The Carolina Dog is a medium-sized powerful dog with a red-ginger or yellow-colored coat, big pointy ears, a fox-like face, and a long fishhook tail. It looks like an Australian Dingo dog, or sometimes a wolf. This is an ancient dog breed that is believed to have survived in the swamps and savannahs of South Carolina and Georgia, in the United States for thousands of years.
This primitive dog breed is also referred to as a:
- Dixie Dingo,
- Pariah Dog,
- Carolina Sighthound Dog,
- Carolina Dingo,
- American Dingo,
- American Pariah Dog,
- Native American Pariah dog,
- Bering Pariah Dog,
- Yellow Pariah Dog,
- Yellow Dingo Dog,
- ‘Old Yaller’, the old Yellow dog
Carolina Dogs are self-sufficient pack dogs that are quite shy but very loyal.
When properly socialized, this ‘Dixie Dingo’ will be gentle, sociable, and generally well-behaved around children, so it could adapt to be a loving family pet.
It’s wary of strangers, but once it accepts that human into its pack the suspicion will disappear. This dog breed is not aggressive by nature. A Carolina dog puppy is timid and makes a sweet little companion.
A Brief History of the Carolina dog breed
The Carolina dog is a ‘pariah’ dog, and one of the few purebred dog breeds around today with truly primitive origins. It has survived by the process of natural selection; survival of the fittest of the breed and remains a pure breed.
It is believed to be an Indian dog and the first wild dog to become domesticated in North America.
FACT: the word ‘Pariah’ in India and South East Asia, is associated with feral, stray or wild dogs that are not owned by anyone but wander around human settlements and will stick with hunters; in return for food and companionship.
So where did the Carolina dog breed come from?
The Carolina dog is an ancient dog breed that is believed to have descended from the canines that accompanied the Paleo-Indians who traveled from Asia (then known as Beringia) to North America over the ‘Bering Land Bridge’ around 8000 years ago.
These Asian canines were a primitive-type dog likely to have descended from Wolves.
FACT: Beringia is the land and maritime area between the Lena River in Russia and the Mackenzie River in Canada. 20,000 years ago this was an area of land lying on the North American plate and Eastern Siberia which formed a land bridge.
This Bering land bridge (roughly where Siberia joined Alaska) provided a route for Asian immigrants to pass to the Americas, and they brought a type of pariah dog with them. The Bering Strait land bridge has eroded since then and all that remains are a few islands; including the Diomede Islands, St. Lawrence Island, and King Island.
The discovery of the Carolina dog in the United States
The Carolina dog is thought to be a direct descendent of the ancient pariah dogs that travelled across Beringia, thousands of years ago.
In 1970s, Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin jr was a biology professor and ecologist, at the University of Georgia, at the United States Department of Energy’s ‘Savannah River site’, in Georgia, South Carolina. Lehr Brisbin discovered packs of free-ranging dogs living in this remote area and noticed that they looked similar to Australian Dingo dogs.
He found one in a dog pound in Georgia and adopted it; he named this American Dingo type dog, ‘the Carolina Dog’, after the area where he first discovered it. Lehr Brisbin was fascinated by this strange dog and captured some more and began a captive breeding program; while continuing to conduct further studies into this rare dog breed.
At first, Lehr Brisbin thought they were just stray dogs but further tests showed that they had ancient genetics that did not appear to be mixed with typical European dog genetics.
The whole area along the Savannah River, in South Carolina, in the South Eastern United States, was remote and relatively unspoiled as the public was excluded. That meant that for centuries these free-ranging dogs had little opportunity to breed with domestic dogs and the breed therefore remained relatively pure.
Further research by Ecologists showed that these dogs had a similar bone structure to some Neolithic dog bone remains found in Native American burial sites, dating back thousands of years.
The research into this primitive dog breed continues. However, some scientists and Ecologists dispute that this dog arrived in the United States, via the Bering land bridge, as Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin jr. believes, and that it has remained unchanged and was not able to breed with other European dogs imported into the United States over time; however many agree with his research.
Kennel Club recognition
The Carolina Dog is recognized by the following Kennel clubs, in alphabetical order:
- ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
- ACR = American Canine Registry
- AKC = American Kennel Club*
- APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
- ARBA =American Rare Breed Association
- CDA = Carolina Dog Association
- CKC = Continental Kennel Club
- DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
- NKC = National Kennel Club
- UKC = United Kennel Club (permitted to compete in any UKC sanctioned events)
*The Carolina Dog is not recognized as a purebred dog by the American Kennel Club (AKC), however In July 2017, it was accepted into the AKC Foundation Service Stock.
What does a Carolina dog look like?
The Carolina dog is a very agile, medium to large-sized pack dog that resembles various sighthound breeds, or even a jackal or coyote.
FACT: A Jackal is a type of canine – animals related to dogs, wolves, foxes, and coyotes, and a Sighthound is a breed of dog that hunts primarily by sight and speed rather than by scent.
Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin jr. was immediately attracted to this unusual wild dog, although today there are more domesticated Carolina dogs than feral dogs within the breed.
The Carolina dog has an attractive fox-like face with dark inquisitive almond-shaped eyes, with a dark outline, with a cute black nose, and a long snout.
It’s easy to recognize a Carolina Dog by its big erect pointed ears, wedge-shaped head and pointed muzzle, straight back, and a long curved fishhook tail.
The Carolina Dog has a soft but intelligent look to its face. It appears alert and has a high energy level and moves with ease with its long legs and lean body.
These free-ranging dogs needed to be able to survive in the harsh Swamp areas and forests of South Carolina. This Dixie Dingo dog is intelligent and powerful for its size. It has a flexible but straight back, with a well-developed chest and tucked-in belly, like many of the sighthound breeds; Greyhounds, Afghans, Irish Wolfhounds, Whippets, etc.
Although the Carolina dog can come in various colors from Black to Cream, it is often just referred to as the ‘Yellow Dog’, or as the locals call it the ‘Yaller Dog’.
What are the main characteristics of a Carolina dog?
The Carolina Dog is considered a primitive dog breed meaning it still retains the primitive instincts from its ancestors; a resourceful hunting and survival ability.
Lehr Brisbin’s research suggests that these ancient ‘Yellow dogs’ may have migrated with Native American tribes as companions.
This feral Dingo-like dog is highly intelligent with strong instincts, stamina, and good eyesight. It’s resourceful and a born survivor that adapted to the harsh environmental conditions of the Savannah River, swamps, and forests in the South-Eastern, United States.
It’s agile and lean with a high energy level and always aware of its surroundings and alert to possible dangers or predators.
Loyalty and companionship:
The Carolina Dog is known as a Pariah dog that is always ready to accompany people on hunting trips. With proper socialization, this dog will prove to be a loyal companion and as a pack animal it will want to be part of the tribe or family.
Carolina Dogs are an ancient and primitive breed of dogs dating back thousands of years. It is only since 1970 in the United States that they have been domesticated out of their free-range living in the swamplands and forests of the Savannah in South Carolina.
They are proven to be adaptable to domestication and will fit into family life as a loyal family pet, when socialized. This breed is known to be timid and shy around people and doesn’t like to be handled too much. This is not a lap dog!
This dog breed is not known to be aggressive.
But remember it is important to treat all protection dogs with respect otherwise it might feel challenged and react in a negative or aggressive way.
The Carolina Dog is not a very well-known dog breed but within the Association of Rare Dog Breeds it is becoming better known as a lovable and adaptable family companion.
The Carolina Dog is moderately easy to train as it is a pack animal that learns quickly and wants to be around others. It is a shy dog and firm and consistent training will help to overcome this. It will need to be shown early who the master is and understand its role in the hierarchy.
Harsh training tactics are not recommended with this shy dog as it might rebel and hide or become timid and not cooperate.
Leash training is strongly recommended reminding this breed of who the leader of the pack is.
They’re agile and independent, with primitive hunting instincts so early leash training is strongly recommended in the puppy stage of life or it might take off and chase something.
This dog needs a lot of space to run around in.
Power and intelligence:
These dogs are smart and learn quickly. They are naturally alert and aware of everything around them, from possible companionship to danger. They have a good sense of sight and act on instinct.
Carolina Dogs have evolved and survived for thousands of years and are resourceful and self-sufficient.
They have great resilience and determination, and their double coat helps protect them from general inclement weather conditions, they prefer hot climates over cold climates.
Carolina Dogs are primitive hunting dogs and companions. They are natural pack animals and want to know where they fit into the pack and what’s expected of them. In return, they are gently, responsive, and not destructive or aggressive.
This is a typical Sighthound dog that will follow instructions and want to be kept busy. They are vigilant and wary of pending danger and always ready to protect.
This breed is very clean, easy to house train and self-sufficient.
When this breed of dog is socialized and obedience trained properly as a puppy it will blend in, and form a strong protective companionship with its family.
For many years they were free-ranging dogs that sought the company of humans and made good companions. They have a hunting instinct so will need to be trained not to hunt the other family pets or bring little presents from the garden!
When socialized properly they will enjoy playtime and being part of a family, especially in large and open spaces but they don’t suit apartment living.
Carolina dogs can be obedient within their pack. However, this dog breed is powerful and independent therefore not recommended for a novice or weak dog owner that could not assume the role of the leader of the pack.
They are suspicious of strangers and not overly friendly in new situations or circumstances and will howl if suspicious.
It is therefore important to make sure this dog gets enough exercise. A long walk each day is recommended; typical one hour of daily exercises and playtime.
Physical Characteristics of a Carolina ‘Dingo’ dog
A Carolina Dog is a medium-sized purebred dog with short, dense double-coat; it’s agile, lean but muscular-build like a Sighthound and a long fishhook shaped tail.
Size: Medium sized dog
Height: UP to 18-24” (46-61cm) for both Male and Female
Weight: up to 33-44lb (15-20kg) for both Male and Female
Lifespan: 15 years expectancy
Litter size: 3-6 puppies/litter
Coat: A short-haired, thick, double coat; the protective undercoat is dense in each season for protection
Color: A variety of coat colors: from light to dark – White with markings, Yellow, Sand, Beige, Tan, Orange, Deep Red-Ginger, Red Sable, or even Black.
All white is not a recognized breed standard color; the preferred color is deep Red-Ginger with pale buff markings on shoulders, side of the muzzle. The undercoat is usually a lighter color. Sometimes it has piebald markings.
Eyes: Dark Brown color almond-shaped eyes, rimmed with black color.
Ears: Large, very mobile, erect ears set high on the head
Temperament: It’s gentle and friendly when socialized and good around children; it loves companionship and being part of the pack, so would, therefore, make a good family pet.
How should you train a Carolina puppy?
A Carolina puppy is a pack animal with a fairly high energy level and should be trained early as they have inherent hunting and herding instincts. They will need to know who the leader of the pack is early on in training or they may challenge for that position.
Training must be consistent and firm, as established and reinforced by the human pack leader, but not aggressive or harsh, as Carolina dogs can become timid if chastised and may refuse to cooperate.
This puppy will need ongoing positive reinforcement.
Praise for good behavior and gentle reprimands for not behaving will work best. It will need to be trained to walk on a leash, at the side of the master, or behind to establish who the leader is. To be able to go out in public the puppy needs to know how to follow orders – for its safety and to follow the rules in public.
There are various types of recommended training: obedience, discipline, agility, and socialization.
So, if you are not going to use a professional dog trainer:
1) Develop your basic command words: Find keywords such as Stop, Sit, and Wait etc. and be consistent each time you use them.
2) Crate – Buy a crate and get this agile little puppy used to going into it. This will eventually become its nest and it will sleep there. You will have to lock the cage in the early days so it knows it has to sleep there and it’s useful to experience for bladder control and when transporting this breed.
3) Potty training – This is a very clean dog and easy to potty train. It will become a creature of habit quickly. However, should you need help there are products available, such as mats and odor sprays to attract puppy go to the same spot each time.
4) Walking on a leash – Voice commands and road awareness is important for this nosey puppy’s safety, as they may want to wander off.
Health problems and health issues
Any purebred dog breed, like the Carolina Dog, can inherit certain genetic health problems, although due to natural selection over thousands of years, this breed has not mixed it’s bloodline like other breeds so is quite healthy; however, it could still suffer from:
Hip Dysplasia – an abnormality where the ball and socket of the hip joint are not a neat fit. Excessive movement can lead to further damage to the limbs, extreme pain possible bone disease such as arthritis. Dogs with known Hip Dysplasia should not be bred.
Caring for your Dixie Dingo dog – what’s needed?
It will need around one hour of exercise a day, with walks, activities, and playtime. They would suit a fenced yard and a large area for them to exercise themselves, but not where they can escape!
Feed as a medium-sized dog. If it’s being fed formulated dog food it will require 2.5 cups of high-quality Kibble per day; the amount depends on size, build, metabolism, and activity level.
This dog breed is quite easy to maintain. Their coat is short in length, dense, and double-coated so it will only shed moderately. Therefore only moderate maintenance required; needs to be brushed about once a week, to remove debris and dirt.
Double coats shed seasonally, twice a year, and need extra grooming then. This dog does not have a smelly coat.
This breed is not hypoallergenic.
A slicker brush is useful to remove dead hair.
This double-coated dog only needs to be bathed when needed as it does not have a smelly coat, and its natural coat oil can be stripped with over-bathing.
Certain dog formulated shampoos have a double effect of cleaning the dog coat and protecting it against fleas and insect bites.
Cleaning teeth, nails, and ears
Check teeth to prevent a build-up of plaque and avoid gum disease. Nails need to be trimmed regularly and ears checked for dirt build-up, and debris collected that can lead to infection.
Positives and Negatives of owning a Carolina dog
- An outdoor type
- A loyal and protective companion
- Alert and obedient, a good watchdog
- Adaptable, not aggressive
- Bonds strongly with the owner and other dogs
- Child friendly when trained and socialized
- Independent and timid
- Wary and suspicious of strangers
- A natural hunter bearing unwanted garden gifts!
- Needs early socialization to bond
- Not for the novice owner
- High energy level
- Needs fenced space to run, not for apartment life
Commonly Asked Questions:
Q. How much does a Carolina Dog puppy cost?
A. Budget approximately $800- $2000, from a reputable breeder, or consider adopting one for around $300, but do your research though as this is not a commonly available breed.
Q. Why is a Carolina dog puppy so expensive?
A. They’re a rare dog breed and each litter only produces on average 3-6 puppies. They are usually fully vaccinated, chipped and should be passport and name registered. This all adds to the overall cost.
Q What other costs should I expect?
A. A good quality dry dog food, Kibble, and they like a meat diet too, plus Vet’s fees, vaccinations, medications and accessories and toys, collar, leash, grooming equipment.