Meet the Carolina Dog, Now an AKC Recognized Breed

June 2019
Written By: 
Harold Rohrback
Photographs by: 
Bobby Altman

Once considered strictly a feral canine, the Carolina Dog is now nationally recognized

River is a Carolina Dog that was rescued by Joyce Petillo.

Unofficially, it has been known by many names, such as “Yellow Dog,” “American Dingo” and “Dixie Dingo.” Journals dating back to 1920 refer to it as the “Indian Dog.” But the feral dog breed that lives in and around the cypress swamps of the Southeastern United States has a home to call its own and an official name, originally given to them by Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin in the 1970s—Carolina Dog.

Classified in the “Hound “group by the American Kennel Cub (AKC), the Carolina Dog was originally recognized as a “landrace breed.” It is a domesticated variety of dog that has adapted to its natural environment. It has been a registered breed recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) since 1996 and is currently recognized by the American Rare Breed Association. In July of 2017, the Carolina Dog was listed in the Foundation Stock Service of the AKC, which is an optional recording service for purebred dogs that are not yet fully certified by the AKC for registration, but are far enough along in the process for AKC official recognition.

The breed shows similarities to some Asian breeds, but it is speculation as to how they originated in this area of the country. What is known is that the breed has survived for centuries avoiding human interaction while living and surviving in the cypress swamps and pine trees of the Carolinas. The Carolina Dog is also a self-sufficient and gentle breed, so interaction with humans is seldom and unremarkable—unless you are a dog named River.

Joyce Petillo had been without a four-legged companion for long enough and she felt it was time to start looking in shelters for a rescue dog. A friend of hers in Little River was familiar with a beautiful “feral” dog that had been live captured near a swamp but had reached its time limit for adoption and was close to becoming a statistic. Joyce immediately fell in love with the handsome, ginger-colored pup with the foxlike ears and almond-shaped eyes. The attendants said they named him River because that’s where he was caught. River turned out to be a Carolina Dog and now lives on the Intracoastal Waterway where he walks, runs and plays.

Even though it is a relatively new domesticated breed, the Carolina Dog has distinguished itself as a dog that is loyal, intelligent, gentle, loving and self-sufficient. Weighing in between 35–50 pounds, it has an athletic build, short coat and fish hook tail. If you’re in the market for a great companion and want some heritage to go along with it, check out the Carolina Dog.