2017-08-11 / Pets

Trainers visit S.C.’s original native dog

By Phyllis Beasley, CPDT-KA Owner/Lead Trainer, Praise Dog! Training, LLC www.praiseyour dogtraining.com


Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, biologist and former researcher with the Savannah River Ecology Lab, rediscovered and developed the breed description of the Carolina Dog. (l to r) Dr. Brisbin, Phyllis Beasley (being greeted by one of Dr. Brisbin’s Carolina Dogs), and Alison Rosenberg. Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, biologist and former researcher with the Savannah River Ecology Lab, rediscovered and developed the breed description of the Carolina Dog. (l to r) Dr. Brisbin, Phyllis Beasley (being greeted by one of Dr. Brisbin’s Carolina Dogs), and Alison Rosenberg. The Boykin Spaniel may have been selected as the S.C. State Dog, but there is another kind of dog that was here for thousands of years before the Boykin Spaniel.

Many South Carolinians grew up knowing about “Yaller Dogs.” Or, you may have heard of the “Lynches River Wild Dog,” the “Dixie Dingo,” “American Dingo,” or “porch dog.” Regardless of which name you know the dog by, these are South Carolina’s original native dogs, descended from the type dogs that followed humans across the Bering land bridge to settle in America.

As time passed, where there were large human populations, the original type dog bred with other dogs and were hybridized. However, in extremely rural areas, such as the swampy areas in the South, the original form of this dog, the Carolina Dog, can occasionally be found or may turn up in shelters in rural areas.

Baby, a Carolina Dog caught while running around a neighborhood in Aiken. Baby is an excellent example of the breed: medium-sized, tan-colored, almond eyes with white patches over the eyes, large erect ears, narrow snout and a fish hook tail.Baby, a Carolina Dog caught while running around a neighborhood in Aiken. Baby is an excellent example of the breed: medium-sized, tan-colored, almond eyes with white patches over the eyes, large erect ears, narrow snout and a fish hook tail.
In the 1970s, Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, a biologist and former researcher at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Lab, noticed wild dogs on his trips into the Savannah River Site’s fields and swampy areas. The dogs would sometimes be caught in the live traps he used to study other wildlife.

Dr. Brisbin observed that the dogs looked and acted more like the dingoes of Australia and other wild dogs in countries such as Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan, and Korea. Dr. Brisbin sought out and studied dogs that appeared to meet the physical and behavioral characteristics he observed in the wild dogs found near the Savannah River Site area.


The Praise Dog! Training team was excited to meet and hear the slightly eerie howl/whine of a New Guinea Singing Dog, another one of the rarest and most primitive breeds in the world. Here Phyllis Beasley gets attention from Sasha, an enchanting and affectionate New Guinea Singing Dog. The Praise Dog! Training team was excited to meet and hear the slightly eerie howl/whine of a New Guinea Singing Dog, another one of the rarest and most primitive breeds in the world. Here Phyllis Beasley gets attention from Sasha, an enchanting and affectionate New Guinea Singing Dog. In 2013, a study published by the Royal Society of Biological Sciences examined DNA evidence that suggests the Carolina Dog has pre-Columbian origins.

Dr. Brisbin was instrumental in establishing recognition of the breed by the United Kennel Club in 1995 and by the American Rare Breed Association. He maintains the Carolina Dog Stud Book.


Praise Dog! Training was contacted to assist volunteers to help Baby be less fearful and to accept handling. Here, Praise Dog! Training assistant Alison Rosenberg is able to get Baby to lick peanut butter from her finger. Praise Dog! Training was contacted to assist volunteers to help Baby be less fearful and to accept handling. Here, Praise Dog! Training assistant Alison Rosenberg is able to get Baby to lick peanut butter from her finger. In July, Phyllis Beasley and her assistant, Alison Rosenberg, had the opportunity to meet Dr. Brisbin (or “Bris,” as he prefers to be called) and the Carolina Dogs in his care at his 18- acre kennel in Aiken County. Beasley had been contacted by a woman in Aiken who was seeking assistance working with a fearful Carolina Dog that had been captured in her neighborhood.

Dr. Brisbin explained in addition to the physical characteristics of Carolina Dogs, they exhibit certain telltale odd physiological and behavioral characteristics. The medium-sized Carolina Dog is usually tan (“yaller”) colored, but some can be black and piebald.

They are usually short-haired and have erect, large ears. Their tails are described as “fish-hooked.” Their eyes are almond-shaped and sometimes have a white patch of hair over their eyes. According to Dr. Brisbin, one of the most desirable markings of a Carolina Dog is a whitish stripe down their shoulders.

As much, or more telling of the breed, are the odd physiological and behavioral characteristics that are more indicative of a wild dog than of our common breeds.

Young female Carolina

Dogs go into heat three times a year for about the first two years. Dr. Brisbin explained this physiological oddity may have evolved because of the short lifespan of dogs that live in the wild. According to him, their short lifespan created the need to reproduce as many times as possible as early as possible.

The Carolina Dog covers its feces by pushing dirt over it with its nose. Another odd characteristic is the way a Carolina Dog will dig a hole and push its snout into it.

Do you think you own a Carolina Dog? You can request review of your dog for verification by sending an email to the Carolina Dog Society of America: reviewmydog@thecarolinadogsociety.com.

Return to top