Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Telomian
June /

The Telomian dog is a primitive breed native to southeast Asia. With a wedge-shaped head, prick ears and curled over tail, they are classified as a Spitz type dog. Their straight coat is short and consists of fur that may be tan, white, black or brown. Traditionally used to hunt vermin and snakes, this multi-purpose dog also functions as a guard dog and will gladly protect its family from potential threats.

Requiring more socialisation than the average canine, the Telomian would not be a suitable breed for the first-time owner and requires someone with both experience and patience. Though they can adapt well to most situations, they should not be housed with very young children as can be unpredictable at times. The earlier and more intensively these dogs are socialised, the less behavioural problems they should develop.

About & History

The Telomian is an incredibly rare breed of dog and one that most people have never heard of. Indigenous to the jungles of Malaysia, only a small number have been exported internationally to date. They are not recognised by any of the major kennel clubs and it is unlikely that they will be any time in the near future. Many consider the Telomian to be closely related to both the Basenji and the Dingo.

The Telomian was originally bred by the Orang Asli, who are the oldest inhabitants of Malaysia. These people exist in rural tribes and account for roughly 0.5% of all Malaysians. The main function of the Telomian is as a vermin and snake catcher but they have several roles. The tribespeople use the dogs to hunt game and fish, sharing their bounty with them. As well as this, they perform some herding duties and also guard their families and their property. One of the most notable breed features, and what they are best-known for internationally, is their ability to climb up ladders into their homes, which are built on stilts. Having done this for many years, their paws have become adapted and in the western world this makes them better at certain tasks, such as opening closed doors!

It was not until the 1960s that this breed was discovered by an American anthropologist called Dr. Orville Elliot and gained some recognition around the world. Dr. Elliot imported a few specimens to the United States and used them for breeding. They were then given the name ‘Telomian’, after the local Telom river.


Telomian Large Photo
June /

The Telomian bears a close physical resemblance to the Basenji and other Pariah dogs. They have characteristic ears that are large and erect, always alert and facing forward. They possess a well-muscled body and a tail that curves in with a tip pointing towards their head. A good way to differentiate this breed from the Basenji is indeed their tail, as the tail of the Basenji is much more curled and held flat to the back.

The dark brown eyes of the Telomian are almond in shape and set well back. Forehead wrinkling is present and there may be some light skin folds in the neck region. They are renowned for their different facial expressions, using this to their advantage to beg for treats! Their head is wide and wedge-shaped, while their neck is strong. Their limbs are relatively long and straight, ending in rounded feet with well-arched toes. Their feet have been developed over time to provide them with good dexterity for climbing.

Though not particularly tall, this breed has a long body and is rectangular in shape. Most adults measure from 38cm to 45cm at the withers and will weigh around 8kg to 12kg. The fur of the Telomian is quite short and may be dark brown and white, black and white or tan and white. Some will have a dark facial mask.

Character & Temperament

Having lived in such close quarters with the Orang Asli for a long time, the Telomian is sociable and well-adapted to sharing space with people. Not only are they protective of their owners, they are also affectionate towards them and form strong attachments. They are cheerful and lively, always up for a run outside or a game. Compared to other breeds, they are less domesticated, requiring more training and socialisation if to adapt well to life within a modern house.

An intelligent animal that enjoys to learn new things and keep himself busy, the Telomian requires plenty of both mental and physical stimulation. They enjoy playing and going for runs, though can become bored if brought on the same trail each day. Caution is advised when walking outdoors as the prey drive of the Telomian is incredibly high and they are always on the hunt for rats, snakes and squirrels.

With a wariness of new people and new situations, the Telomian is not overly accepting of house guests and may act hostile if meeting people for the first time. This reluctance can be largely avoided with intensive socialisation from a young age. They do make fantastic watch dogs however and will make a unique ‘howling’ noise to alert their owners that someone new has arrived.


The training of a Telomian is not a job for the faint-hearted as they can take longer than average to become house-broken and to understand basic commands. Despite this, their intelligence and curious nature mean that they are well able to integrate with society if given the correct tools.

It would be a foolish task to try and train the hunting instinct out of the Telomian as it is there to stay. Instead, owners should work on recall and satisfy the hunting instincts of the Telomian with scenting trails and other activities.


There have been no relevant studies performed on the Telomian and, frankly, little is known about their health. However, one could assume that they are a hardy and healthy breed given that they are an indigenous dog and were never inbred to look a certain way.

Owners should not neglect their mental health, as a Telomian living in modern society requires a solid training programme and appropriate socialisation if they are to adapt well and be free from any behavioural issues.

As with any breed of dog, owners should ensure that they are regularly vaccinated and kept up to date with their parasite prevention. Annual health checks are a must, at which time they should have a full oral exam and an assessment of their body condition.

Exercise and Activity Levels

A dog that is used to running free in the jungle, climbing ladders and hunting small animals, the Telomian is not one to sit around and relax all day. This is one active breed that relishes keeping fit and getting things done. Hour long walks once or twice a day are needed and the route should be varied as much as possible. As well as walks, allowing the Telomian to participate in activities, such as agility, will keep him entertained.

Under-exercising a Telomian is not advised and can lead to behavioural issues and obesity. One problem that won’t arise, however, is that of incessant barking. As these dogs do not really bark, neighbours will at least be kept happy!


The short, smooth coat of the Telomian requires little in the way of grooming. A brush down once a week should suffice. This is a bred that does not need regular baths as their fur keeps itself clean. Unnecessary bathing will result in a dry, brittle coat and should be avoided.

Get your Telomian used to daily tooth brushing from a young age to minimise the risk of periodontal disease. A small tooth brush or finger brush can be used. While flavoured dog tooth paste is available, it is not necessary and water alone is all that is needed.

Tasks, such as ear cleaning and claw trimming, should be carried out when required, though must be introduced to the Telomian from puppy-hood to ensure tolerance. Similarly, handle a pup all over from a young age, ensuring they are happy with being touched on their paws, belly, tail, etc., which will make grooming in later life a lot easier.

Famous Telomians

With the majority of the Telomian population living in rural Malaysia, it is no surprise that there are no celebrities out there (that we know of)!


While there are no established Telomian crossbreeds, they are believed to be closely related to the Basenji.

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