Myths & Facts about Bali Dogs

Myth: Bali Dogs are Feral

Fact:  The Bali dog is not feral.  It is a semi-feral animal that relies in part on food provided by humans.


Myth: Bali Dogs are Aggressive

Fact:  The Bali dog is not aggressive by nature, but it is often unused to direct human contact and is therefore fearful of people. If a Bali dog is frightened or instinctively aware it may be harmed, it may bite to defend itself. Free-roaming Bali dogs are not used to being approached or touched by humans.  A well-meaning tourist bending down to pat a dog’s head may get his hand snapped at. The dog is very likely to see the approaching hand as a threat.


Myth: Bali Dogs Cannot be Tamed

Fact:  The Bali dog is a highly intelligent animal. They learn sophisticated methods of survival on the streets of Bali. They are also capable of learning appropriate behaviour and interactions with humans. They are, however, very strong-willed and independent animals and may require patience and a depth of understanding of them as a breed to fully appreciate their level of intelligence and to gain their trust and loyalty.


Myth: Bali Dogs are Mongrels

Fact:  Pure Bali dogs are a unique breed found only in Bali. Their DNA is made up of a combination of Australian Dingo, Chow Chow and Akita. Until 2004 no outside dogs were allowed into Bali, so the Bali dog remained pure. Sadly, with the influx of breed dogs, the Bali dog’s unique DNA is becoming mixed. Genetic scientists from UCL Davies who have studied the Bali dog state that in its pure form it is the true protodog with enormous value to all of dogdom and to science.

The genetic make-up of domestic dogs around the world has altered over thousands of years and they have become dependent on humans and their goodwill. This transition has not occurred with the Bali dog. While the Bali dog relies on humans for one source of food it remains highly independent and can survive without human contact. The four main colours of the Bali dog are black, white, brindle and red.


Myth: Bali Street Dogs are All Strays

Fact:  90% of the dogs you see on Bali’s streets have a place to which they “belong”, but this is not ownership as understood in the Western context.  A Bali dog may “belong” to a family, kampung, warung or other place of business, but this does not mean that the people involved will necessarily give it food or water or otherwise assume any responsibility for its care.

Bali dogs are by nature free roaming animals that have roamed the island of Bali for thousands of years.


Myth: Bali Dogs are Scavengers

Fact: Many Bali dogs have no choice but to scavenge food from rubbish dumps and temple offerings. They have served Balinese society for thousands of years by cleaning up trash and offerings and therefore removing the food supply of rats and other vermin.  In areas where there are no dogs today (due to culling) there have been massive explosions of rat populations which have caused rice crop failures and the introduction of rat-borne diseases into communities. Bali dogs may be “scavengers” but they are very useful scavengers and have a valuable place in the island’s eco system.


Myth: Balinese People do not Like Bali Dogs

Fact:  Prior to the 2008 rabies outbreak (which in 2015 is ongoing) on the island, the people and dogs of Bali lived alongside each other naturally. Each knew the other’s purpose and they cohabited in parallel lives. If they did not always live in total harmony, they accepted each other. Since rabies broke out it is true that many Balinese people have become wary of dogs. This has brought increased aggression and attacks on dogs.

Balinese people will always have dogs in their kampungs and banjars (traditional communities) as they keep away intruders – both physical and spiritual. They dispose of rubbish and control rats. And they entertain children. In banjars where all the dogs have been culled (or sterilised), Balinese people often bring puppies and other dogs in from outside. This risks spreading rabies.


Myth: Bali Dogs don’t make Good Pets

Fact:  Bali dogs make wonderful pets. They are intelligent, loyal and loving.  They need to learn to trust “their” humans and, like any dog, they need to be treated with respect and affection.


Myth: There are Too Many Dogs in Bali

Fact:  In 2008 the dog population was estimated to be approximately 600,000. With the outbreak of rabies and the ensuing mass culling, the number dropped to approximately 150,000 dogs. If numbers continue to drop, the Bali dog will be at risk of extinction.  Aside from organised culling, hundreds of dogs’ lives are lost every week to the dog meat trade, acts of cruelty, disease, motor vehicle accidents and basic neglect. The situation is dire and the magnificent animal that is Bali’s heritage dog is under threat.