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Carolina Dog Breed - History and Health

Source: PetWave, Updated on August 16, 2017
Carolina Dog

History & Background

The Carolina Dog is unique in that it is an ancient breed that has only recently begun to be studied and understood. Their genetics have been linked to Asian breeds, leading many researchers to believe that they accompanied migrants across the Bering land mass over 8,000 years ago. Recent DNA testing from the University of South Carolina College of Science and Mathematics also links the Carolina Dog to the Australian Dingo, which may account for its distinct Dingo-like appearance. Canines resembling the Carolina Dog can be found in paintings depicting scenes from early European Settlements in the Southeast region of the United States, however, not much was known or written about them until the early 20th Century because Carolina Dogs were not a domesticated breed. They lived wild in the swamps and forests of South Carolina and Georgia for thousands of years.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 1970’s that the Carolina Dog began to be studied. Dr. I Lehr Brisbin, Jr. of the University of Georgia discovered packs of dogs in isolated swampy regions of the Southeast while he was conducting studies for the Georgia Savannah River Ecology Lab. It was through his discovery that researchers began to learn more about this unique, wild breed. His family took in a stray Carolina Dog and Brisbin, along with several others interested breeders and scientists, began to study the feral dogs in the area and determined they were their own, unique breed.

To this day there are still free-range Carolina Dogs in the Southeast, but thanks to the efforts of Brisbin and several breeders in the region, there are now domestic breeding programs for Carolina Dogs and they are beloved as loyal and gentle human companions.

Given the growth of those domestic breeding programs and development in the forests where they live, the feral Carolina Dog population is dwindling. Researchers believe that as Carolina Dogs were pushed out of the wild and closer to towns with domestic dog populations, many fell victim to diseases for which they had developed no natural immunity in the wild. There is also some speculation that as the coyote population grew in the Southeast, they overtook many populations of Carolina Dogs. Some breeders and enthusiasts fear that the wild population will be decimated over the next several decades.


The Carolina Dog has survived and thrived in the wild for thousands of years and through natural selection and careful domestic breeding, they have developed into a healthy, hardy breed. There are no documented inherited diseases among Carolina Dogs as of yet. However, this could change, given the narrow gene pool available for breeding programs.

Typically, companion Carolina Dogs are subject to health issues that are common among most domesticated breeds including:

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