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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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This one was a hunting mastiff from the north of Italy. My guess is the scars come from the dog’s use as a boar catcher. I doubt that the dog is 10 or 12 years old, but it is certainly an older dog. This is probably very similar to the kind of mastiff-type that the Alani would have had.

Source.

 

 

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bassano pointers

I had an interesting conversation a few days ago:

Why is that people who keep fish and exotic pets are so open to new scientific knowledge about their animals?

Why is that the innovative ways of keeping these animals quickly gain acceptance among their owners, while in the world of dogs, the bulk of the culture has stagnated around a bunch of tired ideas (particularly dominance behavior models and the closed registry system)?

I think the answer has two parts two.

People have been keeping dogs for longer than we’ve cultivated fields, while fish and exotic pets are often only just a few generations removed from the wild.

The best ways to keep these animals are often in a somewhat experimental state, and it’s not always guaranteed that the ways that those who came before had the best way of caring for them.

Caring for dogs is pretty much cut and dry, or at least, that is how it seems.

But the world of dogs, unlike the world of exotic pets or aquarium fish, is very much caught up in some sort of tradition.

When you buy a breed, you buy into a  breed history, which may or may not be true, and you also buy into a culture that pays a lot of homage to those “greats” who came before.

Now, maybe those greats had some insight about the animals at hand, but there often gets to be a sort of cult based upon that great’s ideas– even if what that great happens to believe absolute garbage.

Take German Shepherd dogs and the worship of Lloyd Brackett and his cute incest formula. Brackett was an anti-Semite eugenicist who happened to win a bunch of dog shows, so in the world of show GSD, his ideas are treated as if they were wonderful. Of course,  I doubt that very many people in GSD’s share his views that the Jews were a “superior race” because they were inbred, but many people who show GSD’s hold onto that same logic.

Of course, it’s garbage.

But if you follow Brackett, you might win a few dog shows. Never mind that the bulk of the show GSD population is slowly deteriorating into a bunch of ataxic-gaited hyenas.

This never gets questioned, of course, because Brackett leads to success within  the culture.

And when you buy a dog breed, you’re buying into a culture. You’re also buying into a brand, and within a brand, there are all sorts romantic ideals about what that brand should be.

It is not just within show dogs  that people get caught up in the branding. One of the things I’ve always found amusing about the border collie is a belief that this is a traditional farm dog and that its abilities as a farm dog have been made better through trialling. Except that the original collie-type farm dog was not nearly as strongly-eyed or obsessive as a border collie, and in my part of the world, this sort of “collie” still exists in the form of English shepherds and farm collies, neither of which would ever be able to win a border collie trial in the first place.

A border collie is actually a dog created to manage very large flocks. It was never a dog for small farmers, and what’s more, it exists in its current form largely to win sheepdog trials.

But if you buy into the culture, then you accept that sheepdog trials are “traditional dog work,” when they really are something pretty new in the grand scheme of pastoral dogs.

If a dog person wants to think as an aquarist or exotic pet owner does, then one must be willing to go against the grain.

To accept new ideas is blasphemy in much of the world of dogs.

At some point, you almost have to deny the breed brand and also deny much of the wisdom that came before.

Because science tells us that dogs are organisms. All dog breeds are part of the same species, and special beliefs about dogs– like those that deny heterosis exists within crossbreeds– simply aren’t true. No matter what misrepresentations or jun science studies people come up with, the rules of population genetics still work in the world of dogs.

Further, we don’t now everything there is to know about dog behavior, but it is pretty clear that we were wrong in assuming that dog societies and behavior can be modeled on decades-old and somewhat discredited studies on captive wolf packs.

But if you’ve bought a breed where the people most successful in training it in the past have all adopted some form of  what might be called dog abuse axioms, then to question the way the dog is trained is also to blaspheme the breed.

But if we are to do what is truly right by dogs, then we have to be willing to blaspheme.

And if you blaspheme, there are countless numbers of people who will come after you. If your breed exists only as a specialists’ dog, then you might very well be run out of it– just for questioning shibboleths.

The sad thing about the world of dogs is that rationalists and skeptics exist in a very small minority within the various dog subcultures.

To question is to deny.

And to deny is heresy.

We have allowed our relationship with the domestic dog to stagnate.

Modern science has been relegated only toward a celebration of health testing, as if breeding out genetic diseases within increasingly inbred populations is the best way to manage them. As soon as someone who knows better points out that this is not a good long-term solution, it is automatically denounced as animal rights issue or “socialism.”

It’s very sad that so much of the world of dogs resembles a religion, and in the past, I’ve actually called much of the world of dogs a series of ersatz religions.

One of the things that religion often does is it puts mental blocks when understanding is not complete or when accepted truths are contradicted with obvious facts. In the former case, dogma will fill in the gaps, and in the latter case, facts will be denied or dismissed (often in a vast conspiracy theory).

I have had very stupid people post things to my blog and to my Facebook page like “If every time you breed it’s a crap shoot, then shoot the crap you breed.”  The “if” in this case is what you have to accept if you allow for a certain amount of genetic diversity in a breed– some dogs aren’t going to be winners or have the preferred conformation or temperament one wants in a breed. But if you inbreed, you will get lots of dogs that look and behave alike. Of course, such animals might be fine or even quite healthy, but if an entire population of a breed gets subject to such consanguinity, then the chances for higher levels of genetic load will be heightened and the chance of a real inbreeding depression is almost certain.

But no one cares about that when you’re winning the prizes.

You will be rewarded for pissing away the genes, and it will be successive generations who will have to deal with the consequences.

And it will continue up and until one of two things happen:

The real animal rights agenda comes to power and pushes upon dog breeders a ton of regulations.

Or there is rationalist revolution in the world of dogs.

My hope is for the latter, but I am not holding my breath.

There just isn’t enough blasphemy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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pug show dog

I am often amazed at what people think they are doing with dogs.

No one has demonstrated to me what is essentially an article of faith or at least a current mantra of the AKC-apologist set:

That breeding to a breed standard means that the dog is healthy.

And from what I’ve seen in the actual scientific literature, it’s actually something that is probably not true.

At least not always true:

Now, if you’re breeding a vizsla to its breed standard, you’re really not producing any exaggerations that might cause the dog to be unhealthy.

But the same logic that produces the athletic and svelte vizsla– that is healthy because it is bred to a written standard– simply cannot apply to a dog like a pug.

A vizsla is a gundog.  It was developed in Hungary as an HPR, and it actually prospered quite well during the communist years as it was the Hungarian equivalent of the German forester’s drahthaar.

Vizslas, like many continental gundog breeds, were only recently allowed to be sold to people who were not hunters. Thus, through most of the history of this breed, it was always a performance dog that was bred to a performance standard that also was as much about the dog’s behavior and aptitude as its conformation.

You cannot say that about pugs.

Or a lot of other breeds.

What use does a pug have?

Well, it’s a pet dog. A pet dog doesn’t have to bred to any sort of performance standard like a vizsla would be.

And this is precisely where things start to go off the rails.

In the case of a vizsla, a written standard has to have some basis in the real world.

In the case of the pug, it can be as convoluted as the human imagination will take it.

And that’s the big problem with saying that breeding to a breed standard makes a dog healthy.

To breed a dog with as many health problems as pugs have that call all be traced to its various exaggerations in morphology is perhaps the most stupid thing we’ve ever done to dogs.

It’s also unusually counterproductive.

The claim is that modern show dog breeders are selecting for the healthiest dogs ever, but this claim doesn’t even pass the giggle test when you start looking at dogs like pugs.

There are lots of claims that pugs have ancient Chinese origins, and although I will admit they do have some ancestry from dogs imported from China, most of their development actually happened in the West, first in the Dutch Republic and then in the UK.

And it’s in those countries that breed took on its current form.

In the early nineteenth centur, this is what an English pug looked like:

chalon pug 1802

 

It’s still a brachycephalic dog. And yes, it has cropped ears.

But it still has a relatively normal dog body.

And in 200 years of “breed improvement,” we’ve produced a dog like the modern pug, which has too many health problems to elucidate in a single blog post. Almost every single one of these problems can be traced to its phenotype, which has been the result of human ignorance mixing in with human caprice and vanity.

The story of the pug is the story of everything that is wrong with dogs in the West.

It’s a tragedy masquerading as virtue.

Breeding to the standard has done nothing good for the pug.

And these people ought to be ashamed of themselves.

But they aren’t.

They twist it all around to blaming it on puppy mills and the mass production industry.

But that’s nothing more than an obfuscation.

If the public were fully informed of the problems that come from breeding a dog with a muzzle like a pug’s, I don’t think the breed would have one tenth of the popularity it now has.

At the very least, there would be demands to change the standard or maybe bring in new blood to make a more healthily conformed dogs.

Of course, the bastards lambaste the puggles, which are not terrible idea. However, the entire puggle concept has been based upon a puppy mill economic model, so at least right now, it’s a bit doomed to failure.

But that doesn’t mean the concept is wrong. It just means that puggle  and pug cross-breeding for health would have to take more human approach.

Because that’s one thing the modern pug fancy doesn’t have going for it– they really don’t care about how much suffering they cause the dogs.

They delude themselves into thinking that if they just win ribbons, they are being ethical

Instead, they are breeding dogs that have obvious problems. These problems are obvious to anyone but a pug breeder, of course.

They’ve bought into the cult.

And there is no reasoning with them.

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Nara U. sent me this photo today.  I hope you are not eating when you look at this photo:

sharpei juliuss

This dog was bred by a Peruvian dog breeder (or more likely, a Peruvian dog dealer) named “Sharpei Juliuss,” who apparently has decided to push the defective and feverish sha-rpei phenotype as far as it will go.

This dog cannot open its eyes all the way, and while it certainly wouldn’t be wining prizes at any dog shows, there are very idiotic people who think breeding such extreme dogs is a wonderful thing.

This dog is not the only one that this breeder is producing.

Here is just a sample:

sharpei juliuss II

sharpei juliuss III

sharpei julius IV

The shar-pei breed has a lot of problems.

It is derived from a very small gene pool. When I was a kid, this was “the world’s rarest dog,” and within a decade, I saw them in pretty decent numbers in West Virginia, which is nowhere near where they originated.

So someone had to be cranking out these rarities at a pretty strong clip to get them on the pet market in here in America.

And that’s only its genetic structure.

The dog itself is often bred to such extreme with its wrinkles that many puppies have to have their eyelids tucked up so they can both see and not have their eyelids raking against their eyes.

This is what happens when the only thing you care about is what a dog looks like.

Dog breeders can produce all sort of different morphological traits in their dogs, but at some point, it becomes cruelty– cruelty that in the amount of suffering actually exceeds that of dog fighting.

This is dog production without empathy.

It’s nothing more than perverse vanity masquerading as something noble.

It’s really pretty sickening.

 

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A Korean dosa. Left without comment.

korean dosa

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Skye terrier

I am not fan of journalism by press release.

It’s not really “journalism” anyway. It is simply media relations, and media relations might as well be called spin. Spin is not really about the truth. It’s about advocacy, and it’s often about deception.

There is so much of this in the world of journalism about dogs that it is very hard to tell if something is true or not.

And if you want to see a very good example of it, take this puff piece that appeared on the BBC’s website last May. It is called “Why is the Skye terrier is an endangered breed?”

It discusses how popular Skye terriers were for a time. For a period in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, It was a breed that was quite fashionable to have, especially in the burgher classes in Scotland.  Indeed, I’ve written about how the Marjoribanks family, who started the strain of yellow wavy-coated retrievers that are the basis for the golden retriever, were actually better known for the Skye terriers than their retrievers.

But now their retriever has taken the world by storm, and their terrier is a breed on the verge of extinction.

The BBC piece could have done some really good homework on this breed. The question of why breeds become popular and then become extinct is a very fascinating question to me.

Instead, the reporter who wrote the piece decided to do the laziest thing possible:  Go to the Kennel Club and get their media relations expert to spin a tale for the presses. It goes like this:

Caroline Kisko, secretary of the Kennel Club, says Skye terriers are good house dogs with a very loyal and friendly character.

She says: “They are very glamorous. Their coats are very attractive. They are a very friendly, nice dog to have around and they are certainly very weather-proof.

“If you are out and about they will not get cold.”

So why has the breed fallen out of favour?

Ms Kisko says: “Much of this is about the profile of the dog, whether or not people are aware that the breeds exist.

“Some of the problems we have with the vulnerable breeds is that people have simply forgotten that they are there.”

Well, that actually didn’t answer the question at all. People just don’t know about them.

Except that they do.

I grew up on the story of Greyfriars Bobby. Disney made a movie about this dog, a Skye terrier that stayed at his master’s grave for fourteen years.

Too bad the entire story was a hoax. The truth is it was an elaborate hoax to promote tourism and business in that part of Edinburgh.

People know about this breed. They just don’t want them.

Now, I thought we could delve into why this breed’s popularity collapsed, but the Kennel Club representative decided to use this opportunity as a chance to smear Labradoodles, a dog that has nothing to do with Skye terriers at all. Although in fairness, it is a representative with the parent club of the Skye terrier in the UK who starts down this bizarre comparison.

Designers breeds such as the labradoodle – a crossbred created by crossing the Labrador Retriever and the Poodle – have become very fashionable.

Mrs [Gail] Marshall [of the Skye Terriers Club] says this is another reason why traditional breeds such as the Skye terrier are being marginalised.

Ms Kisko, whose organisation does not register cross-breeds, says: “The designer crosses such as the labradoodle and the cockapoo (a Cocker Spaniel and a miniature poodle) are proving to be very popular these days and that is all on the pretext that they will be automatically healthier than the breeds they come from, which is patently untrue.”

She says people should do more research before buying a dog, checking out some of the British native breeds which have been popular pets for centuries.

I was not expecting this to be the reason why Skye terriers are becoming rare!

First of all, the purebred Labrador retriever is by far the most popular native British dog breed. It was actually developed in its present form from the St. John’s water dog of Newfoundland on a few select estates in England and Scotland. It is an easily trained dog, noted for its versatility in helping guide the blind, assist the handicaped, and sniff out bombs and contraband. It is also docile as can be.

Skye terriers, by contrast, have very hard to care for coats. They known for being difficult to train, and they do not have a reputation for being good family dogs.

The Labrador requires more exercise than the Skye, but if you’re in a world in which dogs with Labrador-type temperaments are more practical and desired, why would you expect Skye terriers to be able to compete?

Futher, the big reason people get Labradoodles is because they want the Labrador temperament, but they don’t want the Labrador hairs all over their houses. So they get Labrador/Standard poodle crosses, which are lower shedding than pure Labradors.

Now, there are a lot of claims about Labradoodles that are not true:

They are not hypoallergenic because people are allergic to dog dander, not dog hair.  Also they do get the health problems associated with both Standard poodles and Labradors, but because the cross has been around for only a short time there have been no good studies to see if there is a heterosis effect (though there probably is).

And Labradoodles are mass-produced, often in deplorable conditions. After all, there is a big market for a Labrador that doesn’t shed as much and looks like a bigger version of Benji.

And that’s precisely what doesn’t exist for the Skye terrier.

Further, the terrier and retriever markets are entirely different demographics, so this claim that people wanting Labradoodles is the reason why no one wants a Skye terrier might be the stupidest thing I’ve ever read on the BBC’s website.

I’m stunned that the answer to the question about why the Skye terrier is going extinct gets reduced to something so completely impossible.

This is actually a question for which I don’t have an answer.

I know that Skye terriers have not been used as actual earth dogs in many, many years, but that alone wouldn’t ruin their value as pets. Yorkshire terriers, which are also silky-coated terriers of Scottish ancestry and are almost never used as anything but pets, are quite popular little dogs.

Why would people be so Yorkie-crazed but so dismissive of the Skye?

There must be a good reason, and the answer absolutely is not that people want Labradoodles.

All that was done in this piece was to deflect what is a very good question into a hatchet piece on intentionally-bred crossbreeds.

Not all is perfect in the world of the doodles, but just because they are intentionally-bred mixes does not make them illegitimate. If done right, doodling is an entirely harmless activity, and if really done right, it could be a source for increasing genetic diversity in established retriever and poodle strains.

It just makes them a convenient scapegoat.

The Kennel Club has no answer for why the Skye terrier is in such dire straights.

I think the real reason it has no answer is the real answer is that this dog is a fanciers’ dog. It became a plaything of the dog pageant set. The dog pageant and freak show people are at the heart of the Kennel Club’s mission. It is their base in the same way the religious right is the base of the Republican Party. In politics, one does not go out of the way to insult one’s base. (Only Bill Clinton could ever get away with it!)

When a dog breed becomes something that can only be admired by a very narrow set of fanciers, then it is on its way to becoming rare already.

I also think there is a distinct possibility that the fanciers of this breed intentionally bred “one mannishness” into this dog after buying wholeheartedly into the Greyfriars Bobby hoax. If you breed a dog that naturally tends to bond with only a few people and then is reactive toward strangers, you might be asking for its popularity to drop rather quickly.

So if you breed a dog with a coat that is hard to groom and temperament that requires lots of work and socialization to make the dog docile and tractable, why would you be surprised that very few people want them?

You cannot blame the public for wanting Labradoodles.

The real blame is on dog fanciers who allowed a romantic story– one with huge gaping holes in it– to cloud their judgment on how to breed a dog for the twentieth century.

And because they allowed that story cloud their judgment, the breed won’t likely see the end of the twenty-first.

That’s definitely not the Labradoodle’s fault.

 

 

 

 

 

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