Archive for December, 2008


English toy spaniels or King charles spaniels are interesting little dogs. They were originally derived from spaniels that were crossed with terrier, pinscher, or even turnspit stock. These dogs were common in the homes of European nobles from the early Renaissance period to the beginning of the Victorian Era.  An early ninteenth century variety of the toy spaniel can be seen here. 

The toy spaniel was very popular with Charles II, and this breed is forever known as the King Charles spaniel. Samuel Pepys reported in his diary that the king often ignored the affairs of state to play with his dogs. The dogs were given royal charter to enter any court in the realm. This charter has not been rescinded, and several years ago, an owner brought his Cavalier King Charles spaniel to a court of law. When the judge demanded that the dog be removed, the owner declared that the dog was of this breed and could not be removed. (Of course, the Cavalier is a supposed reconstruction of the old type. I’ll get to this in a minute).

This dog also existed in France and Spain, but it soon was interbred with toy spitz breeds, similar to the Pomeranian and Volpino. These dogs became the Papillon and Phalene dogs, which are the same breed in the US but different breeds in other registries. The Papillon has the spaniel ears, only they are erect like a spitz, giving the dog a distinctly “butterfly” appearance. The Phalene has the same ear, only it is is floppy. Compare the early toy spaniel from the sencond link with a photo of a Phalene.


The British dog fancy, however, had different designs for its native toy spaniels. They wanted a short-muzzled dog for some reason.  However, they had to do some cross breeding in order to get it. Pugs were probably an early outcross with toy spaniels to shorten their muzzles. The arrival of the Pekingese following the Second Boxer Rebellion plus the arrival of the Japanese Chin to the country created new bloodlines for outcrossing for the short muzzle. Further, these breeds had long coats and could be used without producing smooth-haired toy spaniels.  Within just a few generations, English toy spaniels would forever sport a shortened muzzle. Inbreeding, of course, was a common tool among these breeders to set the short muzzle as the type for this dog. The East Asian breeds also contributed to the heavier build in this breed of toy spaniel. 

The toy spaniels became a staple of the early dog fancy in Britain. Little flat-faced spaniels competed in shows in which the short muzzle and domed head were deemed marks of beauty. It did not take very long, though, for the dogs to start to lose their vigor.  It soon fell from grace.

But the damage was done. The little brachycephalic spaniels continue to suffer from their shortened muzzles.

The puppies of this breed are very cute, and as adults, they are often pleasant dogs. However, by the  early twentieth century, some fanciers were longing for the “old-type” English toy spaniel. And this is where the cavalier’s story begins. It is a story of what happens when you try to resurrect defunct forms of animal using a faulty breeding program that is solely based upon reproducing a phenotype.

Roswell Eldridge wanted to find dogs of the old type, similar to the onese that lived with Charles II. He offered a prize at Crufts for any toy spaniel that resembled dogs of this type. A dog named “Ann’s Son” won the prize, and he became the foundation of that breed.

Now, one would think that breeding for a less exaggerated body type would make the cavalier a healthy breed. However, all cavaliers descend from that single dog. The dogs were heavily inbred from “Ann’s son,” resulting in a very high likelihood that these dogs will develop a wide range of health problems, which are listed here. You can read about the problems that resulted from breeding the cavalier in this fashion here.

Both breeds are cute, and both breeds have very genial temperaments. I’d recommend them as family pets but for their many health problems.  But both breeds are testaments of what happens when dog breeders breed for only looks, even if one of those breeds is supposedly designed to be a healthier reconstruction.

The modern cavalier still does not look like the dogs King Charles II had. It is a reconstruction based upon faulty stock. If they really wanted to recreate this bred, I say take a Papillon or Phalene and cross it with cocker spaniel. The Phalene type is much closer to the original dog than the Cavalier is.  If you want proof, check out this picture of the young Charles II and his dogs.


These dogs are much more of the Phalene/Papillon type than the Cavalier, the supposed reconstruction. The Phalene/Papillons have some spitz in them, while these dogs probably were terrier (perhaps white terrier?) crosses with small spaniels.

The longer muzzled dogs that would result from this type of reconstruction would probably be healthier. However, they would not be genetically descended from the English toy spaniel breed.  I highly doubt that such a cross would be given access to government buildings in Britain.

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After World War II, the Soviets used Newfoundlands to create the Moscow retriever.

After World War II, the Soviets used Newfoundlands to create the Moscow retriever.

The name Russian retriever was applied to both what I argue is a Russian version of the poodle and to Colonel le Poer Trench’s St. Hubert’s golden retrievers. After World War II, there was another “retriever” developed in Russia.

After World War II, suitable working dogs in the Soviet Union were nearly impossible to find. The Soviet Union was an isolated country, and very few Western dog breeds could be found in the country. The horrors of the Second World War  had destroyed the countryside. Dogs died because of food shortages. Others died in the war itself.  All dogs were declared state property, so when anyone found a line of Western dogs, they were easily collected.

Dogs of several breeds were taken into The Central Military School of Working Dogs. Under the command of Colonel Medvedev, the dogs were placed into breeding programs to produce superior working dogs for military purposes. These were to be improved “socialist” breeds. The breeding program was referred to as the Red Star Kennels. The most famous dog to come out of the breeding program was the Black Russian Terrier, which is really a dog of the Schnauzer/Bouvier type with some Airedale in its background. This breed was bred for military and police work.

Another breed developed in the same program was the Moscow water dog or Moscow retriever. It was actually developed in Belarus (Byelorussia). The program bred the Newfoundland dogs that still existed in the Soviet Union with bitches of the native Soviet breeds, including the Caucasian Ovtcharka and the East European Shepherd (derived from crossing German shepherds with various local guard dogs).

The dogs were bred to rescue people from the water in the same way that we see in Newfoundlands, Portugese water dogs, and Swansea Jack.  The dogs did enter the water and swam well, as one would expect from dogs with Newfoundland in them, but they also were very aggressive, even attacking people in the water, as one would expect from dogs with Caucasian Ovtcharka in their background.  However, the dogs were more biddable than purebred Ovtcharkas, because of their shepherd and Newfoundland ancestry.

This breed was deemed a failure, but because it did a good temperament for a protection dog, it was crossed into the Black Russian terrier.

The Red Star Kennels were able to produce only one breed of any merit. Several reasons may exist for this inability to produce so many improved breeds. The first of these is that the dog stock from which the kennel managers had to choose were largely dogs that were remnants of purebreds imported to the country at odd times. They did not have the best dogs with the greatest genetic diversity in the program. Secondly, the program chose too many breeds to create. Historically, it is nearly impossible to created more than one strain with a single breeding program.  Finally, Lysenkoism had replaced the study of genetics in the Soviet Union, and if you’re going to breed dogs, you had better know some genetics.

I also attribute always relying on Caucasian Ovtcharkas as the outcross is a major handicap. Caucasian Ovtcharkas were crossed with St. Bernards to create a “Moscow Watchdog.” They were crossed the Ovtcharka with the Great Dane to make the “Moscow Great Dane.”

The problem is that Caucasian Ovtcharkas are tough dogs. They are excellent guardians of property or livestock. However, unlike Western protection breeds, they are much harder to control. The dogs introduced intractability into these experimental dogs, virtually dooming them from the start.

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These cream-colored American black bears are found only along the central coast of British Columbia.

These cream-colored American black bears are found only along the central coast of British Columbia.

The most numerous bear species in the world is the American black bear. It is found in every province and territory of Canada, except Prince Edward Island, and it continues to recolonize its former range in the United States.  These bears are the only bears native to the eastern part of North America. The vast majority of these bears found in the east are black with brown muzzles. Some have some white on their chests. Because Europeans settled this part of the continent first, the animal was called the black bear.

However, this species comes in several different phases. There is a cinnamon or brown color phase of the black bear, which is more common in the central and western parts of the continent. In Alaska, “blue glacier” black bears occur with a bluish gray tinge to their coats. White black bears have been documented, such as this one killed in Western Pennsylvania.

However, along the central part of British Columbia’s coast, one tenth of the black bears are light cream-colored. These bears are called “Kermode bears,” after Francis Kermode, the Canadian zoologist who first described this color phase. It has recently been designated the provincial animal of British Columbia.

This color phase of black bear is found in the temperate rainforest, which is under threat from wide scale logging. This bear is found right in the heart of an extensive tract of this temperate rainforest, which has been called the Great Bear Rainforest.

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Could the first dogs have looked like this Malamute? Are they really over 30,000 years old?


 Analysis of dog and wolf skulls found in a Goyet Cave in Belgium suggests that the first dogs lived 31,700 years ago. The canids with the smaller skulls were clearly dogs, based upon comparison with other dog skulls. The dogs were said to resemble Alaskan Malamutes or German shepherds with Siberian husky builds. Isometric analysis of the bones suggests that the dogs ate a lot of horse, muskoxen, and reindeer in their diets. These animals may have been killed solely to provide dog food, because the people of this time period were big game hunters, preferring to eat mammoths. In the Canadian Arctic, dogs are still widely fed caribou meat, so some of this evidence does have some merit in modern dog husbandry.

Further, analysis of the DNA of these animals suggests that dogs and wolves were much more genetically diverse in those days than they are now. This great genetic diversity could explain why analysis of mitchondrial DNA in wolves often leads to wide variances. Wolf populations have been fragmented since that time, which could leave behind certain populations that have genetic relics, like the Indian wolf and Himalayan wolf, which have recently been posited to be separate species. (I am not convinced.)

However, the study does not square with Peter Savolainen’s study of dog DNA that suggests that dogs have an East Asian origin dating to 15,000 years ago. The greatest diversity in dog haplotypes is in East Asian dog population. Humans have our greatest diversity in African populations, and we have lots of evidence that we are descendedfrom a single African population of hominids. The oldest fossil dogs that also date to that time period were found in the Sodust River valley,  which is part of the Dniepr Basin.  You can read about the supposed mastiff-type dogs that were found in there by clicking here.

I am fascinated with the Belgian findings. However, I am cautious about accepting them as valid. For one thing, there is now a 17,000 year gap between dog fossils. This gap is really quite large. If some more ancient “wolf” skeletons turn out to be dogs, then we will have more evidence of the ancient origin of dogs. Further, the scientists did not try to link the genetics of these dogs with modern dog populations. It is possible that these were semi-domesticated wolves that were a very early attempt at dog domestication that later failed and the dogs either died out or re-entered the wolf population through interbreeding.

The people who supposedly domesticated these dogs were part of the Aurignacian culture, which lived in Europe and Southwest Asia. They were hunters of big game, rhino and mammoth. They also may have been among the first people to develop religion. Most modern people from Europe and that Southwest Asia are not descended from these people, who were later replaced by the farming cultures that spread from the Fertile Crescent.

The study is really interesting. Robert Wayne’s original study of dog mitochondrial DNA suggested that they were over 100,000 years old. Savolainen’s orignal study suggested that dogs were 45,000 years old, but then he divided that number among the three main dog haplotypes to come up with an estimate of 15,000 years.

This Belgian evidence is tantalizing, but we need more of it. We also need to see how it fits in with Savolainen’s research.

Although  small skull size is a good indicator of a wolf being a dog, modern dogs as we know them probably did not exist until the advent of agriculture and the development of a village settlement system. This move created a niche for a dog that could live on nothing but scavenged food, which is why Raymond Coppinger puts a great deal of emphasis on the Third World village dog as the ancestral form.

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The BBC has a photo of several dog breeds. They have juxtaposed an Irish setter with a light gold golden retriever. Both dogs are recessive red to yellow coated dogs with a black dog genotype.

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Within golden retrievers, one can see the influence of the various breeds in its make-up. These dogs are sometimes though of as throwbacks to that ancestral type, but virtually all goldens show some type influence of the constituent breeds. The following type influences can be seen:  the  Tweed water spaniel, the St. John’s water dog and Newfoundland, and the setter.

Goldens of the Tweed water spaniel type typically have shorter hair with a distinct waviness that approaches curliness. The dogs tend to be smaller, often weighing as little as 40 pounds. Dogs of this type were more common in the early foundation of the breed, but they can be found in field lines.  The curly, close coat is an asset in a water dog, because the curls are not as easily bogged down in water. The water runs along the curl and off the body. These dogs are not very common,  but they do exist in limited numbers.

Below is an historical photograph of some early Tweedmouth strain dogs, including the black ones. All have something approaching this type of coat. However, they do come with more curl than than this. In temperament, these dogs tend to be very clever and trainable. They are typically active dogs, but they are very intelligent.  Unfortunately, they are not very common.


Here’s a black wavy coat or a black water spaniel with these characteristics:


Dogs with the St. John’s water dog characteristics or even Newfoundland characteristics are quite common. These are the heavily built dogs also have very broad skulls. The European show type really resembles this type well. In fact, it surpasses the mass and blockiness of the original dogs. These dogs tend to be sedate, often advertised as “mellow.” The American show type resembles the Newfoundland because its coat is greater in length than the English type.

 George Teasdale-Buckell did not like dogs of this type, because they were coarse animals with a great deal of lumber. His advice was followed in the flat-coat, but it virtually ignored in modern bench goldens of both types.


European show-type


American show-type

 The final type that appears in goldens is the setter type. This type has essentially taken over the flat-coated retriever, and it is the only type of flat-coat that currently exists. In goldens, this type was common when it was split off from the flat-coat, and it still pops up in field type goldens today.

Some of Mrs. Charlesworth's Noranby dogs from the 1930's. Clearly of a setter type.

Some of Mrs. Charlesworth's Noranby dogs from the 1930's. Clearly of a setter type.

A modern dog of this type:


And another:


And another:


This type of golden tends to be very setter-like in looks, but they are more biddable than the modern Irish setter. They often naturally quarter with long casts, which is something that modern retriever trial people do not like. However, they tend to have very good air scenting abilities that exceed virtually all the other retriever breeds.

The setter type is essentially the working type of golden, while the St. John’s dog/Newfoundland dog makes up the European and American show lines. Some working types also approach the St. John’s water dog/Newfoundland type, but these dogs are not the majority of the field lines. The Tweed water spaniel types do not exist in very high numbers these days. Most people want a larger retriever with a lot more coat.

I personally prefer the setter type over the others.  Some of the early dogs were a blend of setter type and water spaniel type:

Culham Brass, a mixture of setter and water spaniel types.

Culham Brass, a mixture of setter and water spaniel types.

 Most of the field line dogs have a blending of setter and water spaniel types. It often common for a field line dog to have the setter type body and the water spaniel type coat.

All of these dogs represent the original variance in the wavy-coated retriever, except that virtually no dogs were as lightly-colored as the European show type.

These type variances are nothing to be ashamed of. After all, it gives the individual a choice as to which type fits his or her lifestyle. The dogs of the setter type are often too active for the average person, while those of the water spaniel type have a coat that is rather hard to care for. Many of the water spaniel type and setter dogs have the high energy level and obsessiveness and high energy level one would expect to see in a performance bred dog, because a dog of either of these types is useful in the field.  However, the St. John’s water dog/Newfoundland are more accepted in the show ring.

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“I’ve had German Shepherds since I was a kid and I’ve actually trained them and shown them in the past,” Biden said. “So I wanted a German Shepherd and we’re going to get a pound dog, which my wife wants, that is hopefully a Golden.” Source: Huffington Post.

I had no idea Biden was such a dog person.

He got in trouble with PETA and a few other groups for purchasing a dog from a breeder who, according to some sources, was banned from registering litters.

At least Obama’s rescuing a dog, but his daughters want a goldendoodle. I’m sure there is a goldendoodle somewhere that needs a good home.

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