The Return of the Bankhar: An Ancient Mongolian Herding Dog Gets a Second Chance

Bankhar Puppy
Kim Campbell Thornton
When the MBDP's puppies are 2 to 5 months old, they are placed with nomadic herders.

Putting Bankhars Back in the Fields

The hope is that the Bankhar will offer herders an alternative means of protecting their flocks without harming already endangered predators. "We are giving herders dogs that provide them with a non-lethal alternative for protecting their herds," says Goodfellow. "Otherwise herders will hunt and trap these predators, exacerbating the other human activities that are threatening snow leopards."

The dogs are bred at an MBDP facility located about 100 kilometers west of Ulaanbaatar. Pups are raised with sheep from birth, and when they are 2 to 5 months old, they are placed with nomadic herders who learn how to train them to stay with the flock. Currently, the organization has placed about 20 puppies and dogs with various herders in three locations: Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Hustai National Park and South Gobi.

“Our idea is that the dog will be almost like a coworker for the herder,” Goodfellow says. “Some of the herders have confirmed that one Bankhar can protect about 50 livestock animals." The MBDP's goal, he says, is to provide each herder who works with the project with enough dogs to guard an entire flock.

So will the Bankhar make the jump to the U.S. as a pet any time soon? Not likely, Goodfellow says with a laugh. People who tried to keep a Bankhar in a typical suburban home would soon find it destroyed.

“I would feel bad for the person who didn’t know what they were getting into if they got one and tried to keep him indoors or even in a big yard,” Goodfellow says. “They dig all the time. They’re very active and would be a handful for sure.”

For now, the Bankhar will stay in Mongolia — and that's just fine with Goodfellow. “It’s cool to work with a dog that’s so ingrained in the history and culture here.”

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