A breed of dog that came to North America with man thousands of years ago over the Bering land bridge and was overlooked in the South for many years has recently been saved from extinction with the help of a pair of Aiken breeders. What is now called the Carolina dog, a common "yaller dog" of the South, was rediscovered by University of Georgia professor I. Lehr Brisbin in the 1990s and introduced to Billy Benton and Jane Gunnell, who became fascinated with the largely-unnoticed dogs - most of which had become wild - and began breeding them.
According to Benton, the very loyal dogs are "pack animals. And they want to be in your pack," which makes them good family dogs. Also called American dingos - they're related to the wild dogs of Australia - they were once commonly known as "porch dogs" said Benton. They were close to being hybrized to the point of disappearing as a distinct breed when Benton and Gunnell began breeding them about 20 years ago, but now the Carolina dog has earned official recognition from the American Kennel Club, and their champion dog Binky has been designated the breed standard with the registration number 1. Gunnel said they've been told Binky is the perfect example of a Carolina dog with her yellow buff coat, long snout, prick ears, fishhook tail and webbed feet. "Of course, we think so, but it's nice to hear it from an AKC judge," she said.
Benton calls the Carolina dog a "soulful, spiritual dog," and now that it has gained AKC recognition, it can compete in the Westminster dog shows. If he enters Binky and wins, it will be a great distinction, but also just one more award to add to the dozens she's won at other competitions. The Carolina dog is now owned by dog lovers from Hawaii to Germany and other areas around the world, a great ambassador for the Palmetto State.