The Phú Quốc Ridgeback

You’ll understand by now that this isn’t a travel blog, so I’ll only mention in passing that I visited Phú Quốc Island. It is Viet Nam’s largest island, located in the Gulf of Thailand, 12 kms south of Cambodia. You can actually see Cambodia from the island and believe me that the Cambodians are pretty upset about Viet Nam claiming it for themselves. Both countries have an historical claim to the island and surrounding waters, but Viet Nam won out in the end.

I mention Phú Quốc because it is where you’ll find the Phú Quốc Ridgeback Dog, the smallest of the Ridgeback Breeds; the Rhodesian Ridgeback being the largest, while the Thai Ridgeback is slightly smaller.

The French were the first to document this distinctive breed in the 1800s; all the Vietnamese people probably thought they were just swirly backed dogs that weren’t worth writing about. But because I like all the rare and unusual things that Viet Nam has to offer, I’m going to write down the little that I know about this unique Vietnamese canine.

Their distinctive coat occurred because one or a couple of dogs with the genetic mutation arrived on the island from Africa, Thailand or Australia and started to breed in glorious isolation. The small gene pool meant that the characteristic kept appearing in pups until it was common amongst most of the island’s dogs.

Playfully pulling a man's leg, not an outright savaging.
Playfully pulling a man’s leg, not an outright savaging.

Their fur grows in different directions along their body, mainly on their backs. One long strip of backwards growing fur along their spine is common, but swirls and whorls all over their bodies can occur. Their coats come in pure black, pure tan, black and tan and brindle.

Common fur pattern
Common fur pattern

They are a true island dog; they swim in the Ocean, catch fish, climb trees, sleep on the beaches, and are friendly to tourists (probably because they feed them). Some dogs are owned by locals, while others are owned by everyone and no-one, but all dogs roam free.

Digging hole in the cool sand to sleep in is clever trick to avoid the heat, but there is no guarantee that your sister will leave you alone.

The breed is gaining some popularity on the Mainland; the Vietnamese Kennel Association is currently working on a breed standard and currently they have 700 pure bred dogs registered. I’m a bit sad about this. Viet Nam already kills hundreds of thousands of unwanted dogs every year and I don’t really think we should be breeding even more. I don’t think the World should breed as many pure-breed dogs as we do full-stop; besides being expensive, purebred dogs have more health problems due to genetic disorders and inbreeding. Unethical breeders choose appearance over health or temperament and overbreed dogs to the point of disfigurement. I’d encourage anyone looking to add a dog to their lives, to find one in a shelter.

All this aside, the Phú Quốc Ridgeback has been living on their island for hundreds of years, they suite their environment and they seem very contented with their lives there. Their lives in Sai Gon or the rest of the World would be very different.

The next generation
The next generation

Most of the dogs that live in Sai Gon are chained up their whole lives and it would be that much more sad for dogs that were meant to live in the sand and surf. Chained up Phú Quốc Ridgeback in Sai Gon

Well camouflaged
Well camouflaged

So now you know about one of the rarest dog breeds in the World; feel free to use this information to impress people at your next dinner party. Or never mention them to anyone, I don’t think the Phú Quốc Ridgebacks will mind.

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