As to be expected of a continent that was home to many an ancient civilisation, Asia is the place of origin for many breeds of man’s best friends.
Serving a variety of purposes, ranging from shepherding duties to being a literal lapdog for the imperial family, there is no shortage of stories to be told about the history of Asia’s dog breeds.
1. Telomian (Malaysia)
It might be hard to believe, but Malaysia actually has a dog breed that is recognised to have come from this country alone.
A particularly rare breed which noticeably lacks a bark of any sort, the Telomian was originally a hunting dog for the Orang Asli.
Of a small stature and with a short and smooth coat, the Telomian is very athletic nonetheless, with its agility resembling that of a cat.
They are exceptional climbers, in fact, being able to leap onto low-hanging tree boughs with their dexterous paws keeping it steady.
Apparently, this is a trait they inherited after generations of living with the Orang Asli who live in stilt houses that are accessible only by ladder.
2. Shih Tzu (China)
This adorable toy dog can trace its origins back to the Middle Kingdom as its name might suggest.
Its name in Chinese, Xi Shi Quan, translates to “lion dog”, and with its long fur, the Shih Tzu was indeed bred to resemble the lion as depicted in traditional Chinese art.
Originally from the Tibetan region, Shih Tzus got much attention and love from the imperial families of China.
For centuries, they were the lapdogs of the nobility; the emperors supposedly rewarded Shih Tzu breeders who produced dogs with good looks and temperament.
Kept within the walls of the Imperial Palace, the Shih Tzu would only be introduced to the world in the 1930s after the end of the Qing Dynasty.
3. Shiba Inu (Japan)
Originally bred as hunting dogs, this Japanese pooch has since become known around the world not for its physical prowess, but rather as a face of an Internet meme.
Long before their social media fame, the Shiba Inu was running in Central Japan alongside samurai, hunting for birds and rabbits with their masters.
“Inu” means dog in Japanese, and “shiba” means brushwood, referring to the plants with leaves that turn red in autumn. In an old dialect, “shiba” also means small.
This famous Japanese breed got dangerously close to extinction however, when the Second World War saw its numbers plummeting as a result of food shortages and a disease outbreak.
It was only through extensive efforts that the breed survived after the war and decades after its endured hardships, the Shiba Inu is now gaining popularity as a household dog worldwide.
4. Jindo (Korea)
Another East Asian hunting dog, the Jindo is named after its place of origin, Jindo Island on the southwest corner of the Korean peninsula.
A fiercely loyal dog with a gentle demeanour, the Jindo is considered a Korean cultural legacy and has long been afforded a degree of protection for its status.
For thousands of years, the Jindo lived alongside residents of the island to become a skilled hunter in its own right.
They are said to be able to take down prey larger than themselves and are intelligent enough to work in coordinated packs.
Their ardent loyalty to their masters is well documented even now, with one case in 1993 recording how a Jindo named Baekgu travelled 300km from a mainland city back to Jindo Island to appear on her first mistress’ doorstep.
5. Afghan Hound (Central/South Asia)
Despite what the name may indicate, it is not certain that this magnificent dog emerged from somewhere within modern day Afghanistan’s borders.
However, the Afghan is certainly an ancient breed, possibly one of the oldest purebred breeds.
While written records are lacking, Afghans served the nobility and tribal leaders of that mountainous part of Asia.
As hounds, they have particularly excellent eyesight and they can switch from a steady walk to quick sprint when they locate their prey.
When the British colonised Afghanistan, the Afghan Hound unsurprisingly found a home in the manors of the English gentry and has since continued to be regarded as a dog for the upper classes.
6. Desi Dog (India)
Yet another ancient breed, a skull of this dog was discovered in the archaeological site of Mohenjo-Daro which was built around 2500BC.
Archaeological evidence in fact suggests that they have been around even longer before that, with prehistoric cave paintings depicting the Desi dog.
Unlike most breeds, the Desi dog was not a product of selective breeding, but the end result of natural selection.
The Desi dog has a reputation for being intelligent and easily trained, and it has long travelled beyond the Indian subcontinent to find homes all over the world.
It has also seen much employment with security forces, with the breed being a good guard dog and police dog.
7. Canaan Dog (Middle East)
In the ancient dog cemetery in Ashkelon, Israel, some 700 dog skeletons were found and they all looked extremely similar to the Canaan dog that still roams the region today.
Theorised to be sacred animals, the Canaan Dog has a place in Jewish tradition, with the pastoral dogs helping to watch over ancient Israelite camps and flocks.
They lost their homes in a temporary setback as a result of the Jewish diaspora, but they continued to live on in the region as feral dogs.
Some Canaan Dogs continued living with humans; with many living with the Bedouin people as shepherd dogs and others serving Druze masters as guard dogs.
A particularly healthy dog, they are intelligent survivalists who are suspicious of strangers but very protective of their own family.