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The Canaan Dog is the national dog breed of Israelmarker. It may have existed in the Middle East for millennia.



Canaan Dog
The Canaan Dog, known in Israel as ( , lit. Canaanic dog, Kelev K'naani), is a typical pariah dog in appearance. They are a medium-sized dog, with a wedge-shaped head, medium-sized, erect and low set ears with a broad base and rounded tips. Their outer coat is dense, harsh and straight of short to medium-length. The undercoat should be close and profuse according to season. Colour ranges from black to cream and all shades of brown and red between, usually with small white markings, or all white with colour patches. Spotting of all kinds is permitted, as well as white or black masks.

Dr. Rudolphina Menzel, having studied the desert pariah dogs and the variations in appearances, classified these canines into four types: 1) heavy, sheepdog appearance, 2) dingo-like appearance, 3) Border Collie appearance, 4) Greyhound appearance.

Dr. Menzel concluded that the Canaan Dog is a derivative of the Type III pariah dog—the collie type (referring to the type of farm collie found in the 1930s, which was a medium dog of moderate head type more similar to today's border collie, not the modern rough coated collie).

In writing the first official standard for the Canaan Dog, Dr. Rudolphina Menzel wrote: "Special importance must be placed on the points that differentiate the Canaan-Dog from the German Dog, whose highly bred form he sometimes resembles: the Canaan-Dog is square, the loin region short, the forequarters highly erect, the hindquarters less angulated, the neck as noble as possible, the tail curled over the back when excited, the trot is short (see also differences in head and color)".

Type varies somewhat between the American lines of Canaan Dogs and those found in Israel and the rest of the world, with many of the American dogs being rectangular in shape.


  • Height: 20–24 inches (50–60 cm)
  • Weight: 40–55 pounds (18–25 kg)

  • Height: 18–20 inches (45–50 cm)
  • Weight: 35–42 pounds

The Canaan shares physical similarites with the Korean Jindo, both in looks and characteristics.


Canaan Dogs have a strong survival instinct. They are quick to react and wary of strangers, and will alert to any disturbances with prompt barking, thus making them excellent watchdog. Though defensive, they are not aggressive and are very good with children within the family but may be wary of other children or defensive when your child is playing with another child. They are intelligent and learn quickly, but may get bored with repetitive exercises or ignore commands if they find something of more interest.


In general, the Canaan Dog does not suffer from known hereditary problems.

Although the breed is one of the healthiest, Dr. George A. Padgett, DVM, listed diseases that have been seen, at one time or another, in the Canaan Dog in the United Statesmarker: hypothyroidism, epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cryptorchidism, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, luxating patella, and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).


The Canaan dog began in ancient times as a pariah dog in in ancient Canaan, where the descendants of the Israelis came from. It belongs to one of the most ancient family of dogs, the spitz.

This dog is one of the oldest, dating back to biblical times. The caves of Einan and Hayonim are sites in which the oldest remains of dogs have been found (more than 10,000 years ago). In the Bible there are a number of references to roaming dogs and dogs that worked for man.

In the Sinai Desert, a rock carving, from the first to third century AD, depicts a dog that in size and shape appears to be a Canaan type dog.

In Ashkelonmarker, a graveyard was discovered, believed to be Phoenicianmarker from the middle of the fifth century BC. It contained 700 dogs, all carefully buried in the same position, on their sides with legs flexed and tail tucked in around the hind legs. According to the archaeologists, there was a strong similarity between these dogs and the "Bedouin pariah dogs," or the Canaan dog. A sarcophagus dated from the end of the fourth century BC, was found in Sidon, on which Alexander the Great and the King of Sidon are painted hunting a lion with a hunting dog similar in build to the dogs of Ashkelon, and similar in appearance to the Canaan dog. Where does the Canaan Dog come from?

They survived this way until the 1930s, when Dr. Rudolphina Menzel came up with the idea to use these intelligent scavenger dogs mainly found in the desert, as guard dogs for the scattered Jewish settlements. Prof. Menzel was asked by the Haganah to help them build up a service dog organization (later to become Unit Oketz). She captured and acquired wild and semi-wild Canaan dogs. She worked with semi-free and free-living dogs of a specific type, luring them into her camp and gaining their trust. She also captured litters of puppies, finding them remarkably adaptable to domestication. The first successful adult she called Dugma (meaning example). Dr. Menzel found the dogs be highly adaptable, trainable and easy to domesticate. It took her about 6 months to capture Dugma, and within a few weeks she was able to take him into town and on buses.

She began a breeding program in 1934, providing working dogs for the military and she gave pups to be pets and home guard dogs. She initiated a selective breeding program to produce the breed known today as the Canaan dog.
Canaan Dog Jumping
In 1949 Dr. Menzel founded The Institute for Orientation and Mobility of the Blind, and in 1953, she started to train Canaan dogs as guide dogs for the blind. Although she was able to train several dogs, she found that the breed was too independent and too small for general guide dog use, although some of her dogs were used successfully by children.

Her breeding program was concentrated with the Institute, where a foundation of kennel-raised Canaan dogs was established, carrying the name "B'nei Habitachon". She later supplied breeding stock to Shaar Hagai Kennels which continued in the breeding of the Canaan dog. After her death in 1973, Shaar Hagai Kennels continued the breeding program according to her instructions. In addition, a controlled collection of dogs of the original type was continued, primarily from the Bedouin of the Negev.

Collection of wild Canaan dogs has all but ceased. The last two dogs that were collected in the Negev in the mid-1990s, and most of the Canaan dogs living in the open were destroyed by the Israeli government in the fight against rabies. Even the majority of Bedouin dogs today are mixed with other breeds, although Myrna Shiboleth visits the Negev annually, looking for good specimens living by the Bedouin camps, that she can breed with her dogs and strengthen the gene pool. Dogs of the Desert

Breed recognition

The Canaan dog was first recognized by the Israel Kennel Club in 1953 and by the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale) in 1966. The first accepted standard was written by Dr. Menzel.

The Kennel Club in the United Kingdommarker officially recognized the breed in December 1970.

In 1986, the first Canaan dogs were brought to Finlandmarker from Sha'ar Hagai Kennel, in Israelmarker.

Canaan dogs in the U.S.

On September 7, 1965, Dr. Menzel sent four dogs to Ursula Berkowitz of Oxnard, Californiamarker, the first Canaan dogs in the United Statesmarker. The Canaan Dog Club of America was formed the same year, and stud book records were kept from these first reports.

In June 1989, the Canaan dog entered the American Kennel Club Miscellaneous Class and dogs were registered in the AKC Stud Book as of June 1, 1997. The dogs began competing in conformation on August 12, 1997.

Canaan dogs in Canada

The first Canaan dog came to Canada May 16, 1970. The dogs came from a kennel in Delawaremarker.

The Canadian Canaan Club (CCC) was formed in 1972, and the first executive of the Club was elected on March 15, 1973. The club has since been dissolved.

The Canaan dog obtained entry into the Miscellaneous Class of the Canadian Kennel Club on December 1, 1975. In January 1993, the breed was accepted in the Working Group, as the Canadian Kennel Club did not have a Herding group at that time.

Canaan Dogs in the UK

A Mrs Powers brought the first Canaan Dog into the UK from Damascus where her husband worked at the University situated on the outskirts of the city. 'Sheba' spent May-October 1965 in quarantine before Mrs Powers could bring her home.

Mrs Connie Higgins met Shebaba when Mrs Powers brought her to a beginners obedience class she was teaching. Sheba was rather aggressive with other dogs, but good with people, especially children, but there was something about her that appealed to Connie. A bit later, due to personal circumstances, Mrs Powers agreed to give Sheba to Mrs Higgins who renamed her 'Shebaba' as she already had a German Shepherd named Sheba. Connie was convinced that 'Shebaba' had to be a breed of dog and began her search for an answer as to what kind of dog she had. The Israeli embassy gave Connie the address of a dog sanctuary in Jerusalem and Connie wrote to them. Then out of the blue, on 21 August 1968, she had a letter from Israel. it was from Prof Menzel herself. Connie's letter to the sanctuary had been forwarded on to her. She sent Connie a long list of questions about Shebaba -- eyesight, hearing, measurements, hair, reactions, character, accomplishments, etc., which Connie replied to with every photograph she could lay her hands on.

Connie soon had a letter from Prof. Menzel which said that if Shebaba were in Israel she would be accepted for registration and qualified at least "Very Good". Dr Menzel eventually sent a dog named Tiron to Connie to be bred to Shebaba and then with the help of Dr Menzel, Mrs Higgins finally got Shebaba, Tiron and the puppies recognised by The Kennel Club in December 1970. Saffra Shebaba was the first Canaan Dog to be registered in the UK, and the breed was placed in the Utility Group.

It wasn't until May 1992 that the inaugural meeting of the Canaan Dog Club of the United Kingdom took place. It has only been since 1996 that the breed has really begun to grow in numbers in the UK, though it is still quite numerically small. However, the quality is there and a good foundation is being laid for future generations.

Canaan Dogs in India

They are less in number but are found in Berhampur, India.These dogs are well warned of strangers, fast recognisation and family pet.


Book cover "The Israel Canaan Dog"
  • The Israel Canaan Dog (Paperback), written by Myrna Shiboleth, published by Alpine Publications; 2nd edition (April 1996), ISBN 0931866715118 pages
  • Pariahunde - Pariah Dogs, written by Rudolf Menzel & Rudolphina Menzel, translated by Bryna Comsky
  • Canaan Dog (Kennel Club Dog Breed Series), written by Joy Levine, publish Kennel Club Books; Special Rare-breed Ed edition (September 2003), 158 pages, ISBN 1593783493
  • Canaan Dog (Complete Handbook), written by Lee Boyd and Victor Kaftal, Tfh Publications (December 1995), ISBN 0793808006, 96 pages
  • Control of Canine Genetic Diseases, written by Dr. George A. Padgett, DVM, published by Howell Book House; 1 edition, October, 1998, ISBN 0876050046, 256 pages

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