Korean Jindo

Peter Richards
Peter Richards (BVSc, MRCVS)
 
Photo of adult Korean Jindo
arminoddo / Flickr.com

There are many stories in Korea that focus on the exploits of the hunting dogs from the island of Jindo. Some focus on their hunting prowess, telling of how only three Jindo were able to fight off an attacking Siberian tiger. Others tell stories of loyalty, dogs making long journeys to be reunited with their owner or refusing to eat after their death. The Jindo is so popular in Korea that it is classed as a national treasure. This classification has led the government to introduce restrictions on the export of pure-bred Jindos making them a rare breed outside of their native home. Originally bred for hunting, the Jindo is characterised by its intelligence, independence and extreme loyalty.

The Korean Jindo are an active breed that requires frequent outdoor exercise. However, their clean nature and amiable character allows them to fit well into a domestic environment where they love to spend time with their owner. But beware, a Jindo which is subjected to long periods without company or exercise will find ways, usually destructive, to take out its frustration. Jindo are a medium-sized spitz-like dog. They have few known predispositions to disease and can live for between 12 and 15 years.

About & History

The Korean Jindo, as its name suggests, is from the South Korean island of Jindo. The story of how it arrived there has been lost. The most popular theory suggests that they are the ancestors of dogs that arrived during the Mongol invasion of 1270. Another posits that the Jindo is the descendants of Chinese dogs that arrived on the island after being shipwrecked there between 960 and 1279. However they arrived, it’s certain that the Jindo has lived on the island for centuries.

The breed was originally used for hunting. Traditional Korean hunters didn’t use bows or firearms, but instead relied on a pack of Jindo to track and bring down game. Once a kill had been made, the pack would stand guard whilst one member went to find the hunter and lead them to the animal. While they usually hunted medium-sized prey, such as boar or deer, there are folk stories that tell of Jindos successfully tackling apex predators like tigers. They also served as guard dogs for their owners once they arrived back from the hunt. They are famous for their intelligence and extreme loyalty, which would have greatly benefited any hunter with a pack of Jindo. You would have thought that these traits would have made the Jindo suitable for other roles, particularly service dogs in the military or police, however, their loyalty to their first owner and home is so extreme that they will not accept new handlers once theirs has retired or moved on. Equally, their hunting instinct often distracts them from the task at hand.

The Jindo is extremely popular in Korea, so much so that it was classed as a national treasure and the government has taken measures to preserve the breed. These measures include disallowing the entrance of all unsterilised non-Jindo dogs onto the island to prevent any cross-breeding. In 1999, the Jindo Institute was established to certify pure bred examples of the Jindo. All puppies are evaluated at 6 months old and if deemed to meet the breed standard, are micro chipped and issued with a certificate. As of 2002, there were 14,000 micro chipped Jindos on the island. A certified Jindo is unable to leave the island, however, Jindo from the Korean mainland can be exported. Perhaps because of these restrictions the Jindo remains a rare breed outside of Korea.

Appearance

Korean Jindo Large Photo

The Jindo is a Spitz-like dog that has six recognised colourings:

  • White
  • Fawn
  • Brindle
  • Grey
  • Black
  • Black and tan

The Jindo has a rounded head topped with two triangular, well-furred, upright ears, although the ears tend to lie flat until the age of 5-6 months. They have dark brown eyes and a black nose. Special dispensation is made for non-white coloured Jindos who may have tan or pink the centre of the nose. Males tend to have larger heads, while females are described as having more angular features.

Traditionally Jindos have been classed as one of two body types:

  • Tonggol or Gyupgae – A muscular and stocky dog with a deep chest
  • Hudu or Heutgae – A more slender dog with slightly longer features, such as the ears, muzzle or head

The tail is thick and abundantly furry. It’s often loosely curled over the back in a sickle shape. When fully grown, they are medium sized dogs with males standing at about 48-53cm tall at the withers and weighing between 18 and 27kg. Females are slightly smaller with a height of 45-50cm and weighing 16-25kg.

Character & Temperament

Jindos are most famous for their loyalty. Whilst this is often seen as a favourable characteristic, it should be noted that a poorly socialised Jindo will be reserved around strangers and may try to protect their owner. One of the rare situations in which they bark is when confronted with an unknown person in their home. They also react poorly to changing owners so once the bond between Jindo and owner has been formed it’s there for life.

Jindo are a highly intelligent breed. Whilst this makes training them easier, you should not underestimate their capacity to get bored. If left to their own devices for a long time, they will find a way to entertain themselves which might involve destroying furniture or other objects. While this may become less of a problem with age, a young Jindo should not be trusted on its own for long periods of time.

Jindo have retained the characteristics that made them such successful hunters. Owners should be wary of introducing Jindo to other animals that might activate their prey instincts, including cats. They are independent dogs who will escape and roam if given the opportunity.

Trainability

As an intelligent breed, the Jindo is quick and relatively easy to train. However, this intelligence can make training a challenge if it manifests as stubbornness or poor concentration. Time and patience, as ever, are the keys to training a Jindo well.

One of the most essential aspects of Jindo training in socialisation. As mentioned previously, they are often distrusting of strangers. A good socialisation regime that introduces them to a wide variety of people, children and other dogs will help them adjust to new situations as an adult.

Health

The Jindo is a healthy breed however there is one condition to which they are predisposed:

  • Hypothyroidism – The thyroid is a small gland responsible for the production of thyroid hormone which is involved in regulating the metabolism. Hypothyroidism describes a variety of conditions which cause the thyroid to reduce its hormone output. This manifests as a variety of symptoms, the most common of which are: hair loss, poor coat quality, weight gain and lethargy. The condition is rarely fatal and once diagnosed can be treated with oral medication, which must be taken for the rest of the animal’s life.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Owners should also bear in mind that the Jindo was originally bred as a hunting dog. They require an active lifestyle and whilst this doesn’t exclude them from living in cities, they would need frequent outdoor exercise. If they are provided access to a garden the fencing should be at least 6’8” tall to prevent escapes!

Grooming

The Jindo has no special grooming needs. They have a double coat that moults heavily twice a year requiring brushing and general care. They are naturally very neat animals who do not need frequent bathing. In fact, they are reported to groom themselves like cats. This is definitely good news as Jindo are known to hate water to such an extent that some will avoid going outside in the rain.

Famous Korean Jindo

One Jindo, Baekgu, made the headlines in Korea in 1991. Baekgu was sold by her elderly owner, Park Bok-dan, as she couldn’t afford to keep her. Baekgu’s new owner lived about 190 miles away on the mainland. Unbeknownst to Park Bok-dan, Baekgu quickly escaped and began a 7-month journey back to her original home. Park Bok-dan was so touched by this display of loyalty that she kept Baekgu until the dog died 7 years later. The story is often used to typify the extreme loyalty of the Jindo. So famous was the case that it has inspired cartoons, storybooks and even a TV documentary. Baekgu was even honoured with a statue in 2004.

Cross-Breeds

As might be expected from the stringent restrictions placed on other breeds entering Jindo island, there are no recognised cross-breeds.

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