The hounds of Mudhol

The hounds of Mudhol
This Republic Day is something that we all should look forward to, particularly the Parade that is going to be held at the Rajpath. If you are wondering why, it is because a few Mudhol hounds, the pride of Karnataka, may participate in the Parade along with our armed forces. The evidence of human-dog companionship can be found even in ancient Indian history. In fact, loyalty and companionship of dog is well brought out in the Mahabharatha when a dog accompanies Yudhisthira to his final resting place. Lord Dattatreya is commonly portrayed as being accompanied by four dogs.

Currently, India has about 20 native dog breeds including the Mudhol hound, Rajapalayam, Chippiparai, Rampur hound, Combai and Kanni. Mudhol hound gets its name from the region where it was popularised — Mudhol in Bagalkot district. Mudhol hounds are prevalent in the Deccan Plateau region encompassing the northern parts of Karnataka, southern parts of Maharashtra and some parts of Andhra Pradesh.

The breed’s revival
Based on historical accounts, the ancestry of Mudhol hounds is traced to the Middle East region. When foreign invaders and traders from Afghanistan, Turkey and Persia came to India, they brought along with them their companion dogs like the Saluki, Sloughi and the Greyhound. These dogs were used in hunting and guarding their caravans.

The evolution of today’s Mudhol breed was probably from these breeds. Mudhol hound is also known as Caravan hound. In villages, it is often called Karwani. The Kennel Club of India (KCI) recognises it as Caravan hound whereas the Indian National Kennel Club calls it Mudhol hound.

These dogs were known to be the companions of the Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji. Hence they are also referred to as Maratha hounds. It is said that they were buried next to Shivaji’s samadhi at Raighad Fort in Maharashtra.

But the popularity of these hounds decreased during the time of British rule. As the British popularised exotic European breeds, the Indian breeds took a backseat. The credit of reviving the almost-extinct Mudhol hound goes to the Ghorpade rulers of Mudhol state, particularly Shrimant Rajesaheb Malojirao Ghorpade. He revived the Mudhol hound by using selective breeding techniques. Under the royal grooming, these dogs enjoyed glory once again. It is said that a family was entrusted with the development of the Mudhol breed and many of the family’s descendents continue to do so even now.

Hunters & guards
Mudhol dogs are sight hounds. They have a powerful vision which helps them in hunting. Their body and legs are slender and well-muscled. They have a long and narrow head, ears that are thin and droopy, a deep chest and a narrow hip. Their coat is smooth and come in the colours of white, black, brown, grey and fawn. Their teeth are scissor-like. All these features make them good hunters and guards. They have an effortless glide-like stride and gait. They need plenty of exercise and free space, which makes them unsuitable for apartment dwelling. Mudhol hounds do not like their territory being invaded but they can be truly loyal and get along really well with their owner.

In recent years, Mudhol hound is on par with any other breed in terms of popularity. It is also recognised as a standardised breed. Since 2003, KCI is associated with the registration of these dogs and installing microchips. Mysore Kennel Club (now Silicon City Kennel Club) organises breed-specific dog shows for native Indian dog breeds every year.

Other organisations such as Canine Research and Information Centre, Karuna Animals Welfare Association Of Karnataka and Society for Indian Breeds of Dogs are also responsible for the increasing popularity of the Mudhol hound in recent times. In fact, it became so popular again that a postage stamp with face value of Rs five was released by the Indian Postal Department in 2005. This was released in conjuction with the stamps of three other native dogs: the Himalayan sheep dog, Rampur hound and Rajapalayam.

Pioneer institute
Canine Research and Information Centre (CRIC), located in Thimmapur near Mudhol, was set up in 2009 under the Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University (KVAFSU), Bidar. It is one of the pioneer institutes involved in reviving the country’s indigenous dog breeds, and has dedicated itself almost entirely to the preservation and development of the Mudhol hound breed. As a result of the institute’s endeavours, the number of Mudhol dogs has increased in the country.

One of the institute’s projects involves providing better livelihood opportunities for landless and marginal farmers through Mudhol hound rearing. Through this, more than 184 beneficiaries have received puppies and have been trained in their care and management. In fact, more farmers from the areas of Halagali, Lokapura, Mudhol, Melligeri, Malali are rearing Mudhol dogs for breeding and guarding purposes.

The institute also breeds pure-bred Mudhol puppies, which attracts many enthusiasts. Some hounds reared here are popular at dog shows across the country. The institute also links the owner of dogs to KCI for the registration of hounds. Six puppies from CRIC were taken to Remount Veterinary Corps (RVC) School in Meerut last year. The dogs were examined by an army veterinarian, Lieutenant Colonel Surindar Saini. Afterwards, they were given specialised training in explosive detection, defense, tracking and guarding. Thus, Mudhol dogs became the first native breed to be serving the Indian Army. It definitely is a proud moment for all of us.

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