The dog and the farmer: the usefulness of dogs in agriculture

by Olalekan Abdulsalami and Toluwalemi Oluwadare. on 25 Nov 2019 • 30 comments
3 min read

According to the National Geographic Society, agriculture is the art and science of cultivating the soil, growing crops and raising livestock. It includes the preparation of plant and animal products for people to use and their distribution to markets.

Dog has been man's best friend for 33,000 years . Over the years, farmers have used dogs for agricultural purposes. The usefulness of dogs in agriculture can be classified under three main roles – herding, guarding, and hunting.

Herding dogs

The herding dogs were bred to assist with the movement of large number of livestock effectively and efficiently at the command of the owner (farmer). There are breeds that are better with sheep, others better with cattle, and some work many species of herd animals. A herding dog drives livestock, can collect them together and bring them in from a wide plot of land, or keep them contained in wide open pastures. Herding dogs tend to be medium-size dogs that are very smart, athletic, and energetic. Though herding is an instinct in herding dogs, they also require a lot of training to work with their owners and recognize specific commands.

A breed of herding dogs is Border Collie. Border Collies are a herding breed that originated from Scotland, and are widely recognized as the smartest breed of dog. Border Collies have an incredible instinct for herding livestock, and with a little training, a good Border Collie might be the only extra body a farmer needs to move their livestock from one place to another. Another beautiful breed of herding dogs are Australian Shepherds. Australian Shepherds are similar to Border Collies in many respects. They are smart, loyal, and have good herding instincts that can help farmers shepherd their animals.

Other Common Breeds of herding dogs are: Australian Cattle Dog, Bearded Collie, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Tervuren,, Canaan, Welsh Corgi, Rough Collie, Old English Sheepdog

Livestock Guardian Dogs

Livestock guardian dogs were developed to protect domestic animals and from predators by marking their territory through posturing and barking. In some cases, livestock guardian dogs use physical aggression against intruders to protect the farmer’s herd although they tend to be gentle when not actively protecting another animal.

One breed of guardian dog is the Anatolian Shepherd. This breed is quite old, and originated in Anatolia (the Asian portion of Turkey). These dogs are large, rugged, and like other guardian dogs, are smart and devoted. Another example of a livestock guardian dog is the Great Pyrenees. Apart from being huge and extra fluffy, they are smart, patient, and calm. Though they are known for their patience and calm, they are also known for being courageous and attentive when watching over the farmer’s livestock. Other breeds of livestock guardian dogs are: Tibetan Mastiff, Pyrenean Mastiff, Kuvasz, Akbash, Kangal, Komonder, Polish Tatra, Maremma.

FUN FACT: Dogs can hear 4 times as far as humans. Puppies may be born deaf, but they quickly surpass our hearing abilities. Dogs can also hear higher pitched sounds, detecting a frequency range of 67 to 45,000 hertz (cycles per second). The human range is from 64 to 23,000 hertz. In both dogs and humans, the upper end of hearing range decreases with age.

                            

Hunting Dogs

Hunting dogs have been used in hunting for over 20,000 years, starting even before agriculture began. Hunting is actually thought of as a main factor that caused the domestication of dogs, but intentional breeding with hunting skills in mind began 9,000 years ago. The main job of a hunting dog is to collect game (after it has been shot), to fight predators, and to detect or drive prey.

Common breeds of hunting dogs include: American Water Spaniel, Boykin Spaniel, Brittany, Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, Field Spaniel, Shorthaired Pointer, Wirehaired Pointer, Golden Retriever, Irish Setter, Labrador Retriever, Sussex Spaniel, Wirehaired Vizsla

Dogs are amazing creatures and have many other amazing skills, from helping people with disabilities, to sniffing out bombs, drugs and diseases, to missing people and of course being loyal and loving companions. Humans have co-evolved with these great animals, benefiting us both with protection, companionship, and assistance in a variety of tasks.


References

Dogs in Agriculture. Retrieved from https://farmingtruth.weebly.com/dogs-in-ag.html


Iowaagliteracy. (March, 2018). Dogs in Agriculture. Retrieved from https://iowaagliteracy.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/dogs-in-agriculture/

Cover image by Irene Dávila on Unsplash



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