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What Is a Bac Ha Dog? Breed History, Characteristics & Facts

Jeff Weishaupt

By Jeff Weishaupt

Bắc Hà dog

If you’re considering getting a Bac Ha Dog, you’re not alone. Their pure white fur, curled tails, and floppy ears are just some adorable characteristics that make Bac Ha Dogs one of the most loved dogs in Vietnam.

Since Bac Ha Dogs are a Spitz dog breed, they’re definitely domestic, but you’ll have a hard time finding one to adopt. These dogs are pretty rare, even in their origin country of Vietnam. If you’re interested in getting a Bac Ha Dog, keep learning to know more about its origins, formal recognition, facts, and temperament.

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The Earliest Records of Bac Ha Dogs in History

The actual history of the Bac Ha Dog is speculative. However, most experts suggest that these dogs descended from a heavy-coated mountain dog of Southern China. It’s also said that they accompanied the Hmong during their migration to Vietnam.

According to Hmong traditions, they originated around the Yellow River region of China. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Hmong people suffered genocide and persecution by the Qing dynasty, causing them to flee to the North Vietnamese mountains.

Hmong legend reports that a dhole descended from the mountains and mated with the Hmong female dogs after they arrived at Lao Cai. As a result, they created beautiful puppies with red fur and wild and fierce temperaments. These were reportedly the first Bac Ha Dogs.

How Bac Ha Dogs Gained Popularity

The Bac Ha Dog breed is one of the four national dogs of Vietnam, alongside the Hmong, Lai, and Phu Quoc Ridgeback dogs. A district in the Northeast of Lao Cai, known as the White Plateau, is known for being home to the now-extinct dire wolves.

These dire wolves allegedly lived on the high mountains of the Lao Cai region and killed male dogs in the area to mate with their female counterparts. As a result, they birthed a unique litter of puppies similar to the dire wolf.

Villagers state that the first flock of Bac Ha puppies originated from there. Local legend also says that the French brought their Shepherd dogs to challenge the Meo King’s Bac Ha during the French colonial period.

Eventually, the large western Shepherds succumbed to the unrivaled fire-colored hounds of Hoang A Tuong. Nowadays, Bac Ha Dogs are rare, even in their homeland of Vietnam, but you may find crossbreeds.

Since the dog is not yet recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), the Bac Ha breed isn’t adequately protected or professionally bred.

Formal Recognition of Bac Ha Dog

The Bac Ha Dog is not yet part of the 356 breeds recognized by the FCI. However, it has been recognized by the Vietnam Kennel Association. In fact, this breed won the Vietnamese Native Breeds Championship Dog Show in October 2020. There is no other formal recognition of the Bac Ha Dog.

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Top 5 Unique Facts About Bac Ha Dogs

1. The Bac Ha Dog Is Ideal for First-Time Dog Owners

Bac Ha Dogs are highly intelligent and easy to train, which is why they make for an ideal pet for first-time pet owners. Their temperament is naturally tightly-woven, so you don’t have to worry about any destructive behavior as long as you give them enough outdoor time daily.

2. Bac Ha Dogs Were Originally Guard Dogs

When Bac Ha Dogs originated from the Lao Cai province, their incredible hunting skills popularized them as guard dogs. The Hmong people used these dogs for protection during their migration to Vietnam.

3. The Bac Ha Dog Is Not Recognized by the FCI

Since the Bac Ha Dog is quite rare in its standard form, this breed is not yet recognized by the FCI. As a result, the species is not adequately protected or professionally bred, making it hard to adopt a Bac Ha Dog.

4. Bac Ha Dogs Are a National Dog Breed in Vietnam

Due to their incredible and exciting history in the country, Bac Ha Dogs are one of the four great national dogs of Vietnam. Other national dogs of the state include the Hmong, Lai, and Phu Quoc Ridgeback dogs.

5. Bac Ha Dogs Descended From the Mountains in the Lao Cai Province

There are no official records of the origin of the Bac Ha Dog. However, local legend states that they originate from dire wolves mating with local female dogs, resulting in fire-colored pups. These wolves lived in the mountainous areas of Lao Cai and are now considered extinct.

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Does the Bac Ha Dog Make a Good Pet?

Bac Ha Dogs are known for being skilled hunters due to their history as guard dogs. Once you adopt one, you’ll find that they quickly claim vast territories to protect, hunt within, and explore. This may extend farther than your property, so your Bac Ha Dog will need space to run around.

It’s also worth noting that these dogs don’t react well to being cooped up for too long. You’ll need to give them at least one hour of outdoor time every day to accommodate their active and free-willed temperament.

Although these dogs are often wary of strangers, this can be a good thing if you’re in search of a guard dog or need to feel safer in public. You can count on them to attack any intruders and critters when necessary. However, they won’t act too friendly when you invite guests to meet your pup.

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The origins of the Bac Ha Dog are still under discussion, but experts state that they descended from the mountainous areas of the Lao Cai province. These dogs were initially kept as guard dogs due to their fine hunting skills and temperament.

Today, the Bac Ha is one of the four national dogs of Vietnam but rarely found. If you’re in the market for one, it’s worth noting that they make excellent pets, especially for a first-time dog owner.

Featured Image Credit: Bắc Hà dog (Stephanie See, via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)

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