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Canaan Dog Breed

canaan

Canaan Dog Breed

In the Bible, the book of Exodus calls Canaan — ancient Palestine and Phoenicia from about 3,000 BCE — a good and spacious land, flowing with milk and honey. Flocks of sheep and goats prospered there, and where there are flocks, there are dogs. The dogs of these ancient Middle Eastern communities were known as Kelef Kanani, Hebrew words meaning Canaan Dog. It’s likely that the Kelef Kanani differed little from his modern-day descendant, the Canaan Dog. Tomb drawings from Beni Hassan in Egypt, which date to 2200-2000 BCE, show dogs with smooth coats, prick ears, and bushy tails curling over their backs. No doubt they had the same alert, watchful, inquisitive expression that marks today’s Canaan Dog, a breed that may well be a living portrait of early domesticated dogs.

The Middle Eastern herding dogs of the past kept their charges from straying, protected them from predators or thieves, and sounded the alarm when danger was near. But over the centuries, with the invasion of Roman conquerors and the dispersal of the land’s inhabitants to the far corners of the earth, the Canaan Dog became unemployed. He retreated to the hilly desert of southern Israel, living a feral lifestyle that depended on his wits and fitness. Sometimes he continued in his nomadic life, earning a living with the Bedouin desert dwellers, or served as guards for the Druse, religious communities of hill people who made their home on Mount Carmel and other areas of what are now Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel. Sculpted by this harsh lifestyle, the dog became a wily athlete, perfectly suited to his environment.

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Canaan Dog Breed

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