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Archive for the ‘dog breeds’ Category

undocked rottweiler

I don’t know where this idea came from, but there is profound misunderstanding about what rottweilers are.

Rottweilers are sometimes referred to as Metzgerhund, which means “butcher’s dog,” and someone decided that this meant the same thing as the English “butcher’s dog.”  In Medieval and early modern England, butcher’s dogs, which became the bulldogs, baited cattle before slaughter. When the dogs were released upon bulls, many people would show up to watch the spectacle. These events eventually became the bull-baiting contests that were quite popular throughout England.

However, that is not the function of a rottweiler. Rottweilers are not closely related to bulldogs at all. A few years ago, researchers at UCLA released a study on dog origins, which posited a close relationship between domestic dogs and Middle Eastern wolves. Because the researchers looked a large sample of DNA from each dog, they were able to draw a phylogenetic wheel of domestic dogs.

dog breed

 

 

Rottweilers don’t fit with any of the mastiffs, bullmastiffs, or bulldogs. Instead, they share a common ancestry with the Great Dane, the Bernese mountain dog, and the St. Bernard.

Only two Swiss mountain dog breeds were sampled for the study, the Bernese and the St. Bernard. I bet if the researchers had included the Greater Swiss, the Entlebucher, and the Appenzeller, I think we would find these breeds were even closer to the Rottweiler than the Great Dane.

If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. If you look at where Rottweil is on the map, it is not that far from Switzerland. It actually joined the Swiss Confederacy in the fifteenth century, and there was extensive trade between Switzerland and Rottweil for many centuries.

The origins of the rottweiler actually lie with the Swiss mountain dogs that would be used to drive cattle into the butcher shops.

The dogs were not baiters. They were herders and guards.

So when you see someone lumping rottweilers with members of the bulldog, mastiff, and bull and terrier dogs, this person simply hasn’t the foggiest clue about the proper classification of dogs.

I also think it is past time to drop the term “Molosser” to describe dogs that have big, broad heads. It assumes all these breeds are related, but they clearly aren’t. Never mind that the history behind that term is either misinterpreted or the result of wild speculation.

A rottweiler is a droving dog, a farm dog, and a guard. The bulldog and mastiff family have their origins in the big game hunting dogs of Western Europe, which were later used on domestic stock.

I know this discussion of breed classification may seem a bit trivial, but there are real world issues involved here.

Some people promote the mythology of a monophyletic Molosser family of dogs because it romantically connects their boxers and French bulldogs to the war dogs of Rome or the mountain dogs of Tibet. Others use it to conflate bogus statistics about dog attacks. The former better realize that the latter are a clear and present danger when it comes to BSL.

So it might be wise for everyone to correctly classify dogs based upon actual science and a more careful reading of history.

The monophyly of Molossers has simply been discredited.

So stop using the term!

 

 

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bulldog

I have been writing about the issues around purebred dogs for quite some time now, and one of the breeds that constantly comes us is the English bulldog. I know that this is not the “official name” of this breed, but in common parlance, it is the word used to describe this breed that was largely developed in its current form by English dog dealers. Because dog shows were created by the British, this breed gets called the “bulldog” by default, but in the common parlance, when I say “English bulldog,” people know exactly what I mean.

The bulldog wasn’t always what it is today:

At one time, bulls were baited for sport. Active bulldogs and mastiffs were turned loose on bulls in a way that resembled a sort of Medieval hunt scene against the aurochs. The bulldog’s ancestors were used to hunt the aurochs,  and then they were used to control domestic cattle. In those days, cattle had very tough beef from a life wandering the forests and common pastures, and it was believed that if the dogs baited the cattle, it would tenderize the meat. When they let the dogs fight the bulls, it became a spectator sport, and it was not long before there were bull and bear-baiting contests all over England. The dogs became greatly valued as sporting dogs, and their function was greatly esteemed throughout the British Isles. Queen Elizabeth I was a noted lover of baiting both bears and dogs, and her court bred dogs for that purpose.

However, baiting animals began to fall from favor over the next few centuries.

In 1835, parliament passed the Cruelty to Animals Act, and bull and bear baiting were both banned. The bulldogs were without a job, and it wasn’t long before dog dealers got their hands on the animals.  The infamous Bill George of Kensal New Town in London bred several lines of toned down bulldog for British consumers.  He bred little ones and big ones. He may have crossed the dogs with pugs, but it was pretty clear that pug got into the bulldog at some point.

But without a task for which one could breed a bulldog, British dog dealers and, later, British dog fanciers began to produce bulldogs that were totally unfit for anything. By the 1890s, the top-winning bulldogs were known for lacking soundness. One of them infamously got worn out on a walking race against a more athletic but less fashionable competitor. By 1900, bulldogs were known to be difficult to breed and rear, and for most of their history in the twentieth century, bulldogs were relatively rare.

The dogs became known for having so many genetic and conformation problems that essentially the only disorder they can’t suffer from is a matted coat. They have issues cooling and fully oxygenating themselves. They are known to suffer severe infections from inverted tails. The difficulty in breeding such animals almost sounds as if mother nature doesn’t want them be reproducing. Because the dogs are heavy in the front, they often have issues mounting the bitches. Mating cradles are often needed to hold the dog over the bitch, and many breeders simply do AI to produce their pups. And once conception happens, things get complicated when it comes to whelping. Virtually all bulldogs born in the US are delivered through Cesarean.  The pups have such big heads, and there mothers have such narrow pelvises that the pup very often cannot be born naturally.

The average lifespan of a bulldog is just a little over six years, so if you get one of these dogs, your chances of it dying before it hits middle age for most dogs is actually quite high. Many people have purchased bulldogs as companions for their children, but this breed has the potential to cause a lot of heartache for a young child when the animal suddenly dies.

Everything about this dog says that you don’t want it unless you have lots of money and rather weird tastes. The dog’s conformation isn’t just a hindrance to good health. It also a caricature. The dogs have been bred into a kind of canine John Bull figure, and unless someone would rather have the caricature than an actual dog, there really wasn’t a market for them.

But time, as they say, marches on.

In the first decade of this century, I began to see bulldogs on reality television shows. I thought it was a bit strange, but considering that the most prominent bulldog owner was Ozzy Osbourne, I thought that most people would just associate the extreme nature of the breed with the extreme nature of Ozzy.  People would want a bulldog in the same way they would want to bite off a bat’s head.

And I was wrong.

I started seeing bulldogs everywhere.

And that trend has only continued into the present day.

Last week, the AKC released its rankings of its top registered breeds of 2014. Labradors were the top breed in registrations, followed by German shepherds and golden retrievers. Labradors have been the top breed for over two decades, and the other two have had a long run of popularity as well. Those three were also the top three registered by the Canadian Kennel Club in 2014.

But what came in fourth in the AKC rankings was a bit of a shocker.  Bulldogs were the fourth most-registered breed by the AKC in 2014, and this is something that does require some attention.

And this bulldog attention has coattails. French bulldogs, the bat-eared little cousins of the English breed, have moved into tenth place. French bulldogs were once in the AKC top ten list. In the 1910s, Boston terriers were the AKC’s top breed, and their French cousin enjoyed high popularity just because the two breeds were related. A Boston terrier, in case you didn’t know, is actually a small bulldog that was created when fighting bull terriers from Boston were crossed with toy and French bulldogs from Europe.

French bulldogs have many of the same problems as the English breed, but this really doesn’t matter.  This is the decade of the bulldog!

With North America in the throes of bulldog mania, it might be useful to figure out why people are buying bulldogs.

As far as I can tell, there are a few reasons. One of these is that most Americans live in urban centers and have no real connection with other animals. There is no concept of what is “normal” for a dog or any other creature. If a person sees a cute dog on television, then they are instantly going to feel some connection to it. Extreme brachycephalic dogs are quite attractive to people. We forget that as primates we are predisposed to being attracted to things that look like primates. It is easier for us to have comradery with a dog that has a monkey face than it is with a long-muzzled one.

Another reason is that modern Americans work longer hours than every before.  The economic recovery after the recession has led to people spending more and more time at the office, and that means people have far less time to exercise dogs.

People are looking for dogs that don’t require much exercise, and if a dog breed has certain deformities that prevent it from running hard and long all day, then it is going to be the perfect dog for the modern world.

This is the real shame of the modern world.

We now live in a society where it is now much more difficult to own more active and more soundly constructed dogs, so we are turning to dogs that were largely cast aside because of their unsoundness.

It will take a long time for bulldogs to replace Labradors as the top breed. Indeed, I don’t see it happening any time soon. However, it is possible that they could make it into the top 3 breeds very soon. The AKC doesn’t release numbers of the dogs it registers. One reason it doesn’t is that most American dogs are not AKC-registered and that number has dropped over the past two decades. We really don’t know the relative popularity of particular dog breeds in the population at large, but the AKC registrations do suggest that bulldogs are rising in popularity.

The number of people who are willing to spend so much money for a dog must be much higher than I would have assumed. Bulldogs are not cheap.

And their vet bills aren’t cheap either.

But the allure of having a dog that looks like cartoon character, loves kids, and doesn’t have much of a need for exercise must be stronger than any of the money sense that goes into considering bringing a dog into a home.

Of course, my guess is there isn’t that much consideration going on at all.

The urban jungle and popular culture are working against good sense in choosing a dog, and if the future of dogs in this country is the bulldog, then we’ve totally lost whatever it means to appreciate Canis lupus familiaris. Just as the Chinese bred the peke with bent legs so it wouldn’t run off, the bulldog’s utter lack of physical soundness is now an asset in the modern world.

That’s just not a good future for dogs.

If the only way they can live with us is to be like bulldogs, then this is indeed a very dark development.

We have become so alienated from nature that we have forgotten what dogs are, and if we have lost sight of what dogs are about, then there isn’t much hope for the rest of the creatures on this planet.

We’re losing the plot.

We’re losing them, just as we’re losing ourselves.

And we may never regain any of it.

This is the real story behind the bulldog’s rise, and no cute little press releases about the AKC’s top are going to change anything about this dire situation.

Only connecting the modern world with real dogs in a truly meaningful way will ever stem the dismal tide, and such a task may be all but impossible.

If we lose real dogs, then we truly will be alone on this planet. Even though we evolved from earlier earthlings, we will become aliens here.

Our only companions will be these deformed dogs, who might as well be aliens to the rest of their kind as well.

Information-filled but largely ignorant humanity will reign will reign with debased canids licking our fingers.

This should not be where dogs and people wind up, but unfortunately, it may be where the final story of our kind ends up.

And it may not be stopped.

This is the true tragedy of our kind and theirs.

 

 

 

 

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kalikukur

This is Kali, and before you go searching about what kind of dog she is, I’ll just tell you this:  She is a Nepali kukur– a Nepalese dog.

“Kukur” means dog in Nepali, and Kali is what we would call a village dog or what I have sometimes called a “nonbreed dog.”

What I mean by that is that her ancestors were never part of any kind of closed registry breed, but these village dogs were a source for all the breed diversity we have today.

There is some debate as to whether this type represents the original dog. I tend to think the original type was more or less something like a laika or a laika with wolf ancestry. That’s because the bulk of the evidence suggests that dogs were domesticated before there were ever villages or agriculture.

I think the village dog is the transition between the hunting wolfy spitz and the modern breed dogs. Dogs that became distinct from wolves were more like laikas, but as we came rely upon dogs less and less for protein and fur procurement, the village-type dog had a chance to evolve.

We don’t know about Kali’s exact ancestry. We just know that she was rescued from a bad case of mange and emaciation. She was born in the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, and when she was discovered, she was nearly hairless. She was taken to the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre (KAT Centre), where she was treated for her conditions.

And she met her best friend, Simona Savoldelli. Simona is the one who rescued little Kali from the temple.

And it is with Simona she now lives.

Not in Nepal, but in the wilds of the Swiss Canton of Graubünden.

Simona writes about the adventures she has with Kali on her blog, “A Dog in the Mountains,” and she made this lovely video about Kali, who has been trained to retrieve dummies, assist in wilderness SAR, and even do a bit of sled-pulling:

Source.

Kali is proof that a dog doesn’t have to be of a specific breed to be exceedingly beautiful. Svelte bodied with wolf-colored fur, expressive floppy ears, and brown eyes that reflect a sort of deep and noble intellect, Kali is having a wonderful life in Switzerland.

She is a good dog, and you can tell from her owner’s video that she means the world to her.

Yesterday was Kali’s third anniversary of arriving in Switzerland.  With such diverse ancestry, Kali could easily experience another 15 anniversaries.

She is a good dog who found the right person.

 

 

 

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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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Source.

I just noticed that this sort of bulldog tends to possess really screwy loins. The loins actually point up toward the hips, which is so disgustingly freaky.

At a distance the dogs appear short-coupled, but when you really look at the muscles, the loins are pretty long. They just reach for the sky!

 

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