Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chinese Dog

Friendly neighborhood Tang gou

In Asia, and in China and Hong Kong in particular, there are a species of dogs that we locals refer to as “Tang gou” (唐狗). Literally, this means Chinese dog. Tang is referring to the Tang Dynasty, a period in imperial China where many historians viewed China to be at its utmost prominence: culturally, economically, and politically. Hence as time passed, "Tang" has become a synonym for Chinese. For example, Chinatown or Chinese people can be literally referred in Chinese as “Tang People Street” or “Tang people”.
When referring to Tang gou or Chinese dogs, I am not referring to the pure bred species of dogs originating from China, such as the Shih Tzu or Chow Chow. On the contrary, the Tang gous are mixed-bred dogs and therefore come in all shapes and sizes.  

The ones found in Hong Kong and south China are usually of short hair as they have evolved to cope with the hot, humid weather in southern China. Unfortunately, these dogs, because of their not-so-beautiful appearance, are neglected in society.  Many are kept as pets, like their purebred counterparts, but will rarely be given the same loving treatment as the purebred species.

Often, the Tang gous in Hong Kong are seen wandering the streets alone or in groups of two or three.  Just like any member in society, the tang gous have done well in integrating into neighborhoods of Hong Kong - adjusting to life in a bustling, urban jungle with crowds of people, cars, and buildings. In fact, the Tang gous in my area are so intelligent that they are capable of reading the pedestrian lights and thus, able to distinguish between when to cross the street and when to wait. They are not granted much attention however, and these impressive animals go on their way looking for food sometimes, or just hanging out.

If you are unsure if a dog is a Tang gou, one of the first signs to tell is that these dogs are on the streets unaccompanied by its owner. Rarely will you ever see a pure bred dog, kept as a beloved pet, wander around independently on its own. Moreover, if you do not recognize what breed of dog it is, chances are, it is some sort of mixed breed Tang gou.
The sad part of Tang gous is that although very smart, they are not as pretty as the pure breeds and therefore are treated very poorly in society. They are viewed as dirty, infested animals and even if an owner keeps one as a pet, they are rarely permitted to enter the home.  Whereas purebreeds enjoy the status as a family member, with two meals a day and occasional trims and baths, the Tang gous are rarely given such treatment. They are fed scraps (for those that have owners) and since they do not enter the home, baths are not a necessity. Many, which do not have a home, are often seen scrounging around garbage bins in search of scraps to fill their bellies.

The plight of the Tang gou extends to them being the source for Chinese cuisine. Although Hong Kong has banned the slaughtering and eating of dog meat, this practice is still common in China and some parts of Asia. When you hear of Dog meat in Chinese cuisine, it is the Tang gous that are being slaughtered for, not your neighbor's friendly Golden Retriever.
In your typical dog slaughterhouse, a group of Tang gous will be rounded up in a caged area and then their brains are mercilessly bashed by men with bats before being shaved and roasted. The scene is extremely cruel and horrifying. 

Like all dogs, Tang gous are smart, loyal, and friendly. They, like the pure breeds, are also man’s best friend, and to be treated in this manner is a travesty. It is time we do more to recognize their suffering and help this group of dogs.

Warning: Below video may be disturbing to some audience

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