Volume 23 1914 > Volume 23, No. 91 > The ancient Maori dog, by W. H. Skinner, p 173-175
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- 173
THE ANCIENT MAORI DOG.

ABOUT twenty years ago—1894—I purchased at Parihaka, Taranaki, a very fine specimen of the huru-kuri or dog-skin mat, made up of eight complete skins of what I was assured by the best authorities in the village, were taken from the old Kuri Maori, the indigenous dog of New Zealand, or rather the dog brought to this country by the Polynesian migrants. The brief history of the mat is as follows:—

It was made by Rawa-hotana, the father of Whakatau-Potiki, aged at this time about eighty years, from whom I bought it. The skins were procured by Rawa-hotana's father from the old Maori dog in the neighbourhood of Opunake. These men were rangatira of the Taranaki tribe at Te Namu (Opunake). From this I conclude the mat was made about 1810-15, and the skins obtained and cured earlier. The skins vary in size and colour, the latter embracing from jet black, creamy white, and brown, to the rusty red of the dingo.

In 1841-42 when the late F. A. Carrington was laying out the town of New Plymouth, he was forced to make a slight angle on the northern end of Queen Street. The reason for this was that at the extreme western end of the great Puke-ariki pa, was buried a man of very high rank in the Ngati-Awa and Taranaki tribes, an ancestor of Rapata-Ngarongomate, Poharama of Nga-Motu, Te Whiti, and other leading families on the Taranaki coast. The original line of Queen Street took the grave of this man into the roadway, but the Maoris at once objected, and the Surveyor was instructed by the Plymouth Company's agent to deviate the road slightly to prevent trouble. Bearing this in mind I requested the workmen engaged in the levelling away of this part of Puke-ariki, to watch carefully for human remains and report to me at once should they happen upon them. This was in 1902 or -3. Soon after I was sent for, as the bones had been uncovered, and arrangements were made that all that could be found were to be placed in a box provided for that purpose, and these remains were later interred, at the request of certain of the descendants, at the old cemetery at Moturoa, at the mouth of the Wai-tapu stream. Amongst the human bones—the chief and his wife—were mixed those of two - 174 dogs, killed no doubt as was customary on such occasions and buried with the chief. It is to these dog bones, which I carefully preserved, and the skin mat described above that Captain Young refers to in his interesting note herewith. I have gone thus into detail to show that both the skins and the bones from their age and history belong unmistakably to the Kuri-Maori, or original Maori dog.

Captain A. R. Young, M.R.C.V.S., Veterinary Supervisor at Wellington, New Zealand, to the Department of Agriculture, now gives me the results of his examinations of the skins in the mat and the skull and bones found in the Maori grave, as described above. He says: “There is now no doubt in my opinion that two distinct breeds of dogs were introduced into New Zealand by the Maori. One of them, and probably the first, was what might be called a middle, or small sized dog of strong build and silent. This dog was a pure bred Pomeranian. It had a lovely self (?)-coloured coat of pure white, so much so that in some places it was a sacred dog. The other was a somewhat larger animal with coarse short coat, and very strong, also a silent dog. This was the Pariah dog, found all over Asia, Eastern Europe, and certain parts of Africa. The skull you have in your possession is that of a Pomeranian, and the skins (mat) that of the Pariah dogs. I may here state that the Pomeranians now bark, a yelping bark, but this is a very recently acquired habit.”

To this valuable note of Captain Young's I wish to add that all my informants—that is reliable old Maoris, now long dead—told me that the Kuri-Maori had no bark, was in fact what Captain Young describes as silent. Also from my own personal experience when surveying in the forests around the base of Mount Egmont, nearly forty years ago, we occasionally heard the wild dog. It never barked, but the pack when hunting, gave forth a weird yapping howl, that made one's flesh creep and feel uncomfortable, a harking back of the old savage within us, to the time when the wild pack—the wolf—was a real danger to our far away ancestors. The instinct of danger, lying dormant for centuries, was aroused and started into sudden being again. This yapping howl had a most startling effect on the camp dogs—the domestic animal. They became intensly restless, would not venture beyond the light of the camp fire, would leave their kennels and come into tents for company. They showed a very lively and unmistakable dread of the uncanny voiced pack.

[Captain Young's identification of the old Maori dog with the Pomeranian breed raises an important question as to how the ancestors of the Maori obtained this animal. It also comes as a confirmation of a recent statement to the effect that the native dog of the Paumotu Archipelago is also of the Pomeranium breed. The Encyclopædia Britanica (11th Edition) says—“The Pomeranium dog is a close ally of the Eskimo breed, and was formerly used as a wolfdog, but has been - 175 much modified. The larger variety of the race has a sharp muzzle, upright pointed ears, and a bushy tail generally curled over its back. It varies in colour from black through grey to reddish-brown and white,” and it was originally, a barkless dog, like the Maori dog.

Those ethnologists who trace the so-called Aryan people to an original home on the shores of the Baltic (where Pomerania is situated), will see in the fact of the Maori dog being a member of that breed, a confirmation of their theory if, as seems probable, the Polynesians are Aryans, or Proto-Aryans, who would bring the dog with them on their extensive wanderings. There is a field open here for further enquiry.—Editor.]