The Canaan Dog is believed by many to be the breed referred to in the Bible. A native of the region in which Israel and Palestine now sit, the Canaan Dog was named for the Biblical “Land of Canaan,” the Hebrew Promised Land. Because of this link, the Canaan Dog is considered by some to be one of Israel’s national treasures, a dog breed that connects the people to its past.
But for many in Israel, the dog is often known for wandering the streets, a wild dog with a past both mythological and primitive.
In fact, the Canaan dog was nearly wiped out in Israel after a nationwide rabies eradication program. Thousands of the dogs were killed in the process, and now a few hundred mostly occupy a small section of the Negev Desert, the land of the Bedouin people.
The Bedouin, a nomadic desert society, have cared for and preserved the Canaan Dog for many years, but as more and more Bedouin abandon their desert camps in favor of city life, the Canaan Dog population has suffered.
This ancient breed has survived war after war — including the Crusades – but according to Myrna Shiboleth, may now fall victim to government mandates.
Shiboleth, a Canaan Dog breeder since the 1960’s, runs Sha’ar Hagai Kennels and is one of the breed’s primary defenders against extinction in its native land of Israel. Shiboleth and her family moved into an abandoned cluster of buildings on an isolated parcel of land, breeding and caring for her dogs.
According to The Washington Post, the Sha’ar Hagai Kennel’s Canaan Dogs have been sent all over the world, helping the breed gain recognition within the American Kennel Club and the international canine organization, Federation Cynologique.
But Shiboleth’s breeding program is in danger: late last year, the Israel Government Lands Authority sent Shiboleth a notice of eviction from the land her kennels have occupied for over 40 years. Without the resources to relocate, the eviction would essentially shut down Sha’ar Hagai for good.
Shiboleth has been fighting the eviction, but the outcome is currently in the hands of the courts.
Supporters have started a petition urging the Israel Government Lands Authority to reconsider their position.
“Here in Israel there are still dogs living in nature and with the Bedouin that can be brought in to strengthen the gene pool. This cannot be done anywhere else,” the petition reads.