Tamil Nadu

Chola mural tells a tale of dog

A mural found at the Thanjavur Big temple bearing resemblance to the Alangu dog breed. PHOTO: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

“It is a dog of magnificent proportions with noble carriage,” says zoologist Desmond Morris, of the now extinct Alangu, a breed once thrived in the Thanjavur and Tiruchi region.

In his book, Dogs-The Ultimate Dictionary of over 1,000 Dog Breeds , he says: “It is a big hunting dog, about 27 inches (69 cm) tall, with heavy, well-muscled limbs.” “When it is not employed on its hunting duties, it is also enlisted as a fearsome watchdog.”

The Indian love for exotic breeds has led to the native species losing their charm. Not just that. Many native breeds have either lost their traits or have become extinct, like Alangu, owing to decades of neglect.

There is hardly anyone who can recall the features of the dog. Not many even know how it looked like.

Now, a Chola era mural, found by chance in the inner precincts of the Big Temple at Thanjavur, depicts a majestic dog, possessing all the features attributed to Alangu by Mr. Morris.

“During restoration, the Chola murals, buried under the Nayak paintings, were discovered,” said the former minister, Thangam Thennarasu.

Though its body and tail have some resemblance to Rajapalayam dogs, Mr. Thennarasu argues, Rajapalaym dogs arrived in Tamil Nadu only during the reign of Vijayanagara kings.

While Rajapalayam dogs have folded ears, Alangu, despite its massive built, has very small pricked ears, and the mural supported Mr. Morris’s description.

Its ears are pricked, its back is long and its tail tapers to a fine point. While moving, it makes long strides, says Mr. Morris.

Kishore Kumar of the Institute of Veterinary Preventive Medicine at Ranipet, and an expert in native dog breeds, said most of the naturally evolved Indian breeds had erect and pricked ears.

The colour of the coat of the Alangu varied from red to fawn to black. There may be some white markings in the chest region, and the muzzle is mostly black.

A valued companion

Another dog that is also said to be extinct, according Mr. Morris, is Shenkottah, a valued companion in the pursuit of most dangerous animals in jungle.

“It was said a pair of these dogs could even pull down an adult tiger, although they sometimes lost their lives in the process,” he explains.

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Printable version | Apr 25, 2022 7:55:55 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/chola-mural-tells-a-tale-of-dog/article6498185.ece