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Alternative names
Africa dog
Bantu dog
Hottentot dog
Kafir dog
Zulu dog
Country of origin
South Africa
Classification and breed standards
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct

The Africanis is a South Africa dog breed. It is believed to be of ancient origin, directly descended from sight and pariah dogs of ancient Africa, introduced into the Nile Valley from the Levant. The Swahili name for the breed is umbwa wa ki-shenzi or "traditional dog". Africanis is also an umbrella name for all the aboriginal dogs in southern Africa.


The Africanis is a short-coated, medium-sized dog, well-muscled and slightly longer than tall. It can be of any colour. The Africanis has over the years been shaped by Africa for Africa. Its beauty is embodied in the simplicity and functionality of its body. It is slenderly built, agile, supple, and capable of great speed.


The Africanis is well disposed without being obtrusive: a friendly dog showing watchful territorial behaviour. The breed is independent and territorial, but highly trainable.

It is my experience that the Africanis is a marvellous pet and house dog. Guided by its instinct of subservience it will steal your heart before you realise it.
- Johan Gallant, President of the Africanis Society of Southern Africa (September 9th, 2005).


The Africanis needs neither pampering nor special food. It is consistently healthy and has, over the years, developed a natural resistance against internal and external parasites.


There is ample evidence that no canine domestication took place in Africa and that the traditional African dog is a descendant of dogs that had been domesticated in the East and came to Africa. Their earliest presence has been established in Egypt and dated at 4700 BC. Archaeological records show that, from then on, the dog spread rapidly along the Nile into Sudan and even beyond. At the same time, migrations, trade, and transhumance took it deep into the Sahara. By 2000 BC, this moving frontier stopped for a long period. Meanwhile, throughout the Egyptian dynasties, the breeding of swift and slender sight hounds together with a variety of common dogs became very popular.

For thousands of years, the aboriginal Stone Age San (Bushman) populations in Southern Africa hunted without the help of dogs. Although the Khoikhoi brought domestic sheep along a western migratory route to the Cape of Good Hope just before the Christian era, there is no conclusive evidence that dogs were part of their party.

The domestic dog first arrived in Southern Africa with the migration of the Early Iron Age Bantu speaking people. Dogs of Nilotic origin consecutively joined the Early and also Later Iron Age migrations. It is generally accepted that these migrations travelled along the Central Rift and the Lacustrine region. They followed tsetse-free corridors through Zambia and Zimbabwe to reach Botswana and finally South Africa. The earliest evidence for the presence of a domestic dog in South Africa has been established by Dr. Ina Plug, deputy director of the Transvaal Museum. The remains were found near the Botswana border and dated at 570 AD. By 650 AD the presence of the house dog is established in the Lower Thukela valley. By 800 AD it is part of a Khoisan settlement in Cape St. Francis, indicating that contact and trade between Bantu and Khoisan had been established.

For hundreds of years this exclusive primitive canine gene pool adapted to various conditions of the Southern African landscape and, through natural selection, evolved into ecotypes all belonging to the same landrace. It is sometimes argued that dogs brought by the Arab trade, Eastern seafarers, and Portuguese explorers might, over the years, have "contaminated" the traditional African dog. In other opinions, these chances are scant. Exotic canine influences became more likely after the colonisation of Transkei and Zululand during the 19th century.

The true Africanis is still found today in tribal areas where people maintain their traditional lifestyle. The fast-changing South Africa and the impact that this causes on rural societies, together with a certain disdain for the traditional dog and the status that the ownership of an exotic breed provides, poses an increasing threat to the continuation of the aboriginal Africanis. The Africanis Society of Southern Africa was founded to conserve this ancient gene pool. Conserving the Africanis as a land race stands for conserving biodiversity.

Today, the Africanis is recognized by the Kennel Union of Southern Africa (KUSA) as an emerging breed.


External links

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