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Archive for August, 2008

 So says the linguist Will Graves. Yes, linguist, and an expert on the Russian language. Russia has a long history of wolf hating. Wolves do kill livestock. However, they very, very, very rarely attack people. We’ve had only one fatality of a healthy wolf (it was actually two) killing a person in North America. In modern Europe, there isn’t a single case. A pack of wolves snatched children in India, but basically, wolves are not dangerous to people. Wolves do kill livestock and domestic dogs, usually over territority (sometimes for food).

Dogs attack 500,000 to 1 million people per year. As I’ve said before, the Spanish used dogs to their advantage against the native peoples of Latin America and Florida. These big mastiffs killed people in much the same way wolves kill their prey.

For some reason wolves just don’t think of people as food. I don’t know why.

Read L. David Mech’s works about wolves if you want to know the real animal. For fun, read Farley Mowat, but don’t believe everything he says in it, either. Some of what he says is really good in it, but wolves do kill game species.  The Inuit he uses as a source actually consider the wolf vital to maintaining the fitness of caribou herds.  This tribe no longer lives as it once did, so the wolf is alone in that part of the world.

We need to understant that both Mowat and Graves’s work are both based on folklore. Mowat’s book is based on Inland Inuit folklore as much as Graves’s book is based on Russian superstition. Mech’s work is real science.

Certain political organizations are really good at putting crappy “exposes” of this type on the market. In the world of politics, we know this too well.

Here’s a video of some researchers observing a wolf den. Really dangerous animals, aren’t they?

Wolves can kill people. I’m sure it’s happened, but it’s far rarer than shark attacks. And we all know, thanks to Shark Week, that shark attacks are quite uncommon.

So we should use Russian folklore to create wildlife policy?

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Newsweek  is now doing some reporting on those people who still believe in the bigfoot.

Dr. Jeff Meldrum, who is actually a respected anthropologist, except for the bigfoot research, still thinks that science will eventually uncover the bigfoot.  I am glad that someone is interested in using science here, but I hate to tell Dr. Meldrum that most of what we already know shows us that humans are the only apes indigenous to the Americas. We are also the only primates found north of the Valley of Mexico. Gigantopithecus blackii was most likely a knuckle-walker, not a biped. No full skeletons of the beast have been found, and we know it only through fossilized teeth and few jaw fragments. It also may have lived largely on bamboo, which means that it definitely could not have withstood the conditions of Beringia. Humans can live largely on meat for a very long period of time. No other primate can do so.  That’s how we have made it in high latitudes. That some species of giant ape could cross into North America and remain hidden from science for so many years is simply not logical. As many hunters as we have, it is shocking that no one would have shot one.

I’m a bigfoot skeptic. I’m not a cynic. If one were proven to exist, I would be more than thrilled. But the evidence just isn’t out there.

However, Jane Goodall is a believer:

I’m still a skeptic.

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Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks married John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon,  1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair. They toured Canada extensively, eventually buying an estate in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia in 1891, which was named “Guisachan,” after Ishbel’s father’s estate. It is believed that some members of the family brought goldens to Canada as early as 1881.  Aberdeen would eventually become Governor-General of Canada, and in this capacity, tried to implement various liberal reforms in Canada, quite an unusual step in this period known as The Gilded Age. (The Marjoribanks family were all members of the now defunct LIberal Party of Great Britain, a percursor to the one in Canada and the modern Liberal Democrat Party of the United Kingdom. This family was close to the Prime Minister William Gladstone, who was known for his concern for social justice.) These goldens were the first lines introduced into North America.

One of the first goldens in North America.

One of the first goldens in North America.

The Marjoribanks family also tried ranching in Texas, purchasing a large estate in Collingsworth and Wheeler Counties called The Rocking Chair Ranch. The 1st Baron Tweedmouth purchased it, and it was eventually ceded to his son Edward Marjoribanks when he passed away 1884. Edward, 2nd Baron Tweedmouth,  chose his brother Archibald (“Archie”) to go to Texas and help manage the property. Archie is said to have little interest in ranching or proper management of the herds. Instead, he was said to spend most of his time drinking, gambling, and hunting with dogs.  He was known to the locals as “Old Marshie.”

Among these hunting dogs on the ranch, Archie had a golden retriever or yellow flat/wavy coat bitch named “Lady.” She was believed to have been from the Marquess of Aberdeen’s stock or born from a bitch in whelp brought down from the British Columbian Guisachan to Texas.

Lady and Archie

Lady and Archie

This picture is variously listed as 1891 or 1893.

Because Archie was not a very good manager, the ranch hands began to steal the stock. Archie never mingled with them, and they saw their opportunity to rob the ranch blind. The senior manager, John Drew, was also stealing cattle. Eventually the ranch’s debts became too much, and the Ranch was sold in 1896.

However, the Marjoribanks family introduced the yellow retrievers to North America. This story may be the only example of a family founding a strain of dogs and then introducing that strain to other parts of the world within a generation.

Most of these dogs were very dark in color, and later imports to North America by Colonel Samuel Magoffin were of this color, too. As a result, most North American goldens were much darker in color than their European counterparts. The field and working varieties in the US and Canada are overwhelmingly dark gold or red in color. This was the same for our show varieties until relatively recently.

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Golden retriever and flat-coated retriever health surveys from the Kennel Club (of the United Kingdom) and the British Small Animal Veterinary Medical Association can now be accessed online.

 

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As I posted last week, the Georgia bigfoot was nothing more than a hoax.

Now the fellows behind it admit to it.

Basically, they did as I said they did. They took a costume and covered it in dirt and road kill. Then they got some pig intestines and put them on top of the costume.

So there we have it. No bigfoot in Georgia.

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Here’s the much anticipated expose:

*Warning: Not for sensitive or younger viewers!

Part 1, Part 2, Part3, Part 4,  Part 5, Part 6,

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This comes from the Egenvall study on dog longevity, which examined the mortality of 350,000 dogs that were insured by a Swedish dog insurance firm. The study compared relative mortality of various breeds.

Goldens come out pretty well, which surprises me. Here is their mortality curve.

I thought they would have higher tumor mortalities than that.

Here’s how the compare to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a dog that descends from one individual.

Cavaliers have lots of problems. The worst is mitral valve disorder which gives the dogs a continuous severe heart murmur. The dogs are usually diagnosed in middle age (for normal dogs), and if they’re show dogs, they’ve alread been bred.

Another breed with problems, the Irish Wolfhound:

This breed lives on average 7 years, and many die younger.  Cancer is a big problem in the Irish Wolfhound.

All graphs and more detailed analysis can be found at terrierman’s blog.

BTW, the Irish Wolfhound should not be confused with the actual breed form Ireland that killed all the wolves in that country. That breed went extinct in the late eighteenth century, when the wolves died off. No wolves meant this breed had no real purpose, so it disappeared. A Scotsman named Captain Graham recreated this breed by crossing the Great Dane (German mastiff, a descendant of the wolfhound and probably very similar to the original wolfhound, which often was described as smooth-haired), the Scottish Deerhound (a rough-haired greyhound often mistaken for the wolfhound), and the borzoi (Russian wolfhound).

BTW, the BBC is airing a documentary about the damage that closed registries, inbreeding, and conformation shows are doing to domestic dogs. It is called “Pedigree Dogs Exposed.”  Clips can been seen here, here, and a debate here. BTW, that’s Mark Evans of Animal Planet’s “Barking Mad” who is acting as the RSPCA spokesperson vet. It’s an excellent show that shows people how to correct behavior problems in animals humanely.

Mark Evans is catching some flak for calling some purebred dogs “mutants.”  But that’s what they are. They are exaggerated mutations, which are exaggerated in dogs because of tandem repeats in their DNA sequence.

The BBC may cut its relationship with Crufts. The documentary has caused a great deal of controversy in Great Britain, and my guess is it won’t be long until it causes change here.

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