The New Guinea dingo is known by a variety of names: it is also known internationally as the New Guinea Singing Dog, Wait, or Hallstrom Dog. Canine experts disagree on the breed’s origins: some call them tamed wild dogs, others believe they were feral domestic dogs. Whichever way you look at it, the New Guinea dingo is undoubtedly an interesting mix of pet and wild animals.
External Characteristics of the New Guinea Dingo – Typical Pariah Dog
Pariah dogs like Australian dingoes, jonangis, and also the New Guinea dingo bear a resemblance to Japanese primeval dogs like the Shiba Inu. They have wolf-like faces with wedge-shaped heads, and often sport sesame-colored or fawn-colored fur. They can be quickly distinguished from Australian dingoes by their rather stocky build. Males reach a height at the withers of between 35 and 45 cm and weigh around 9 to 14.5 kg. Bitches measure 31.5 to 42 cm at the withers and weigh no more than 12.5 kg.
Unique selling points of the Singing Dog from head to tail
- The skull tapers slightly towards the muzzle, which acts like a wedge-shaped extension of the head. It does not taper as much as in the Shiba Inu.
- The broad, black nose is well embedded and forms an almost square edge between the muzzle and the bridge of the nose.
- A special feature is the slanted almond eyes, which appear almost slit-like due to their black border. In the dark, the tapetum reflects light green, not red like other breeds.
- Triangular erect ears stick out obliquely from the head. They are quite broad and are directed forward.
- The smaller and stocky Highland type of breed is common among private owners. In their homeland, the singing highland dingoes have adapted to the lack of food in the jungle, while the lowland dogs are slightly larger and longer-legged in coastal regions.
- The fore and hind legs are extremely flexible, as are the ankles. They are the only domestic dogs, along with the Norwegian Lundehund, that is agile enough to climb trees and cliffs. They also do not develop dewclaws.
- The tail is carried slightly curved. A brush of long hair forms on the underside.
Fur and colors in wild and domesticated dingoes
Puppies are dark brown at birth. The final coat color can be seen after about 4 months. Wild and domesticated Singing Dogs exhibit slightly different coloring:
Highland Wild Dog colors in the wild
- Black with dark yellow
- Solid black
Colors in farmed New Guinea dingoes
- Brown (tan, reddish-brown, or reddish-yellow with light shading on the underside of the body and legs)
- Dark (brown with black guard hairs on back, muzzle, and top of tail)
- Both variants have white markings on the lower jaw, belly, neck, chest, and legs.
The Mysterious Origins of the Singing Dogs
Completely isolated from European breeds, these dogs lived in the wild in Papua New Guinea 5,500 years ago. Cynologists believe they share common ancestors with Australian dingoes and domestic Polynesian dogs from nearby islands who came from China. To date, an estimated 200 to 300 individuals live wild in the mountains of Papua New Guinea at altitudes from 2500 meters to 4700 meters.
Wild dog or feral domestic dog?
The question of whether these are real wild dogs or feral domestic dogs has not yet been sufficiently clarified. In addition, it is not yet clear whether the free-ranging Highland Wild Dogs (HWD) and their village-dwelling relatives, the New Guinea Singing Dogs (NGSD), should be considered distinct breeds. Research on these interesting dogs is ongoing.
Canis Hallstrom – unlike any other
New Guinea dingoes have many unique characteristics that scientists believe could only have originated in the wild. Genetically they are very different from common domestic dogs, so they are classified within the genus Canis Hallstrom. The indigenous people of Papua New Guinea report capturing and raising highland dingo pups as hunting companions for thousands of years, but do not breed them.
A diversely adapted population
- Only a few wild animals have been sighted in the jungle areas of Papua New Guinea since the early 1970s.
- A small population lives near villages, where they feed on waste. Even hunting dogs raised by humans become almost completely wild in adulthood and become shy.
- All Singing Dogs in private care are descended from 8 individuals exported in the 1950s. These in turn are descended from village dogs.
- About 300 specimens live in international zoos.
- Depending on the region, the people of Papua used the village dogs as hunting helpers, vermin exterminators, or meat suppliers. Since they will sooner or later attack chickens and other small animals, many peoples have given up raising wild puppies in favor of keeping other livestock.