TURGAI NEWSPAPER, ¹35, 1898.
(published in Orenburg)
(from editorial board – reprinted with abridgements)
Dogs breeding and housing by kazakh people
Dog meaning in kazakh household
Kazakhs, like all Mohammedans, considered dogs as “unclean” animals (“aram narse” or “aram zhandyk” – unclean thing, unclean animal), though kept them willingly and in large numbers, Dog meaning in Kazakh household is very important: it guards Kazakhs housings and their herds.
Dogs play particularly important role in sheep pasturage. Feeling wolves approach, dogs by barking let the herdsman know about it, thus preventing sheep theft. According to herdsman tales, when dogs are barking at wolf, their “voice” sounds specially and a herdsman can be sure, that wolves are coming. At night all aul sleeps soundly, only Kazakh dog is on alert, ready to wake its master up if any stranger approaches.
Most of Kazakhs keep one dog, major sheep breeders keep up to 10 dogs, on average – 2 dogs per nomad tent or from 150000 to 160000 heads in oblast.
Breeds of dogs
Kazakhs of Turgaiskaya oblast keep two breeds of dogs: common Kazakh dog and greyhounds, of which the first one represents the main contingent of all steppe dogs, while greyhounds (“tazy”) are pretty rare. For example, in all Turgai district there are not more than 100 specimen of tazy and about 500-600 in the whole oblast. Common Kazakh dog by its appearance looks like a wolf: average height – 12-13 vershkov (1 vershok = 1,45mm); constitution – sturdy, muscular; nose, mostly, short and wide, which is the main difference from the wolf; eyes – squint and small; ears – short, hanging, with roundish end; neck is short, muscular; chest is broad; legs are straight, muscular; tail is downy, always elevated; hair – sleek and pretty long, in winter – with dense soft down; hair color varies, frequently grey, white, yellow-reddish, motley and striped; sense of smell, vision and hearing are very good; common Kazakh dog is depraved and thievish.
Pure-bred greyhound has a very high value to professional Kazakh hunters; it is more valuable than a good horse, camel, etc.
As Kazakhs tell, cases of cross between breeds with wolves are rare, bitch wolves don’t admit male dogs, while bitch-dogs willingly admit male wolves. Mongrels resemble wolves, not only by appearance, but by the temper and predatory tendencies.
Puppies upbringing, feeding and dogs care
Born puppies (“kushuktsu” = to pup in Kazakh) are rarely given the boot, they stay with their mother and feed on her milk, later Kazakhs feed them up with food debris: bones, milk, etc., unnecessary puppies are distributed among the neighbors. Sometimes, though, litter is exterminated using barbaric method: bitch is kept on a tight leash, thus unable to feed her puppies, which soon die of starvation. Kazakhs don’t pay any attention to grown-up dogs and rarely feed them; dogs feed on different refuses and always hungry. Due to this fact, dogs play a very important role is the steppe, which is not realized by their masters: they serve as an orderly. All carcasses of dead cattle, blood, refuse of slaughtering are thoroughly picked by hungry dogs and eaten. Considering dogs “unclean”, Kazakhs never let them inside winter huts or nomad tents; the only exception – tazy, which are always kept in warmth, well-fed and protected by their masters.
Dogs traning to hunt and herd guarding
The main service, which Kazakhs expect from their common dog to carry out is herd guarding, In nighttime, when sheep are in aul and often attacked by wolves, Kazakh dog must notice it and warn humans by barking. Due to good scent and instinctive animosity towards wolves any Kazakh dog fulfills its duty without any special training. To train young dog to stay near the herd, it is kept on a leash near the herd until the dog gets used to it. If the dog attacks the herd or tries to disperse it, Kazakhs punish it with … beating.
Dog products, used by kazakhs
In the past, as Kazakhs tell, killing dog without any solid reason considered a sin. Only rabid or dogs, who attacked cattle were killed; dog hides were never flayed and sold, since dogs were “unclean”. Time and need changed this opinion: nowadays dogs are frequently killed with only purpose to receive their hide; hides are sold and used by Kazakhs themselves – to make warm fur boots. Not considering dog hides selling a sin anymore, Kazakh though would never buy bread, tea or sugar for the money, gained by selling a dog hide, he’d better buy some kind of household equipment or some oats for horses. Buying provisions for “unclean” money (gained from selling “unclean” animal’s hide) is still considered a sin
* - Kazakhs (original name – Kazakh, kazak) – a nation, native population of Kazakh USR. Till 1925 (sometimes later on) in literary documents Kazakhs were erroneously called “kirghiz-kazakhs” or even simple “kirghiz”, transferring to them an original name of neighboring nation - original kirghiz (kyrghyz).
• From editorial board – Turgai river, Turgai plateau, Turgai hollow are situated on the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
• Here are some Kazakh denominations of dog types: a dog generally- “it”; bitch – “kanshyk”, male dog – “arlan”; puppy – “kushuk”; greyhound – “tazy”; small dog – “kandek it”; setter – “barak it” (furry dog); angry dog – “kabagan it”, common dog – “tobet”.
• Kazakhs though willingly giving puppies away to their friends and relatives, will never give away or sell a grown up dog. They believe that those who presented and those who received a grown up dog, will quarrel and squabble like dogs.
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