An Enigma wrapped in a Puzzle … the Phu Quoc Ridgeback
There are many people, documents and websites from Thailand that state the Thai Ridgeback dog is the ancestor of Phu Quoc Ridgeback dog. Is this true? So, what is the real story about the origins of this dog from the southernmost part of Vietnam, called Phu Quoc Island?
On July 28, 1993, the Thai Ridgeback dog was recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), or the World Canine Organization, in their global canine list; in group 5 and branch 7 (hunting dog with original features). On December 10, 1996, the Rhodesian Ridgeback dog was recognized by the FCI, in group 6 (hunting dog by smell and related breeds, in the same group as Dalmatians). Now, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback dog has been registered with the FCI in group 5 (original breeds and spitz) – branch 8 (original hunting dog with ridgeback).
Dogs of all Nations, by Walter Esplin Mason. Published in 1915
Below is a description of a Phu Quoc Dog written in 1915, mistakenly called a Phu Quoc Greyhound. To the left is an engraving of an early Phu Quoc ridgeback dog.
Color: Reddish -fawn with black muzzle and with dark strip down the back. Height: 21 in Weight: 40 ibs.
This is heavy kind of greyhound with a long, slightly domed skull, broad muzzle, jaw is long and powerful, lips and tongue black with redish eyes giving him a savage expression. The ears are carried erect, shell shaped and somewhat pointed. He is coarse in body, very long and flexible in neck, with broad and strong lions. The tail is short, very movable and carried curled over the back. The coat on the body and legs is very short and dense and this dog is peculiar and different from any other kind in that the hair on the back grows the wrng way, and is much longer and harder than on the rest of his body.
Thai Ridgeback is a original breed, not related to the Rhodesian Ridgeback or the Phu Quoc Ridgeback
Many historians from Thailand agreed that the Thai Ridgeback originated from eastern Thailand over 300 years ago. However, according to the website www.ianimals.com, there is no historic documents verifying this claim.
DNA analysis of 300 genetic samples of Thai ridgebacks from Thailand, conducted by the Fresno Veterinary University of California University (USA) in 2001-2002, shows that the Thai Ridgeback is a original breed, not related to the Rhodesian Ridgeback or the Phu Quoc Ridgeback.
Still to this day, many sources from Thailand insist that the Thai ridgeback is the “ancestor” of the Phu Quoc ridgeback. They cite a painting on the wall of the Tum-Pra Toon cave in the Uthai-Thani province that states to be over 3,000 years old detailing a dog which looks like today’s Thai Ridgeback.
These sources also site that in ancient times, a Vietnamese king visited Thailand. When he returned home, he brought back a Thai Ridgeback dog and this dog might be considered the ancestor of Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Ridgeback.
From this supposition, Thailand also states that a story about African travelers who brought Phu Quoc Ridgebacks to their home countries to cross with their native Hottentot breed to create the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Further evidence from two American scientists, Merle Wood and Merle Hidinger, who agreed with Thai sources, saying that in the past only Thai and Rhodesian ridgebacks have a ridgeback, so “Phu Quoc ridgebacks must originate from Thai ridgeback breed.” They also said that at least 400 years ago, Thai fishermen brought Thai ridgebacks to Phu Quoc, which were ancestors of Phu Quoc ridgeback.
Contrary to this, Professor Du Thanh Khiem of the Rector of the Woluwe-Saint-Pierre Education Institute in Brussels, an expert of Phu Quoc Ridgeback for over 30 years, does not agree.
“All historic adventures of Thailand are described in the book ‘Abrégé de l‘histoire Générale des Voyages’ by Jean-Francoise de la Harpe, a member of the French Academy, confirms that this record is not in this book.”
So, it is possible, with further research required, that the Phu Quoc Ridgeback dog could of had a parallel development to the Thai Ridgeback, given that each country has a similar climate, food and rural hunter society, supporting claims of separate developments of each dog. Since, Phu Quoc Island is situated, geographically, near the southern part of Thailand, in The Bay of Thailand. And since is a large isolated island, it is possible that there was a unique set of environment factors to support the origins of the Phu Quoc Island ridgeback dog.
Source: Adapted from a story from Tuoi Tre newspaper.
Note: The newspaper, Tuoi Tre researching Thai documents and websites reported that most of documents quoted were published in 1978.