The Rajapalayam is a rapidly progressing city in the Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu state. When this Indian city is mentioned what would come to mind would be the Ayyanar Falls near the Srivilliputur town that is the main tourist attraction of the region. Of course Rajapalayam is also famous for its very sweet mangoes. Not very many people are aware that Rajapalayam is also the home of a breed of scenthound… the Rajapalayam Dog. This breed is also known as Paleiyakaran and Poligar Hound. The exact origin of the breed is unknown although it was believed that it has existed in India since the 17th century. The Rajapalayam Dog is speculated to have had a major influence in the development of the Dalmatian although nothing was scientifically proven.
This Indian scenthound closely resembles a miniature Great Dane with its heavy and muscular build that exudes immense strength. The trademark features of a Rapalayam is a broad muscular chest, tucked up waist, pristine solid white coat, a pink nose and golden colored eyes. A Rajapalayam Dog is a formidable hunter of wild boar. The breed was favored by Indian aristocracy because of its heightened scenting ability. A Rajapalayam though has one flaw… this breed is easily distracted. It is not uncommon for this breed to lose interest and abandon a scent if a rabbit or another prey is seen. The dogs are often seen accompanying the royalty in hunting expeditions. During the early years of this breed’s existence, they are most commonly seen in the homes of local chieftains as aside from being strong, ferocious and outstanding hunters noted for their excellent nose the dogs possess the well balanced temperament of an ideal home companion. Rajapalayam dogs are very friendly. This is an intelligent breed thus housebreaking will never be a problem. A Rajapalayam dog is a carnivore. The dog generally feeds on what it can hunt. Modern day Rajapalayam dogs would require minimal cost for the upkeep as the dog can be fed rice, millet, ragi. This breed can adapt to a vegetarian diet as well.
The breed was once on the brink of extinction. Purebred dogs are only found on the remote villages of Tamil Nadu. To encourage breeding and to popularize the breed, the Animal Husbandry Department of the Tamil Nadu government has sponsored dog shows and established breeding centers in an attempt to prevent the total extinction of the breed. The Rajapalayam was featured in postage stamps to create awareness of the breed.
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The dog’s muscular and well balanced body structure denotes extreme power. However, the facial structure and the graceful gait that is not unlike the gait of a thoroughbred horse give this scenthound an elegant demeanor. The Rajapalayam is a rare breed. This breed was in fact on the brink of extinction. These dogs are only seen in the remote villages in its country of origin thus not many people know how this breed looks like. A person seeing this dog for the first time may take the dog for a miniature Great Dane although it is quite bigger in size. Early Rajapalayam dogs are much larger than their modern day counterparts. Present day dogs are about four feet in height. 25 kg is the approximate weight of a fully grown male and 20 kg for females. The dome shaped arched head is carried high. Both the head and the body are covered with loose skin but no wrinkles on the head and no dewlaps are formed. Hanging ears are soft. The eyes are dark brown. Powerful jaws enclose strong teeth that meet in a scissor bite. The whip-like tail has a slight curl and thins at about 1/3 of the length to the tip giving it a bony appearance. This breed has a short coat that is soft on the head and rather coarse on the body. The common and most accepted color is milk white. Solid black, brown and spotted dogs have existed but breeders have commonly culled puppies with these coat coloring. This practice has resulted to the development of Rajapalayam with an all white coat, a pink nose and no pigmentation. Long strong legs enable this scenthound to easily catch its prey.
A Rajapalayam is a ferocious and enthusiastic hunter. This breed was originally used to hunt wild boar and other smaller prey. However hunting is not the only expertise of this breed. The dog makes a dependable watch dog and companion dog as well. This is a large breed; its appearance would be enough to intimidate intruders. The dog is leery of strangers and very protective of its masters. This dog will not allow being petted or touched by strangers. A Rajapalayam will immediately attack once danger to its family is perceived. Surprisingly, this breed would instinctively know if a stranger is a threat or not. This breed is warm, caring and very affectionate especially with older children though it tends to form a special bond with one family member. Although friendly to the whole family the dog will ignore the others once the favorite person is around. This intelligent dog trains easily but training must be started and finished by the same person as the dog will react negatively if the original trainer is changed. The dog may tolerate other dogs but it can never be trusted with smaller pets because of its high prey drive. A Rajapalayan dog is not recommended for apartment living as it requires wide open spaces to expend its excess energies.
Maintenance is easy for this breed. The short coat could benefit from occasional brushing to remove head hair. The dog is a moderate shedder. Bathing can be done only when necessary given that frequent bathing would remove the natural oils and cause dry skin. Shampooing would naturally improve the appearance of the coat. However, the shampoo must be thoroughly rinsed from the coat. Nails must be trimmed at least every two weeks. Ears must be regularly cleaned as well. This is a hunting breed. The dog must be thoroughly checked after it is hunted to remove burs and to prevent any external parasite infestation.
These dogs have the tendency to suffer from mange. Although this is not a life threatening condition, the dog would still need proper care to prevent its occurrence. Being white coated, deafness is also common for this breed.
A group of white coated dogs were positioned like an army unit… ready to move with precision and to ferociously attack. These are the strong and the very ferocious Rajapalayam scenthounds. But if you think that the dog’s strength, lightning speed and ferocity are only directed towards wild boars and other large and small game, you couldn’t be more wrong. These dogs were in fact trained to fight and mercilessly attack the British Cavalry during the Carnatic Wars. The Rajapalayam Dog is a large breed of scenthound that is commonly hunted in Southern India particularly in the Rajapalayam municipality from where the breed derived its name.
The Rajapalayam is also known as the Poligar Hound. In ancient Southern India, the Poligars are clans inhabiting the mountainous areas. For some reasons, this race of feudal chieftains were feared and looked upon as object of terrors because of their plundering and looting reputation. These infamous people attack and rob highway travelers with the help of their ferocious dogs known as Poligar Hounds. Because of the aggressive nature, the Poligar Hounds were utilized to fight in the 19th century Polygar Wars. It was believed that these dogs were brought to Tamil Nadu by the Nayakars during the Vijayanagara king’s reign. The Nayakars used the dogs in a surprise attack on the English cavalry. The dogs have effectively immobilized the enemy by ripping off the hamstrings of the horses.
The Rajapalayam dogs were speculated to have been around since the 17th century although the exact origin of the breed is unknown. These pure white coated and pink nosed dogs may have a deceptive elegant and docile appearance but folktales about the breed’s aggressive temperament and heroic deeds were handed down from generation to generation. Legend has it that the pups were thrown in dark pits and only taken when they are grown up to make them extremely ferocious. These dogs were carefully selected, reared and trained not only to be outstanding hunters but also to be dependable protectors. Only the fittest dogs were allowed to survive resulting to the modern day Rajapalayam dogs.
Purebred Rajapalayam are only found in the remote villages of Tamil Nadu. This breed is almost close to extinction with only about 150 to 200 dogs left. The Kennel Club of India has taken steps to save the breed from total extinction. A project to revive interest for the breed was started by establishing a breeding center in Saidapet, Chennai in 1980-81. The “Save the Rajapalayam” project was launched by the Kennel Club of India. The restoration efforts of the breed enthusiast have paid off. Breeders of Rajapalayam dog were flooded by the demands for this breed.