Return of the Rajapalayam

There is a move to popularise Indian breeds and the focus now falls on the Rajapalayam. PRINCE FREDERICK writes

TWENTY-ONE-year old Arvind Sabapathy can't stop talking about Valli. No, it isn't what you are thinking. Valli is his pet dog. Six years ago, S. Neelakantan took the road less travelled when he decided to gift his son Arvind a pup. He brought home a tiny bundle of white - a Rajapalayam. Father and son decided that the Indian dog should have an Indian name.

Now, the Kennel Club of India (KCI) avidly seeks to encourage such enthusiasm for Indian breeds and this resolve has manifested itself in the setting up of a breeding centre for Indian dogs in Uthandi on the East Coast Road. To give a fillip to the KCI initiative to create a "level playing field for the Indian breeds," the Postal Department has brought out four stamps on the Rajapalayam, the Mudhol Hound, the Rampur Hound and the Himalayan Sheepdog. When you read this article, the Union Minister of Communication, Dayanidhi Maran, would have released them, on the last day of the National Dog Show.

Temporary arrangement

"The breeding centre in Uthandi is a temporary arrangement. Truth be told, it is just a house belonging to a KCI member. We expect the Government to allocate land or funds for a new centre. At present, we have just four Rajapalayam dogs there. Although half a dozen Indian breeds are part of this programme which seeks to popularise Indian dogs, we plan to focus on the Rajapalayam first and then move on to other dogs like the Chippiparai, the Combai, the Rampur Hound and the Caravan Hound. Already an organisation in Maharashtra that works in tandem with the KCI is breeding Mudhol Hounds," says C.V. Sudarsan, secretary, KCI. "We will, however, not take up dogs like Kanni which are few and about which we have little information."

The club is paying attention to the Rajapalayam for the reason that of all the Indian breeds, this dog has undergone the least `corruption'.

"It has no doubt shrunk in size. Nevertheless, it has retained its original features," says Sudarsan.

V. Kumaraswamy, who breeds Rajapalayams at what he calls Contemplate Kennel, set up alongside his ginning factory at Cotton Market in Rajapalayam, seconds this view. He says now and then Rajapalayam pups turn up with a few brown spots, but all of them arrive with their trademark features intact — pristine white coat, pink nose, broad chest and narrow waist.

Why are they popular?

"This dog is spread across the country in good numbers, thanks to breeders. We have supplied Rajapalayams to places as far away as Baramullah. Recently, we sent two to George Fernandes' house in New Delhi. During the Tenkasi elections, the politician took time off to check out the dogs in our kennel and placed an order with us." Kumaraswamy says the demand for these dogs is great. "The ginning business is on a downswing, and it is the Rajapalayams that put food on our table." These dogs are popular for five reasons. One, they have a powerful nose. Two, they are friendly. Three, they are not at all intractable and can be easily trained to be excellent watch dogs. Four, their owners do not have to spend much for their upkeep. Five, although not numerous, there is an encouraging number of professional breeders who offer these dogs.

While listing out a Rajapalayam's qualities, Arvind gives a specific example. "Valli was curled up in the living room; and all of a sudden she started to sniff in the air. Next, she seemed pretty steamed up about something. She went around in circles. Letting her out, we followed her. She headed straight for the terrace door and started vehemently scratching it. When we opened it, we were shocked to see a delinquent youngster who had landed on our terrace to steal a few chairs lying there. We bound him hand and foot and turned him over to the police," recounts Arvind.

"The Rajapalayam can endear itself to all the members of a family, unlike the Chippiparai which is a one-man dog," says Kumaraswamy, who sells Chippiparai pups as well.

"A Rajapalayam is very intelligent. It instinctively senses who is welcome and who is not. It admirably differentiates between outsiders who are close to the family and those who are not and treats them accordingly," says Arvind.

In the last six years, Valli has been with Arvind, there have been a few visits to the veterinarian. "In any case, they were much fewer than what would have been the case if we had gone for a foreign breed. Being a Rajapalayam, Valli is immune to many diseases against which a foreign breed should be inoculated."

And what is probably the crucial factor contributing to this dog's popularity is its delocalisation. "The dog is not confined as much to its place of origin as the other Indian breeds are. The Chippiparais, for example, are almost bred only by Kambalathu Naikars in Virudhunagar district," says Kumaraswamy.

The Rajapalayam is from Rajapalayam, but definitely not confined to this small town in Virudhunagar district.

Some facts

Name: Rajapalayam

Family: Hound

Nativity: Rajapalayam, Virudhunagar District, Tamil Nadu

Features: White coat, pink nose, broad chest and narrow waist

USP: Great sniffer and a reliable hunting and guard dog

Disposition: Friendly and obedient

Character flaw:

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