How many of us knew there is an actual breed of dogs named Carolina
Dogs, recognized by the United Kennel Club and the American Rare Breed
Association? They are also known as American Dingos, Dixie Dingos,
Indian Dogs and other, local names like Yaller Dog. These dogs were
discovered living in the lowlands and swamps around the United States
Department of Energy Savannah River Site, as well as throughout the empty
square miles of wilderness along the Savannah River by Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin.
Dr. Brisbin is a recently retired Professor in the Institute of Ecology at the
University of Georgia, and serves as a Senior Ecologist at the University of
Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory near Aiken, South Carolina.
Dr. Brisbin noticed that these dogs look almost identical to the Australian
Dingo. Other scientists observed that the Carolina Dog's bone structure was
very similar to the remains of the dog bones found from Native American
burial sites many thousands of years old. Dr. Brisbin believes these dogs
aren't just a fluke; these dogs all look the same; there's something important
going on here! After capturing wild, pure examples of these dogs and
starting a captive breeding program, and after promising genetic test results,
he believes these dogs are the remnants from the original pariah dogs that
accompanied nomadic peoples across the Bering Straits land bridge many
thousands of years ago. A true all-American breed, most likely the first non-
wolf or coyote dog to enter this country. Pariah dogs, which contain several
different, distinct wild breeds worldwide, are dogs that live on the outer
edges of human society, and follow the trail of discarded, eatable trash. They
learned early on it was easier to eat trash cooked by someone else than to
"cook" for themselves, which is, when you think about it, the exact concept
that keeps fast food restaurants in business today!
Dr. Brisbin started noticing dogs with that same, identical look turning up
everywhere around the area, evidence that some of these dogs have chosen
to give up their wild dog status and to live side by side with man.
I spoke with Dr. Brisbin on the telephone after trading e-mails with him a few
times, and it turned into one of the most interesting, enlightening, exciting and
important phone calls of my life. As a result of our conversation, Tina and I
will be helping Dr. Brisbin with his Carolina Dog Program efforts, taking a
wild-caught, young female Carolina Dog, Estralita, to domesticate. To put it
mildly, this will be interesting. Her registered name is Swamp Fox's Estralita
(little star), but we'll call her Lita.
The links below will take you to sites where you can learn more about
Carolina Dogs. Enjoy!
National Geographic Magazine
Science News Online
About the Breed
Jan. 10th, '06: After arriving at Dr. Brisbin’s place near Aiken, SC, meeting
him face to face and after a fascinating talk, we walked over a portion of his
18 acre property with several of his Carolina Dogs and his two
Bloodhounds. We went back to the kennel area to see Dr. Brisbin’s New
Guinea Singing Dogs and to meet Lita. New Guinea Singing Dogs are
wonderful little guys. They are definitely not just a dog, and that’s why they
were separated as a completely new, very ancient species. We met and fell
in love with one NGSD, Jingle. She was absolutely beautiful!
After that, we went back to see Lita and to load her into our vehicle for the
drive to Atlanta and to her new forever home. She is so beautiful. She is a
blonde-ish tan color with a redish tip on her tail and redish ears. She was
frightened to death, but that’s all about to change for this little girl. Once we
arrived home, we fed all of our clan, then let them out for a break. Once they
were back in the house and since it was getting dark, putting the Alabama
kids in their nighttime runs in our garage, Tina and I carried Lita’s crate
inside to her new temporary home and fed her.
Jan. 30th: Lita continues to do a little better every day. She made a big
leap today by meeting her first visitor. My father came to the house and
helped us stage Lita's first visit to perfection. Without looking Lita in the
eyes, Dad stood quietly with treats in his hands as we walked Lita to
where he was standing. When he came into view she paused for a
minute, but her curiosity made her ease up to him for a sniff or two. He
slowly lowered a hand with a treat in his palm, and after sniffing and
backing away two or three times, she finally took the treat! After the first
one, she took two or three more showing no fear. Dad rubbed the side
of her head and she let him. I think today went really well, and I
appreciate Dad helping us make Lita's first time meeting a stranger a
February 9th: Tina and I are really making breakthroughs with Lita over
the past few days! She's actually playing with us and romping around,
happy to see people for the first time in her life. Today Tina and I took
her off the leash and sat down in the grass with her. When we're on her
level, she couldn't be happier. Shaking the leaves with my hands would
throw her into a running frenzy. She'd circle around Tina and come
flying at me for the attack. It's hilarious! You can tell the poor dog really
doesn't know what she's doing, but it's so fun watching her face almost
smiling as she learns to play, and more importantly, learns to trust us.
We've had her about a month now, and from the start I (ever the
optimist) thought she'd come along faster than she has. But after
realizing the level of fear she started from, I'm so amazed how far she's
come. We're getting to the point it may be time to bring some more
visitors in for her to meet. Setting up perfect meetings, like we did with
Dad, to help her understand new people means good things! Once
comfortable doing that, it may be time to take her somewhere to see
the outside world (from a distance).
Feb. 19th: Lita's doing fine, and is now showing a need to be around
us and our other dogs. We've kept her in a run inside our basement,
where she can hear Tina and I, and our inside dogs. We wanted to see
how long it took for her to decide that she needs our company, and
she's now showing us that. It may be time to bring her upstairs some
during the day to let her chum around with our Greyhounds and
I found a group at the National Institute of Health doing genetic mapping
on all worldwide breeds to see how they fit together. I contacted them
and asked if Carolina Dogs were included, and I told them about Lita.
They replied saying that currently Carolina Dogs were not included, but
they would be thrilled if I could supply them with blood samples from five
relatively unrelated Carolina Dogs. I contacted Dr. Brisbin, and he will
get four DNA samples from the University of Georgia Savannah River
Ecology Lab, and Tina and I will supply the fifth sample as blood taken
from Lita. We received the sample kit yesterday in the mail, so we now
have to figure the best way to get Lita to our vet to have her blood taken.
Our vet has suggested we "slip something in her drink" to sedate her
here, then take her there to get the blood sample.
It would probably be wise of us to take that opportunity to go ahead and
have her yearly shots done, even though they aren't due until the first of
April. She'd be getting them a little over a month early, but in this
situation, I think it's justified.
8:00pm: It's still Sunday the 19th and I just wanted to say that I made a
real breakthrough with Lita today. I finally, after all this time, got her to
play tug with me. She had ripped up a bed Tina had put in there a few
days ago, and using a small piece of the bed I finally got her to start
biting at it as I flipped her on the nose with it. I worked her into actually
grabbing it, then ten or fifteen minutes later, with a larger piece of bed,
she started pulling on it.
Alright, she now knows how to play, and that's right down my alley. This
is what I've been waiting for! I've got her now!
March 2nd: Lita's doing fine, though slower coming around than what I
expected. It's still the same story: down on the floors she loves me, but
the higher I am, the more she backs away. It's been close to two
months now! I will continue trying to earn her trust.
Tina and I took her and Butternut outside our fence and up on the road
yesterday for a walk on leashes. She did very well, but not a single car
passed by for the fifteen or twenty minutes we were out there. I would
have to imagine if a car had gone by, she would have probably gotten
very uncomfortable. Although, when Butternut, or one of our other kids
are around, she seems to be able to handle nearly anything. I wish I
could get her to understand she's safer with me than anything else. I'm
sure she will with time.
March 5th: Friday, we took Lita to our vets to have blood drawn for the
worldwide canine genome study being done by the Ostrander Lab at
the National Institute of Health. While we were there, we had them give
her her yearly shots and health check. Lita came through with flying
colors! She did great! She even went up to two perfect strangers and
sniffed their hand. Tina and I were shocked at how comfortable she
seemed. I think she was telling us it's time to get out and see more of
Yesterday - Saturday - we brought Lita upstairs to hang around back
here while we were on the computers for a couple of hours. We put the
rest of the inside kids in the kitchen, so they wouldn't pester Lita to
death. Lita did great, as we expected. She took coming up the
basement stairs a little easy to begin with, but shot on up after making it
up two or three. She learns things so quickly, and has housebroke
herself, never having messed up upstairs or downstairs in the two
months we've had her. An amazing little girl.
March 6th: Lita and Corky are having a ball playing. I've posted a
couple of new photos of them this evening on Lita's picture page.
March 13th: Lita's been driving in to Palmetto with me the past few
days, accompanied by the Corkster (Corky) to do banking and to visit
the Post Office. She seems to actually be enjoying herself, and she met
the drive-through lady today out the window of the car at the bank. It has
been so fun seeing her experiencing new things.
Photo taken at Dr. Brisbin's facility before Lita's trip to our house, her new home.
Wild Star Carolina Dogs