Sapsaree Dog Breed Saved by South Korean Scientist


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A South Korean scientist has brought one of the country's most beloved dog breeds back from the brink of extinction. The Sapsaree all but disappeared during the Japanese occupation of Korea, but is now bouncing back.

The Sapsaree is a sturdy breed of dog, known for its strong upper body and large paws. It has an even temperament and is valued for its loyalty but, if not for the Korea Sapsaree Dog Foundation, the breed may well have disappeared by now. The dog's shaggy coat was nearly its downfall.

Decades of colonial occupation, war and poverty took a deadly toll not just on millions of Koreans but also on the Sapsaree.

They were killed in large numbers by the Japanese military, which used their fur to make winter coats for its soldiers serving in the extreme cold of Manchuria.

When South Korea emerged from the turmoil of occupation, two wars and decades of poverty, the Sapsaree had all but disappeared.

But not entirely.

One man, a professor of animal husbandry, had set up a kennel to protect the few remaining purebred Sapsarees in the 1960s.

The man's son Ha Ji-Hong became a geneticist, and he decided to put his expertise to work with the eight dogs that remained.

[Ha Ji-Hong, Professor, Genetics]:
"I decided to preserve the family line. We now have about 450 Sapsaree dogs here, who are offspring of the eight."

He did it with a combination of traditional breeding methods and modern DNA technology with the goal of preserving the dogs' bloodline.

[Ha Ji-Hong, Professor, Genetics]:
"We used a traditional way of fixing up blood line with raising Sapsaree dogs in a group. And we introduced modern ways such as genetic finger-printing methods."

Genetic fingerprnting is used in a number ways, from paternity tests to criminal identfication.

But it can also be used to preserve endangered animals, like the Sapsaree...