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Archive for the ‘dog breeding’ Category

Now there’s a fine dog!

AKC champion! Must be quality!

Source.

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bulldog with baby

I think there is no other way to describe the sudden popularity of the bulldog than as one of the greatest tragedies in modern dogs.

A bulldog is an unfortunate beast that is a medley of genetic disorders and physical deformities masquerading as both toughness and cuteness. Such animals can only be celebrated by a culture that has become totally alienated from what a dog actually is.

We live in a world that wants laid-back dogs, and nothing can be more laid-back than a dog that easily overheats and cannot oxygenate itself fully.

Just as the Chinese empress expressed a desire for her pekes to have bent legs to prevent them from wandering off,  we created a “tough working dog” that can be easily kept in an apartment.

If this is the future for dogs in this country, then I weep for it.

We’ve modified the ancient wolf to fit our needs, but now we’re pushing it to the limit. We no longer want the actual dog. We just want the caricature, not the real thing.

And you’d think the English bulldog would be the only dog like this, but you can also see the rise of the “exotic bully” from the general pit bull/AmStaff lineage as another attempt to create the same thing.

The professional bulldog world is full of denial. The official talking point is that the only unhealthy bulldogs are bred by puppy millers, but this is a pretty hard dog to puppy mill on a large scale. It is very hard to get bulldogs to mate naturally, and virtually every bulldog that has been born has been delivered via cesarean.

This is not to say that there are no bulldog mills; it’s just they are very uncommon.

And certainly aren’t the main cause of this breed’s problems.

The main cause of this breed’s problem is that to be a good quality bulldog, it has to be deformed in so many ways. The breed standard celebrates deformity over soundness. The only way for them to be sound is for the bulldog fancy to redefine what soundness means!

I see these people in their little groups harping on about the animal rights activists as being the source for all criticism of their breed.  The truth is the animal rights activists are always looking for things to pounce on, and most of what they find is bogus.

But every once in a while, a blind pig finds an acorn.

When bulldog fanciers blame all their problems on animal rights activists and refuse to acknowledge simple facts about their dogs, they are feeding the fires of animal rights stupidity even more.

Currently, there are dozen of breeds of “original” or “working” bulldog, most of which are attempts to create dogs that look like those in paintings from a certain time period. It’s a noble effort, but in the end, the majority of the world’s bulldogs will be in this breed.

I don’t think it’s ever going to be fixed, but its popularity is likely to be fleeting. Most people can’t afford the vet bills or the anguish that comes from losing a dog that dies before the age of 5 or 6.

And the dog will remain owned only by the true believers, who sound less and less rational as time moves on.

So the bulldog will go on and on, a creature with no purpose other than what its looks symbolize. To be sure, it is a monstrosity, but one that exists solely because we wish to keep it this way.

This is a breed that should have been removed from the multi-breed registries ages ago. It was the first breed to be utterly deformed through show ring fads. It was one of the first breeds to be shown in 1870’s in the new dog fancy system, and by the 1890’s, there were already complaints about how poorly the animal moved and how hard it was to breed.

Those complaints, like this one, will fall on deaf ears. The keepers of the bulldog know it all already.

They will continue down their well-worn path. It is a path that doesn’t lead to better dogs.

It leads to tragedy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chinese yeti dog

This is what the Chinese have done to the Tibetan mastiff:

chinese yeti dog

China’s nouveau riche are buying Tibetan mastiffs as status symbols. Currently, there are breeders selling them there for as much a $2 million. They want the dogs as bear-like as possible and as big a possible. The rumor is that these dogs are part lion, and as we’ve seen with the English mastiff (“What the Lion is to the Cat the Mastiff is to the Dog”), the breeding goal is to create a leonine form of canine flesh.

(And it must have worked. One Chinese zoo put a Tibetan mastiff on display as an African lion.)

Of course, when I saw this photo, I thought, “Yeti!”

It is important to note that this drive toward breeding exaggeration from novelty is not solely a Western feature.  It exists in other cultures. It just requires some disposable income and an animal that has some symbolism to be projected onto it.

 

 

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The double-nosed dog

pachon navarro

This is a pachon Navarro, one of two breeds that are called “Spanish pointers.”

This breed has had this trait for centuries, and yes, it’s an actual working breed.

We’ve been selecting for weird traits in dogs long before we ever thought of showing them.

We love novelty, and this is one the things dogs have to accept when they joined up with our kind.

We don’t care too much about smells– unless they are really rank.

But we do care about what things look like.

A few days ago, I watched a video where a duck farmer was selecting which ducks from his flock were going to be culled. He had two breeds of domestic mallard, the Rouen, which is like a larger version of the wild duck, and the Pekin, which is the classic big white duck.

The two breeds had crossed, producing ducks with unusual spotting, and because the farmer was looking for more hybrid vigor than the pure Rouen strain he had, the pure Rouens got culled, as did any crossbreeds with more banal spotting.

He wasn’t selecting for color, but the weirdness of color made him hesitate about killing them. Their weird spots will be passed onto the next generation, and those ducklings with that coloration will be the ones most likely to survive to pass on their offspring.

Our attraction to weirdness creates strange selection pressures in our domestic animals. In dogs, this attraction can be pretty banal, as it is with this double-nosed pointer.

However, as we’ve seen time and again, we’ve done a lot of harm with our attraction for novelty.

The bulldog that cannot whelp or mate without veterinary assistance and double merle collie with no eyes are both what happens when our desire to select for novelty runs amok.

We need to understand that our nature has to be controlled.

Otherwise, our selection pressures will lead to more misery.

 

 

 

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The closed registry system is so nineteenth/twentieth century. This is what the dogs need now.

Source.

David Cunningham comments on this blog pretty regularly.

 

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This a video about an appeal to for a basenji that is suffering from both Fanconi syndrome and either an ulcer or a tumor. The dog’s owner is need of funds for a endoscopic exam to determine whether she has either a tumor or an ulcer.

Source.

Basenjis look like they could be the most healthy dogs ever. They are very close to the primitive “wolf-like” dogs. They are more closely related to Middle Eastern wolves, which have been posited as a possible source of ancestry for domestic dogs, than other breeds are.  The rarely bark, which may have been adaptation to avoid leopard predation. Leopards love dog and jackal meat and a barking dog or jackal is likely to draw in a leopard.

Or the dogs may have never developed barking at all. However, wolves do bark, especially when they feel that there is a threat near their young, and I have personally heard a coyote bark, which sounds almost exactly like a dog of half its size.

Basenjis are also typically monestrous, which means they have only one heat cycle per year– usually in the autumn months. There are other breeds that have monestrous breeding cycles, certain laikas and primitive sighthounds, but the basenji is the most famous for having these traits. Basenjis are comparatively much more common in North America than any of those breeds.

Basenjis obviously have no extreme exaggerations in conformation. They are not pugs or bulldogs with flattened muzzles and distorted airways that make breathing and cooling themselves problematic. They are not German shepherds with sloping backs or dachshunds with legs too short and backs too long– both of which cause massive structural problems for the dogs.

No. The basenji’s problems are much harder to understand.

The basenji’s problems come from what I call the Tristan da Cunha problem. It’s a phenomenon better known as a founder effect.

The reason why I refer to Tristan da Cunha is that is good example of what happens when a relatively small population is reproductively isolated.

32 percent of all islanders on St. Tristan da Cunha have a history of asthma, yet they live on a very isolated island in the South Atlantic Ocean. The people who founded the island’s population were a mixture of the British garrison that guarded Napoleon on St. Helena and  some Dutch, Italian and American settlers who came to the island. The entire population is derived from just 15 individuals, which is actually very similar to human population resembling a closed registry breed of dog.

Three of the original founders were asthma sufferers, which 1 out of 5, and is actually much higher than one would expect in a nineteenth century population living in a part of the world with no industry.

But because that population became isolated from the rest of humanity, those alleles for heightened tendency towards asthma became more and more common in the population. With no new blood coming into the population, the tendency for people to inherit these alleles simply became more likely.

Now, this is exactly what happened to the basenji in the West. The basenji is naturally occurring landrace that occurs in central Africa. It was never a breed in the sense that it had a closed registry and a breed standard. However, that all changed when Western dog fanciers became interested in them.

In the twentieth century, there were three major importations of basenjis into the West. The first of these came in the 1920’s, when Lady Helen Nutting brought six dogs to England from the Sudan. All of these dogs died of distemper, but in the 1940’s, the famous (or infamous) German-American animal importer Henry Trefflich imported some basenjis from the Congo Basin into the UK and the US. Trefflich was into importing exotic animals from Africa, South America, and Asia for circuses, zoos, and Hollywood movies. His normal imports included hippos and jaguars, but a barkless dog from deepest, darkest Africa certainly would have been an amazing item to offer for sale.

Until the 1990’s, all basenjis in the West were derived from Trefflich’s imports. They were bred as a closed registry population, just like the population of Tristan da Cunha. However, unlike the human population, where incest is a taboo, basenjis began to be bred for the dog shows, and line breeding became more and more common. Line breeding, which is a variant of inbreeding (regardless of what the so-called dog experts tell you), is a very good way to make the problems that come from founder effect much worse. Within these dogs were the genetic tendency towards Fanconi syndrome,

In the 1990’s, it was decided that the basenji needed some new blood, so 14 dogs were imported from Central Africa to increase genetic diversity.  These imports also introduced brindle coloration into the breed, but because the breed is still managed in a closed registry system, the dogs still have problems. Fanconi syndrome, which the dog in the video suffers from, is the most infamous disease in the breed. It’s a disorder that prevents the kidneys from reabsorbing electrolytes and nutrients, and it can result in significant organ damage if not treated.

The reason why it’s so common in basenjis is that in that founding population that Trefflich imported, there were dogs with a genetic tendency towards the disorder in the population. When these dogs were bred in a closed off population, the alleles for the tendency toward the disorder wound up being expressed. The allele for Fanconi syndrome in basenjis is a simple recessive, meaning that it would only ever be express if a dog inherited two copies of the allele from both parents. In a genetically diverse population, these recessives would have less of a likelihood of being expressed, which is a good reason why we ought to scuttle the entire closed registry system for domestic dogs.

Fanconi syndrome is now very common in basenjis, and even though a genetic test is available for selecting away from the disorder, one has to wonder if trying to breed out this disease is the best way to manage it

The best way to manage it would be to have an open registry for basenjis.  This is how it would have been managed naturally in the Central African population. Genetic diversity and constant gene flow would prevent this disorder from being

Yes, I’m aware that breeding them to Western dogs would meant that some of the super special basenji traits might be reduced– at least in F1 crosses. The famous Scott and Fuller experiments with dog breeds included crosses between basenjis and cocker spaniels to determine the inheritance of barking behavior in domestic dogs. The basenji-cockers barked more readily than any of the pure basenjis.

But I bet we could easily return to basenji characteristics by backcrossing any hybrids into the pure population. It’s been done with breed after breed.

However, as with most problems in dogs, human politics and human mores keep rational breeding schemes from being utilized.

In this breed, there are people who think they are exactly the same breed as the tesem dogs of Ancient Egypt. There are people who think they are derived from black-backed jackals or African wild dogs, neither of which can actually cross with basenjis or any other breed of domestic dog.

People are so worked up on preserving what they view as an ancient artifact that they forget that this is a living organism with feelings and emotions, as well as things like genetic drift and random mutation.

It’s really quite sad.

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I only came across this video because I do watch Jaclyn Glenn’s videos on politics, skepticism, and religion, and I just happened to come across this one about a dog. You can donate to help Rauree here.

 

 

 

 

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A pekingese with a profile like this:

Anyone who can say that dog shows are solely about selecting for improvements within breeding stock clearly needs to have their heads examined.

And even if we accept that some breeds do have functional standards, it is the same piece of paper that says the sleek German short-haired pointer is of breeding quality that also says the same about the deformed pekingese.

Why would anyone who breeds functional dogs want anything to do with an organization that rewards pekingeses, bulldogs, and pugs?

This is why I think multibreed registries really don’t have much of a place in the future of dogs.

And if breeders of functional breeds had half a brain, they would walk out of these registries that celebrate deformity en masse.

What good is to say that you breed dogs to functional standard when in the ring next to you there are all these dogs struggling to breathe and cool themselves?

These dogs defame dog breeding as a respectable activity. They are not worth defending in the least.

 

 

 

 

 

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