Korean Narrative: ‘Dang Dang Dog’ a Canine with 2,000 Years of Korean History

Su Un Taeh Kim

As adorable puppies tend to bring out the brightest expressions with a cute essence among ourselves, they tend to be called in different variations among peoples, and culture. In Korea, dogs are usually called ‘gangajie’(강아지) or ‘mungmunge’(멍멍이), but nowadays they are also called ‘dangdange’(댕댕). A lot can be interpreted with the term ‘dangdange’ as ‘dangdang’ is sometimes used as a verb to describe someone acting like a dog waiting for snacks (in a light fashion). ‘Dangdange’ also has a cute ring to it, making it popular at least to dog lovers. But, how did a regular dog came to be known as ‘dangdange’? Is it one those new terms developed by netizens(internet based community-persons)? The truth is that the term ‘dangdange’ is actually a name of a indigenous breed from the Shilla dynasty and modern day “Gyeongju”.

The name ‘dangdange’ is what the indigenous people of the Gyeongsang province call their traditional breed of dogs which is also called ‘donggyeonge’(동경이) in standardized pronunciation.  ‘Donggyeonge’ got its name from the city of ‘Donggyeong’(동경) meaning eastern capital, which was the capital of the Shilla dynasty for 1,000 years(57AD-935AD). Thus, ‘donggyeonge’ or ‘dangdange’ as we usually call it has a history stretching back all the way to the Shilla dynasty which sprung from the southern tip of the Korean peninsula 2,000 years ago. It is quite extraordinary to find that a term ‘dangdange’ for dogs, while with a very new feeling is actually a name that was with the Korean people for nearly 2 millenia.

Then what makes a true ‘dangdange’? ‘Dangdange’ is characterized by its trademark , their short tails(it looks like they have none). These dogs are with an interesting and rather cute mutation which is that they fail to develop a tail throughout their growth process. It has been researched that these dogs are with a genetic mutation where the cells fail to collect the necessary nutrients and protein to develop a tail. Besides the scientific facts behind it, these dogs without tails are rather cute and adorable with the little stumps of fur that replaces a long tail.

Our choices when it comes to which dog to raise or love is up to our personal discretion. However, it’s quite interesting that Korea has a traditional breed of dogs with a cute stump instead of the usual tail! After all, they have been in Korea for over 2,000 years and it seems quite right to at least know what a ‘dangdange’ is when we hear it (which we do a lot).

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