Dr. Carl Semencic, a Mensa member, and I, we both wrote a few words (in his case a best-selling book or three and a 1000 word article from your truly, but hey, so what?) about canis lupus familiaris, or the dog to non-Mensa or similar such riffraff, and ended up with a bit of a gaffe. Finding the cross of which too much to bear, on behalf of our shared intelligence, let me right that wrong here and now…
Dr. Semencic wrote a book titled ‘Gladiator Dogs’ (and two others – The World of Fighting Dogs and Pit Bulls and Tenacious Guard Dogs) that celebrated the undeniable prowess that lurks in the folds of muscle, sinew and jowl of the fighting breeds. And a few years later, and incidentally just about a few weeks ago, I happened to write about Indian dog breeds. And in both our accounts, a breed that should have rightfully taken its place at the head of the pack was forgotten, ignored, insulted and got passed over…
I can’t speak for Dr. Carl, but let me fix my error of omission in this very piece, so ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and say a little high-pitched prayer, for you will soon be in the company of the ‘Beast from the East’, the redoubtable champion of the blood-soaked pit, the pride of fighting dog-men, and one of the most formidable canines in the country and the planet – the Bully Kutta.
Before I go further, and before you self-righteous sorts begin howling like a wolf-pack at moonrise, let me soothe your hackles by taking a leaf out of Dr. Carl’s methods and announce that I do not approve of or support the idea of pitting one dog against another in a battle that inflicts pain or draws blood. I’m a vegetarian, for Christ’s sake! However, no book about canine gladiators can be complete without paying homage to this magnificent and brave beast, and nor can a listing of Indian breeds be complete without the Bully Kutta being given the bone (no not dog bone – a nylabone) of honour.
So what is this bully kutta? Chances are, you wouldn’t have seen one. They are rather rare and you wouldn’t find them in pet stores or most dog shows. They are a bit like erotic paintings – neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride; they feign outrage and so we pretend to hide.
But these dogs aren’t easy to hide. The easiest way to describe them would be to show you a Great Dane and ask you to add about 20 lbs of muscle and take away a couple of inches in height. But the bigger difference is on the inside. These dogs have the courage of a lion, the stamina of a wild ass, the power of a diesel truck and the tenacity of a Navy SEAL. In any other country, a dog of such impressive proportions and character would have been feted as our national dog but the Bully is popular only in pockets in this country and mostly with those involved with dog fighting, an illegal blood sport in India.
Er…here I should clarify that the Bully is often called the Pakistani Bully, but that isn’t necessarily so because the breed was created in Pakistan. In ancient India, in the high Himalayas, large wolf like dogs bred for protecting livestock from predators and thieves, fanned out along the mountains with their nomadic masters and into the steppes and plains and valleys of Asia Minor, Europe and Central Asia. From here, over the centuries, some dogs returned with the flocks through the cold and hot deserts out west of the subcontinent. Here, they mixed with the sleek and fast sighthounds that hunted antelope and gazelle on the hot plains of peninsular India and evolved into a formidable breed that was the combination of the muscle and moods of the mastiff and the speed and predatory instinct of the hounds. And to this mix was added terrier tenacity when the Brits and their game dogs took over the country.
It was this formidable combination that has made the Bully a champion fighting dog. And this canine heritage is the subcontinent’s to claim, irrespective of borders. However it is true that the Bully is far more common in Pakistan than India, but that is only because dogfights are still a part of Pakistan’s rural culture while stricter governance has pushed dog fighting into the armpits of the hinterland in India.
By the way, before I go, I must answer that question in your head. Is the Bully (pronounced like the word pulley with a little lingering on the ‘l’) called so because it is a bully of a dog, or is it because of the bully-breed (as in the bulldog of old, or the bull-terriers) influence? Neither actually! The Bully kutta got its name from the North-Indian word ‘bohli’, meaning wrinkled-kutta, and that’s of course hindi for dog.
Next week I am scheduled to meet a traditional Bully owner. Following the meeting, I hope to be able to share some insights from the world of dog fighting, the men and dogs that mind it and perhaps discuss a way to keep the wonderful physiological and temperament markers in the Bully intact, without having to resort to the barbaric practice of dog fighting.
Meanwhile, you could take a stroll in the winter sun and take pride in walking on the land that was both mother and midwife to one of the most magnificent breeds to mark its territory on this planet.