Bred by the royal families of Chippiparai, in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, the Chippiparai dogs (Kanni) are an increasingly rare breed of sighthounds in India. In fact, they are rarely seen outside of breeder circles. Often mistaken for a greyhound because of their agile, long bodies, the Chippiparai were bred for much of the same purpose: hunting.
Sighthounds hunt mostly by sight, not smell. They can outstrip a hare with ease and have the strength and maneuverability to track and help take down deer, hares, pheasants, and gazelle.
In modern times, they are rarely used for hunting but have found a happy role as guard dogs and family pets. Most owners will describe these dogs as loyal to a fault, requiring very little attention, and very friendly when they are accustomed to you. In other words, they make excellent companions to a family.
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Chippiparai Basic Profile
Friendliness: In terms of friendliness, the Chippiparai is slightly above average. They’re highly devoted and loyal dogs, but can be aloof among strangers. However, they tend to be not so friendly around other animals, especially if they’re small. Their hunting instincts may kick in and become troublesome.
Trainability: The Chippiparai dogs are extremely smart, making them relatively easy to train. The hard part is training them to resist their urge to chase down small prey. Sometimes, it’s not possible – it’s in their blood. Off-leash training is generally not recommended. But for everything else, they should have no problem.
Grooming: These dogs require very little grooming. They only require the basic dog grooming and don’t require professional assistance by any means. This particular breed also has a tendency to clean up themselves and they don’t usually shed much due to their short coat.
Adaptability: A Chippiparai will not be able to stand extreme cold. Their bodies have been bred to withstand the scorching heat of southern India. Their lack of fat and short coat means they aren’t able to retain heat very well. This dog breed also does not do well being alone or stuck in a small enclosed space.
Activity: As proficient hunting dogs, the Chippiparais need a ton of daily exercise to expend energy. They need to run around to stimulate them physically and mentally. Without plenty of exercise, they can potentially exhibit some destructive behavior around the house.
- Height: 20 – 25 inches
- Weight: 33 – 44 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 12 – 15 years
- Dog Breed Group: n/a
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History of the Chippiparai
Scholars and researchers are unsure of how old the breed is. Some go as far as saying they could be thousands of years old. Most believe they’re a relative of the Saluki, a Central Asian sighthound believed to be the ancestor of all Indian sighthounds.
These dogs were highly valuable, kept only by the high castes and elites. They were bred to hunt nearly everything imaginable in Tamil Nadu. They needed to be chained up all the time because of their speed and hunting instinct. Breeders think this is the reason the line stayed pure for hundreds of years.
Their hardiness comes from the extreme heat of Tamil Nadu and the many parasites and infectious diseases that plague the land. Famine made feeding dogs difficult, so they have evolved to be very low maintenance and capable of feeding themselves and living on next to nothing.
Dog breeding as an interest did not take off in India until the mid 20th century, by which time the Chippiparai had declined severely in numbers. Even today, numbers have continued to fall and the Chippiparai breed is slowly disappearing.
The Future of the Chippiparai Breed
There are serious concerns about the future of the Chippiparai dogs. Their population is concentrated in Tamil Nadu and they receive little attention from international breeders. As their numbers decline, many breeders think this ancient purebred is likely to die out.
As a hardy breed with no inherited diseases and good health, a good temperament, good looks, and well suited to family life, this seems to be a huge shame. They should be more popular than they are, judging from the popularity of similar breeds. There are attempts to breed more Chippiparais but they have generally been met with failure.
Interest in dog breeding is increasing in India and some have high hopes for rare breeds like the Chippiparai, but it is all in the balance.
What does a Chippiparai Look Like?
Chippiparai vs Greyhound
Most of our readers will be familiar with the greyhound. The Chippiparai are similar, although unrelated. They are a good example of concurrent selective breeding. Europeans and Indians needed dogs to do the same jobs, namely hunting high-speed prey, and selected the same characteristics.
The Chippiparai dogs have long legs, an arched back, a long, curved tail for balance, and an elongated face. Their expressive, fox-like ears are endearing, and they often have an adorable, gentle yet keen and intense look. Unlike a greyhound, they have bigger thoraxes and are generally more muscular.
The muzzle of a Chippiparai is longer than the skull and looks powerful. Their ears can vary quite a bit but rarely grow to be enormous or unusually small. Generally, their ears are rose shaped.
Typically, they have a reddish-brown/dark cream coat that can be tinged with black and silver-grey. Very few have markings and their color is generally consistent. Hailing from Tamil Nadu in the south of India, they have short coats to cope with the high temperatures. With a little attention, their coats can be brushed to a shiny gloss.
A Chippiparai can stand 60cm tall or more, putting them in the upper-middle range of dog sizes. However, most people consider them to be medium-sized dogs. Because they are whippet-thin and tall, they do not weigh as much as other dogs of the same size.
The Slender Frame
A normal person would have difficulties differentiating a Chippiparai from some of the other Indian sighthounds. There are few breed standards and no registration, so they vary greatly in size and appearance. At first glance, some people may think they are underfed or being neglected.
This common misconception stems from the fact that you can see their ribs. However, this is completely fine and normal. Healthy Chippiparai dogs are very lean, like a greyhound.
The eyes of a Chippiparai are a special feature of this breed. As a silent sighthound, they need to be able to see a very wide range. If you look at their heads, you will see that their eyes are very much on the front of their faces but set back, giving them an astounding 280 degree vision. By comparison, a human can see about 150 degrees. Chippiparais miss nothing!
Difference Between Chippiparai & Kanni
You may have heard different people refer to these dogs as either the Chippiparai, Kanni or both. The fact is, these dogs are essentially the same. A Kanni dog specifically refers to these dogs in black/tan and black/sable coats. On the other hand, the Chippiparai dogs only have a single color coat.
Everything from temperament to personality to body frame remain the same. They just physically appear different in color.
The Chippiparai Temperament
Chippiparais are highly intelligent and full of energy. Their use as a hunting dog is very recent in their history. And surely, the pure breeds have retained their hunting character. They need a lot of exercise. If you take one for a walk with the kids, expect to be herded by these dogs. They will range around your group, looking for targets and keeping you all safe, in their minds.
Be careful not to let them off the leash, as they can be off in no time. Once they see something intriguing, they can be very hard to control. With early socialization and training, you can prevent a lot of their disobedient, “I see, I hunt” behaviors. But always keep in mind that they are hunting dogs; the instinct goes very deep.
Unlike many European hunting dogs, Chippiparais are silent most of the time. However, they are very strong watch dogs and will alert you if they see or hear anything. Their sense of smell and hearing are extremely developed, even if they hunt by sight.
The Chippiparai has something of a reputation as a “one-man dog”, perhaps a relic of their hunting days, when they would pair up with their master to catch animals.
This reputation is probably undeserved. In fact, they are great with groups of people and families given they’ve gone through early socialization training. Their loyalty is very strong. When raised by one person, they will be very protective of that individual. Raised by a family or group, they will be equally loyal to all the members.
With Children and Other Dogs
Loyal and friendly, they make good companions to a family, couple, or single owner. They can potentially have some problems with smaller dogs, which look like prey to them. Chippiparai dogs have been known to attack and injure smaller dogs, so they are not generally recommended for households with smaller dog breeds.
Their sharp hunting instinct can be a problem in areas with lots of dog walkers because they will chase and potentially injure the smaller ones. When kept on a leash, they are fine.
Chippiparais are so rare, it is hard to find many accounts from owners. There is not much information available for their suitability with children. However, other sighthounds and hunting dogs are good with children as long as they do not roughhouse or do things like pull their tail.
If you are looking for a Chippiparai and have young children, make sure that you introduce them properly and explain what will happen if they grab a big painful lump of their fur.
Naturally wary of strangers, Chippiparais can take some time before they grow to trust you. They can be nervous around people they do not know but they are almost never aggressive. Chippiparais prefer the company of their pack (you and your family) but can be very warm and friendly when they have grown to trust someone new.
Keeping a Chippiparai
Fiercely intelligent and extremely energetic, they need daily walks and plenty of space. Keeping a Chippiparai in a flat or a house without a garden would be unfair to them as they need quite a lot of room to stretch and run around.
They were bred for the intense heat of Southern India and do not cope very well with extremely low temperatures. A very low body fat ratio and a thin coat make them unsuited to Northern climes, although breeders have kept them successfully in colder areas.
They are quite large dogs and are extremely protective. If an intruder breaks in, your Chippiparai will challenge them. They are not as bulky as some guard dogs and might not put off the most determined burglar. However, they will certainly have a good chomp at them.
If you have a garden or yard where you keep small animals, do not expect your Chippiparai to make friends with them. They have been bred as hunters for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, and will chase and kill any small non-canine.
Unless you want the carcass of your kids’ pet rabbit presented to them as a “present”, you will have to keep the Chippiparai under strict control around anything smaller. They can even go for small dogs and toy breeds.
Early socialization can cure them of most of this but their hunting instincts are impossible to eliminate. They will not respond to you when they are coursing or chasing prey. Training a Chippiparai is relatively straightforward because of their high intelligence. Breeders say they are easier to train than most sighthounds, who are not the easiest breeds to control.
Importance of Exercise
The exercise a Chippiparai needs is substantial. They were bred to expend a lot of energy over a few hours of hunting and their exercise regime needs to reflect this. Daily walks, lots of play, and enough space that they can run around is essential.
Inexperienced dog owners might find a Chippiparai too much to deal with. But if there are several people in the household, they can easily give them enough attention to deal with.
At least 45 minutes of vigorous exercise a day at a minimum, and bear in mind that a Chippiparai cannot necessarily be let off the leash as they will go for any small animals around. If you plan to keep your Chippiparai off-leash, make sure they’re in a secured environment and unable to escape.
Living with a Chippiparai
Chippiparais are very companionable creatures. They are loyal and fun to be around, if a little shy to begin with. These dogs are proud and stubborn, which is either endearing or frustrating. They keep themselves clean and are easily house trained for someone who knows their way around dogs.
Their stubbornness can be tough to deal with if you haven’t got much experience with training dogs. But with a little work on your part, it should not be too difficult.
Walking and jogging with your Chippiparai is essential but they really need somewhere they can run around in, like a big yard. Without this space they can become neurotic, nervous, and hyperactive. Needless to say, they do not take being locked up indoors for long periods of time very well.
This means if you’re working long hours with no one home, they better be let loose around an enclosed yard. Failure to do so can potentially lead to destructive behavior.
Any enclosure you use has to be doubly secure. They are intelligent dogs and will find their way out of any poorly-secured environment. If they go, they can be very hard to get back as they run and run and easily find things to chase. Before you know it, they could have chased a cat all the way to the other side of town.
One of the big appeals of a Chippiparai is that they do not bark when they are well kept. They will alert you to immediate danger but they will not bark all night long like other guard dogs. The quietness of a Chippiparai makes them ideal suburban dogs.
This breed is very low maintenance. No need for intensive or professional grooming, just keep them brushed. Nail clipping and baths are needed occasionally but generally, they take very good care of themselves. They can shed but it is not bad.
The most important part may be brushing their teeth every so often. Depending on what you feed them, they could require brushing a couple times a week.
Is the Chippiparai Breed Healthy?
Apparently so. Unfortunately, due to the rarity of the breed and their relatively unknown status outside of India, not much is known about the breed’s long term health. People who have experience of them say they are very healthy indeed, but this has not been properly studied.
Generally, these dogs live up to 14 years in good health. Inherited diseases are rare and they seem to not suffer from the genetic problems of other purebreds. They are a hardy working breed. In addition, they can have problems with anesthesia and allergies. Keeping them in cold environments can also lead to health problems, as they aren’t suited for such conditions.
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