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Telomian Dog Breed: Info, Pictures, Care Guide & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove


Height: 15–18 inches
Weight: 18–28 pounds
Lifespan: Unknown, but likely 10–15 years
Colors: Any variation of sable, often with white patches or black “masks” around the eyes, blue-black tongue
Suitable for: Active families or individuals, experienced dog owners, those seeking a low shedding dog, those who need help controlling vermin on a property, rural settings
Temperament: Social, Protective, Hardworking, Curious, Hyper-active, Alert, Playful, Affectionate, Highly intelligent

As an affectionate pet but a small and fierce protector, Telomian dogs are one of the rarest dog breeds in the world. If you have seen one, count yourself lucky!

Telomian dogs have been bred by the indigenous people of Malaysia, the semi-nomadic Orang Asli, for many generations. They are trained as hunters of small vermin, including snakes, and tasked with protecting the village’s homes, food, and children.

Telomian dogs are the only known native Malaysian breed to be seen outside of Malaysia, largely due to an American anthropologist who became bewitched by these clever canines.

The anthropologist Dr. Orville Elliot was the first non-Malaysian to document this breed in 1963. He named them after the Sungai Telom valley, where he first saw them in Pahang. In Malaysia, Telomian dogs are called “anjing kampung Malaysia,” which translates roughly to “Malaysian village dog.”

divider 10Telomian Puppies


If you find a Telomian dog for sale or up for adoption, consider if you can provide the space and exercise these athletic little dogs need. Telomians love to run around and play and will need lots of exercise and outdoor activities. These pups can live up to 15 years, so consider that it will be a long-term commitment.

Finally, Telomians are hard-working hunting dogs, so they might not be the best fit for first-time dog owners. They will need someone with experience with Terriers or small hunting dogs to maintain their energy levels and train them correctly.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Telomian

1. Telomian Dogs Are Top Notch Hunters

The quick and agile Telomian is a small but adept hunter. They have high prey drives and use their keen senses to protect their families from snakes, scorpions, and other dangerous vermin.

Though not technically a Terrier, they share many attributes and are just as effective as the best European and American vermin hunters.

2. Telomian Dogs Can Use Some Human Tools

These pups have especially mobile paws, and many can even hold objects, open doors, and climb ladders with them. The Orang Asli people build almost all their houses on stilts to keep out of range of vermin, and Telomian dogs quickly learned to go up and down ladders as easily as a primate.

Telomian dogs are also very bright. They learn quickly and efficiently, so you better start locking the door to the kitchen if you have a Telomian around!

3. The Telomian Does Not Bark, But Howls Instead

Telomian dogs rarely bark and instead howl or yodel like the New Guinea singing dog, the Indian Pariah dog, the African Basenji, and the Australian Dingo.

Some dog trainers and experts believe this unique howl may provide the missing link between the Basenji and the Dingo, which they suspected were related but could never prove.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Telomian 🧠

Telomian dogs make excellent watchdogs since they’re playful and protective with family members but watchful of strangers and other animals. The Telomian dog is a fierce hunter, and any snakes or dangerous vermin in the area will be hunted down relentlessly.

They are also whip-smart; many can even be taught to hold objects and open doors. Keeping them mentally stimulated is vital for their physical and mental health. If you do not have plenty of land for a Telomian to patrol, their keen minds can become restless and bored.

They are athletic, work-driven dogs, and they crave exercise and structure. If you can give Telomian dogs the guidance they need, they  make loving and loyal companions.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

The Telomian dogs are bred to live in close quarters with their families and are friendly and playful with children.

However, as a dog with a high prey drive like a Terrier, it is advisable to give the Telomian dog and children proper socialization. They can tend to get nippy when handled roughly by kids, so both parties need to be taught to respect one another and the family hierarchy.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

There is little collected data on whether Telomian dogs get along with other dogs, but if they are anything like Terriers, early socialization is critical to a peaceful home life.

Though pint-sized, many little hunting dogs can have big attitudes. To curb any bossy or anti-social behaviors, you should introduce your Telomian puppy to other dogs in a controlled environment. Training will also help them understand their place in the family hierarchy.

We do know, however, that Telomian dogs have incredibly high prey drives. Please exercise caution when introducing your dog to cats, and never allow them unsupervised time with small pets.

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Things to Know When Owning a Telomian

Getting a dog is life-changing. Not just for your life either, but for your new dog too! Though learning detailed care instructions for a Telomian dog would necessitate speaking Malay and traveling to Southeast Asia, we hope these basic tips will give you an idea of what life with a Telomian dog might entail.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

A carefully balanced commercial food with high-quality ingredients is the best way to ensure your furry friend eats healthily. Athletic canines like Telomian dogs should get plenty of clean, nutrient-dense fats and lean proteins in their diet to fuel their active lives. Obesity is a consideration for smaller breeds, so avoid fatty meats and stick to ingredients like turkey, chicken, salmon, and fish oil.

However, dogs do not just need meat. Several vegetables and fruits can provide essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals as well. High-quality dog food brands include a few nutritious ingredients like sweet potatoes, greens, and antioxidant-rich berries.

You can even feed your Telomian treats straight from the produce aisle, but speak to your veterinarian first for a list of approved foods and portion sizes.

Exercise 🐕

While Telomian dogs look small, upon closer inspection, you will find that “compact” is much more appropriate. They are highly active and, though light, are incredibly athletic, muscular dogs.

Telomian dogs need multiple outdoor exercise opportunities daily—the more, the better for these jaunty little guard dogs! They will likely shine at any number of dog sports, like agility courses, and love long hikes with their family.

Their high activity levels and hunting instincts will likely make Telomian dogs unsuited for city life or owners who seldom spend time outdoors. A Telomian without room to roam or a job to do may become bored and act out.

Training 🦮

Telomian dogs are highly intelligent but not always easy to train. Though eager to please, they can also be distractible. First-time owners may have a bit of a challenge.

Though they are not Terriers, these small hunters have similar mannerisms due to their high prey drive. An experienced owner will understand how best to communicate with and direct the boundless energy of the enthusiastic Telomian.

Giving a Telomian dog a job is an excellent way to keep them from growing bored and developing poor social behaviors. They are hardworking pups by nature, and training with them can give them the mental and physical stimulation they crave.

Grooming ✂️

There are two types of coats that you will see on the Telomian dog: a wiry short coat and a smooth short coat. Neither needs a significant amount of grooming attention, but the wiry-haired version will benefit from the occasional brushing to keep shedding to a minimum

Telomian dogs need their nails, ears, and teeth checked regularly to keep them healthy. Ears should get a weekly swab or flush to remove excess wax and dirt and inhibit the growth of any infection-causing bacteria.

Try to brush your dog’s teeth a couple of times a week to promote tooth and gum health. We recommend starting this routine early in life so that your Telomian will get used to it.

Lastly, though these highly active pups are likely to wear their nails down on their own, inspect and trim their toenails every other week. An overgrown nail can cause nasty accidental scratches or a painful splinter.

Telomian dog walking
Image Credit: antoni halim, Shutterstock

Health and Conditions ❤️

Telomian dogs are healthy canines that are bred in near-tropical climates in Malaysia. While very tolerant of heat and humidity, they are unlikely to fare well in frigid environments.

There may be inheritable health conditions present in the Telomian dog breed, but this knowledge is not readily available to English speakers.

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Male vs Female

Male Telomian dogs are larger, more muscular, and more inclined to display sexual aggression in the form of mounting or humping, or using urine to mark their territory.

Female Telomians are slighter and more delicate dogs. Often, the females will have a somewhat reserved, calmer personality than males.

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Final Thoughts

So, is the Telomian dog the right breed for you? A Telomian may be a perfect fit if you are a farmer, an equatorial nomad, or live in a rural area with a vermin problem! However, if you have neither the time to exercise nor the inclination to train these highly energetic and industrious dogs, another breed will be more suitable. Telomians make excellent pets for experienced owners, but first-time owners may have trouble controlling and training them.

Featured Image Credit: Ragil nur azis, Shutterstock

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