A recent post on Forteanzoology blog showed some paintings of some dogs baying a tiger. The paintings are from the Edwardian period (1901-1910, the reign of Edward VII). The artist is Helen Fielding, and the setting is a forest near Blackpool in the north of England.
The two dogs baying the tiger look to be of the Nordic type. To me, these look as out of place as the tiger. Common pets from the reign of Queen Victoria onwards were the Pomeranian and the Wolf Spitz or Keeshond. These are Nordic breeds, but they have rather profuse hair. They both descend from the multipurpose spitz dogs of Central Europe, dogs I’m sure my ancestors knew well. These dogs often had herding instinct and were close relatives of the reindeer- herding spitzes of Russia, Finland, and Scandinavia.
These dogs have smoother coats than these “farm spitzes.” In fact, they make me think of dogs that were actually used to hunt tigers. Now, don’t assume that I’m talking about the tropical and subtropical races of tiger. Think Russia.
Remember, there is a Russian subspecies of tiger. Its range now consists of frigid country in the Russian Far East near in the Amur-Ussuri region. We often call this animal the Siberian tiger. It’s not really accurate, because the Russians themselves don’t call this region “Siberia.” That’s why I prefer to call it the Amur tiger.
However, there is some research that suggests that the extinct Caspian tiger is actually the same as the Amur tiger. However, neither species lived in what modern Russians call Siberia. So I’m going to call it the Amur tiger, because that’s the only place you can find them.
The cats once ranged down into Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula. Today, they live in the wilderness in this remote part of the Russian Far East and adjacent China.
In the old days, the tigers were hunted. Once they were considered a mortal threat to human life and enterprise, and the early Russian settlers killed scores of them. Then the Russians found they could sell their pelts. Later, they were deemed vermin by the Soviet government and killed by foresters. The Soviet government also exported their pelts, and the Chinese also bought their penises for what the Chinese consider a traditional viagra.
Later, the Soviet government decided to take endangerd species seriously, and they banned hunting them. When the Soviet Union collapsed and the economic went south, the people living in that part of the world began poaching them. The tigers are critically endangered.The Chinese use all sorts of tiger parts for their medicine, and because China is nearly devoid of tigers, the black market pays well for tiger parts.
Now, what does this have to do with dogs?
Well, I grew up during glastnost and perestroika, and we got tons of Soviet and Eastern bloc documentaries that were shown on television, usually mixed into English-language documentaries or re-dubbed with English narration. I remember one documentary about the “Siberian tiger.” There was footage of some foresters hunting a tiger with dogs.
Here it is (at the beginning):
(The subtropical part of this area is on the Sea of Japan, before you ask. Again, I don’t call this area Siberia.)
The dogs hunting the tiger are very similar to the dogs baying the tiger in the painting.
These dogs are Laikas, specifically the one we call the East Siberian Laika, even though they can also be found in the Russian Far East. This breed is a relative of the more common Siberian husky, which is a sled dog. The two breeds come from a common stock. One was bred to hunt game. The other was bred to be a sled dog. The former is more like an Akita, while the other is more like a very independent golden retriever.
These dogs descend from a landrace dog that varies from region to region. The sled-hauling dogs are different from the hunting dogs. Sled dogs can’t be aggressive with each other. The last thing you want is a dog fight in a sled dog team. The Siberian husky is derived from a particular strain of sled-hauling East Siberian Laika that was found along Anadyr River, which empties into the Bering Sea. During the Alaskan Gold Rush, the dogs were imported from across the Bering Sea, where they proved to be superior sled dogs. In fact, the Anadyr dogs were so fast compared to the North American Arctic sled d0g landrace, that the breed nearly replaced the dogs we call the Qimmiq and the Malamute.
The ones that hunt tigers have to very bold and a little aggressive. The tigers are well-known in this region as dog-killers. They consider dogs to be one of the best prey species they can find. So much do they like dog meat that they approach armed hunters just to prey upon the dogs walking with them. If you are hunting a 600 pound predator considers you to be delicacy, you have to be a little tougher than the average dog.
Now, I don’t know why the artist chose dogs of the laika-type to be the tiger hunters. Perhaps, she had heard of Russian or other northeast Asian people using dogs of this type to bay tigers. Maybe someone had imported a Siberian tiger dog to England, and she was able to purchase it. I don’t know.
However, I find it very interesting that she chose that particular type of dog to bay the tiger. It has a some basis in reality.