Neglected and subjected to years of inbreeding that gradually weakened their original traits, the native hound-type dog breeds of Tamil Nadu are likely to get a new status with the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) setting breed standards for the Rajapalayam and Chippiparai species, a first of its kind in the country.
The study may later include two other Tamil Nadu breeds — Kombai and Kanni.
“We have developed a pro forma for Indian dog breeds and we are studying the phenotypic characterisation. The phenotypic traits include coat and skin colour, height, weight, eye colour, shapes of the face, ear, length of muzzle, snout and tail and length of limbs,” said K.N. Raja of the NBAGR.
He said a team of NBAGR scientists had almost completed its work on Rajapalayam dogs, whose distinct observable traits include white coat, pink skin, more visible around the eyes and muzzle. However, a few dogs with brown patches on white coat were also seen.
The scientists have collected blood samples of these dogs for genomic studies. The studies may also help in understanding the inbreeding level, which might have damaged these breeds.
“One of the clear manifestations of inbreeding are puppies with silver eyes and deafness,” said S. Kathirvel, Associate Professor and Head, VUTRC at Rajapalayam, who facilitated the project.
“During their field study, Pon Elangovan, a breeder of Rajapalayam dogs, has been selected by the national-level steering committee for the Breed Saviour Award being offered by the Madurai-based NGO, SEVA, and financially supported by the National Biodiversity Authority. Mr. Elangovan always takes extra care to avoid inbreeding,” said Dr. Kathirvel.
Besides Dr. Raja (scientist), P.K. Singh (Principal Scientist), A.K. Mishra (Principal Scientist) and I. Ganguly (Senior Scientist), all from the NBAGR, are involved in the research project. P. Devendran, Professor and Head, Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding, VCRI, Orathanadu, TANUVAS, also facilitated the project.