The Marquesan Dog: Everything You Need to Know

The Marquesan Dog is a now-extinct breed native to the Polynesian Marquesas Islands and often depicted in petroglyphic representations. 

In this article, we’ll dive into the origins, history, and sad extinction of the Marquesan Dog and explain its physical traits and temperament.

The Origins of the Marquesan Dog

Ancient Polynesian Roots

The Marquesan Dog existed on the Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia) before Europeans reached the place, and we do not have any record of the breed, which in its prime peak was also quite rare. 

The Marquesan Dog breed’s existence is only known through petroglyphic representations, from the stories and legends of local people, and some archaeological remains of dog bones and burials. 

Local people used the Marquesan Dog as a tribal totem and religious symbol. Breed members were also used in spiritual ceremonies and even as meat sources in certain parts of the islands. 

The Role of the Marquesan Dog in Polynesian Culture

The Marquesan Dog played a significant role in Polynesian culture, and its importance is reflected in the many legends and stories that have been passed down through the generations.

According to one legend, the Marquesan Dog was created by the god Maui, who used his magic to bring the best traits of all the other Polynesian dogs together into one perfect breed. 

Physical Characteristics 

The Marquesan Dog was a medium-sized breed. From what is depicted in old pictures, we can assume that it had an elongated body with relatively short legs.

The Marquesan Dog’s coat came in different colors and was short and suitable for the harsh tropical climate of the Marquesas Islands. 

Temperament and Personality Traits

There is no credible information regarding the Marquesan Dog’s temperament and personality. The breed was probably domesticated but still true to its wild heritage.

Breed members learned to cohabitate with people and likely had a strong prey drive, which was necessary for them to survive in the island’s wilderness. 

Health and Lifespan

The Marquesan Dog was probably healthy because, unlike modern dog breeds, it was developed naturally without human influence.

However, it is very unlikely that breed members lived to an older age, considering they were also used as food sources. 


The Marquesan Dog was an important part of the Polynesian life and culture. Sadly, today, the breed is extinct and we do not have many records of the breed’s existence. 

Today, most dogs found on the islands are descendants of foreign breeds brought by European settlers in the 19th century, and the Marquesan Dog does not have a direct successor. 

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