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The Bali Dog

The indigenous Bali Heritage Dog is a unique and fascinating breed. The importance of the pure Bali dog is only coming to attention in recent years to the rest of the world, but to Balinese priests, they play an integral role in their culture and always have. Known since Bali time began, since the first Balinese walked the island, they have been protectors of humans and spirits alike.

Elder Balinese Priests have different names for different types of Bali dogs that classify their personalities and strengths (or weaknesses), even measuring based on the shape of their tail or hair tufts behind their ears. The howl or bark of a pure Bali dog, according to them, is known to detect good or evil spirits, strangers or friends, snakes, other animals, storms brewing, and other imminent dangers.

Between 2000 and 2003, the DNA of hundreds of indigenous dogs from all over Bali was tested in the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at UC Davis, California. The research revealed that Bali’s indigenous dogs held one of the richest pools of genetic diversity of all the dogs in the world. “The Bali dog is one of the few remaining indigenous dog populations,” says Dr. Ben Sacks, UC Davis. “We don’t have all the questions yet to ask, but they’re emerging every day, and if we lose these populations, we lose the ability to answer those questions.”

“Our observations about the dogs of Bali is that they constitute one of the greatest remaining reservoirs of genetic diversity that still remains.”  “Genetics does reveal that Bali’s dogs share an evolutionary branch stretching all the way back to proto-dogs”  Dr. Niels Pedersen, UC Davis.

Bali is home to two unique indigenous dogs — the Bali lowland dog and the Highland Kintamani.  Because of its very rich DNA, the Bali heritage dog presents a wide range of colours and markings. They are medium-sized dogs and have upright triangle-shaped ears. The lowland dog is short-haired, while the highland dog is long-haired. This very important pure Bali dog has been under threat for a few decades now, each year a shocking and disturbing reduction in population. In fact, not that long ago, when importing breed dogs was banned in Bali, before rabies and dog meat traders, urban sprawl,  indiscriminate sterilisation programs, and interbreeding took place, only the pure Bali dog inhabited the island.   Now, in 2022 a population of 800,000 has been decimated to an estimated 20,000.  The possibility that these remaining pure indigenous dogs can carry the DNA forward is nearly impossible. The chance of a male unsterilised pure Bali dog finding and mating with a female unsterilised pure Bali dog is like winning the lottery.

BAWA is running programs in the remote mountainous villages of Bali, where pockets of pure Bali dogs remain. We sterilise as many non-pure Bali dogs as possible in each area in order to save the remaining indigenous dogs in Bali before they are lost forever.

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