Canaan Dog

The Canaan Dog, also known as the Bedouin Sheepdog and Palestinian Pariah Dog,[2] is a breed of pariah dog originating from the Middle East.[1][page needed] It can be found in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, the Sinai peninsula, and these or dogs very similar are found in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria.[3] It is the national dog of Israel.[4] There are 2,000 to 3,000 Canaan dogs across the world, mostly in Europe and North America.[5]

Canaan Dog
OriginMiddle East[1]
Height Dogs 50–60 cm (20–24 in)
Bitches 45–50 cm (18–20 in)
Weight Dogs 18–25 kg (40–55 lb)
Kennel club standards
FCI standard
Dog (domestic dog)


Since time immemorial, the Bedouins have used this dog for guarding their herds and camps.[3] According to tradition, at the time of the Diaspora the Israelites were forcefully removed from their land and had to leave behind their dogs, which reverted to the wild.[3]

Excavations in Israel unearthed the Ashkelon dog cemetery, the largest known animal cemetery in the ancient world, containing 700 dog skeletons all of which were anatomically similar to the Canaan dog of modern times. The cemetery dates back to the time of occupation by the Persian Empire and archaeologists hypothesize that the dogs were revered as sacred animals.[2]

Dr. Rudolphina Menzel (1891–1973) used these intelligent scavenger-dogs mainly found in the desert as guard dogs. In the 1930s, Menzel was asked by the Haganah to build up a service dog organization. She captured a select group of semi-wild individuals, tamed, trained and bred them. Menzel found the dogs highly adaptable, trainable, and easy to domesticate. It took her about six months to capture her first dog, 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.

In 1949, 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". In addition, a controlled collection of dogs of the original type was continued, primarily from the Bedouin of the Negev. 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, managed by Dvora Ben Shaul and Myrna Shiboleth, continued the breeding program according to her instructions.[6]

Collection of wild Canaan dogs in Israel has become very difficult, because many of the Canaan dogs living in the open there were destroyed by the Israeli government in the fight against rabies. The spread of the human population into areas that were formerly isolated, along with their pet dogs, has resulted in the loss of the natural habitat of the Canaan. Even the majority of Bedouin dogs today, other than those of tribes still living a traditional and isolated life style, are mixed with other breeds. It is possible that there are still original Canaans among Bedouin tribes that still live the traditional nomadic life elsewhere, and perhaps in Egypt.[7] Myrna Shiboleth visits the Negev regularly, looking for good specimens living by the Bedouin camps, that she can breed with her dogs and use to strengthen the gene pool.[8]


The Canaan Dog is a "wild type" dog in appearance. It is a medium-sized square built dog, with a wedge-shaped head, erect and low set ears with a broad base and rounded tips. Its outer coat is dense, harsh and straight of short to medium-length. The undercoat should be close and profuse according to season. Color 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.[9]

Rudolphina Menzel classified these canines into four types:

  1. Heavy, sheepdog-like appearance
  2. Dingo-like appearance
  3. Collie-like appearance
  4. Greyhound-like appearance

Menzel concluded that the Canaan Dog is a derivative of the Type III pariah — 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 Collie).

In writing the first official standard for the Canaan Dog, Menzel wrote: "Special importance must be placed on the points that differentiate the Canaan-dog from the German Shepard [sic] dog, whose highly bred form he sometimes resembles: the Canaan-dog is square, the loin region short, the forequarters highly erect, the hindquarters less angular, 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)".[10]


Canaan dogs are alert, react quickly and distrust strangers. They are strongly defensive but not aggressive.[9]


Canaan dogs can compete in dog agility trials, obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Canaans exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.[11][page needed]

Breed recognitionEdit

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. In 1986, the first Canaan dogs were brought to Finland from Sha'ar Hagai Kennel, in Israel. The Canaan Dog is today recognized by all the world's kennel clubs and is being bred in many countries. There are breed clubs in the U.S[12]., Canada, the U.K,[13] Finland, Germany, Israel[14] and France[15].[citation needed]


The first Canaan dog came to Canada May 16, 1970. The dogs came from a kennel in Delaware. The Canadian Canaan Club 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.[citation needed]

United KingdomEdit

The first Canaan Dog was brought to the UK from Lebanon in 1965, before they were a recognized breed. In December 1970, they were recognized by the Kennel Club, and the breed was placed in the Utility Group. In May 1992 the inaugural meeting of the Canaan Dog Club of the United Kingdom took place. Since 1996 the breed has begun to grow in numbers in the UK, though it is still quite numerically small.[citation needed]

United StatesEdit

On September 7, 1965, Menzel sent four dogs to Ursula Berkowitz of Oxnard, California, the first Canaan dogs in the United States. 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 (AKC) Miscellaneous Class. Its profile was raised when John F. Kennedy Jr. purchased a Canaan dog, Friday, in 1995.[5] Canaan dogs were registered in the AKC Stud Book as of June 1, 1997. The dogs began competing in conformation on August 12, 1997.


  1. ^ a b The Howell Book of Dogs: The Definitive Reference to 300 Breeds and Varieties
  2. ^ a b Farina, William (2 April 2014). Man Writes Dog: Canine Themes in Literature, Law and Folklore. pp. 58–59. ISBN 9781476614557.
  3. ^ a b c Boyd, Lee (1995). Canaan Dog. TFH Publications. pp. 8–9. ISBN 978-0793808007.
  4. ^ De Prisco, Andrew; Bovsun, Mara; Woy, Joann (2015). The New Complete Dog Book: Official Breed Standards and All-New Profiles for 200 Breeds (21st ed.). I-5 Publishing. p. 769. ISBN 978-1-62187-091-3.
  5. ^ a b Brulliard, Nicolas (March 28, 2012). "In Israel, a battle to save the ancient Canaan dog". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  6. ^ Udasin, Sharon (January 27, 2016). "Facing eviction, Canaan dog breeder turns to public to recruit relocation funds". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  7. ^ "Report on the Canaan Dog by Israel Nature Reserves and National Parks Authority". Archived from the original on January 18, 2013.
  8. ^ Shiboleth, Myrna. "Dogs of the Desert" – via
  9. ^ a b FCI Breed Standard
  10. ^ Menzel, R. and R. "1960 - Israel Kennel Club". Translated by Lee Boyd. Wittenberg, Lutherstadt: A. Ziemsen Verlag. Archived from the original on October 16, 2010 – via British Canaan Dog Society.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  11. ^ Hartnagle-Taylor, Jeanne Joy; Taylor, Ty (2010). Stockdog Savvy. Alpine Publications. ISBN 978-1-57779-106-5.
  12. ^ "CDCA: The Canaan Dog Club of America, Inc". Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  13. ^ "British Canaan Dog Society – Canaan Dogs in the UK". Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  14. ^ "The Canaan Dog Home Page, ICDCA, updated monthly". Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  15. ^ "Canaan Club de France (en)". Retrieved 2020-10-13.

External linksEdit