot chain link fence.

The point is a Carolina Dog, due to its extreme intelligence and agility requires a lot of attention.  This is not a lab that you can leave at home all day or weekend.

With that said, they are the most loyal dogs I have come across.  I highly recommend, at the very least, you read some more about them!

By this point I figured you might be interested in some pictures.  So here you go!

Black and Tan CD 3 weeks oldPiebald CD PuppyBlack and Tan 8 weeks oldBlack and Tan 12 weeks oldBlack and Tan 2 years old