There is a widely circulated story that explains the temperament of the famous ‘Kombai’ dogs, a native breed of Tamil Nadu.
The British Army, during its siege of Kalayarkoil, capital of the Marudu Brothers, the rulers of Sivaganga, could enter the fort only after killing all the ‘Kombai’ dogs guarding it. While Col. James Welsh, who led the British Army, in his Military Reminiscences , had given a graphic account of the war, he had made no reference to these dogs.
But those who keep the breed vouch for its loyalty and ferocity. English Zoologist Desmond Morris, author of Dogs: The Ultimate Dictionary of over 1,000 Dog Breeds (2001), says this muscular, powerful and athletic dogs kept by Zamindars and certain tribes, are well-known for their ability to overcome any obstacle on their paths.
As there is no clear report about the status of this breed, some dog enthusiasts and veterinarians have come together to revive and popularise the breed. Desmond Morris has pointed out that there was some confusion about the status and even in 1960, the breed was on the verge of extinction.
Kishore Kumar, a veterinarian, has created a Facebook page and composed a theme song for the project, seeking to secure for ‘Kombai’ the ‘official dog of Tamil Nadu status’, like the official flower (Kanthal), the official tree (Palm) and the official bird (Emerald Dove).
“The dog is still there in many parts of the State. We can even revive it like ‘Cannan’ of Israel through committed efforts. If someone wants to keep a dog as a pet and guard, ‘Kombai’ is an ideal choice. Its maintenance will not cost much and it has a natural resistance to many diseases,” says Dr. Kishore.
His efforts has paid dividends. In one month, 70 persons have brought home ‘Kombai’ puppies after reading his facebook page, “Kanni, Chippiparai, Combai and Rajapalayam Hound Dogs Breed Standard.”
Ramesh Kumar Kuppusamy, a software engineer and lover of native breeds, has gone a step further and agreed to arrange ‘Kombai’ puppies. He is ready to keep them as pets.
The question, however, remains whether ‘Komabi’ with its original genetic traits are still available or whether it has also become a victim of inbreeding like the breeds of ‘Rajapalayam’ and ‘Chippiparai’.
Innasi, a native of Combai village in Theni district who offered the name for the dog, said purebred dogs that were available 25 years ago were not too many these days.
“Dogs from various places used to assemble during hunting expeditions in the past, and the owners used the occasion to allow their dogs to mate with dogs with a different blood line. The ban on hunting has ruled out such a possibility,” he said.
The dog breeding centre run by the State government discarded the ‘Kombai’ breeding programme, after owners returned them as they found it difficult to cope with its temperament.
But Desmond Morris has said that despite its ferocity, ‘Kombai’ is sweet-tempered and tolerant of their children.