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Two Rare Dog Breeds of South India with a Glorious History

So infused is love for a dog in the South Indian culture, that the indigenous dog breeds such as the rare Kanni Dog can’t be bought, it has to be gifted and hunting hounds like Rajapalyam Dog are often auctioned not sold. Even today the Indian Peninsula boasts of much superior dog breeds especially the hounds that date back to 17th Century India those who have gallantly fought with the British Troops. Infact, Kanni Dogs till recently were standard dowry gift items in southern marriages.

However the glorious past, our very own Canine Regalia is now fading mainly due to lack of enough patrons. Here’s our take on the unique qualities of indigenous dog breeds and why they are definitely superior and better suited to Indian ecosystem.

Stay Updated!!!List of Indian Dog Breeds with Photos]

1) Rajapalayam aka Poligar Hound also called “Paleiyakaran”

Rajapalayam is one of the most popular native dog breeds in south India. It has a long association with royalty and aristocracy, especially in the town of Rajapalayam (Virudhunagar district), its namesake. The dogs are sighthounds which were bred to be hunting and guard dogs. A sighthound is a dog which uses its sense of sight and speed to mark, chase and kill a prey. Town of Rajapalayam is its place of origin and continues to breed the canine even today. During the karnatic wars, these majestic hound dogs were also trained to charge ruthlessly against British troops in the 18th century.

Common Appearance

A Rajapalayam is a big dog which can easily go up to 65 to 75cm, as measured at the withers. Pure white is the colour in which you will mostly see a Rajapalayam. It is uncommon, but brown spots can be found on some dogs at the back or the ears. The coat is short and silky.  White coat, pink nostrils, golden eyes and white eyelashes are some of the standard features of the South Indian dog. May be because of the touch of royalty in its breeding, the way of walking of the handsome dog resembles that of a thoroughbred horse.

Rajapalayam’s deep chest, light and lean head, slim wiry body, very flexible back, long legs and keen vision are typical characteristics of a sighthound. One of the features in which it differs from a gazehound (or sighthound) is that it carries a heavier set of bones.


Bred as hunting hounds and guard dogs, Rajapalayam still possess those instincts and stand loyal for its owner and their family. They don’t really go along well with strangers and are known to attack trespassers. Interaction with other pets, especially smaller pets like cats needs to be avoided because of the innate hunting impulse.

The hound has high-energy needs and is definitely not a dog to flourish in an apartment setting. Large open spaces are necessary for regular walking, running and play. The intelligent and aggressive canine should be socialised to get them better adjusted to their respective surroundings. Rajapalayam is used to the hot and humid conditions of south India. This Indian dog breed has faced very bad times and has come to the stage where a pure Rajapalayam dog is more or less extinct. For now with the efforts of government and dog lovers, the dog is doing well and is kept as a pet with great delight. Indian postal department has also brought out postage stamps to recognise this special inhabitant of Tamil Nadu.

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2) Kanni Dogs

Minus the tail and ears, a Kanni can be best described as Indian Doberman Pinscher. The black and tan colour, which is particularly reminiscent of Doberman, is the most common colour in which one can find a Kanni. There exists another version of Kanni which comes in cream colour and is called Paalakaani. It is found in and around Sivakasi, Tirunelveli, Kovilpatti, Madurai, Kazhugumalai, Pollachi, Kileral and Kodangipatti. Kanni dog is basically used for hunting.

The name Kanni means (virgin or unmarried girl) and the dog found such a name for itself because of the tradition of gifting it as one of the items in dowry to the bridegroom. Kambalathu Naicker community of Tamil Nadu was the one which practiced this custom. Having a Kanni dog is nothing short of having a family member. The dog is not supposed to be sold but given by a family only on the promise that the adopting family will take good care of the dog.

A native of Tamil Nadu, the number of Kanni dogs has plunged very low and efforts at reviving their numbers are not very encouraging.

Common Appearance

On an average, male dogs are about 64 cm (25 inches) at the withers, and females stand about 56 cm (22 inches). Certain specimens also point towards Kanni breed of dogs that grew up to 81 cm (32 inches). Kanni has a deep chest which accommodates a large heart; a slim and moderately build athletic body which facilitates its activities as a hunter.

Generally, Kanni is a shy dog who doesn’t bark much and more or less a silent breed. But when it comes to loyalty, the dog will always guard its master and the home territory. With their energy, quickness and the quality of being light on their feet, they are extremely appropriate for hunting animals as difficult as a dear. While hunting, it is their mind which guides them, for other purposes, they can be trained and made to obey easily.

A united effort to revive these exotic dog breeds is sure to have an impact on their prevalence and we would sincerely urge you to share your ideas and feedback with us at or post your comments below.


With over 15 years of experience in dealing with pets, the PetsWorld Team is now a constant guide for thousands of pet owners in India. Their passion for improving the lives of pets can be seen in their featured blog posts dedicated to pet care.

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One Response

  • MHL

    I deal with a lot of red zone dog behavior cases, and I often hear people incorrectly blaming the breed. The causes of dog aggression are can be complex. I think that Kanni dogs are intelligent but also very aggressive.