The Bakharwal dog is one of the most fascinating dog breeds originating from Northern India. Bred as herding dogs in the Himalayan states of Kashmir and Jammu, the Bakharwal is said to be descended from the mighty Tibetan Mastiff (most expensive dog sold). Some even claim they’re a possible cross of wild wolves and Molosser sheepdogs.
As traditional herding practices and ways of life have declined in the Himalayas, so too has the Bakharwal. Enormous, furry, fierce, stubborn, and hard to train, they have not been a popular choice for the new dog-owning classes of India.
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Table of Contents
Bakharwal Basic Profile
Friendliness: These massive mastiff-like dogs are not the friendliest of breeds. They can get along with humans but require early socialization for this to work. In addition, they’re not recommended to live with other dogs and pets. A respectful child the dog is familiar with should be fine, but it may not be a good idea for them to be with toddlers.
Trainability: Although information on this dog breed’s intelligence is not available, they are not easy to train. Even for trainers and owners with experience, it is hard to control a Bakharwal. Don’t expect them to learn basic dog tricks like playing dead and rolling over.
Grooming: Because they come from the Himalayan region of northern India, these dogs have a lot of fur. With a heavy and thick coat, you can expect lots of shedding. A Bakharwal requires extra attention when it comes to grooming, unless you want to have black hair all around your house.
Adaptability: They need plenty of space to run around and get their exercise. Although they’re great for mountainous regions, they will do terribly in an urban setting. They have a thick coat and can’t stand areas with high temperatures. Bakharwal dogs are only great in certain regions of the world.
Activity: The Bakharwal requires plenty of exercise in addition to a large enclosed area for physical activity. If you can’t provide them with enough daily activity, it’s best not to own one for the sake of you and your dog.
- Height: 24 – 30 inches
- Weight: 60 – 85 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 8 – 11 years
- Dog Breed Group: n/a
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Bakharwal Dog Looks
There is considerable variation in the Bakharwal Dog’s appearance. Ranging from a light tan to a deep red-black in color, their double coats are thick enough to deal with the harshest of Himalayan conditions. Of course, this means quite a lot of shedding.
A Bakharwal can stand up to 30 inches tall and weigh up to 80 pounds, so they are not insubstantial dogs. Ears are quite consistent in the breed: hanging low from the sides of the head. Likewise, their eyes are usually a deep amber yellow. The tail of a Bakharwal Dog is a ‘bobtail,’ curling back onto the body.
Bakharwal Dog Temperament
They are not long-lived dogs and can live up to 11 years with good health. This could be a reflection of their hard lifestyles and it is possible that with modern medicine and a good diet, they could live for longer.
Their temperament can be very fierce; they are guard dogs after all. However, they can be very friendly with people they know, just do not ever look like you are being aggressive to a family/pack member.
Their breeding makes them more suited to warmer climates and they struggle in higher temperatures, which can limit their appropriateness as a pet. You can shave them but they do not like it. It’s like stripping them of their clothes all day.
Generally very chill and mellow indoors, Bakharwals still need daily exercise. Their size and temperament is not very well suited to apartment living because they need some space to run around in. A strong fence is recommended because they have a tendency to wander off looking for the boundaries of their territory. Once they know what is theirs, they will defend it to the death.
With Children and Other Dogs
As guard and watch dogs, you will not find more loyal or protective breeds. Prepared to take down anything up to a bear in size, they are impossible to intimidate. Their fierceness towards other dogs makes them inappropriate for households with other dogs or small animals, which they can and will attack.
However, their herding instincts are remarkable: they will keep young children safe when they can and are constantly alert to dangers. Going for a family walk with a Bakharwal can be amusing, they will actively herd your group, keeping you all bunched together.
Living with a Bakharwal Dog
The first thing people might notice when moving in with a Bakharwal, apart from its size, is the fact that they are vegetarian. They will not even eat fish. This can make feeding them a lot cheaper than other dogs, but do not be deceived, they can eat a lot.
While domesticated, many Bakharwal dogs have learned to adjust to non-vegetarian diets. However, if you want to keep them true to their original diets, there are plenty of vegetarian dog foods available. The occasional vegetable and/or fruit treat is also okay for them, as it could provide a lot of great health benefits.
A double-coat thick enough to survive cold winter nights on a Himalayan mountainside means a lot of brushing and a lot of fur everywhere. They do not shed as much as some breeds, but it is still a lot of black hair everywhere.
Long hair means more baths and care. They can consume a lot of time in their upkeep because your Bakharwal will need extra attention when they are shedding. Some owners shave them in summer months to keep them cool. Another extra benefit to this is that it’ll stop their coats from tangling with all the burrs, seeds and debris that are floating around.
The nomadic Gujjars who bred the dogs to look after their sheep as they roamed the hillsides of the Himalayas would leave their Bakharwal dogs out with the sheep, much like a French Briard. Only the toughest and most aggressively protective survived, so the breed is incredibly defensive of their family and properties.
They make extremely effective guard dogs as they will confront anything. Humans are nothing when compared to a bear on a windswept mountainside. Some locals make an argument that these dogs should be partake in the police or military force. However, they may not be obedient enough to do so.
Intelligent and stubborn, the Bakharwal can be very difficult to train. Without intense socialization from a young age, they will not live well with humans. Aggression towards smaller dogs can be an issue as they can look like prey, or just seem irritating. The strength of a Bakharwal make them very difficult to control.
Even moderately experienced dog trainers and breeders are not recommended to take on the task of training and socializing a Bakharwal. Their breeding has made them very independent and they do not take to training naturally.
However, with the right care and attention, Bakharwals make excellent companions. They are reputed to be good with children, who will certainly enjoy their playful and energetic nature. Of course, with any hunter breed, you need to introduce young children properly so they do not surprise or aggravate them. Very young children are probably not a good idea to have around a Bakharwal.
The Bakharwal dogs are apparently very healthy, despite living such a relatively short life. Health data are hard to find for Indian breeds, but these dogs seem especially hardy. Inherited diseases are not unheard of and can include canine hip dysplasia and bloat. However, these appear to be rare.
The Future of the Bakharwal Dog
Unfortunately, it looks bleak for the Bakharwal Dog. There are no dedicated breeding clubs, they are not recognized as a pure breed and therefore lack the protections and attention. In addition, the difficulty in training these dogs make them less appealing than other dogs for modern living.
Usually, a Bakharwal will only produce 1 to 3 puppies in a year, which is one of the reasons they have declined so much in numbers over the last century. This is a shame, as they can be very loving and fun pets. Some breeders are trying to revive the breed but are not having much success.
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