It is believed that wild dogs became domesticated between 6,000 to 10,000 years ago at a time when man was crossing over from a nomadic hunter/gatherer lifestyle to a lifestyle of harvester/gatherer, a more agricultural way of life. This agricultural way of life allowed for a communal relationship between wild animals and man. The dog in turn was used to assist in the capture of prey and for herding of livestock. Thus it is believed man began to "breed" from the early stages of domestication. The best specimens of dogs available from the very beginning were selected to assist man. This is the true beginning of the relationship of man and his best friend.
The Thailand Ridgeback Dog, also known as a Thailand Ridgeback, TRD, Mah Thai, or Mah Thai Lang Ahn, is the national dog of Thailand. It is speculated that the dog or its descendants may be one of the oldest dog breeds known to man. The history of this magnificent breed dates back to ancient times and remains the subject of numerous theories. The TRD is generally considered a primitive type dog, which can be traced back to the origins of the dog itself as it evolved from wolf to dingo to our domestic dog. History may prove dingoes began and evolved in Asia. To date, some of the earliest known dingo-like fossils are from Ban Chiang in Northeast Thailand and date back close to 6000 years BC. Given the ancient history of the TRD it is very difficult to prove the exact origin of the breed.
Archeological drawings of dogs closely resembling the TRD have been found in caves in Asia that are estimated to date back approximately 3000 years. Written documentation of the Thailand Ridgeback breed can be found in Asian manuscripts dating back over 350 years. An ancient manuscript of the period of King Songthan of Ayuttaya (1611 to 1628) describes the Ridgeback as follows:
"The dogs are big. They are more than two sawk tall. (One sawk is a traditional measurement which equals the length from an adult’s elbow to his fingertips.) They appear in a variety of colors and each dog has a ridge on the back. They are fierce. They are loyal to their masters. They are able to feed themselves, digging the earth in search of small prey. They like to follow their owner, to hunt in the woods. When they catch an animal, they will bring it to their master. They are loyal to the entire household. They love their companionship. They go everywhere with their masters, even as far as the big yang tree. They are powerful and fearless.... Their ears are pointed erect and their tails stand like the swords of tribesmen..."
It is generally speculated that the Thailand Ridgeback originated in Eastern Thailand. Because of the isolation of the islands in which this dog lived, the type has remained consistent over the centuries. The basic isolation of the dog in Asia protected this breed from crossbreeding. Thailand is inhabited by people who are kept mostly in isolation due to poor or nonexistent transportation systems. This is why the TRD is considered a relatively pure and undoubtedly original breed. The dog was the only possession of some of the people, thus making the dogs extremely important to their owners. The dog provided a valuable source of sustenance due to its indispensable skills when hunting because of its excellent qualities of sight, speed, agility and perseverance. The TRD was a prized possession. The dogs were more than capable of capturing small animals such as rabbits and small boar. While the family was away or at work in the fields, the Thai dog was a tremendous watchdog and was used to stand guard over one's home protecting possessions and ridding the home of dangerous pests such as snakes and rodents.
The earliest known areas with the highest population of the breed were the eastern areas of Thailand. There the dog could be found in greater numbers, particularly in the eastern fishing ports, which most likely was responsible for the relatively small expansion of the breed. The breed habitat is not only limited to Thailand. The Thai dog can also be found in a few other small isolated areas in Asia. The Thai dog may also be found in areas such as Kamphuchea (Cambodia), in Indonesia and on the island of Phu Quoc. Phu Quoc island in the Gulf of Siam is about 200 km eastwards from Bangkok. Phu Quoc island is the place where the dog was first truly recognized by the Western civilization during colonization of the island in the 19th century. On this island the TRD is believed to have given rise to the Phu Quoc dog. The Phu Quoc dog, obviously named after the island which it inhabited, is considerably smaller than the TRD due in part to the poor conditions on Phu Quoc island. The Phu Quoc dog gradually developed smaller over the centuries. The Phu Quoc dog also possess the ridge on its back. Of the hundreds of breeds in existence today, only three breeds posses the unique “ridgeback”. The Thailand Ridgeback, the Phu Quoc, and arguably the most famous of the three the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
The relationship between the Rhodesian and Thailand Ridgeback is uncertain. Some speculate since the Thai dog was very popular with fisherman amongst the piers of Eastern Thailand that they may have traveled with them. They believe the fisherman may have traveled with the Thailand Ridgeback, introducing it to the continent of Africa during their course of trade. Currently there is only minimal scientific proof that the TRD and the Rhodesian are related.
Currently it is estimated there are less than 3000 outside of Thailand and only a few hundred in the United States. Even in Thailand the number of registered dogs is in the low thousands, qualifying the Thailand Ridgeback as a truly rare breed.