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Dog Files Fact: Potcakes

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Potcakes are indigenous dogs found on several Caribbean islands, namely the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. Potcake is a name derived from the food caked on the bottom of the pots that the Bahamians cooked in. Bahamians would feed these leftover cakes to the stray dogs of the islands, and eventually, the dogs came to be known as Potcakes.

Although officially considered mixed breed dogs, Potcakes are recognized as a breeded dog in The Bahamas. Though Potcakes display a wide variety of characteristics, they generally share certain physical traits due to their isolated gene pools. Each island’s gene pool is slightly different, accounting for the variations between islands. The typical Potcake has a smooth, short coat, little or no undercoat, a long snout, and floppy ears. Colors vary widely, including black, white, yellow and brown. They generally have the same temperaments: laid-back, smart, good with children, other dogs and cats. They usually reach 45-55 pounds when full grown, although some of the smaller potcakes only weigh in around 40.

Depending on what genes are available on any Bahamian island, Potcakes strongly resemble each other. Some island’s Potcakes look more like the typical “pariah dog” found in locales such as India and North Africa. Elsewhere, their lines hint at hound, mastiff, spaniel, terrier or retriever ancestors.

Some believe the original Potcakes came to the Bahamas with the Arawak Indians from Central or South America. If so, Potcakes are as close to nature’s perfect genotype dog as possible. More recently, in the days of Tall Ships, The Bahamas Islands played a major role in maritime commerce. Early terrier breeds, carried aboard ship to keep provisions safe from rats and mice, probably ended up as shore dogs in places such as Eleuthera, New Providence and Abaco. Add to this genetic soup the distinctive (and still existent) North Carolina dog, who came — primarily to Abaco — with Loyalist Tories who settled during the Revolutionary War, and you have the basic ingredients of a modern-day Potcake.

A Potcake’s general physical description calls for a dog genetically engineered to tolerate heat, long term physical stress, extreme competition for food and low protein diet; it’s a marginal existence at best. Yet, this is how Potcakes live and survive in their natural, compromised environment.

For roaming street dogs, these qualities provide necessary survival skills. In a companion animal, they comprise the “traits of the breed.” Given half a chance, Potcakes are highly intelligent, fiercely loyal and enthusiastic companions.

Because Potcakes have “roaming in their blood” they need to be safely contained within a fenced yard or on-leash. If given an opportunity, Potcakes, like border collies, have a strong tendency to wander off or run. Born with an innate drive to survive at all costs, Potcakes need to learn, through positive reinforce and gentle correction, that they are a member of your pack; otherwise they believe in the axiom: lead, follow or get out of the way!

They adapt rapidly to cold weather exercise but prefer to be house dogs. Because they have a strong sense of territory and loyalty, they are nature’s answer to the mechanical door bell; no one will ever walk across the threshold without your Potcake announcing his arrival.

Potcakes are an excellent choice for someone who wants to share their life with an extremely intelligent, quick witted and bonded companion. They are beautifully graceful runners, intuitively empathetic, and the right match for someone desiring a long-term, interactive relationship with another intelligent species.

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