If you are wondering why dogs have dreadlocks, you may have noticed how certain breeds have them and must be wondering why on earth do these dogs have such weird hairdos that resemble your kitchen's mop? Sure, one can say it's a gift of Mother Nature, but as you may already know, here at "Why Do Dogs" we aren't satisfied by general, vague answers. You can probably count on one hand the number of dog breeds that have dreadlocks, so when you spot a dog with such hairdo, it will certainly have heads turning. So why do some dog breeds have dreadlocks? Following are our findings.
It Takes Two to Tango
There are two dog breeds that most people think of when dreadlocks come to mind. Can you name them? If not, don't worry; these dog breeds aren't that popular and the only place you may be lucky to encounter one is likely at a dog show or in a picture of a book tackling dog breeds. The breeds best known for fancying a dreadlocks coat are the Komondor and the Puli. If we want to be technical though, the correct term for those twisted hairs is "cords." Let's take a closer look at dogs breeds with dreadlocks and their standards.
The Komondor's Cords
The Komondor is described as having "a heavy coat of white cords." To the touch, the tassel-like cords feel like felt. In this breed, the cords form naturally; indeed, the coat of puppies already show a tendency to fall into cord-like curls from a young age. As the puppies develop into young adults, the coat goes through an intermediate stage, during which the cords are very short and next to skin, then, as the puppy matures into an adult, the cords become longer. The length of the cords in this breed therefore can help differentiate between a puppy and an adult dog. The requisite of having a coat full of cords is so important in this breed that failure for the coat to develop cords by two years of age is means for disqualification!
Why do the cords form in the Komondor breed? It's a matter of the undercoat mingling with the outer coat. According to the American Kennel Club, the Komondor's undercoat is soft and woolly; whereas, the out-coat is coarser and wavy. The wavy and coarser outer coat therefore traps the softer undercoat creating the distinctive cords this breed is so famous for.
The Puli's Cords
Among the dog breeds with corded coats, the Puli is described as having a coat with cords that present as woolly, and can be either flat or round. If the coat is allowed to lengthen, it will clump together and form cords in the adult. As with the Komondor, the Puli's coat keeps growing with age, and in this breed, the coat can become quite long, even reaching the ground. In the show ring, the Puli can be shown either corded or brushed.
Why do Puli dogs have dreadlocks? According to the Puli Club of America, the cords form naturally when the puppy is around 9 months old. As in the Komondor, it's a matter of the over coat and undercoat hair twisting. In this breed though care must be taken to avoid the cords from forming one big mat that, not only looks bad, but will also prevent the skin to air. Puli owners, therefore, need to be attentive enough to ensure new cords are well separated to the skin.
As seen, unlike those Jamaican dreadlocks that require a trip to the saloon, cords in the Komondor and Puli occur naturally. Sure, lots of tender loving care is needed to ensure those cords don't get matted as they grow, and owners treat like them as sacred treasures.
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Recently, as of January 2015, the American Kennel Club has recognized the Bergamasco dog breed. This breed also fashions Rasta hair with its traffic stopping, distinctive "dreadlocks." Unlike the Puli and Komondor though, this breed's cords are known as "flocks" and have a different appearance. Interestingly, this breed features three types of hair: the undercoat, the "goat hair" and the outer coat. According to the American Kennel Club breed standard, it's thanks to the scarce goat hair and the woolly, abundant outer coat that the characteristic flocks weave together to form the characteristic coat. The flocks typically present as chunks of hair interwoven together that range between 1 inch and a half to 3 inches wide.
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While the above mentioned breeds grow dreadlocks naturally, in some dog breeds dreadlocks are produced by "semi manipulating" the coat for showing purposes. Sure, it takes a certain type of hair to produce a corded look, so this is only possible in certain breeds. The poodle with its curly locks lends itself to the goal, but owners must take time in separating and cording the coat if they want the look. This practice though has become uncommon as it takes a certain level of coarseness and a painstaking process to make it possible. Poodles shown in the corded look in the show ring though look amazing with their cords of varying length; longer on the head and mane and shorter on the puffs, bracelets, and pompoms.
The Spanish Water Dog is another breed that lends itself to cording. This breed's coat is always curly, and unlike the Komondor or the Puli, the Spanish water dog's coat is single. According to the Spaniel Water Dog Club of America, after giving this breed an annual shave-down, the Spaniel Water Dog's coat can form cords as long as you allow the curly hair to grow naturally throughout the year and prevent it from matting. The cords in this breed are light and narrow and, in light-colored specimens, you must wait for the felting period to be over before you can start cording them. According to the American Kennel Club standard, this breed's coat should never be brushed or combed and can be shown either boasting its natural curls or in"rustic cords with tapered tips" with cord's ends typically "showing a curl."
The Havanese can easily join the group as long as dog owners have the patience and time to give them the special look. Their coat can be corded by separating sections of hair into cords and allowing it to grow together. You'll also need to run your fingers through the coat frequently to keep the cords separated to the skin. Don't think though that you can create the corded look overnight; the process may take two years, according to the Havanese Rescue website. The American Kennel Club Havanese breed standard states that the coat in the Havanese may be corded with adult specimens boasting a coat full of tassel-like cords.
More than Looks
So why do dogs have dreadlocks? As we have seen in some breeds, it's because, as the coat grows, the under coat and top coat combine to form tassels ,while in other breeds it's the result of not brushing or combing which allows the coat to form "mats" that need to be separated from the skin. In some other breeds, dog owners purposely manipulate the coat in such a way as to encourage dreadlocks for the purpose of showing.
But why do dogs have such corded coats in the first place? There must be some more important reason! According to David Alderton, author of the book "The Dog Selector," in the case of the white-coloured Komondor, his white, heavy coat helped protect him from the bites of wolves since the wolves' teeth were unable to penetrate through the thick coat. Not to mention, the coat's weather resistance qualities which protected against the elements. The Puli's coat had the same purpose, as Pulis often worked in cooperation with the Komondor with the Komondor guarding livestock mostly at night, while the Puli herded and guarded during the day. Talk about teamwork!
And what about the Bergamasco breed? According to the Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America, the mats protected this breed from the freezing temperatures of the Italian Alps, but at the same time, provided protection from sunburns during the dog days of summer. On top of that, just like the Komondor and Puli, the coat protected against the bites of wolves, which were a threat to the sheep and cattle this breed herded and guarded.
Did you know? According to the Puli Club of America, it takes about 4 to 5 years for a Puli to grow its coat long enough to touch the ground.