Monday, September 5, 2016


I don't know if there is a Labor Day in Mongolia, but if there is, people should use it to honor a very important working dog, the Bankhar.  These dogs are native to the Mongolian Steppe, where they play a huge role in herding and protecting the livestock of the nomadic people.

There are several types of ancient dog breeds, including the Tibetan Mastiff.  If you read in Wikipedia about Tibetan Mastiffs, you will get the idea that Bankhar is just the Mongolian word for that breed.  And maybe it is.  But if that is true, why are there organizations dedicated especially to breeding Bankhar and placing them with Mongolian families?  Why don't they just use Tibetan Mastiffs?  I find this all somewhat confusing.

©Bruce Elfstrom

Anyway, one of these organizations is called the Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project, and it is located in the U.S.  This group is a non-profit that researches, breeds, and trains working dogs to be placed in Mongolian homes where the dogs are needed to protect the sheep, goats, horses, camels, and yaks that these people depend on for their livelihood.

For many centuries, Bankhar filled this role, but then during the Soviet occupation, this way of protecting the nomads' herds was lost.  That meant that wolves and snow leopards could come in and kill off all the livestock.  People began to protect their animals by poisoning and shooting the predators.  There seemed to be no other option, but the result was that these predator animals became endangered.

The nomads of Mongolia live in this type of home, called a ger.
Gers are made of felt and wood.  They are very warm,
and also easy to move.

So bringing back the Bankar dogs to protect the livestock also helps protect wolves and snow leopards because the nomads no longer feel that their only choice is to kill the predators.

Marco Polo returning from China.
He liked Bankhar so much that he brought one home with him.
This made him the first Westerner recorded as owning one.

So these organizations that are working to increase the number of Bankhar do that by finding healthy breeding pairs, then training the puppies to herd and protect livestock.  After that, the dogs are placed with deserving families, free of charge.

This means that in the end, everyone is happy, the Bankhar, the nomads, the livestock, the wolves, and the snow leopards.  You can't really ask for more happiness than that!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.