By Tenno Pheiray
Haofa, an indigenous breed of dogs from the land of Tangkhuls known for its hunting skills and faithfulness, is on the verge of extinction and there is an urgent need to preserve the breed.
The numbers of the breed are decreasing day by day, and it is getting harder to find pure breeds these days. Some individuals and communities have started breeding Haofa to revive their dwindling numbers; and Haofa breeders take strong pride in maintaining their genetic pool. For them the name ‘Haofa’ is almost synonymous with their roots.
An owner from Phungcham stated that some dog lovers had come looking for ‘Tangkhul Hui’ probably referring to Haofa while also mentioning that he turned them away because there is no such thing as ‘Tangkhul Hui’. A Haofa puppy could cost anywhere between Rs 4000-5000 although the price is comparatively cheaper than other breeds. Still, one has to book for a Haofa at least two years in advance. The best puppies are those delivered in the months of September and October, and they can be separated from their mothers after they reach two months after birth.
It may be mentioned that Haofas possess excellent hunting instincts, and they were an indispensable company for a Tangkhul hunter earlier days. Known to get restless if they are kept too long at home without a hunt, they go off on hunts alone bringing back their kills to their owners. Every hunter who owned a Haofa used to give it a special name according to its appearance and the dog is trained according to its name.
Commonly, two types of Haofa, one smaller and the other bigger in size, are known among the Tangkhuls. The smaller one is favoured for hunting small games. The bigger breed has short bluish-black coat with a long muzzle and wide jaws, resembling that of a bear. They also have a thick chest which tapers slightly into their waist and their wide paws provide the traction and grip needed when cornering fast games. Though not known to be speedy, they have superb stamina and can chase games for long distances.
Traditionally, the ears and tails of male Haofa are cut off when they are about two months old and only the tails of female Haofa are cut to distinguish their gender. This modification in the ears and tails prevent their prey from biting the appendages while hunting. Dogs generally curl their tails between their legs when they are frightened. Thus, the logic of cutting their tails was to prevent their opponents from sensing their fears.
Haofa is a very loyal breed of dog; however, they can be somewhat aloof and nonchalant in their temperaments. Usually, their intelligence grows with age.
The original breed of Haofa can be found at Phungcham, Somdal and few other places of Ukhrul district. The enthusiasm for rearing Haofa diminished with the introduction of other breeds into the community for some time.
However, there is renewed interest in keeping Haofa as pets among the community. The proud owner took strong pride in owning them, and they are easy to take care of as compared to other breeds and not expensive to maintain. Their barking is quite strong with a unique booming sound which can be heard from quite far distance.