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Kurī facts for kids

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Otago Museum Kuri - OMNZVT2162 03 (cropped).jpg
Origin New Zealand
Breed status Extinct
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

Kurī is the Māori name for the extinct Polynesian dog. It was introduced to New Zealand by the Polynesian ancestors of the Māori during their migration from East Polynesia in the 13th century AD. According to Māori tradition, the demigod Māui transformed his brother-in-law Irawaru into the first dog.


Kurī were bushy-tailed, with short legs and powerful shoulders. Their coat colour ranged from yellowish brown to black, white, or spotted. Like other Polynesian dog breeds, they howled instead of barked – the Māori word for the howl was auau.


Kurī were a source of food for Māori, and considered a delicacy. British explorer James Cook sampled kurī on his 1769 voyage and declared that it was almost as tasty as lamb.

Kurī were also used to hunt birds. In addition, Māori used their skins and fur to make dog-skin cloaks (kahu kurī), belts, weapon decorations and poi.


Kurī were seen widely across New Zealand during Cook's first voyage in 1769. The kurī became extinct in New Zealand in the 1860s, following the arrival of European settlers; the breed was unable to survive interbreeding with European dogs. The remains of the last known specimens, a female and her pup, are now in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

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