Mauritanian Bush Dog

October 27, 2008

Yesterday I ran into an interesting dog among a cluster of returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who served in Mauritania. The dog turned out to have been born along the coast of Mauratania near the capital of Naoukchott. Unlike the majority of Peace Corps Volunteers who either abandon thier dogs and cats at the end of their service or attempt to gift them to a new volunteer, this volunteer brought her dog home with her as we did.

I wish I had a picture, but the dog was a two-year old bitch. She was clear and with white paws and brush on her tail. Her hair was a bit coarse, but she had a very typical head except that her ears were erect. She looked like a small-ish Azawakh with erect ears. Her behavior was pure West Africa. She went through a pretty elaborate greeting with Tawzalt and Azelouan which started out with a suspicious posture and some teeth baring on both sides. The three of them quickly formed a small pack in order to course a slightly startled protugese water dog who eventually called a halt to by retreating to into a deep pool in the creek. I wish I had my camera with me, but alas.

The Mauratanian dog was of the type that some people call “senji” or basically dingo-like West African village dogs whose breeding is really not controlled by people. The senji dogs usually live among people who aren’t very dog-friendly and who consider them to be unclean. Azawakh, in my mind, represent an attenuated refinement of the basic senji type. The differences are superficial. This dog came from the coast, but the interesting thing to me was that the volunteers said that the dogs in the east of Mauritania looked more like Azelouan: taller, “often colored like that” (brindled) and more often havning dropped ears.

Traditiona Azawakh range in grey and my expanded search area in green.

Known Azawakh range in grey; my expanded search area in green.

It shouldn’t be surprising. I would expect to find good specimens of Azawakh in the East of Mauritania. The Fulani are the primary ethnic group of black Africans in Mauritania. Historically, Mauritania was a part of the range of the Kel Tamasheq and in the 1990s many Tamansheq were forced to flee to refugee camps in Mauritania.

I realize this is controversial but as someone who has been around West Africa a bit I strongly suspect that good Azawakh specimens are to be found in a much larger area than ABIS has explored. I expect that we could find excellent specimens in Southern Algeria, Western Mali and also in Chad, northern Nigeria, Guinea and Benin, Central and Eastern Mauritania, Eastern Senegambia and maybe in the North of Cameroon, too. These lines on the map were drawn by colonial powers. I would expect to find the dogs wherever you find the Tamasheq and Fulani. These people are found throughout West Africa and as far east as the Sudan.

I doubt that ABIS could ever fund expeditions all over the Sahel to map the extent of the Azawakh range. I wonder if we could tap Peace Corps Volunteers for this research and, at the same time, encourage them to bring their dogs them when they return home to the States.

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