Domestic Dogs

(Canis africanis)

Domestic dogs (Canis Africanis) are ubiquitous in rural, peri-urban and urban areas throughout Southern Africa. They are predominately ‘smooth-coated, lightly built, with a slight forehead stop and pointed muzzle, large semi-pricked ears and a curled tail’ (Swart 2011). These dogs are often characterized as pests or pariah with no discernable contribution or aesthetic value to human society. Existing research on Canis Africanis (as feral, community or domesticated dogs) in academic literature focuses almost exclusively on rabies/disease spread and population control efforts. Further, these dogs do not fit easily into established categories of agricultural animals (e.g. cattle, donkeys, chickens) or wild animals (e.g. elephants, lions, zebras) usually associated with the African context.

Recent reclaiming of the indigenous Canis Africanis in post-colonial Africa – both in scholarship and practice – pivots on the idea that these animals are part of a living heritage of African culture, as well as an animal uniquely adapted physically and mentally to local environmental conditions on account of natural section. In short, these dogs are imagined and promoted as creatures of the blood and the soil (Swart 2011). Relatively little is known, however, as to the value, role, circumstances and experiences of community dogs broadly speaking, and in Botswana specifically. Thus exploring the nature of belonging of Canis Africanis in Batswana society, as well as their material conditions and relations with humans is warranted.

Lauren Van Patter joined our research team in September 2013 and conducted Masters research on feral cats in Guelph, Canada. Lauren travelled to Maun, Botswana in May 2015 as a research assistant focused on documenting the value, role, circumstances and experiences of domestic dogs so as to inform community development and animal welfare/management efforts. Lauren's work was supported in-kind by the Maun Animal Welfare Society with a research permit granted by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.