Dingo: The Dog Who Conquered a Continent

All of Australia's dingoes may be descended from one south-east Asian 'rubbish dog' who arrived here over 5,000 years ago. this is a story about the first dingo. It is also the story of Loa, who heads off across the sea in his canoe when the girl he loves marries another. He takes only his spears and a 'rubbish dog', one of the scavengers from around the camp to eat if he gets hungry, or to throw to threatening sharks or crocodiles. But when a storm blows boy and dog out to sea, both must learn to survive in a strange new world as partners - and even as friends.

Notes on the book

This is a story about survival in our earliest times. This is an insight into our land's history, meticulously based on archaeological and ethno botanical research.

All of Australia’s dingoes may be descended from one South-East Asian ‘rubbish dog’ who arrived over 5,000 years ago. This is a story about that first dingo.

It is also the story of Loa, who heads off across the sea in his canoe when the girl he loves marries another. He takes only his spears and one of the dogs from around the camp to eat if he gets hungry, or to throw to threatening sharks or crocodiles. 

But when a storm blows boy and dog out to sea, both must learn to survive in a strange new world as partners — and even as friends.

Praise for DINGO: THE DOG WHO CONQUERED A CONTINENT:

‘Beautifully and simply written…French has brought the history of early Australian culture to life. The kind of tale that will stay with young readers.’

Why did you decide to tell part of this story from the point of view of the dog? How did you approach this challenge?

 Some of my best friends are animals. To really be friends with an animal- not just an owner or a master- you need to understand them, too. You often see a dog with its head on one side, studying its human, but I think far fewer humans study dogs.

Dingo is about that extraordinary moment, thousands of years ago, when a wild dog  and a human decided that they were friends, and began the partnership that would mean so much to both species. I suspect that event happened many times, in many places. But one of them may have been like the story of Dingo.

Can you tell me how the characters of Loa and The Dog developed? Were you inspired by any particular research material?

Dingo is from a time in prehistory, in other words, before recorded stories. But we have DNA and RNA evidence that all Australian dingoes may be descended from one pregnant female Asian 'rubbish dog.'. How did she get here? And what happened then? Even the area where that first dog landed is probably under water by now, and the plants and animals very different.

            

Much of the background of Dingo comes from 'ethnobotany', the study of prehistoric plant  residues. Once you know what people ate you can begin to reconstruct their lives. We also have the remnants of tools, cave paintings and oral tradition. It was a varied but very rich source to work from, and fascinating, as I don't think anyone has tried to put together a portrait of that time before. It was a blank page to write on.

             

A boy, very like Loa, must have existed once, as did a wild dog like the one in Dingo. They must have had enormous courage and determination but also a vision, able to see what a  different life could be, boy and dog working together.  Once I knew they existed both Loa and the dog seemed to write themselves. 

© Jackie French