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Archive for the ‘dog breeding’ Category

wetterhoun-golden-retriever

A few years ago, I did a blog post about a wetterhoun/golden retriever cross.

A wetterhoun, as you may recall, is a water dog from the Friesland province of the Netherlands. The dog was used to hunt otters and polecats, as well as being used as waterfowl retrievers. In function, they are very similar to the market hunter’s water spaniels or water dogs that were once common across the North Sea from Norfolk to the River Tweed.

The owner of the above dog commented on my post leaving this photo of the dog in profile. The dog is much more retrievery in conformation than wetterhounesque. (I always wanted to use wetterhoun and -esque in a word).

wetterhoun golden retriever

Apparently, someone has bred this cross back into golden retrievers, because here is a dog that is 3/4 golden retriever and 1/4 wetterhoun.

The backcross is even more like a golden retriever. Indeed, if this same dog were seen in, say, 1890,  we’d have to call it a wavy-coated retriever.

I don’t know how common crossbreeding is in wetterhouns, but this is still very much a working breed in its native region in the Netherlands. There has historically been a lot of crossbreeding between wetterhouns and the other Frisian gun dog breed, the Stabyhoun. I had heard rumors that crossbreeding between stabyhoun and wetterhoun were again happening, though on a much more limited scale, but I cannot find any record of it.

If the dog in the last photo had been selected to be gold or yellow in color, I don’t think you could tell it from a purebred golden retriever.

So these two breeds, though similar in function and perhaps ancestry, could be used in a backcross program without many problems.

It’s just that in the dog world that exists right now, we don’t have the ability to do this with legitimacy.

This has to change.

 

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neapolitann monster

There might be a few things wrong this dog.

This dog is gonna take on the gladiators and all the Germanic tribes at once!

 

 

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Retromops on the left. Conventional pug on the right. (Source)

Retromops on the left. Conventional pug on the right. (Source).

Pugs have a lot of problems associated with their bizarre phenotype. This is a breed that is well known for its scrunched-up muzzle and head, which cause problems with oxygenation and with cooling. We’ve been through this enough times on this blog that I’m going to leave them alone on this post.

However, the question becomes how could we fix the problems that pugs have.

One answer to this question comes from Germany, where pugs have been crossed with “Parson Jack Russells” (long-legged JRTs) and then bred back into pugs. Longer-muzzled dogs were then selected from the back-breedings.

This is definitely a way of fixing the pug issues related to phenotype, but it does involve cross-breeding. And it also involves ignoring both the breed standard and what is actually winning in a particular breed.

Which are not easy to do.

This new type of pug is called “Retromops.”  It is “retro” in that it resembles an older form of pug that had a longer muzzle, and the word “mops” is what pugs are are called in other Germanic languages besides English.

The dogs are pretty retro. This is a painting by the English artist Henry Bernard Chalon of a pug in 1802.

pug 1802

With the exception of the cropped ears, this dog strongly resembles the Retromops.

Of course, this dog lived before there was anything known as a kennel club, and the concept of a “purebred dog” was actually quite a bit up to interpretation. George Washington was breeding foxhounds and water spaniels just few decades earlier, and all he did was just make sure that dogs that looked  and acted like foxhounds were bred to foxhounds and the dogs that looked and acted like water spaniels were bred to water spaniels.

But that’s very different from created a closed registry breed.

There were also no breed standards. That concept doesn’t come to the fore until many decades later.

And yes, it’s very likely that English pug breeders crossed their dogs with terriers.  There couldn’t possibly be a vast supply of pugs in Europe during their first few centuries of being exported, so it would make sense that someone crossed a pug with a terrier every once in a while.

And perhaps more often than that.

Modern breeding systems and conformation showing created the conventional pug.

The conventional pug has lots of health issues, but even if it can be shown that Retromops have a much better quality of life, I doubt that there will ever be a demand for them.

People want pugs to look like the conventional pug. They don’t want something looks like a sort of border terrier/bulldog/spitz.

Even if the Retromops looks like the pug that was introduced in Europe originally, people are so attached to the current standard pug that I doubt they would accept the longer-muzzled type.

This breed has been branded to look a certain way, and because it has no function other than to be a companion, looks are a huge part of what makes a pug “fit for purpose.”

It’s a sad situation, but there is at least one way to make a better pug.

Unfortunately, it’s never going to be accepted or widespread.

But I certainly wish that it could succeed.

With pug popularity on the rise, it’s very unlikely that this model could ever take off.

Of course, someone will mention the puggle, but the puggle concept was always about creating a designer crossbreed. It was never about making a better pug.

So until there is a sea change with the public and within the established pug fancy, we’re pretty much stuck with the conventional pug.

But we should be going retro.

 

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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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