The New Guinea Singing Dog, locally called Highland Wild Dog, is native to the island of Papua New Guinea and is a distant relative of the Australian Dingo. The breed is known for its unique howling style described as a “wolf howl with overtones of whale song".

Less than 300 Highland Wild Dogs were counted in captivity, and the breed was until now thought to be extinct in the wild. But scientists reported that this ancient breed lives on, based on DNA samples collected by James McIntyre, president of the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation, and field zoologist.

This breed is one of the rarest canids currently living. New Guinea Singing Dogs have remained isolated in one of the most remote and inhospitable regions on Earth, making them possibly the oldest of the pariah dogs. They may be the missing link species between the first early canids and the modern domestic dog. The fossil record indicates the species established itself on the island at least 6,000 years ago, believed to have arrived with human migrants.

After an ecotourism guide snapped a photo of a highland wild dog near a gold mine at 4,000 meters of altitude, Mr. McIntyre investigated and was able to take pictures of fifteen dogs, including males, females, and pups, thriving in isolation and far from human contact. DNA samples from two trapped dogs were brought back and analyzed by researchers who concluded that the highland dogs found are not village dogs, but appear to belong to the ancestral line from which the singing dogs descended.

The findings not only solve a persistent, though obscure puzzle, but they may also shed light on the complicated and still emerging picture of dog domestication in Asia and Oceania. The New Guinea Singing Dogs may be related to the Asian dogs that migrated with humans to Oceania thousands of years ago.

Highland Wild Dogs have coats that are most commonly golden, but there are also black and tan, and cream variants. Researchers are optimistic about their chances of survival.

You can find out more about them on the site of the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation.