In place of "pariah" (pariah is derived from a Tamil word first used in English in 1613, to refer to the lowest level of the traditional Indian caste system; in English, it is used to mean "a social outcast), some registries use the term "primitive" (primitive in the sense of "relating to an earliest or original stage or state" or "being little evolved from an early ancestral type) to refer to pariah-type dogs. The American Rare Breed Association, for example, places its Pariah-type dogs within a breed group designated "Spitz and Primitive.
Canis lupus dingo (Dingo, New Guinea Singing Dog) populations are found across Southeast Asia, primarily in Thailand and Australia, but also in Myanmar, Southeast China, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Borneo, the Philippines and New Guinea, mostly near human villages. The New Guinea Singing Dog is recognized as a purebred breed by major registries.
Carolina Dog is a pariah-type feral dog found in the United States, which closely resembles the pariah-type feral dog of the deserts of the mid-east. Both the desert dog (known as the Canaan Dog) and Carolina Dog are recognized as purebred by major registries.
All strains of pariah dogs are at risk of losing their genetic uniqueness by interbreeding with purebred and mixed-breed strays. To insure against this, some strains of pariah dogs are becoming formally recognized, registered, and pedigreed breeds as their fanciers attempt to preserve the pure type.
Pariah dog originally referred to the feral dog of India, also called pye dog, pi dog or primitive dog. Pariah-type feral dogs are typically medium-sized and have yellow to rust-colored coats. A 2004 Swedish study of mitochondrial DNA found that dogs (Canis lupus dingo) in Southeast Asia are from southern China, not from India. Indian dogs (Pariah dogs) are C. l. familiaris.
The term used to be an epithet to the same extent that the word pariah could be used to denigrate as well as designate the lowest social caste of Indians, but is now used by kennel clubs with no negative judgment implied. All pariah dogs are feral, but not all feral dogs are pariah dogs in the genetic sense. Though they are outcasts in the social sense, and thus may still be called pariahs by observers who are not dog fanciers, feral dogs may be of any breed or mix of breeds. The individuals may be stray pets, or descended from strays, or from litters dumped in wild or rural areas by unscrupulous owners. They may form packs with other strays or attempt to join existing canid packs (such as a wolf pack). While pariah dogs are by definition feral, pariah-type dogs are not necessarily feral (wild dog populations which have not been re-domesticated), as well as recognized dog breeds with pariah dog heritage.