WHAT IS A POTCAKE?
Glad you asked!
A "potcake" is the Bahamian term for the thick, congealed food that remains in the bottom of a pot of peas and rice after several reheatings. Traditionally, Bahamians feed potcake to the outdoor, indigenous dogs that freely populate the Bahamas. Hence the dogs have come to be known as Potcakes, with a capital P. The history of our beloved Potcakes in the Turks and Caicos Islands mirrors that of their distant cousins in the Bahamas as many local residents trace their origins back to the neighboring family islands and the dogs travelled with them to their new home.
Although officially considered mixed breed dogs, Potcakes are recognized as a breeded dog in The Bahamas and this is the case in the Turks and Caicos Islands. They have distinct characteristics that include everything from size and coat to temperament and genetically-imprinted behavior patterns. This is because, until very recently, all island dogs shared the same isolated gene pool. If for no other reason – and there are many, many other reasons as well – this makes the Potcake an extremely unique species of canine.
Depending on what genes are available on any Turks and Caicos island, Potcakes strongly resemble each other. Some island's Potcakes look more like the typical "pariah dog" found in locales such as India and North Africa. Elsewhere, their lines hint at hound, mastiff, spaniel, terrier or retriever ancestors.
Some believe the original Potcakes came to the Bahamas with the Arawak Indians from Central or South America. If so, Potcakes are as close to nature's perfect genotype dog as possible. More recently, in the days of Tall Ships, The Bahamas Islands played a major role in maritime commerce. Early terrier breeds, carried aboard ship to keep provisions safe from rats and mice, probably ended up as shore dogs in places such as Eleuthera, New Providence and Abaco. Add to this genetic soup the distinctive (and still existent) North Carolina dog, who came -- primarily to Abaco -- with Loyalist Tories who settled during the Revolutionary War, and you have the basic ingredients of a modern-day Potcake.
As a general rule of thumb, Potcakes have smooth, short fur with little or no undercoat, cocked ears, a hound-like rib cage and long terrier-shaped faces. More rare are shaggy or rough coat Potcakes but they do occur naturally. While the "typical" Potcake is brown, colors range from party to black, white, cream, yellow and red. Adults stand approx 24 inches high at the shoulder.
Normal adult weight in the bush is about 25 pounds. Healthy, homed Potcakes can weigh anywhere from 45 to 50 pounds, depending on bone structure. Puppies tend to resemble a cross between a Chihuahua and a Labrador but don't let that fool you. Permanent characteristics begin to appear at about 3 months.
A Potcake's general physical description calls for a dog genetically engineered to tolerate heat, long term physical stress, extreme competition for food and low protein diet; it's a marginal existence at best. Yet, this is how Potcakes live and survive in their natural, compromised environment.
For roaming street dogs, these qualities provide necessary survival skills. In a companion animal, they comprise the "traits of the breed." Given half a chance, Potcakes are highly intelligent, fiercely loyal and enthusiastic companions.
Potcakes are best suited to people who not only understand but also conscientiously practice positive reinforcement training techniques. House training can begin as young as 8 weeks old; paper training and the desire not to soil their nest seems almost instinctual in Potcakes. Caloric intake should be monitored; not only is obesity generally considered unhealthy, it also places undue strain on a Potcake's natural skeletal structure. Socialization – with other companion animals as well as a wide variety of people and situations – should be initiated immediately and continued at least until the dog has reached maturity at about 10 to 12 months.
Because Potcakes have "roaming in their blood" they need to be safely contained within a fenced yard or on-leash. If given an opportunity, Potcakes, like border collies, have a strong tendency to wander off or run. Born with an innate drive to survive at all costs, Potcakes need to learn, through positive reinforce and gentle correction, that they are a member of your pack; otherwise they believe in the axiom: lead, follow or get out of the way!
They adapt rapidly to cold weather exercise and have no problem adjusting to living in colder climates but prefer to be house dogs. Many of the puppies that have been adopted through the TCSPCA live in the northeast corridor of the US and northern Canada and all have adapted very quickly to the colder climate. Because they have a strong sense of territory and loyalty, they are nature's answer to the mechanical doorbell; no one will ever walk across the threshold without your Potcake announcing his arrival. You and your Potcake live in shared territory.
Potcakes are an excellent choice for someone who wants to share their life with an extremely intelligent, quick witted and bonded companion. They are beautifully graceful runners, intuitively empathetic, and the right match for someone desiring a long-term, interactive relationship with another intelligent species.
Potcakes, ultimately, will always agree with someone they love and trust. But the smartest ones insist on knowing "why" first.
The TCSPCA's goals for Potcakes are many. Improving their lives is way up at the top of the list. We believe that placing the right dog in the right home is a giant step in making sure that happens.
Still interested in talking to us about adopting a rescued Potcake? Terrific! Please call the TCSPCA at 231-3052 for more information.