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Archive for September, 2009

This is pretty good

What follows is political. Ignore if you disagree.

Source.

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Identify this skull

skull

The answer.

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Identify this skull

skull

Look at those canines!

Rinalia got it right.

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Newfoundlands were used for retrieving shot birds. Yes, this includes the large black and white dog that eventually became the modern Newfoundland and FCI Landseer breeds.

newfoundland retrieving bird

This painting is by Edmund Bristow.

So yes, Newfoundlands were used as retrievers in both the United States and Europe.

One of the problems in determining what dogs were in the early retrievers is that Newfoundland could refer to the St. John’s water dog and the large black and white dog.

Audubon and Lewis and Clark both had Newfoundlands, but no description of these dogs exists. My guess is that they were of the proto-Landseer and Newfoundland type, not the St. John’s water dog type.

The Chessies are said to come from Newfoundlands, but my guess is these come from more of the St. John’s water dog type, which is why they look more like retrievers and have the brindling that was associated with the St. John’s water dogs.

Breed clubs are forever coming up with stupid histories, which are often parroted by the gullible. The trouble with all that is that actual historical records are something else.

There were two dogs called Newfoundland and both hauled nets and retrieved. The larger ones hauled carts and sleds. The smaller ones moonlighted as upland game retrievers, but both became part of the early retriever lines when they were exported to Europe.

***

But I do know two things about the St. John’s water dog and the Newfoundland. They are not descended from Norse dogs. These dogs would have had to have lived with the Beothuck when the Norse finally abandoned their colony on the island. Unfortunately for that theory, the Beothuck were conspicuously without dogs when the Basque, Portuguese, and English came to fish and whale Newfoundland’s waters.

Of course, none of that matters, when breed clubs keep saying that the dogs are derived from Leif Ericsson’s “Viking bear dog.” It simply isn’t true. The so-called bear dogs were mastiffs similar to the Dalbo-dog and the Broholmer. However, there is not a shred of evidence that these dogs lived on in North America after the Norse left. It’s a flight of fancy.

Now, it is possible that husky-type dogs from Labrador (of the North American hauling spitz type) may have played a role in their development. It is also possible that the Native American dogs that were used to retrieve ducks shot from canoes were used in their development.

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Newfoundland swimming:

Source.

Here’s a flat-coat:

Source.

See how maneuverable that flat-coat is in the water? That’s why it’s a gun dog, and the Newfoundland isn’t.

And watch this little golden (“Shuttle” from the header)

I’m pretty sure she could swim circles around a giant dog with tons of bone and hair.

I’m not going to show a Labrador swimming, because Labs are the fastest water dogs you can find. They can outswim virtually any dog, simply because they have a coat like a seal or an otter.

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One little warning

I noticed that the top referring search term for this blog is “pit bull.”

I know just a little bit about their history, mainly because I’ve subjected myself to reading rather dubious and poorly written histories of the fighting strains of that dog.

Why?

Because they are actually very similar to retriever bloodlines and histories.

The great dogs are mentioned, as are their bloodlines.

Many of these people actually knew dogs.

Unfortunately, they wasted all of their knowledge on breeding dogs that would tear each other apart.

I have no respect for that.

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Skunks

For those of you who don’t live in North America, here’s a very good video on skunks. This show was on PBS not long ago, and the striped skunks were awesome.

Source.

I can’t describe what skunk musk smells like. I really can’t.

It’s really not the smell that is bad.

It’s how it irritates your eyes and mucous membranes.

I say this as someone who has been skunked.

I had a dog that reveled in killing skunks, and she attacked one that was maybe 10 feet away from me one evening. As she shook it, the skunk wound up spraying me as “collateral damage.”

In some states, people can keep these animals as pets, but most states ban it because skunks have their own strain of rabies.

Incidentally, skunks are not weasels (Mustelids). They used to be classified with the weasels, ferrets, mink, otters, badgers, martens, and wolverines (gluttons). But now skunks and stink badegrs are in their own family called Mephitidae. Both skunks and Mustelids are members of the superfamiy Musteloidea, which includes the raccoon family (Procyonidae) and the red panda (Ailuridae). This suborder Caniformia within the order Carnivora. This suborder also includes dogs, bears, seals, sea lions and fur seals, and the walrus.

Finally, we supposedly have Eastern spotted skunks in West Virginia, but I have never seen one here. Those are the skunks that do handstands.

Source.

Read Full Post »

Skunks

For those of you who don’t live in North America, here’s a very good video on skunks. This show was on PBS not long ago, and the striped skunks were awesome.

Source.

I can’t describe what skunk musk smells like. I really can’t.

It’s really not the smell that is bad.

It’s how it irritates your eyes and mucous membranes.

I say this as someone who has been skunked.

I had a dog that reveled in killing skunks, and she attacked one that was maybe 10 feet away from me one evening. As she shook it, the skunk wound up spraying me as “collateral damage.”

In some states, people can keep these animals as pets, but most states ban it because skunks have their own strain of rabies.

Incidentally, skunks are not weasels (Mustelids). They used to be classified with the weasels, ferrets, mink, otters, badgers, martens, and wolverines (gluttons). But now skunks and stink badegrs are in their own family called Mephitidae. Both skunks and Mustelids are members of the superfamiy Musteloidea, which includes the raccoon family (Procyonidae) and the red panda (Ailuridae). This suborder Caniformia within the order Carnivora. This suborder also includes dogs, bears, seals, sea lions and fur seals, and the walrus.

Finally, we supposedly have Eastern spotted skunks in West Virginia, but I have never seen one here. Those are the skunks that do handstands.

Source.

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source.

You must read it to believe it!

(And I don’t believe it)

Randolph County, in case you didn’t know, is the largest county in West Virginia (in terms of acreage).

It is in the heart of the Allegheny Mountains and has large areas of nothing but wilderness.

It has a large population of bears.

And it has snowshoe hares. Yes, West Virginia has snowshoe hares in the higher elevations.

I don’t think it has any species of ape, except Homo sapiens.

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c. lupus familiaris

Okay, I know I’ve touched on this before.

But I think I’ll go ahead with another post on this topic.

Dogs are wolves. They differ at most 0.2 percent from wild wolves in their MtDNA sequence. I needed to italicize that “at most” because it is very common to see it written that dogs differ 0.2 percent from their MtDNA sequence.  That means the maximal difference between dogs and wolves in their MtDNA sequence is 0.2 percent.

Historically, they did interbreed quite a bit. Accounts exist of settlers on the American frontier using bitches in heat to bring in the dog wolves, which would mate with them. Because dogs remain tied together after mating, it was easy to dispatch the copulating wolf with an axe.

This interbreeding has caused a great deal of genetic pollution in the European wolf population, leading to unusually colored wolves and wolves with dewclaws on the hind legs. We also have evidence that the black coloration in wolves in North America came from cross-breeding with dogs.

Now, a dog is a wolf that has adapted to a particular environment. It is just like the Arabian wolf is adapted to the deserts and the Arctic wolf is adapted to the frigid wastes. Neither animal could live in the other’s environment, yet they are of the same species.

A dog is simply a wolf that can live safely with people. It can read people better than the wolf can, and as a result, it is better able to learn from people than virtually any other non-primate species.

To me, it makes sense to call dogs Canis lupus familiaris. It makes as much sense as calling the Arabian wolf Canis lupus arabs or the Arctic wolf Canis lupus arctos.

Now, there are three groups of people who don’t like to call dogs wolves.

One of these groups are the people who hate wolves and like to talk about the negative aspects of their behaviors. They don’t want them to be associated with the domestic dog, an animal that most people like.

Another group is the people who don’t want people owning wolves. If dogs and wolves are the same species, shouldn’t we be able to keep a wolf like a dog? The answer is no.  Wolves are too reactive and  powerful for the average person to own. Their predatory behavior can be easily stimulated, which means that children and other domestic animals could be at risk from these animals.

However, I should also say that there are  domestic dog for which this same caveat applies. And there are wolves that are very dog-like and not even remotely reactive or nervous (like this one.)  But most dogs behave like dogs, and most wolves behave like wolves.

The other group that would rather I not call dogs wolves are the positive reinforcement dog trainers. After all, the training methods they hate are based upon an assumption that dogs are wolves, and wolves form packs that are ruled by a tyrannical alpha. If dogs are not wolves, then their behavior is very different, and thus, we can get away with training them using other methods.

Now, I do have an answer for this one.

The studies that determined that wolves live in packs like this have their roots in Switzerland. Rudolf Schenkel studied captive wolf packs in the Basel Zoo in the middle part of the twentieth century. These wolves were unrelated animals and were kept in close confinement together. To prevent fights, they formed a really strict hierarchy, and Schenkel assumed that this type of pack behavior was indicative of how wolves behaved in the wild.

Of course, we have since found out that wolf packs in the wild are much more libertarian organizations. They are nothing more than family groups, and if one wolf gets ticked off at another, it disperses. Indeed, virtually all wolves disperse from their natal packs to form their own families.

But even these pack forming behaviors are not absolute with wolves. Sometimes they form super packs in which several breeding pairs and their offspring live as a single group. And some wolves never form packs larger than the mated pair, particularly in the Arabian and Indian wolf subspecies.

Moreover, the most studied wolves are the big game hunting wolves that live in northern Eurasia or northern North America. These are actually quite specialized wolves.

To assume that these wolves can tell us anything about dog behavior is a bit of a stretch, but what it says to the positive reinforcement crowd is that wolves have always had variable behavior in the wild. Dogs are not set in stone to follow leaders any more than wolves are. Dogs and wolves are both intelligent animals that have always adjusted their behavior to fit their circumstances. That is why the species was so successful. Indeed, it still is successful, because some individuals figured out how to live with the naked apes that would later claim dominion over the whole planet.

I do recognize dogs to be a subspecies of wolf. However, I am not denying that there are differences. However, this species is already diverse in terms of behavior and phenotype in its wild form. Shouldn’t we also expect a lot of diversity in its domesticated form?

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