Meeting the Beldi

Free roaming dogs or Beldi in Morocco

The American Canine was recently traveling abroad again. This adventure took us to Africa and the country of Morocco. It was an amazing and beautiful place. One sad note during our travels was the huge number of stray or free-roaming dogs. 

They are called Beldi, which means “from the countryside” in the local Arabic dialect. It is a common term used to describe all of the mixed breed dogs in the country. While the name means from the countryside, they are everywhere, cities included. 

The dogs have learned to cohabitate with people, deftly navigating the markets, alleyways, and traffic. While almost all of the dogs we saw were on their own, we also saw a couple free-ranging dogs that were obviously cared for by someone. An example was in the city of Fez. While bartering with one of the local street vendors we saw a large brown puppy run up. The vendor quickly let everyone around know it was “very kind, very kind dog.” It was very kind. And friendly. And, unlike most of the dogs we saw, it was wearing a collar.

A “very kind” dog

I asked if it was his and his reply was that it was local, nobodies in particular but cared for by all the shopkeepers. As a majority Muslim country, it is not a usual practice for people to have dogs, especially not in their homes, but it is common practice to care for those street dogs 

We saw dogs hanging around on the outskirts of the busy markets, or as in one case, lying contentedly in the sun right in the heart of the bazaar. Others found out of the way corners and flower gardens in which to doze. They were apparently much more active at night as everywhere we went we heard a cacophony of barking from dusk to dawn.

Basking in the sun

Some estimates put the number of strays in Morocco at about three million. There are some groups trying to help curb the number, but most people just ignore them as part of the cultural landscape. 

As we rode on our bus across the country, I would see dogs, often alone, occasionally in the company of people trotting along. Every tourist stop, from gas stations to monuments had a handful of dogs hanging around for scraps of food or a bit of attention. 

One things that seeing all these dogs made me think of was the fallacy that dogs are pack animals. When left alone and given the opportunity to live as they pleased, there were very few dogs traveling in groups. Almost all the dogs were alone. Some were relatively close to others, but in only one case did we see a group of dogs actually engaging with one another. The close proximity may have had more to do with the allure of people and the possibility of food than any interest in spending time with the other dogs.

Rare sighting of a “pack”

As for “owned” dogs, we saw only a few. There were a couple working dogs in the nomad village we visited. Another common sight was the Belgian Malinois, of which we saw several, employed as security dogs at a few homes and businesses.

It looked like a hard life compared to the lifestyles of “fur-babies” in the US, but then again, in a country where the average family income is equal to three-hundred American dollars, the people live a pretty hard life as well.  

To be fair to our cat-loving friends, there were plenty of free-ranging cats as well.


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