What’s it like to have a pet ‘asong gubat’?

Amanda T. Lago
What’s it like to have a pet ‘asong gubat’?

NATIVE BREED. The Philippine forest dog or asong gubat is making a bid to become the first dog breed from the Philippines to be recognized by the FCI.

Amanda Lago/Rappler

They may sound like creatures of the wild, but for some people, they're part of the family

MANILA, Philippines – To many people, the asong gubat or Philippine forest dog is more of a myth than a reality. With their tiger-striped coats, sharp claws, and ability to climb trees and hunt animals, this dog sounds like it’s too wild to be tamed.

And yet a number of people have been caring for the asong gubat as pets, after falling in love with this purely Filipino breed.

Marc Ebuenga has been taking care of asong gubat Sigbin for a year now, bringing him home as a two-month-old puppy. Marc used to take care of Jack Russell Terriers, but took an interest in Philippine forest dogs after seeing them in a TV feature. From then on, he began doing his research on the breed, and later took in Sigbin – named after a blood-sucking monster from Visayan folklore – who was part of a litter of an older Philippine Forest Dog.

Gusto ko talaga ‘yung pang-outdoor na aso, mga active,” Marc told Rappler at the Philippine Canine Club’s (PCCI) Philippine Circuit, where the asong gubat was presented on January 14. “Siyempre, Pilipino tayo, so doon na ako sa Philippine forest dog.”

(I really like outdoorsy, active dogs. Of course, we’re Filipino, so I chose the Philippine forest dog.)

Sigbin, Marc’s Philippine forest dog. Photo by Amanda Lago/Rappler

Unlike aspins, which are mongrels, the asong gubat is a purebred dog, with indigenous dog researcher Tom Asmus positing that the breed could have been around for 36,000 years. Like other purebred dogs, the asong gubat has predictable traits – from their looks to their temperament.

As Marc shared, they make great guard dogs, because they are loyal to their families, but wary of strangers. He said it’s better to start taking care of them at a younger age (two months), rather than older, so they can bond better with their humans.

They are also great with kids. Marc shared that his young daughter is Sigbin’s true “alpha” – he listens more to her than anyone else in the family. At the Philippine Circuit, the two were undeniably close, with the girl cuddling up to Sigbin any chance she could get.

Marc’s daughter with Sigbin. Photo by Amanda Lago/Rappler

Mabait siya sa bata. Malambing siya sa bata, sa family lang, pero sa ibang tao, hindi. Protective talaga siya,” Marc shared.

(He’s good with kids. He’s sweet with kids within the family, but not with strangers. He’s really protective.)

The asong gubat’s hunting instinct is very much alive, and Marc says that Sigbin keeps their house free from cockroaches and rats. They’re also very healthy dogs.

Naaaksidente lang siya. Pero malakas ‘yung resistensya niya compared sa other dogs. Siyempre kailangan pa rin ng mga vaccine, kumpletuhin, para sure ka,” Marc said.

(He gets into accidents, but his immune system is strong compared to other dogs. Of course, you still need to complete their vaccines, to be sure.)

Aside from being healthy, the asong gubat is also very active, which means their owners need to be, too. 

Nandoon pa rin ‘yung…hindi naman wild, medyo wild ng konti, kasi nasa dugo din nila ‘yung hunting, ganoon. Pero kaya naman. Ang kagandahan kasi, agile sila, so hindi sila napapagod. Kunwari mahilig ka sa trekking, sila ‘yung best,” Marc said.

(Their wildness is still there. Not so wild, just a little bit wild, because hunting is in their blood. But they’re manageable. The beauty is, they’re agile, so they don’t get tired. If you like trekking, they’re the best.)

The PCCI is hoping that the Philippine forest dog becomes the first dog breed from the country to be recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI), the organization that manages national kennel clubs around the world.

When that happens, perhaps more people will be choosing the asong gubat as a pet. Like other breeds, taking care of this unique dog breed comes with its own set of challenges, but with the right families, they can also be just as loved. –

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Amanda T. Lago

After avoiding long-term jobs in favor of travelling the world, Amanda finally learned to commit when she joined Rappler in July 2017. As a lifestyle and entertainment reporter, she writes about music, culture, and the occasional showbiz drama. She also hosts Rappler Live Jam, where she sometimes tries her best not to fan-girl on camera.