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Carolina Dog
Carolina Dog 

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Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin Jr., a Senior Research Ecologist at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Lab, first came across a Carolina Dog while working at the Savannah River site. Horace, a stray white dog with brown markings, was wandering the site's boundary when he caught Brisbin’s attention. Brisbin, who had seen many rural dogs chained to the back of porches and doghouses, assumed this was just a normal stray. Many of these dogs roamed the woods and would turn up in humane traps, and Brisbin began to wonder how many more of these were in the wild. On a hunch, he went to the pound and was surprised by the resemblance the dog had to dingoes.

They are dogs of medium size, with a fawn coat and frequently a melanistic mask. Some ancient paintings and rock art of Native Americans depict dogs that have physical traits similar to those of Carolina Dogs. Carolina Dogs also have a ginger-colored coat that is found on other wild dogs, including Australian Dingoes and Korea’s native dog, the Jindo. Also, fossils of the dogs of Native Americans exhibit similar bone structures to Carolina Dogs. Brisbin found a resemblance between 2,000-year-old skulls and those of the Carolina Dogs, but concluded that there was too large a difference to prove any connection. Along with this, DNA testing has pointed to a link.

Height: 17-24 inches (45–61 cm.) Weight: 30-65 pounds (15–27 kg.)


Carolina Dogs are extremely intelligent. They do retain many wild instincts and require a lot of patience with positive training and lots of early socialization. Once trained they are loyal, devoted pets. They are good with children and other pets, but should be supervised. They are very adaptable and their activity level will match yours. However they need regular exercise.

DNA Studies & Origin

This dog's physical appearance suggests a dog created by and preserved through natural selection to survive in the remote lowland swamp and forest land regions of the southeastern United States. They closely resemble types of dogs first encountered by Europeans near Indian settlements in the region as is evidenced by paintings, drawings and written descriptions made by these early explorers and settlers.

These Carolina Dogs have been brought into a captive breeding program. Several behavioral traits have been discovered that appear unique to these Carolina dogs, and many behaviors labeled as primitive are consistently manifested. Such behaviors include pack hierarchy, communal pup rearing, regurgitation for pups, and organized, cooperative hunting.

Preliminary mitochondrial DNA testing performed by the University of South Carolina's College of Science and Mathematics shows a possible strong genetic link between Carolina Dogs and other primitive breeds like the Australian Dingo.

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Further reading from National Geographic: Did Carolina Dogs Arrive With Ancient Americans?

"Humans and dogs enjoy a prehistoric relationship, a longstanding bond with its origins in a time when dogs as we know them evolved from wild animals into our domesticated companions.

Now, a canine living in a manner similar to that of dogs from those ancient days may have been discovered in isolated stretches of longleaf pines and cypress swamps in the American Southeast.

The Carolina Dog, a familiar-looking animal long known in the rural South as the "yaller dog," may be more than the common mutt that immediately meets the eye. I. Lehr Brisbin, Jr., Senior Ecologist at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Lab, believes that these animals may be America's most primitive dogs. 


The distinctive appearance of Carolina Dogs is not their only link to the world's surviving primitive breeds. Brisbin's studies have also revealed behaviors not observed in domestic dogs.

Carolina Dogs' breeding cycles, for example, may reflect the challenges of wilderness survival. Breeding begins young and can occur often—three times in a year. "It's astounding," Brisbin said, "other dogs don't do that. Why?" He theorizes that it may be a population-level adaptation, ensuring that the next generation is born before the old is afflicted with diseases like heartworm. The cycles also follow seasonal patterns, apparently timed to coincide with the times of birth of easy and abundant prey—young rodents and other small mammals.

Other unusual behaviors include the digging of small pits. While many dogs dig, Carolina Dogs do so with a pattern that so far remains a mystery. "What's unique about them is that they dig lots of these little pits, but only in specific areas and only in the fall," Brisbin explained. "Also, the vast majority of the dogs who dig pits are females. When you see that kind of structure, you think that there is a reason for it, some kind of selection at work. But so far, we don't know why they do this."

Another interesting observation is an entire range of hunting and prey-catching techniques not commonly seen in domestic dogs. These include hunting snakes in an effective pack formation and dispatching by cracking them, whip-like, into the air. "
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