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Formosan Mountain Dog
Formosan nina.jpg
A Taiwanese Dog
Other names Formosan (福爾摩莎犬), National Dog (國寶犬), Taiwan Dog (台灣犬), Taiwan Canis, Taiwanese Dog, Taiwanse Canis.
Country of origin  Taiwan
Weight Male 14–18 kg (31–41 lb)
Female 12–16 kg (26–36 lb)
Height Male 48–52 cm (18–21 in)
Female 43–47 cm (16–19 in)
Coat Smooth and oily
Color Black, earthly yellow, or yellow.
Litter size 10-12 pups
Life span 10-13 years
This breed is recognized with a pedigree from the Taiwan Kennel Club.

The Formosan Mountain Dog, commonly referred to as simply Formosan, and also known as Taiwanese Dog/Canis (traditional Chinese: 臺灣犬) or Taiwanese Native Dog (traditional Chinese: 臺灣土狗) is a breed of dog indigenous to Taiwan. They are well adapted to the uneven and thickly forested terrain of Taiwan, having become a semi-wild breed prior to the arrival of several colonial reigns and foreign powers. Notwithstanding these adaptations, Formosans retained the potential to be trained, and are now used as hunting dogs, guard dogs, stunt dogs, rescue dogs, or simply as companions.[1][2] Formosans are classified into one medium type and two small types.[3] However, now pureblood Formosan Mountain Dog is still close to extinction due to low conservation concept of Taiwanese and its government.





A close-up of a Taiwanese Dog face showing the upright ears, almond eyes, triangular face, black nose, and the black coating on the tongue.

There are two small types of the Formosan Mountain Dog; one is about 40 cm tall at the shoulder, and the other is around 30 cm. However, the latter one was not found during the research conducted by Dr. Sung Yung-yi (宋永義) in 1976. The medium type of the Formosan Mountain Dog has a shoulder height under 50 cm, with a firm and fit body, slim waist, big chest, and half-covered ears. The most common type of these three right now is the medium-sized dog. Its color can range from black to earthy yellow or yellowish brown, and the nose is black.[3]

Dr. Sung of National Taiwan University and Mr. Ming Jie, Xu of Formosan Dog & Guard Dogs Breeding Center (台灣犬護衛犬繁殖中心) described a typical Formosan as having almond eyes, firm jaw strength, black coating on the tongue, a triangular face, thin prick ears, and a sickle tail. The tail is upright or curved with a thick fur coat, but the belly is hairless; the tail is used to warm the belly, and may even be long enough to protect the snout from insects. The dog is also well known for being well-balanced.[4] [5]

Temperament and behaviour

The Formosan Mountain Dog is extremely faithful to its master, keen in sense, alert in movement, bold and fearless. It works extremely well in group hunting. Many owners of this dog mentioned that it is very difficult for strangers to get close to the dog once the dog has established a relationship with its owner. Only the owner can pet the dog, and the Formosan is very loyal to and protective of its owner.


  • Proportions
    • Depth of chest:height at withers = 4.5:10 to 4.7:10
    • Height at withers:length of body = 10:10.5, bitches can be slightly longer.
    • Length of muzzle:length of skull = 4.5:5.5.
  • Size & weight
    • Height: Dogs: 48–52 cm (19–20 in) Bitches: 43–47 cm (17–19 in)
    • Weight: Dogs: 14 to 18 kg (31 to 40 lb) Bitches: 12 to 16 kg (26 to 35 lb)
  • Head
    • Cranial Region:
    • Forehead: Broad and roundish, without wrinkles.
    • Skull: The skull is slightly longer than the muzzle.
    • Stop: Well defined with a slight furrow.
  • Facial Region :
    • Nose: Moderate size. Wide nostrils. Black in color, but can be slightly lighter in all colors except for the ones with black fur.
    • Muzzle: Flat nasal bridge. Tight lips, without flews. The muzzle tapers a little from the base to the nose, but it is not pointed at the tip.
    • Jaws/teeth: Jaws are strong. Scissors bite, teeth are set square to the jaws.
    • Cheeks: Well developed and slightly protruding.
    • Eyes: Almond in shape. Dark brown in colour. Brown is also acceptable, but yellow or light eyes should be avoided.
    • Ears: Pricked, set on sides of the skull at an angle of 45 degrees. Inside of the outline is straight, while outside of the outline is slightly rounded.
  • Neck: Muscular, strong, good length, slightly arched. Without dewlap.
  • Body:
    • General: Sinewy and muscular, nearly square in shape.
    • Back: Straight and short. Withers well developed.
    • Loin: Firmly muscled.
    • Croup: Broad. Flat or very slightly sloping and short.
    • Chest: Fairly deep yet not reaching the elbow. Forechest slightly protruding. Ribs are well sprung.
    • Belly: Well tucked up.
  • Tail: In the shape of a sickle, set on high, carried erect, active, with the tip curving forward.
  • Limbs:
  • Forequarters:
    • Shoulders: Well muscled. Shoulder blades are laid back. They should meet the upper arms at an angle of 105-110 degrees.
    • Elbows: Close to the body.
    • Forearms: Straight and parallel to each other.
    • Metacarpus (Pasterns): Firm.
  • Hindquarters: Hindlegs should be slender, with good bone, well muscled and parallel to each other. The rear angulation should be in balance to the front.
    • Upper thighs: Broad, sloping and well bent at the stifle.
    • Lower thighs: Should be in balance with upper thighs.
    • Metatarsus (Rear pastern): Perpendicular to the ground.
  • Feet turning neither in nor out. Pads are firm and thick. Nails are black in colour, but lighter colors are acceptable in all colors except for those with black coats.
  • Gait/movement: Powerful gait with reaching stride. Agile enough to easily turn 180 degrees quickly.
  • Coat/hair: Short and hard, lying tight to the body. Length is between 1.5 and 3 cm (0.6 and 1.2 in).
  • Color: Black, brindle, fawn, white, white and black, white and fawn, white and brindle.


Four catastrophes

There are four catastrophic events described by Dr. Sung Yung-yi that have been critical in the development of the Formosan Mountain Dog: the Dutch settlement, the Japanese occupation, World War II, and the Kuomintang era. [5]

The Dutch settlement

In 1624, the Dutch established a commercial base at Tayoan, the colonial capital (present-day Anping in Tainan). After the Dutch made Taiwan a colony they began to import workers from Fujian and Penghu (Pescadores) as laborers, many of whom settled.[6]

The Dutch military presence was concentrated at a stronghold called Castle Zeelandia.[7] The Dutch colonists imported a hunting dog (known as the "Flying Dog." Traditional Chinese: 飛狗) to Taiwan and started to hunt the native Formosan Sika deer (Cervus nippon taioanus) that inhabited Taiwan, contributing to the eventual extinction of the subspecies on the island.[8] During the settlement, the Dutch hunting dog started cross-bred with the Formosan Mountain Dog; this was the first time that foreign breeds had influenced the Formosan Mountain Dog. Furthermore, the Dutch prohibited native tribes from owning dogs, slaughtering large numbers of indigenous dogs.[9]

Japanese rule

The Qing Empire was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. When the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed on April 17, 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan, which sought to transform Taiwan into the supply-end of an extremely unequal flow of assets (Gold 1986:36). The Japanese made efforts to exert full control over the Aborigines, the first time this had ever been carried out. The means of accomplishing this goal took three main forms: anthropological study of the natives of Taiwan, attempts to reshape the Aborigines in the mould of the Japanese, and military suppression. During Japanese occupation, Taiwanese aboriginals were under repressive rule, and Formosan Mountain Dog was intensively cross-bred with Japanese dogs due to the fact that Japanese government relocated many remote high mountain villages closer to administrative control (Takekoshi 1907:210–219).[10] Furthermore, Japanese immigrants massively explored the east coast, currently called Hualien and Taitung Counties. The east coast expeditions further provided a chance of cross-breeding Japanese dogs with the Formosan.

World War II

At the end of World War II, for military purpose and preventing US army landing on the east coast of Taiwan, Japanese started to build the Central and Southern Cross-Island Highway. During the construction, there is this military dogs traveling with the highway construction, the German Shepherds. This leads to cross-breeding between the Formosan and the military dog. If not these strategic constructions, Formosan may have a chance to preserve their bloodline high deep in the mountain. Furthermore, during this period there were evidences showing that the Japanese military did launch massacre to reduce the population of Formosan Mountain Dog. However, the true reason may not be known.

Dr. Sung Yung-yi said to a New Taiwan journalist and suggested: "Formosan dogs are very smart and agile, but they are more primitive animal, and do not want to be caged. For example, during birth period, they will find a cave and usually will not return until few months later with their puppies. Another example will be the master do not need to provide a lot of foods for them, they have the habit of finding their own foods. These were the reason Formosan was called the “barbarian dog,” by Japanese. For sanitation excuse, Japanese military launch a large-scale massacre of Formosan to reduce the local dog population."

Another say is during the time when Japanese military is building the Central and Southern Cross-Island Highway, they were constantly encountered by the Aborigines. The Aborigines launched numerous assaults to the Japanese military bases. During the night time, Formosan Dogs gathered and hunt down Japanese military dogs, leaving bloody scene in the morning. For revenge, Japanese military killed every Formosan they saw to reduce Formosan population.[11]

Kuomintang Era

Dr. Sung Yung-yi believes that the true reason that leads to Formosan Mountain Dog's extinction is at the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War when Japan retreated from Taiwan, in 1945. After Western-supported Chiang Kai-shek (leader of Chinese Nationalist Party) lost to Soviet-supported Mao Zedong (leader of Communist Party of China) in the Chinese Civil War, 1927–1950. Chiang Kai-shek and approximately 2 million Nationalist Chinese retreated from mainland China to the island of Taiwan.[12] After Kuomingtang's retreat there was large population influx from China, and among them, many eats dog. They brought in the dog meat culture.

Sung specifically pointed out that "Southerners (Chinese) do not eat dog meat." In order to prove that it was the Northerners (Chinese people, who came to Taiwan with Kuomingtang.) brought in the culture of eating dog meat, he collaborated with archeologist professors in the National Taiwan University. They inspected many archaeological dog remains and found out that there was no evidence of bone with marks by sharp weapons. For that, he conclusively stated that southerners do not eat dog meat.

Furthermore, after Kuomintang occupied Taiwan, the son of Chiang Kai-shek, Chiang Ching-kuo successfully reformed Taiwan to an economically little dragon (Four Asian Tigers), he was credited for the Taiwan economic miracle, and have served as role models for many developing countries.[13][14][15] Nevertheless, great economic comes with great price, with economic development and open society, businessmen from around the world start to introduce high-priced foreign dog and Japanese dogs into Taiwan. With lack of conservative and pet care knowledge, many foreign dogs were abandoned and start crossbreeding with Formosan Dogs. Dr. Sung Yung-yi believes that these are the two true reason that affect Formosan Mountain Dog's living space and the space for existence. [5]


Breeding problems

Originally kept by aboriginal Taiwanese as hunting dogs, but now purebred Formosans are extremely rare and valuable. Since pure Formosans are extremely rare, dog mates with its siblings, thus increase the risk of having genetic disorder and unstable behavior. For this reason, outcross occurred very often since the lack of pure female with steady trait, and it is one of the major reasons modern Formosan dogs looks different compare to old photos or documents in the early days. Some insist it is a natural change which doesn't affect the whole theme while others are eager to preserve the indigenous types and its bloodline.

Crossbreeding with other dogs and abandoned dogs

Crossbreeding with pet and feral domestic dogs is currently thought to be the Formosan's greatest threat for survival. Currently, there are still a lot of abandoned dogs in Taiwan, and these dogs are also threaten the survival of Formosan Mountain Dog.

Many Taiwanese do not have the conservation and good practice of pet care knowledge. Many studies show that many Taiwanese buy dogs when they are rich or by commercial encouragement and abandon the pet when the big environment is poor. For example, a Japanese Film: Quill, was released in 2004, this incident caused an upsurge of enthusiast to buy Labrador Retriever. The consequence is there are a lot of abandoned Labrador Retriever dogs years later. Especially at the end of 2008 during the depression. A study conducted at the end of 2004 by the Department of Veterinary Medicine of National Taiwan University shows that there are approximately 180,000 abandoned dogs in Taiwan. In another study it shown that, there are 12318 captured abandoned dog just in Taipei County, in 2006 along. These number are surprising but speaks the truth of how difficult it is for Formosan Mountain Dog to survive in Taiwan. [16] [17]

Dog meat

Dog meat is known as "fragrant meat" (香肉 xiāng ròu) in Taiwan. However, it never was a common dish in the menu and usually it was only eaten in the winter, especially black Formosan Dog. In the prescription of Traditional Chinese Medicine dog meat was known to help retain body warmth. In 2004, consuming dog meats was banned by the Taiwnese government, due to both pressure from domestic animal welfare groups and a desire to improve international perceptions, although there were some protests.[18][19] Nevertheless, it is still possible to find dog meat in some rural area, but this is becoming increasingly rare.


Taiwan Dogs are originally native Taiwanese dogs, descendants of the South Asian hunting dogs called “Pariah dog” which ancient local inhabitants used to live with in the central mountainous districts. This breed was the loyal companion of the ancient hunter in the wild forest. In 1980, a cooperative study was carried out by the National Taiwan University, Japanese Gifu University, and Nagoya University Scholars on the subject of native Taiwan dogs, by visiting twenty-nine tribes of local inhabitants. As a result, it was confirmed that the present Taiwan Dog is a descendant of the South Asian hunting dogs. This breed is now popular all across the island as a watch and companion dog.

Of the 46 purebloods that Dr. Sung Yung-yi found during 1976-1980, blood tests showed that they were related to dogs found in Southern Japan and that they were descendants of the South Asian Hunting Dog. Little of these known outside of Taiwan, Formosans are recognized with a pedigree from the Taiwan Kennel Club and the International Canine Organization.


Conservation status

Since 1976, many Taiwanese ecologists have tried to convince Taiwanese government to take action on forming a Formosan research team to help and preserve the pure indigenous Formosan by potentially replicating the dingo's model from Australia. The most notable action taken was by Dr. Sung Yung-yi. In 1983, he spoke at a conference on the Formosan Sika Deer and requested Taiwan's government to take immediate action to protect Formosan Dogs. Dr. Sung's request was made because he and his colleagues had difficulties in finding pure-blood Formosan Mountain Dogs during his five-year studies from 1976 to 1980. In order to find sufficient population for his study, he located 29 Taiwanese aboriginal villages in the mountain ranges and initiated a mass search. Nevertheless, only 46 out of 160 Formosan Mountain Dogs he found had an A rank purity. Out of these 46 Formosans, 25 were males and 21 were females. This number alerted the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, as the animal was close to extinction.

Dr. Sung told the New Taiwan News that, to this day, people in Taiwan have not yet had the sense and concept of respecting life. Dr. Sung believed that a Formosan Mountain Dog rehabilitation program should be encouraged by government efforts and carried out by careful planning. Currently, reproduction is the most urgent task. He believes, every Formosan Dog should be register, a household registration, which specified mating. As of now, Taiwan's government has not taken any action in protecting these indigenous Formosan Dogs. Dr. Sung also said that after learning how Taiwan's government handled the Formosan Sika Deer Rehabilitation Project, he was discouraged, and did not dare have any thought on launching a conservation project for Formosan Dog. He said, "For a developed country, Taiwan currently is not one yet." [5]

Security/guard dog

Currently, ROC Air Force is considering Formosan Dog for military purpose. Now, ROC Air Force is using German shepherd for security purpose. It was known that German shepherd has some downside characteristic. For instance, it was often found that German shepherds suffered serious bruises on its digit pads, consequence of the intense security activities on daily basis. Furthermore, it is notice that German shepherd awareness on stranger is not very sensitive. In many cases, the stranger will need to get close for the dog to bark. Hereinbefore, ROC Air Force is looking to replace German shepherds.

After half a month of testing, ROC Air Force concluded that Formosan Mountain Dog's sense of smell, hearing, dexterity, and alertness on stranger are all superior. Most importantly, Formosan Mountain Dog does not suffer the same injure as the German shepherd does. For this reason, it is very likely that Formosan Mountain Dog might replace German shepherd for guarding Taiwan's fighter jets. The only concern for ROC Air Force is that the Formosan Mountain Dog looks less intimidate than German shepherd. Anyhow, it is still at the testing stage.[20]


Most of the foundation stock owners and breeders are hesitate to make public appearances. They stayed behind the theme and sell only males of their bloodlines to those who has Formosan dog kennels and attends local dog shows. Potentially, this may increase the dogs' risk of having genetic disorder and unstable behavior. However, some argues that credits must be given to those breeders as they are the one who are keeping the bloodline pure.

The most well-known and high profile breeder is Ming Nan, Chen. Like many who born in the '50s, Chen owned a Formosan as a child. In the 1980s he started a business dedicated to creating a pure-bred Formosan close to the one in his childhood memory, beginning with a single puppy that he purchased for NT$30,000 (about US$910.00) from an aborigine man.[21]


  1. ^ Meredith Dodge (2005-11-05). "The Formosan dog: A breed apart". Taipei Times. Retrieved 2007-02-07.  
  2. ^ Fred Lanting (2003). "Judging in Tense Times - World Tension and the Dog Show". Retrieved 2007-02-07.  
  3. ^ a b "Guan Hua Magazine, rare animals of Taiwan #9, The Formosan dog(May,1986)". Retrieved 2009-01-25.  
  4. ^ Lin Chia Chun (1995-12-15). "Looking for the Formosa Dog". China Daily News. Retrieved 2007-02-07.   Republished on
  5. ^ a b c d Zhang, Qian Wei 張倩瑋 (26 January 2006). "台灣土狗 瀕臨滅種 Extinction of Formosan Dog". New Taiwan Weekly News. Retrieved 2009-07-13.  
  6. ^ "Taiwan". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  7. ^ "Finding the Heritage - Reasons for the project". National Anping Harbor Histosrical Park. Retrieved 2006-03-08.  
  8. ^ Hsu; Govindasamy Agoramoorthy (August 1997). "Wildlife conservation in Taiwan". Conservation Biology 11 (4): 834–836. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1997.011004834.x.  
  9. ^ Word: Zhang, Jing Ru; Photo: Zhang, Liang Gang 文.張靜茹 圖.張良綱 (May 1986). "台灣犬 the Formosan Dog". Sinorama Magazine & Co., Ltd.. Retrieved 2009-07-13.  
  10. ^ "Taiwanese aborigines". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  11. ^ 漢聲小百科 - 九月:台灣犬 Formosan Dog. 英文漢聲出版公司 Echo Publishing Co., Ltd.. 1984. p. Book 9 Sec 7.  
  12. ^ Cook, Chris Cook. Stevenson, John. [2005] (2005). The Routledge Companion to World History Since 1914. Routledge. ISBN 0415345847. p 376.
  13. ^ "Can Africa really learn from Korea?". afrol News. 24 November 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-16.  
  14. ^ "Korea role model for Latin America: envoy". Korean Culture and Information Service. 1 March 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-16.  
  15. ^ Leea, Jinyong; LaPlacab, Peter; Rassekh, Farhad (2 September 2008). "Korean economic growth and marketing practice progress: A role model for economic growth of developing countries". Industrial Marketing Management (Elsevier B.V. (subscription required)). Retrieved 2009-02-16.  
  16. ^ "Tide of Abandon Dog". Taiwan Environmental Information Center. Retrieved 2009-11-19.  
  17. ^ "Abandon Animal vs Democratic Value". Taiwan Environmental Information Center. Retrieved 2009-11-19.  
  18. ^ "Taiwan Bans The Selling Of Dog Meat". Retrieved 2006-09-06.  
  19. ^ "Taiwan bans dog meat". BBC News. 2 January 2001. Retrieved 2007-05-15.  
  20. ^ 楊貢金 (2005-03-15). "Is stronger than the German shepherd, the Air Force is considering Formosan Mountain Dog for the new generation guard dog". United Daily News. Retrieved 2009-11-09.   Republished on
  21. ^ Chan Ping Yi (1994-01-24). "Brother Native Dog and the Howler Family". China Daily News. Retrieved 2007-02-07.   Republished on

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