African Dog, Bantu Dog, Hottentot Hunting Dog, Khoikhoi Dog, Umbwa Wa Ki-Shenzi, Zulu Dog
The Africanis (an abbreviation of African Canis) is a primitive dog from South Africa. Their Swahili name is umbwa wa ki-shenzi, which translates to 'common or traditional dog'. Each region has its own unique type, making it impossible to conform them to a specific standard. Although not a breed in the traditional sense, they have bred true to type for centuries. This makes them one of the few remaining dogs that are genetically closest to the earliest domestication of the dog. They are closest in relation to other ancient breeds such as the Dingo, Carolina Dog, and New Guinea Singing Dog.
History of the Africanis
The Africanis has existed across the African continent for centuries, descending from the pariah dogs of ancient times. Unlike most breeds they have developed through natural selection, with little or no interference from humans. They may be the direct descendants of the dogs found in ancient Egyptian tombs and hieroglyphs known as the Tesem. Which makes it probable they share ancestry with the Basenji and Saluki. These dogs spread south with human tribes, arriving in the southern part of Africa by 600 AD.
The influx of European breeds during colonization threatened the Africanis, due to crossbreeding between them and foreign dogs. Although sometimes unintentional, they were often planned. The most common breedings involved Greyhound blood to improve the speed of the Africanis when hunting. Presently these crosses and their descendants are known as ibhanzi and are not considered to be true Africanis.
Today the Africanis Society of Southern Africa is attempting to conserve the Africanis 'as is' rather than having them conform as typical purebreds. The dogs that remain truest to their ancient form exist in the rural, tribal areas. It is where people maintain their traditional lives and other breeds do not contaminate the bloodline.
In contrast to the Africanis Society's attempts the Africanis is now recognized by the Kennel Union of Southern Africa as an emerging breed. It remains to be seen if they will gain further recognition elsewhere and if the involvement of kennel clubs results in a more standardized existence for the Africanis.