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Township Dog Hunters

Photographer: Kim Ludbrook

 

Near Nelson Mandela's former Soweto house, township dog owners are taking their greyhounds and greyhound inter-breeds out into nearby ‘veld,’ or fields, to hunt rabbits, small antelope and other game in a traditional, subsistence form of dog hunting that has been in the blood of the hunters and their dogs for generations.

 

In the context of the Rhino-poaching crisis in South Africa that has made global headlines, the dog hunters are controversial as hunting with dogs in South Africa is illegal, and their poaching of small game and rabbits is seen as unacceptable by anti-poaching lobbyists. Additionally, greyhound support groups claim that the dogs are mistreated and left for dead after their hunting careers are finished.

 

The Africanis dogs have been companion to the first humans to settle in Southern Africa, the San Bushmen in 800AD. Following that traditional of African tribes having dogs, the Zulu tribe, of which many of the Soweto hunters are, see hunting with dogs as a traditional right. With names like Speed Queen, The Lion, G-String and Cheesekop, the dogs are the prized possessions of their owners and there is a vibrant and lucrative breeding, buying and selling market associated with the dogs with some transactions as much 35,000 South African Rand (3000 US Dollar) for a single dog being made.

 

The hunting takes place in the area of Braam Fischerville by foot during week days. On Sundays upwards of 20 dogs and 10 hunters will combine to hire a local taxi to take them to hunting grounds to the West of Johannesburg to hunt from sunrise till midday when it gets too hot for the dogs to work. Forming a kilometer long line, the hunters and dogs spread out to flush the rabbits and small antelope, called ‘duiker,’ out of their hiding places and a chase at speed will issue across the open fields. More often than not the dogs will not catch their prey but on the occasions when they do, the hunters will kill the prey and take it home to cook for their families. Hunters will often share their catch with other hunters.

 

It is clear however that the dog hunting in areas of West of Johannesburg near gold mines has largely over hunted rabbit and small game. This controversial way of life will continue to be a major talking point of the dog-owner community of South Africa.