During my time in Mongolia, I had the pleasure of meeting Doug Lally and Devin Byrne from The Nomadic Guardians Foundation. The Foundation’s purpose is to protect and restore the Bankhar, an ancient dog breed indigenous to Mongolia.
A cousin of the Tibetan Mastiff, the Bankhar has been used for centuries as a livestock guardian by Mongolia’s nomadic herders. However, during the country’s Soviet occupation, the Bankhar population dropped significantly and in many regions of the country the Bankhar lost its place in the nomads’ culture.
Instead, herders came to rely on guns and poisons as a means to defend their flocks, which has had a terrible impact on the country’s populations of wolves and snow leopards.
The Foundation aims to turn this situation around via a program of breeding, genetic testing, and education programs, to produce a purebred population of Bankhar and reintroduce them back into the lifestyle and culture of Mongolia’s herding families. Success will mean not only the preservation of an important part of Mongolia’s cultural history, but it will help stop the decline of Mongolia’s precious wolf and leopard populations by providing herders with a non-lethal method to protect their livestock.
The Bankhar are magnificent dogs, physically imposing but with sweet temperaments. The day I visited, Doug and Devin were preparing the 19 puppies born in recent months for a trip to the vet for their latest round of vaccinations. Needless to say, there are few things cuter than a carload of puppies.
For more information and to follow the Foundation’s progress, follow their Facebook page here.