One of the most troubling delusions of parts of the dog fancy is one that is actually pretty hard to describe to someone not deeply indoctrinated into that particular value system.
I call this delusion “the delusion of preservation.” It is a belief that if one just keeps the lineages of certain dogs pure, then one is preserving the breed as it was meant to be.
The notion that one is preserving a particular strain through selective breed is not itself a delusion. After all, all dog breeders are in some way preserving a particular type of dog through their breeding choices.
However, it’s idea that by keeping lineages forever “pure”– that is entirely descended from the foundational stock– that one is doing any favors for preserving the strain.
I’ve come across this delusion many times. It’s most common in relatively uncommon breeds, especially those that have relatively more common relatives that could be easily used as outcrosses for the purpose of genetic rescue.
Probably the most blatant example of this delusion that I’ve come across come from this website of a registry for Alapaha blueblood bulldogs. It appears as part of their FAQ:
17. With such a limited gene pool what are the health concerns for the breed?
Answer: The health concerns are like any other large breed; go with a breeder that screen for things such as hip dysplasia (OFA or PennHip), death ness (BEAR), blindness, skin disorders, entropion and such. Also get a WRITTEN guarantee/warrantee, their word is just that, their word against yours!
And last but not least, some ‘idiots’ feel that they have to go outside the breed to get different blood to sustain them but I’ve never heard of a reputable German Shepherd breeder breeding to a Collie or a Rottweiler breeder breeding to a Doberman because he/she thought they looked similar or the gene pool was too thin.
Yes, and we know that GSD’s, collies, and Dobermanns are perfect examples to emulate! Every one of those breeds has many severe genetic problems that have been almost impossible to control within their respective breeds. Collies have collie eye anomaly, which is ubiquitous in the breed. Dobermanns, GSD’s, and Rottweilers have very high rates of cancer, and Dobermanns are known for their very high incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy.
And I’m not even talking about the severe structural problems that exist in GSD’s. Those are not the result of inbreeding, but the result of so-called reputable breeders being ignoramuses about how a dog ought to move.
In fact, these so-called reputable breeders have done such a marvelous job wrecking these pretty common breeds that one wonders why a rare breed club would follow their lead.
The answer is pretty simple:
This club wants to the world to know that this breed is legitimate.
Legitimacy for a dog breed winds up meaning a closed registry breed.
However, this is not actually legitimacy. It is madness.
This club goes out of its way to attack a real breed preservationist organization– the Animal Research Foundation– which actually is engaged in preserving working breeds, including the Alapaha blueblood.
The truth of the matter is that although we call the AKC the American Kennel Club, it is really a foreign institution. Its entire way of functioning came from Great Britain, and before it became established here, almost no one paid any attention to closed registries.
We had good working dogs. In my part of the world the main working and hunting farm dog was the “shepherd,” a sort of generalist collie. If a farmer moved his way up to the level of a kulak, he might also keep a few scent hounds to run foxes on a Saturday night ormaybe a setter to point bobwhites. To keep the rats out of the granaries and to tree squirrels, you would have a generalist terrier, usually called a feist. All of these animals were often crossed with each other. I have known “collies” with foxhound ancestors, and beagles with bluetick coonhound crossed in.
In Kentucky and Virginia, curs were more common than shepherds, and the ancestral cur is actually the proto-smooth collie. In Georgia and the Gulf Coast states, these curs were often mixed with other things– perhaps even the merle herding dogs from France or a bit of the old southern wolf subspecies. In those states, the cur was a bigger dog that usually was yellow with or without a black mask or some merle variant. Today, these dogs have been split into breeds which are impossible for me to keep up with.
This merle cur dog was often bred to another generalist working dog that was common in this part of the South. This is the farm bulldog, a creature that likely derives from the ancestral stock that gave us both English mastiffs and bulldogs. This dog was used to guard the estate and manage often very wild livestock in much the same way the curs were used.
And even now, it’s a very common practice to breed merle curs to bulldogs for hunting purposes.
And that is the most likely origin of the Alapaha blueblood. It’s a bulldog/merle cur cross.
Of course, saying this is an absolute heresy because many dog fanciers who own this sort of dog are under the delusion that these dogs derive from Spanish war mastiffs, which is nothing more than a flight of fancy. Spanish colonization in this part of the world was intensive, but it was never as extensive as that of England and later the British Empire. There might be a tiny bit of Spanish blood in these dogs, but the Spanish were not coming over in vast waves to settle the South. People from the British Isles clearly were, though, and they came decades after the Spanish were forced back down into Florida.
Also, I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but this kind of dog cannot live on its own in the wild in a subtropical climate. There have never been any wild bulldogs or mastiffs that have evolved anywhere in the world, much less a subtropical climate where the dog simply couldn’t keep itself cool or free of parasites. So the chances of Spanish bulldogs surviving on their own in the wild in the decades between when the Spanish were driven out and the vast waves of Anglo settlement began in the South are very, very low. It’s a romantic delusion if there ever was one.
So this kind of dog wasn’t living in the South for hundreds of years as a closed registry breed.
It was just a regional variant of the bulldog/cur– one that had a lot more bulldog than cur blood.
And the ARF is allowing outcrosses to other farm bulldogs into their recognized strains of Alapaha blueblood, which is, of course, why they are being so viciously attacked in the FAQ.
The ARF is actually engaging in true preservation breeding. It is keeping the genetic diversity of the strain alive. It knows you cannot preserve any biological entity, be it a rare domestic dog breed or an endangered species, if you simply ignore the genetic diversity of the breeding population.
This is why the dog fancy continues to fail dogs.
And the desire to emulate this failure in rare or working breeds is perhaps the most baffling aspect I’ve seen.
This delusion of preservation is something that must be openly challenged. Otherwise, nothing will be preserved at all.
Genes will be lost.
And dogs will continue to suffer.