Often simply called Formosan or Taiwanese Dog, the Formosan Mountain Dog is a breed of dog indigenous to the island of Taiwan. The Taiwanese dog has become adept to the mountainous terrain on the island and was known as a semi-wild breed, but are often used today as hunting dogs, guard dogs, or even as a household pet. Sadly, purebred Formosan Mountain Dogs are are on the brink of extinction due to a lack of conservation efforts by the local government.
Types of Formosan Mountain Dogs
There are two small types of the Formosan, one about 40 cm tall at the shoulder and the other is about 30 cm. The medium Formosan is around 50 cm and noted to have a firm body, slim waist, triangular face, and big chest. This is the most common type and can range from black to yellowish-brown and characteristically has a black nose. They lack hair on the belly, and their upright or curved tails have a thick fur coat, used to warm the belly and potentially ward off insects from the nose.
According to Youpet.com, they are further classified into Taiya, Bunon, and Plain based on physical characteristics. Purebreds are apparently so rare that one dog breeder, Chen Ming, spent 10 years locating four dogs suitable for breeding.
Temperament of the Taiwanese Formosan Dog
These dogs are said to be extremely faithful to their owners. They have keen senses and sharp movements, making them ideal hunting dogs. As the dog is very loyal to its master, many owners have reported a difficulty in strangers establishing any type of relationship with their dogs.
Due to their history as a semi-wild breed, Formosan Mountain Dogs tend to dislike being caged. Owners will often find the dogs will seek out food on their own versus waiting to be fed.
Events That Have Shaped the Formosan Mountain Dog’s Development
Four major events are said to have played a critical role in the development of this Taiwanese dog. These include the Dutch settlement, the Japanese occupation, World War II, and the Kuomintang era.
Dutch Settlement – When the Dutch established a base in 1624, they brought a hunting dog, known as the “Flying Dog”. This hunting dog cross-bred with the local Taiwanese dog.
Japanese Rule – After the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed on April 17, 1895, and Taiwan was ceded to Japan, the Fomosan Mountain Dog was cross-bred with Japanese dogs. As Japanese explored more parts of the island, there were additional chances of cross-breeding again.
World War II – To prevent the United States army from landing on Taiwan, the Japanese started to build the Central and Southern Cross-Island Highway. During the construction period, German Shepherd military dogs traveled with the highway construction teams and resulted in more cross-breeding with local Formosan Mountain Dogs.
Kuomintang Era – This era is believed to be the cause of the Taiwanese Dog’s near extinction. When Japan retreated from Taiwan in 1945, Chiang Kai-shek also retreated from mainland China to Taiwan with approximately 2 million Nationalist Chinese. After Kuomingtang’s retreat, the large population influx brought their culture – which included eating dog. Many recovered remains suggest the dogs did not die a violent death after being attacked by a predator, suggesting they were killed for food.
As Taiwan became economically stable, businessmen also started to introduce high-priced foreign dogs into Taiwan. Many foreign dogs were abandoned and started cross-breeding with the Formosan Dogs.
Taiwanese do not often eat dog meat and in 2004, Taiwan banned the consumption of dog meat. The local government opted to enact the ban to ease pressure from animal welfare groups and a desire to improve the world’s opinion of Taiwan.
For over 30 years, supporters have been trying to have a conversation and rehabilitation program instituted, but the Taiwanese government has failed to enact any measures. There is some speculation that the ROC Air Force may be considering the Formosan Mountain Dog for military purposes. As compared to German Shepherds, Formosan Mountain Dogs are not prone to as many injuries and have ideal characteristics needed to guard military planes; however, they do not look as intimidating as the German Shepherd. Therefore, the discussion to use Formosan Mountain Dogs is still in the discussion and testing phase.