History of The New Guinea Singing Dog in North America
First brought to the attention of the scientific community in the early 1950’s, the New Guinea Singing Dog (NGSD) was initially described as a distinct species. It was named Canis hallstromi after Sir Edward Hallstrom. Hallstrom brought the first pair out of the Southern Highlands District of Papua New Guinea and to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia in 1956.
The NGSD’s precise taxonomic status and phylogenetic relationships are still facing some scientific controversy, however the majority of canine and domestication scientists classify them as domestic dogs. It is accepted that the NGSD and Australian dingo are the most primitive dogs, brought to their islands by humans at least 5,000 years ago. Kept isolation from other types of dogs until the 1950s, they are like living relics of these original human-canine relationships. Almost all of the NGSDs in North America have descended mainly from the original Taronga Zoo pair. Offspring of this founder pair were widely distributed to zoos in North America and Europe.
In 1976 an expedition from the Staatliche Museum Preussischer Kulturbestiz Berlin/Museum fur Volkerkunde were gifted five additional NGSDs in Irian Jaya. These were sent to the Domestic Animal Institute in Keil, Germany. A pair from this line went to the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, Kansas, in 1987. Although the male from this pair failed to reproduce, the female, Olga, produced several litters by a Taronga-line male, Dinkum.
Also in 1987, Sheryl Langan imported to Canada a male, Darkie. The Taronga Zoo indicated that Darkie was descended from a PNG female and a Taronga zoo bred male in the breeding colony at the Baiyer River Sanctuary in Mt. Hagen, Papua New Guinea. Ms. Langan also imported several Taronga females, all of whom reportedly failed to reproduce. In 1994, 14-year-old Darkie was transferred to Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, Jr., at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia. Even at that advanced age, Darkie was successfully bred to Scratchley, a Dinkum/Olga daughter at Dr. Brisbin’s Swamp Fox Sanctuary. This cross resulted in as much genetic variation as possible for the future of these unique dogs. The entire North American NGSD population, estimated in 202 to be less than 500 animals, has thus descended from only eight founders.
Starting in the 1980's NGSD's in North American began living with owners in private homes. Owners describe life with New Guinea Singing Dogs as similar to life with other primitive domestic dogs, such as Basenjis, Shiba Inus, Akita, and Canaan Dogs. Owners who enjoy an primitive dog temperament adore their NGSDs and swear they will never live without one. Owners frequently take their dogs out in public, participate in numerous activities, and even compete in dog sports. New Guinea Singing Dogs were shown conformation in the United Kennel Club in the 1990s and the New Guinea Singing Dog Club of America is working to return NGSDs to the conformation ring again in the future.
New Guinea Singing Dogs are smart, affectionate and versatile dogs. They from free-roaming village dog to titled in numerous sports including rally, scent work, Barn Hunt, coursing. Some serve the outstanding role of therapy dogs, medical scent detection dogs, and even service dogs.
How extraordinary for the living relic of the original canine bond, to be versatile enough to exist as a companion in all spaces from the most remote, to the most urban. The ultimate canine companion.