History of the breed
These beautiful dogs can trace their history back to 15th century India, though some experts believe they were prevalent as far back as the 9th century.
They hail from the south of the country and in particular from the state of Tamil Nadu. Named after the Keralan town they were bred in. The Kombai or Combai are also known as the Bull Terrier of India.
Originally the Kombai was bred purely as a hunting dog to track boar, bison and deer. Their exceptional field of vision and strong jaw made them perfect for this role and they soon became indispensible on the hunt for food. As the need for hunting has waned over the centuries, so have the numbers of this species and today they are becoming a rare sight in India.
This has prompted some kennels and dog owners to actively breed the dogs in a bid to re-populate the numbers.
The Kombai with its black muzzle and ridge of fur that runs all the way up its spine in the opposite direction to the rest of its coat, is a truly magnificent dog. Yet despite these characteristics the Kombai has been crossbred so much over the years that it is often difficult to spot the Kombai influence in many animals and find a genuine specimen.
Their short coat, often a tan or red brown colour, has developed to keep them cool during the intense heat of an Indian dry season and make them less susceptible to nasty ticks and parasites that plague longer coated animals. They are not prone to shedding and require little in the way of grooming.
With a strong, wide jaw that reflects their hunting past they have beautifully expressive faces and often have their ears facing two different directions at once. Truly reflecting the nature of their crossbreeding, their tails can vary in length and lie flat or curled.
They stand at between 23 and 25 inches high for males with females slightly shorter. Physically, by way of a throwback to their ability to catch large animals, they are muscular and lean given the right levels of exercise.
The Kombai appears to suffer from relatively few genetic health problems unlike its European counterparts. Partly due to the fact that only the strongest dogs were selected for breeding and were chosen on the basis of health and ability, rather than looks.
Some breeders have reported instances of hip dysplasia and mange in the fur but these are treatable if caught early enough. In terms of life expectancy, the Kombai should live somewhere between 15 and 17 years of age with the right diet and exercise.
Temperament and Training
These animals are fiercely loyal and unflinchingly brave, making them the perfect guard dog or family pet. You simply won’t find a more protective dog and there are plenty of reports of this breed fighting to the death to protect their master. Left untrained, the Kombai may exhibit aggressive behaviour but a well-disciplined animal knows when to save the aggression and is generally evenly tempered.
As guard dogs they won’t allow anyone to set your foot in your house unless you give them express permission. This may seem intimidating but they quickly learn to tell friend from foe and are soft-hearted deep down.
Their high prey drive will make them a little intolerant of smaller animals in the house but if brought up with children, they will be calm and affectionate.
With other dogs they will be tolerant and playful, if exposed to different animals and environments early enough.
They are absolute bundles of energy, bred for the chase and will need plenty of stimulation, physically and mentally to challenge and wear them out.
When it comes to training, as with all dogs, the earlier the better. They can be a little flighty and nervous so training by someone patient and gentle will make the best progress. Heavy disciplinary approaches will only create more nervous energy in them and make training a frustrating process.
Consistent daily sessions from an experienced professional who knows the breed, at a young age, will yield the best results and it won’t take long to help get your ball of energy under control.
Exposing your dog to a variety of sights, smells, people and animals early on will help your pet to adjust quickly to different environments and counteract some of this nervousness. Their intelligent character makes them an ideal pet for training.
While the Kombai could live in an apartment, a commitment to a daily bout of exercise is essential. If they have access to a fenced in yard then even better, these dogs simply must run.
They will need at least 45 minutes daily, which for some owners is a big commitment, however the downsides of not giving your Kombai enough exercise are great. A bored, frustrated animal is a destructive animal and expect to see your home subject to his anger and boredom if not given regular walks and runs. They are also likely to start barking a lot, which is not something most Kombais tend to do.
If you buy your Kombai as a puppy it’s always worth getting them checked over by a vet before you head out for a run or begin any training with them.
The ups and downs of Kombais as pets
These lovely animals make excellent pets. Their loyalty and devotion to you will surprise and impress you. In terms of upkeep, their short fur means you won’t have to spend hours grooming them, just a quick brush every now and then and a clip of the toenails should suffice.
With relatively few reported health issues, your ageing pet should remain fit and healthy for many years to come and you can consistently rely on him to be a gentle giant with your children and familiar friends.
Keeping up with their physical needs can be a challenge and the sunny walks of summer fade quickly into the freezing rain of winter months.
They can become somewhat over protective if they feel they are cornered and do have something of a stubborn streak, but nothing that can’t be addressed through correct training and patience. A truly wonderful dog.