Punjab's rural sports are known worldwide. But, in recent times, dog races have caught the fancy of pet lovers, especially non-resident Punjabis, are on the lookout for pure bred dogs.
Birmingham-based Sukhbir Singh was among the 50-odd NRIs, who recently gathered at Burpur village near Jalandhar with their favorite pedigree dogs. The occasion was a two-day rural dog race which everyone was eager to win.
Each year, these non-resident Punjabis visit Punjab by spending a hefty sum on airfare.
Sukhbir Singh, a non-resident Indian and Dog racer, said: “I have brought this dog from England (Birmingham) I have put its cost at Rs. 500,000 (6,990.90 pounds or 10,000 USD) and its airfare from England to India cost me 200 pounds, whereas its cage cost me 150 pounds and medical fitness cost me 150 pounds.
Bhola Singh Rolly, another NRI dog racer, said: “I have come from Canada to participate in the dog race. I have brought three dogs, and their price ranges from 8,000 USD to 16,000 USD. Dog races are my hobby. I belong to Moga district.”
Dog races in rural Punjab are organized between December and February, and they attract dog lovers from all parts of the world.
A special attraction remains the best-imported pedigree from countries like Canada, America and Ireland. Lithe and lissome dogs often put up a splendid show.
At the fourth edition of the dog race in village Nurpur the winning dog got 1,300 USD, whereas the second and third runners up bagged 790 dollars and 530 dollars respectively.
The prize money is inconsequential as far as the NRIs are concerned, as for them keeping a rural tradition of Punjab alive is more important.
Ranvir Singh Gill, the dog race organizer, said: “These dogs are being brought from Canada, America, England and Ireland. Each dog costs from 10,000 USD to 20,000 USD. The participants bring them after paying huge airfare. They participate in events held from December to February, and then, they leave for their respective countries. It costs much on their personal care. They are being served a good diet like half-a-kg of meat everyday, milk products etc. Their daily exercise includes 6 to 8 miles of running.”
The growing craze of dog races in Punjab has fuelled a market for pure-bred dog breeds.
Also, the market is flourishing for breeds like Labrador, the Pug, Beagle, Doberman Pinscher and the German Shepherd. The Punjabis now spend exorbitant amounts for their purchase and upkeep.
Dog breeders in the State are now shifting to pure breeds.
Harish, a Dog breeder, said: “Earlier, people used to keep local breed of dogs, but now no one goes for it. Now, people are demanding foreign bred dogs. So, we are breeding dogs as per demand.”
The Indian pet care and pet food market is valued at an estimated 35 million USD and is expected to grow up to 74 million USD by 2012. It is not surprising, therefore, that India is currently emerging as one of the best potential pet care markets in Asia after Japan.
The growing pet market trend in the country is good news for dog breeders in Punjab.