“AfriCanis” is an umbrella term for all subequatorial African aboriginal dogs. This name originated with the AfriCanis Society in 1996. It covers all classifications used for the multiple different subequatorial African languages.

The term “AfriCanis” is made up of the words “Africa” and “Canis.” It describes the indigenous African dog, which has been an integral part of the life of Bantu- and Khoisan-speaking people in Southern Africa for centuries.

The Origin of the African Dog

The AfriCanis heritage goes back 7000 years to the dogs that came with the Neolithic herders from the Middle East (Levant) into Africa. Before the Egyptian dynasties, domestic dogs spread quickly along the Nile River. At the same time, seasonal migrations and journeying along trade routes took them deep into the Sahara and the Sahel.

In the early Iron Age (from about 200 AD), Bantu-speaking people took their cattle and domestic dogs with them when they left the grasslands of Cameroon in a massive migration that eventually led to their settlement in Southern Africa.

The earliest record of a domestic dog in South Africa is dated 570 AD, found on the farm Diamant in the Ellisras district, near the Botswana border. Additionally, dogs were recorded in the following places:

  • By 650 AD, they were found in the lower Tugela valley
  • And by 800 AD, they were found in a Khoisan settlement at Cape St Francis.

The AfriCanis has never been subjected to homogeneous streamlining like the pure-bred dog. It is a product of natural selection and is heterogeneous in essence, as it has never been genetically manipulated to obtain cosmetic uniformity. Therefore, the differentiation that exists is primarily the result of environmental adaptation.

Over the years, these dogs have been, and are still, shaped by Africa for Africa. They are the result of relentless and enduring natural selection. Down through the generations, only the strongest and best adapted survive and reproduce. Natural selection was, and is, the best recipe for creating individuals that are adapted to their environment, tolerant of parasites, resistant to common diseases, and less affected by hereditary diseases.

Over centuries and under such conditions, these dogs acquired and developed their natural ability and proved their worth to the people they lived with. Consequently, the AfriCanis must be understood and maintained as a natural geographic race or landrace.

In essence, the AfriCanis is both utilitarian and a companion. If correctly socialized (or imprinted) with livestock, it will coexist with all domestic animals traditionally found in and around African homesteads, living harmoniously with animals such as chickens, goats, and pigs, and protecting the homestead.

Even though these dogs are safe with livestock due to genetics and environmental imprinting, they have a high prey drive, ensuring they are an asset in traditional subsistence hunting.

AfriCanis are real dogs that display uncorrupted behavior patterns. Over the years, they have learned to serve humankind in many applications. They are attached to their people, eager to work, adaptable, intelligent, and hardy. As a result, they need physical and mental stimulation.

In conclusion, the AfriCanis have adapted to the conditions of Africa since their ancestors migrated with the Neolithic people to the African continent. In these dogs’ rural environments, they have survived and still survive today with minimal veterinary care or sophisticated feeding schemes.

Today, the true AfriCanis is only found in isolated, traditional, tribal lands, where the modern, exotic dog breed does not occur. This is juxtaposed with the township dog, a mixture of dogs from unidentified origins.

General Appearance and Utility

The AfriCanis is a medium-sized dog with a moderately slender, well-proportioned muscular build. It is dexterous, lithe, and moves effortlessly. Its head is cone-shaped with expressive oval eyes that can be any color. The dog has a short double coat and is found in many colors, with or without markings, comparable to the Nguni cattle.

In their ancestral land, these dogs help herders bring the cattle to and from their grazing lands. They also fiercely guard the animals in the boma at night. The dogs live alongside the farm animals, and although they are excellent vermin hunters, they do not hunt large prey alone—they assist their owners with subsistence hunting.

In short, these dogs are incredibly versatile and capable of various tasks. AfriCanis are used as livestock guard dogs, trackers, trail dogs, and search and rescue dogs.

In their rural ancestral land, each dog has an owner, and most have names. The dogs are not restrained and may meander to other homesteads or go to the river for a drink. Most of the time, these dogs are found lying around the homestead, often keeping the older women and children company.

The future of the AfriCanis dog

The AfriCanis is a primitive hound guided by its natural survival instincts, resulting in non-confrontational and docile behavior in relation to people. It is instinctively bound to its human partners and territory and will follow its owner for hours without being on a lead. These characteristics ensured that its ancestors were prime candidates for domestication.

When we take the AfriCanis away from its natural environment, we interfere with its future. But rural communities are shrinking at an alarming rate. Traditional homesteads where the AfriCanis originated and has been integrated for thousands of years are rapidly changing. Therefore, we must conserve this dog outside its traditional context by continuing to utilize it in its original function. For instance, working an AfriCanis as a flock guard dog, search and rescue dog, or anti-poaching dog.

These dogs make good family dogs but need a consequent and consistent upbringing. In other words, it is vital to be a responsible owner by teaching good behavior and enforcing it consistently.

They should also be included in the following family activities:

  • Long walks, running alongside those who run or cycle
  • Dog sports training, including obedience, tracking dog trials, or in agility (dog jumping) competitions

The AfriCanis is consistently healthy and has, over the years, developed a natural resistance to internal and external parasites. From a healthcare point of view, routine vaccinations are needed. Additionally, it is cost-effective. It neither needs pampering nor special food. AfriCanis are omnivores. They have survived a low-protein diet for thousands of years.