The Rajapalayam dog is an Indian sighthound, bred by the Rajas for hunting in Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu. A famous and revered breed, they are nonetheless going extinct, if not already past the threshold of species survival. If this is true, it is a sad end to a noble and exceptionally loving breed with a strong history.
As a sighthound, the Rajapalayam is a powerful hunter with a remarkable turn of speed. What sets them apart is their thicker stature than most other Indian sighthounds.
Typically, the purebreds are milk-white with a pink nose and a deep, golden pair of eyes. Puppies of other colors were often eliminated, leading to a relatively narrow genetic heritage (compared to the huge diversity of many Indian breeds).
Renowned for their grace and noble figure, they trot with the gait of a well-bred horse and always seem to be well composed and alert. Fitting, for royal dogs. Read on to learn about these incredible dog’s history, temperaments and care.
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Rajapalayam Basic Profile
Friendliness: The Rajapalayam is generally a friendly dog if you are familiar with it. They love their master and pack (family) and would do nearly anything to protect them. On the other hand, they have deep hunting instincts embedded in their blood. This means that they don’t do well with other dogs, especially those smaller. And because they’re such great watchdogs, they aren’t the friendliest with strangers. Sometimes, they can be downright aggressive with them.
Trainability: Because of their headstrong personality, they aren’t the easiest of dog breeds to train. However, don’t underestimate their intelligence. If they respect you (the owner), then they will be open to training. With that said, the Rajapalayam is not recommended for novice trainers/owners.
Grooming: The Rajapalayam doesn’t require much grooming as they rarely shed and have a short fur coat. Still, the recommended basic grooming is necessary for these dogs. However, they don’t require professional assistance when it comes down to grooming. In addition, these dogs tend to keep themselves fairly clean.
Adaptability: Their hunting nature means they’re full of energy waiting to be expended. A Rajapalayam won’t adapt well to apartment life, as they thrive in large yards with plenty of space for running. Their short coat also means that they were bred to withstand the gruesome heat of India. So, don’t expect them to be very happy in cold climates.
Activity: TheRajapalayam needs plenty of exercise. It’s recommended that you take them out on their daily walks, in addition to have a spacious environment for them to run around. Like with most dogs, they may exhibit destructive behavior if they don’t get their essential physical activity on a daily basis.
- Height: 25 – 30 inches
- Weight: 65 – 77 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 8 – 10 years
- Dog Breed Group: n/a
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The Rajapalayam’s Appearance
The Rajas wanted white dogs and white dogs they got. As previously mentioned, colored dogs would be culled, so there is a very strong white line in this breed.
Some brown and black Rajapalayams are around, but they are not nearly as popular. Their pink noses are susceptible to burning in the scorching Indian sun, however, they seem to cope well.
One of the remarkable features of a Rajapalayam is the golden eyes they possess. A deeper amber-gold is hard to find, and they have a look of real intelligence when they catch your eye.
Typically, they have a slightly curled tail that is almost the length of their body. It can curl over into an impressive arc.
These dogs stand tall at about 30 inches for a fully grown, large male. For females, they’re just slightly less. But even so, they have considerable strength compared to size.
A Rajapalayam can weigh 25 kilograms. Their thicker set and bulkier thorax sets them apart from other sighthounds, who are generally smaller and thinner. However, they are without question an Indian sighthound.
Their ears stick out from the sides and have a thin layer of fur, meaning they often appear pink. The fur of a Rajapalayam is very thin and the skin can be seen below. This physical characteristic helps them cope with the heat of Tamil Nadu and is often seen with most Indian breeds.
A Rajapalayam muzzle is quite short and their faces are thinner than a Caravan Hound, a dog found in similar areas and bred for similar tasks.
Even the way a Rajapalayam stands is regal. They are up on their front legs with their back legs widely spaced. If you see one, it will calmly regard you unless you look like you are going to threaten its pack or its territory.
The Times of India sum the dog up beautifully: “I have never come across a breed as loving as the Rajapalayam”, goes one headline. The subject of the article is a Rajapalayam by the name of Arjun.
He apparently cried when his owners left and would only sleep on his owner’s bed. Perhaps this is a particularly soft Rajapalayam but the general consensus from people lucky enough to get a puppy is that they are exceptionally loving and affectionate.
Of course, the Rajapalayam is still a hunting dog and its instincts have not been dulled due to domestication. If they spot a potential prey with their exceptionally sharp eyes, they will go after it. What’s worse is that there is not much you can do about it.
Sighthounds are bred to hunt on instinct and bring back the body of whatever they catch to their master. They are not accustomed to being given a target and commands. So, when they see something, they are not going to listen to you desperately calling for it to come back.
Other Dogs and Pets
This keen hunting instinct can mean that they may be dangerous for toy breeds and small dogs, who look like prey to them. Although usually reluctant to pick a fight with another dog, if they do not see the other animal as a dog, they might try to hunt them down.
As an animal that can take down a wild boar single-handedly, they are not dogs you mess with. Cats are a definite no, they will not get on well with these dogs. In other words, the Rajapalayam will probably try to eat the cat.
Socialization with other pets as a puppy may help. However, there is no guarantee that one day the Rajapalayam won’t snap. It’s better to avoid in breed altogether if you have small pets.
The Ultimate Guard Dog
Rajapalayams are usually wary of strangers and do not like to be handled by people they do not know. As with most sighthounds, they tend to pair-bond with one human. If brought up with a family or around a large group, they will be very friendly to those who they are familiar with.
The humans are its pack, after all. With a bit of gentle encouragement, a Rajapalayam can make a very good friend quite quickly.
Although extraordinarily loving towards their pack, they are very aggressive towards strangers. A lot of it is all ‘show’ but they will attack intruders without hesitation and with little warning. This has made them excellent guard dogs and could be their salvation as a surviving breed.
Training a Rajapalayam is best left to someone who really knows what they are doing. They are too energetic, wilful and aggressive to be left to an amateur.
Living with a Rajapalayam
Rajapalayams are intensely loving creatures and loyal to a fault. They are good with children, even if they are not the most playful of breeds (more lively than a Labrador though).
Forgiving of little ones, they are less so with adults. Your friends and family will need to be gently introduced to your Rajapalayam before s/he will be comfortable enough to play with them. But once they are familiar, they will make great friends.
Socialization & Training
Socialization is necessary early on, and they can be difficult to train unless you know how. A Rajapalayam puppy is not recommended to a first time dog owner as they are quite headstrong, aggressive, and energetic. With the right treatment, however, they can accept training well and pick up some useful commands.
With very thin fur and a clean nature, they need very little caring for in regards to grooming. They might enjoy a brush but they will rarely need one. The same is true for a bath, as they generally keep themselves very clean.
Normal toothbrushing and nail clipping rules apply. There should be no reason for you to have to bring your Rajapalayam to a professional groomer. Costs look quite low as they generally do not require much medical attention as well. However, they still need their proper puppy and dog shots.
Rajapalayam dogs need a lot of space, so a big garden or yard will be necessary. They are big energetic dogs, meaning they are less suited to living in an apartment. According to The Hindu, a Rajapalayam breeder advises, “If you want your dog to be happy, give him space.”
Daily exercise is a must: they will go mad without an outlet for their energy. Rajapalayams were bred to wander around their village. So, if you can recreate that as well as possible, your dog will be happy. Owners recommend a walled compound as they can easily hop over even a human height fence.
Getting them back once they have run off is very difficult. They will go for hours at a much faster pace than you could ever compete with. All it takes is a wild animal to pass and capture their attention.
For diet, look for a well balanced mix recommended by your vet. Rajapalayam dogs are known to be omnivorous, they will eat anything put in front of them. Because of their enormous energy, they are unlikely to get fat. However, this doesn’t mean you feed your dog every chance you get. Follow these guides on what your dog can and cannot eat.
If you are lucky enough to get a Rajapalayam, you need to put a “beware of the dog” sign on the front gate. They will strike intruders and they are utterly fearless when provoked. A fair warning to guests (and would-be intruders) can help keep them safe.
As guard dogs, they will alert you if someone is trying to get in or threaten you. Otherwise, they do not bark very much.
Your Rajapalayam will not enjoy the cold and prefers to bask in the heat. Don’t look into these dogs if you’re living in, for example, Norway. They will suffer terribly. In addition, they do not drool, thankfully.
According to breeders, the Rajapalayam is a very healthy breed. They have very few, if any, of the inherited genetic problems that many Western breeds have. A healthy Rajapalayam can live for up to 15 years, probably more with modern veterinary medicine and diets.
Tough and hardy, they are used to rough conditions and can survive on very little. Joint pain and skin conditions are rare or non-existent. However, white dogs have a problem with deafness as some of the same stem cells responsible for hearing cells make pigment cells instead.
Without them, dogs can run the risk of becoming deaf. Unfortunately, there has not been any research done on this breed specifically. It is not known whether Rajapalayam dogs suffer from this any more than any other white dog.
History of the Rajapalayam
Records do not detail the exact origins of the breed but it is known that they were bred by the Nayakar rulers of Tamil Nadu. By the 18th century, they were being used as military dogs. They battled alongside the soldiers against the British cavalry during the Carnatic and Polygar wars. Their size, speed, and fearlessness made them perfectly suited in taking down the dangerous cavalry.
One legend has it that 4 Rajapalayam dogs killed a tiger to defend their master. Whether this is true or not, it is believable. They are ferocious when given a reason. Some believe that the famous Dalmatian breed might have descended in part from the Rajapalayam, but this is very unlikely. There is no conclusive evidence to prove such a thing.
Initially bred as hunters of various sizes of game, they were then used for guarding houses and farms. About 20 years ago, the Indian government started replacing their Dobermans with Rajapalayams, which were more suited to the varying conditions and heat of the borders. They have been a very successful addition to the Indian army, working very well as guard dogs with the ability to take down armed intruders.
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The Future of the Rajapalayam
For a long time, many believed that the Rajapalayam would go extinct. There was little homegrown interest in pure breeds and numbers were dwindling. Isolated pockets of the dogs continued to exist but keeping the breed pure as well as genetically diverse was becoming more difficult.
However, redemption has come from an unlikely source: using Rajapalayams as guard dogs again. The newly rich members of the middle and upper middle classes in India were trying to find ways of protecting their properties, which were increasingly being targeted by thieves.
According to The Hindu (an Indian newspaper), crackdowns on stray dogs, increasingly intermittent power supplies (read: lots of power cuts) and the advice of the police to keep dogs at home for personal safety had made a lot of people look for suitable dogs.
The Rajapalayam was an obvious choice and appealed to the wealthy because of its royal connotations, elegant looks, intelligence, and guarding ability. In the span of a year, interest in this breed skyrocketed and the puppies became a commodity.
Breeders of Rajapalayam dogs are enjoying brisk business as awareness increases and more people realize that the Rajapalayam is an ideal dog for guarding their homes.
Loyal, affectionate, and intelligent, the Rajapalayam is a great pet to have around. They are playful and fun, get along well with children, and are suited to the gardens that are increasingly popular in Indian suburbs. On a personal level, they are excellent companions.
Combine this with the fact that they are ferocious with strangers, have keen guarding instincts, and are fearless when protecting their own, and you have an ideal dog for the situation.
Note: Power cuts mean electronic alarms and security systems cannot be relied upon, so why not use a dog’s brilliant hearing and sense of smell? When technology fails you, a dog is the next best thing.
A few years ago, the Indian Postal Department put the Rajapalayam on a stamp in an effort to raise awareness. There are dedicated breeding centers that have some success in breeding them. Local governments have got in on the act, putting on dog shows and encouraging breeders to showcase their dogs.
Breeders are now more hopeful for the Rajapalayam. As interest grows, there will be more money for breeders and more study of the species. This will allow for better conservation and breeding techniques. Awareness of breeding techniques is already spreading. Hopefully, one day this remarkable breed will be a common sight. They are a breed that deserves another lease of life.
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