Fans of the Simpsons TV show will surely recognize the illustration at the top of this story as Bart Simpson’s dog, Santa’s Little Helper. So what does it have to do with Sri Lanka?
Simple. Every dog in this country looks EXACTLY like Santa’s Little Helper.
There are about 20 million people in Sri Lanka and I would estimate that there are at least that many dogs. Maybe more.
They walk down every street, even the ones with the wildest rush hour traffic, and sometimes they even walk right out in the middle of traffic. They don’t just walk down the middle of the road, they lie down right in the middle it.
And yet they never get hit. (Well, almost never. I’ve only seen one dead dog so far.)
Today, for example, we traveled about 80 miles from Tea Trails to Udawalewe National Park and saw about ten thousand dogs in the road. Sri Lankan drivers just give a little beep on their horns as they approach a dog in the middle of the road and the dog casually picks itself up, stretches, and leisurely moves just far enough to avoid getting run over. It’s a delicate balancing act for drivers and dogs.
I asked Rakhitha, our naturalist and guide at Udawalawe, to explain the huge number of dogs — many of the apparently homeless.
“Sri Lankans love animals,” he said. “We make sure none of them ever go hungry.”
We know that Cricket, our oblivious little Shih-Tzu, wouldn’t last ten minutes before darting into the road and getting flattened by a car or truck or tuk tuk. But here, the dogs are so relaxed and so comfortable with traffic whizzing by just inches away that I have used my vast education as a geneticist to develop a theory as to how they survive:
I believe all the nervous dogs (like Cricket) were killed off in traffic accidents long, long ago. Therefore, according to Jimmy’s Theory of Sri Lankan Canine Evolution, only the coolest, calmest dogs remain.
Makes complete sense to me. Even if it’s completely wrong.
Unfortunately, I have no theory to explain why all Sri Lankan dogs look like the Simpsons’ dog.