Canine Virtuoso: The New Guinea Singing Dog

The New Guinea Singing Dog has one of the most beautiful vocalizations in the animal kingdom. Sadly, their sublime song may be lost forever.

My first exposure to the New Guinea Singing Dog came about by looking for unusual animal sounds to use as samples in the creation of music. I found a wav file a few years ago of one of the most beautiful and haunting sounds. It was that of a New Guinea Singing Dog doing what it does best – singing. The mysterious timbre of their song revivals that of the songs of whales. It is not the type of canine vocalization that one hears from wolves or coyotes. It is much more complex than the howl of a wolf, and far more soothing than the choruses of coyotes, a sound that I am all too familiar with.

Sadly, the New Guinea Singing Dog, Canis Lupus hallstromi, is vanishing. In 1995 it was estimated that only 300 remain worldwide. It is feared that today their numbers have deceased to around 200.

Female New Guinea Singing Dog at San Diego Zoo

Many people believe the New Guinea Singing Dog to be the most primitive domestic dog breeds in existence today. It is thought that the were brought to the island of New Guinea by humans over 6,000 years ago. They remained as an isolated population, until 1950, when Sir Edward Hallstrom, collected a pair from The Southern Highlands District of Papua New Guinea, and took them to The Taronga Zoo, in Sydney, Australia. At that time the were classified as Lupus hallstromi, however, were shortly reclassified as a sub-species, of Canis lupus, and a close relation of the Australian Dingo. Because of this many zoos and conservationists were not concerned with ensuring the continuation of the breed or species.

New Guinea Singing Dog by Rennett Stowe.

These beautiful animals have been kept as companions and hunting dogs in their native New Guinea. In the Papuan Highlands the Kalam people, who do not breed these dogs, capture the pups from the wild. They also have been known the hunt and eat wild Singing Dogs. There have been very few studies of this species in the wild. Few zoos study or have breeding programs for the New Guinea Singing Dogs, and most of those specimens, come from the original pair, brought to the Taronga Zoo, in 1950. The only exception, being five individuals, captured in 1976, in Irian Jaya, that were taken to the Domestic Animal Institute, in Keil, Germany. Subsequent attempts to capture wild specimens have failed.

New Guinea Singing Dog by Just chaos.

In appearance the New Guinea Singing Dog weighs between 17 to 30 pounds, stands from 14 to 18 inches at the shoulder,  and has a short double coat, with a color range from reddish brown to tan. The have short legs and their heads are larger than most canines, sometimes having a mask. They have a rather large carnassial tooth (a cheek tooth) and are distinguished from their close relative the Dingo by a larger skull and short stature in the withers.

New Guinea Singing Dogs: Coming Home to Lunch Clip

Behaviorally New Guinea Singing Dogs are similar to other canines, with a few exceptions. Captive specimens do not seem to form packs, and of the few wild sightings of the species, most were observed individually or in pairs. They do not seem to exhibit the canine behavior of “play bow”, which in some observed situations has lead to them attacking domestic dogs, misunderstanding the attempt to play as an attack. Their vocalization has been described as a “trill” with a modulating pitch, thus giving them the name Singing Dog. Because of their behavioral traits, many people find them hard to work with or keep domestically. Others who have a love for this species, or if you will breed, insist that with proper training the are able to live in a home environment as pets.

In recent years attempts have been made by a few individuals and zoos to save the species. These attempts have included a few private and public breeding programs. In 1996, The United Kennel Club, recognized them as a breed, in their Sighthounds and Pariah Dog category. This was followed by recognition of the breed by The American Rare Breed Association, in their Spitz and Primitive Group.

New Guinea Singing Dog by Just chaos.

In 1997 the New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society was formed in an attempt to preserve the species and promote it as a recognized breed. This recognized non-profit organization is dedicated to the breeding the species, and proper ownership, or as I like to put it, friendship, by humans with New Guinea Singing Dogs. Although, their website says that this breed has the potential of being a wonderful personal or family companion, purchasing or adopting one should not be done on a whim. Very good advice given the low numbers of this breed. They give support and advice to anyone who is sincerely interested in preserving this beautiful species. This support is giving before purchase or adoption, and continues for the life or the animal and its offspring.

If reading this article has left you with a desire to have, a New Guinea Singing Dog as a pet because they are cool, I suggest you reconsider. If it has left you with the desire to have a part in saving this breed, go to the New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society website and educate yourself. After doing so, if you have the time and finances to give these beautiful creature the care and love they deserve, only then consider becoming involved.

Related Links

New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society

(there are wav file examples of New Guinea Singing Dog songs at this site)

Unusual Pets: Pet Monkeys, The Dark Side

Two Banned Animals That Make Better Pets Than Dogs

Owning an Exotic Pet

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User Comments
  1. chellsy

    On February 17, 2010 at 5:35 am

    i like to have dog at home.thank you for sharing this article and always teaching me new things about my article..

  2. deep blue

    On February 17, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Very well presented. Interesting breed, Mark.

  3. Brenda Nelson

    On February 18, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    really great write up on these special dogs. Well done Mark

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