Video taken 15 June 2008
These were three adorable puppies down the street from my grandpa’s house in Puli, Nantou County, Taiwan. I don’t know anything about them or who they belonged to. Since they were left to roam free on the property, chances are that they eventually got big enough to wander off on their own… and maybe one day they didn’t return.
If I could have, I would’ve taken the brindle one home with me. I’m telling the little white guy that he’s the bravest — he charged right up to demand his share of attention. The other two were curious, but slightly more hesitant. The white pup started pushing against me, compelling me to put down my camera and give them some proper petting. Their momma, chained to a pole, is barking in the background.
These are roughly what are known as tugou in Taiwan — literally, “earth dogs,” which for all intents and purposes means “indigenous mutt.” There’s a difference between tugou and Formosan Mountain Dogs, but in popular lexicon, I would argue that they really amount to the same thing.
Tugou are found all over the streets, in shelters, in homes. Formosan Mountain Dogs are tugou that are selectively bred to look as close to an idealized indigenous type as possible, in both temperament and form. Nevertheless, what are often labeled as “Formosan Mountain Dogs” are not a genetically pure breed in any sense. (I’m not talking about the ones that have been subjected to extensive DNA testing and enlisted into conservation programs, a phenomenon that is actually quite complicated and will hopefully be the subject of another blog pending further research.)
The genetic purity of Formosans doesn’t matter to me. What intrigues me is the insistence on the divisibility of tugou from Formosans, as one might gather from the current Wikipedia entry. As I see it, the dogs would be better off if more folks could see the tugou in the Formosan, not just the Formosan in the tugou. I’ve said as much before, and I’ll have more to say about this later, when I’ve had some time to review the material that’s become available since I last ruminated on the subject.
In another phase of my life, I would love to bring home a tugou, whether my home be here in the United States or back in Taiwan. While I think it’s important to adopt locally, I also can’t help but be moved by what’s immediately presented before me — and every time I go back to Taiwan, I seem to end up befriending a puppy or a street stray. I’m currently in no position to import another pet. As I don’t see the problem of dog overpopulation going away anytime within my lifetime, and especially not in rural Taiwan, I expect there will be a tugou in my future, someday.
EDIT: Related, TUAPA is looking for a home for Kiwi, a tugou in Taiwan. She is one of hundreds (thousands?) of tugou who need to be adopted. There is a limited number of suitable homes on the island, so rescue organizations frequently reach out to international audiences in search of potential homes.
Please check the link for more details: