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Review of the relationship between Indigenous Australians, dingoes (Canis dingo) and domestic dogs (Canis familiaris)
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Bradley Smith, CA Litchfield
Canids form a large part of Indigenous Australian life and myth- ology, an association first developed with the dingo, and later with the domestic dog. The relationship between canids and Indigenous Australians is intricate, but unique in that these peoples never domesticated the wild dingo. Neither were dingoes and dogs seen as a source of food nor in many cases considered practical hunting assistants, yet they were highly prized. Apart from featuring heavily in Indigenous Australian spirituality (The Dreaming), advantages of camp dingoes and dogs include them being protectors or guardians, "bed warmers," and companions. However, these benefits were weighed against the many associated social and economic costs incurred such as disruption to camp life and religious ceremony, burden on camp food supply and storage, and potential source of disease. This review explores the relationship between Indigenous Australians, dingoes and dogs, and attempts to explain why dingoes, and later dogs, were kept, yet not domesticated. By bringing together the many disparate observations made by early anthropologists, insight into traditional human-canid relationships may be gleaned.