October 4 2017
This is a post by a friend of MBDP after her visit to the facility in September. Many thanks to Keeley for her visit and writing this guest post. Please contact us through Facebook to arrange a tour.
Every dog lover ought to make the journey out to the Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project site. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of tagging along with Zoë, Batbaatar, and Will to meet the dogs and learn about the program. These furry, intelligent creatures hold tremendous responsibility in the herding world of Mongolia, and they are so much more than your average ger dog/house pet. As the four of us cruised down the highway to Khustai Zoë laid out the basics for me – the purpose of the MBDP is to revive and enhance traditional Bankhar rearing practices and to provide local herders with a livestock guardian dog born and bred for the job. Pretty awesome if you ask me.
Our mission for the day? Food delivery! When we arrived in Khustai we were greeted by Orsilla and Juno who came bounding up to us. I leapt out of the truck so excited to meet them. Wide eyed and tails wagging, they were clearly to happy to see familiar faces. Zoë eyeballed their fitness before we created an assembly line to unload the dog chow. When the task was complete we entered the pen for introductions to the other pupperoos. Such beautiful creatures! As we wandered in and out of their enclosures, making sure everyone got some attention, Zoë explained all of the dogs’ backstories. Some had already lived lives as LGDs, some were products of the previous year’s breeding program, and others had a more complex history.
Once we’d made the rounds it was time to collect some data. Batbaatar grabbed the scale and measuring tape and we started recording. We took note of height (shoulder to ground) and length (shoulder to base of the tail). After we got them into a harness, Batbaatar and Zoë hoisted each one in the air to get their weight. These are massive dogs so it was no small task. Sharaa, the biggest and oldest Bankhar weighed in at 102lbs!!! After wrapping up the weight and body measurements we went over to the ger to play with the new batch of kittens. They were unbearably adorable and crawling all over in search for things to occupy their curious minds. Once we had our kitten fix we packed up and hit the road. On the way back to Ulaanbaatar, Batbaatar cranked up some awesome Mongolian tunes and shared his expert bird ID skills pointing out the kites, vultures, and falcons soaring around us. As we barreled down the backcountry washboards towards the paved road, a hawk swooped in to nab a field mouse right in front of the Ranger! Wowza, what day!
Zoë jokes that her job basically entails playing with dogs all day, but that’s only a little bit true and she knows it. The ripple effect of the MBDP will positively impact a breadth of conservation issues including desertification and human wildlife conflict, i.e. livestock predation which drives herders to poach endanger species like snow leopards, wolves, lynxes, and birds of prey. The project also emphasizes a cultural preservation component of traditional Bankhar breeding as well as the potential provide more peace-of-mind for herders. To put it simply, Bankhar have been guarding livestock in Mongolia for millennia, and better adapted dogs = better protection and security for livestock and less likely that humans will negatively interact with predators. Pretty awesome right?
Tagging along for the day was an honor and a privilege, and I look forward to seeing how the program progresses. I’m specially looking forward to fawning over photos of the coming season’s pups! Check out their website, Bankhar.org, for more details.
By Keeley Rideout