Friday, December 10, 2010

Korean peculiar treasures, pt. 1: "National Treasure the Jindo dog."

I fancy this blog a means of sharing things that momentarily brighten my dismal corner of the world with a likely undeserving audience.  So behold such a thing, the Korean Jindo dog.

The Jindo is indigenous to Korea's Jindo Island.  Snowy, virile, and obscure, it is my new fantasy dog.

Naturally, I was curious about what kind of island could produce such a magnificent dog.  Though currently written in the Korean phonetic script as 진도, the island's name was originally written with the Chinese characters 珍島.  "To/do" 島 means island and "jin" 珍 means uncommon, curious, or peculiar.  So there you go.

The "jin"-ness of both island and dog is endorsed by the island's official website, which claims that "compared to other dogs, the Jindo Dog has many distinguished traits."  The website goes on to list its "superior characteristics:"

     "First, the character of loyalty to its master."
     "Second, it has a miraculous returning home instinct."

     "Third, indomitable hunting instinct."
     "Forth, not falling to strangers temptation."
     "Fifth, characteristic of fastidiousness."

Etc.  It is easy to see why Jindo islanders, and Koreans in general, are proud of their dog, to the point of designating the breed "[National] Treasure of Historic Beauty Natural Treasure number 53" in 1937, at which point "indiscriminate shipping of the dog" was prohibited.  Perhaps to prevent innocent Jindo dogs from falling to strangers' temptations in intemperate foreign lands.

Imagine my distress when I learned that the Jindo dog's initial examination, consideration and approval for National Treasure status was conducted not by a Korean, but a Japanese dog expert: one Professor Mori, also a senator in the colonial government!  Apparently, the "standard of the Jindo dog’s examination" was favorable comparison to "Japanese native dogs."  Might the Jindo's designation have been no more than an insidious attempt at cultural assimilationism by the hated Japanese?

Such doubts are compounded by the frightful possibility that the Jindo is not even native: "during 1970 (30 years after the announcement of its origination), there are concerns of which the rumors, verbally passed down, is believed to be true by our people: that the ancestors of the Jindo Dog are the Mongol dogs or dogs from Song dynasty, China."

One can only imagine that these rumors forced Korean Jindo owners of the 1970s to ask difficult questions: to which master is the characteristically loyal Jindo truly loyal?  Might my beloved Jindo's miraculous returning-home instinct some day drive it to flee to far Mongolia, or even Song-dynasty China?

Fortunately, as the island's website reassures us, later "document analysis and scientific research" proved these concerns to be ungrounded, confirming that the Jindo is, beyond a doubt, "our nation's native dog."

It's good to know that the Jindo dog is indeed as "jin" -- uncommon -- as whatever branch of the Korean government put such effort into proving its pedigree is "jin" -- peculiar.

Lest I sully this blog's inaugural post with an impression of 'post-colonial' cynicism, I'll end with a link to the genuinely heartwarming story of Baekgu, the Jindo whose 3-day vigil over his dead master's body moved neighbors to tears and made them "consider the dog to be better than human."  Fo' sho.


  1. Hey there! lovely well thought out post :)

    The story of Baekgu is really great - but its worth noting the story of these two dogs too!

    Mini (on the left) was rescued by a Husky rescuer and when she was spotted for a Jindo an entire rescue was born!
    Max (on the right) was a poor man who went through many homes. He now lives with the people who run the rescue and is having a great life with jindo-skilled humans!

    Let's make another great story happen! As someone who has a rescue jindo I can say that most that end up in shelters, their first owners never took the time to bond with them, so these guys are just looking for a human to bond to!

    visit to learn more about the two int he photo and about getting a jindo who needs a home!

  2. Yes, the dogs in the photo belong to me and I rescued them both in the U.S. after they were found as strays and taken to animal shelters. As Nathalie stated, Minnie was my first rescue and we thought she was a Husky Mix until my mother-in-law came to visit us. She's Korean and immediately recognized Minnie as a Jindo. I quickly learned of how many Jindos were being abandoned in shelters in the U.S. and began rescuing them, mostly because no on else was and to honor my Husband's Korean heritage. I formed Treasured k9s, Inc. an official U.S. 501(c)(3) charity in 2008 and we've been saving lives ever since. Just this past week, we've saved 4 Jindos from death in shelters. 2 from Virginia, one in Florida and one in Louisiana. Irresponsible breeders are to fault for this problem in the U.S.

    Jindos will bond to another owner, but it does take time. We've placed some very challenging Jindos into new homes with great success. The photo in this blog appeared in a NY Daily News Article February 7, 2009 by Amy Sacks titled Jindos Gaining Pawhold in U.S. but Don't Qualify for Best in Show. Please visit our web site to see the work we do.

    1. Hi Natalie and Kristen -- thank you for your comments! I have cared for huskies, husky mixes, and shibas since I was a kid, and have just fallen in love with the spitz breeds in general. If you take the time to get to know them, they are truly the sweetest, most admirable friends you will ever meet. One of my good friends rescued a jindo from a shelter recently, and they have become inseparable. I'm looking at your website right now!