The Phu Quoc Ridgeback Dog
Last weekend we travelled down to Phu Quoc Island again. Photos from last year and more information about the wonderful Mango Bay ecolodge are here. This time I was on a mission to try to get some good photos of the Phu Quoc Ridgeback dogs which are native to the island. Although not yet internationally recognized, they have become popular with the Vietnamese beyond their native island and I see them frequently in Hanoi. Tala is quite often mistaken for a ridge-less one probably because of her similar appearance as Phu Quoc ridgebacks are also primitive dogs.
While on the island we were visited by a plucky little female (pictured below and in the header) every day at the beach. Although probably only about four or five months old, she was very independent, trotting around confidently on various missions along the beach – while friendly she remained aloof. If we had a garden in Hanoi I would definitely have been tempted by a puppy, but for now Tala is probably far happier being our only dog! More information about the breed below.
The Phu Quoc dog originates from the Island of Phu Quoc off the Southwest coast of Vietnam. It is one of only three breeds which have a ridge, the others being the Thai Ridgeback and the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Its more ancient origins and possible connections with the larger Thai Ridgeback remain unclear, although I believe DNA tests are being carried out to try to establish what connections there may be. In recent years the Phu Quoc dog has become very popular off its native island and the dogs can be seen as pets in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, although I have heard a popular myth that the dogs cannot survive for long off the island. While this may be a bit far-fetched I am sure they are happier foraging on a beach than being confined in a city.
Phu Quoc dogs have a typical primitive dog appearance with prick ears, a tapering chest, straight long legs, and their tails carried high. They are a medium size weighing between 15 and 25 kilos and are 45-55cm in height. They have a short coat with the most common colours being sandy/fawn, dark reddish brown, black (sometimes with other colours), or brindle. Special features include the ridge of hair running the opposite direction along their backs, webbed feet for swimming, and blue/black spots on their tongues. They are fast and intelligent dogs and have been used for hunting on Phu Quoc Island. Below is a Phu Quoc Ridgeback in Hanoi – notice the brindle colour, ridge and spotted tongue.
The Phu Quoc Dog was first classified as a distinct type by the French at the end of the 19th century and appeared in the Larrouse Encyclopedia and “Les Races de Chiens” published in 1897. Above is a sketch from 1915. Two Phu Quoc dogs were first brought to France and exhibited at dog shows in 1894 around France.
The Vietnam Kennel Association, established in 2008, is now working to develop the breed and create a recognised breed standard. Professor Du Thanh Khiem has been petitioning the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) to recognize the Phu Quoc Ridgeback for competition in international dog shows. The breed was first exhibited Internationally at the FCI World Dog Show 2011 held in Paris. In April 2012 the Saigon Phu Quoc Dog Club held a show in Ho Chi Minh City (photos here) and in December they were shown along with many other breeds at the annual Vietnam Dog Show also in Ho Chi Minh City (photos here). It will be interesting to see how this breed progresses during our remaining time in Vietnam.
Websites for more information: