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Archive for the ‘dogs’ Category

feral dog

Most feral domestic animals revert to a form that is roughly similar to their wild ancestor. You can see this quite dramatically in feral pigs. They generally evolve into a form that is about the same size and even coat type of the Eurasian wild boar. City pigeons look very much like the rock dove or “rock pigeon” that is their wild ancestor after just a few generations of breeding without human care.

Because village and pariah dogs tend to be mid-sized, it has been assumed that the wild ancestor of these dogs surely would have been on the smaller side as well. Therefore, the gray wolf simply could not have been an ancestor.

What actually drives the size of freely breeding and feral domestic dogs isn’t that they have some ancient alleles that force them into returning to an ancestral form.  The truth of the matter is that ecological niche and caloric restraints have a lot more to do with this phenomenon.

Dogs are unique among domestic animals in that they are the only domesticated form of large carnivoran. We have never domesticated any other species of large predatory mammal except for those Pleistocene Eurasian wolves that are at the base of domestic dogs.

Most domestic dogs are poorly adapted to living as predators, and they really don’t have to be. When dogs go feral in societies with extensive agriculture, they readily scavenge and hunt small prey. They dabble in various levels of omnivory.  Some dogs might be good at hunting deer, but deer are a lot harder to catch than garbage and groundhogs.

There is an extensive literature on mammal predator size and prey choice. The best known researcher looking at these issues is Chris Carbone, and in a 2007 paper called “The Costs of Carnivory,” which was published in POLS Biology, Carbone and colleagues looked at body mass of mammalian predators and their prey choices. If a predator weighed more than 20 kg, it hunted large vertebrates. If it weighed less than that weight, it hunted invertebrates or small vertebrates.

Larger predators get a much higher net energy gain by targeting large prey, and this large prey allows them to maintain their larger body size.

Feral and freely-breeding domestic dogs are not hunting large vertebrates. It is much easier for them to scavenge as mid-sized creatures. Natural selection would favor a moderate size, because any dogs that retained the large dog or large wolf alleles in the population would have a harder time feeding itself efficiently on these resources alone.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. In Uruguay, there was a population of feral mastiff-type dogs, which are called Cimarrón Uruguayo. These dogs were introduced by Europeans as working dogs, but some of them went feral. They were able to maintain their large size because they hunted livestock and game, and they were such a problem that the government placed bounties on them.  These dogs were living in a feral existence for at least 250 years, but they were able to retain a large mastiff phenotype. The feral mastiff is now being transformed into a standard breed.

However, the general rule is that village and pariah dogs tend to be significantly smaller than wolves, but this smaller size cannot be used to deny that dogs are derived from gray wolves. This smaller size is just more efficient for the ecological niche of feral and village dogs.

And it is poor reasoning to assume that dogs cannot be wolf derivatives simply because they do not evolve back into a wolfish form once they go feral.  Dogs have been domesticated for a long time, and their domestication is quite unique.  As the only large predator we have domesticated, ecological pressures create a different sort of animal than the original wild ancestor.

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What is Gobi?

This little dog was discovered in the Gobi desert in China on 155-mile race.

The thinking that this dog is a “chihuahua cross” is a bit wrong, I think. I think she’s something a bit more special than that.

I think she is a landrace East Asian toy dog, the ancestral form that leads to the Pekingese, the original pug, the Japanese chin, and other dogs of this type.

I don’t there are many chihuahuas in the Gobi Desert, and she certainly should have her DNA tested.

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gordon buchanan wolf

Gordon Buchanan with a wild arctic wolf on Ellsmere. Photo by the BBC.

For really long time, the mystery of human bipedalism vexed us. Our closest relatives, the chimpanzees and the bonobos, are all knuckle-walking apes, and there was an assumption that the common ancestor of all three species was a knuckle-walker. At some point, the lineage that led to our species rose up on its hind legs, perhaps to make it easier to gaze over tall grass, and we became bipedal.

The current thinking, though, is that humans never derived from any knuckle-walking ape. Instead, the common ancestor of humans, chimps, and bonobos was likely a brachiator.  The modern brachiators are the gibbons and siamangs, the so-called “lesser apes.” These animals are highly arboreal, and because they lack tails, they rely upon their long limbs to move swiftly through the trees. When on the ground, brachiators walk bipedally, swinging their long arms to the side for balance.

Humans evolved bipedalism from these brachiators, while the chimps and bonobos became knuckle-walkers. In this scenario, humans never were knuckle-walkers, and it is misleading to think that humans rose up on our hind-legs from creatures that moved like chimpanzees.

What does this have to do with dogs?

Well, there have been quite a few studies that have compared dogs and wolves that have been imprinted on humans from an early age in hopes that we might figure out the domestication process from studying how tamed wolves behave when compared to domestic dogs.

These are interesting studies, but I think they oversell what they can answer.

It should be of no secret that I am very much a skeptic of the Raymond Coppinger model of dog domestication. His model contends that dogs necessarily evolved from scavenging wolves that gradually evolved not to fear people and then became village dogs. Our specialized breeds are thus derived from village dogs that were later selectively bred.

Coppinger thought that wolves were just too hard to domestic without this scavenger-to-village dog step that lies between truly wild wolves and their evolution to domestic dogs.

Modern wolves are hard to tame. They must be bottle-raised from an insanely early age.  Coppinger thought that it would be impossible for people living during the Pleistocene to provide that kind of care for young wolf pups.

Like the people who assumed that humans evolved from knuckle-walkers, Coppinger assumed that wolves that exist today are good models for what wolves were like during the Pleistocene. These wolves are reactive and nervous to the point of being paranoid. It is well-known that many wolves won’t even attempt to den near human settlements, and if they catch wind of humans, they soon leave.

These animals would not be easily tamed by anyone, much less people living with Stone Age hunter-gatherer technology.

I generally accepted his arguments, and in the early days of this site, I largely parroted them.

A few years ago, I was watching a documentary about the tigers of the Sundarbans, a vast mangrove forest that straddles the border between India and Bangladesh. These tigers are notorious for their man-eating behavior, and there have been many theories posited about why these tigers so readily hunt man. Among these is the argument that the Sundarbans tigers drink so much salt in their water intake that it destroys their kidneys, which disables them and makes them more likely to hunt man.

But the documentary contended that the real reason these tigers are more likely to hunt man is that all other tigers descend from populations where humans have hunted them heavily. In British India, tiger hunting was a popular activity among the colonial administrators, and this intensive hunting cause tiger populations to drop.  This hunting left behind only tigers that had some genetic basis to fear man more, and thus, man-eating tigers are exceedinlg rare now.

The Sundarbans never received this hunting pressure, so the tigers left behind had the same innate tendencies to hunt humans that the ancestral tiger population possessed.

I found this argument utterly intriguing, and I began to weigh it against what I knew about wolves. Wolves across their range have experienced even more persecution than tigers have.  In North America, we have four hundred years of humans coming up with more and more creative ways to kill them. In Eurasia, this persecution has gone on for thousands of years.

The persecution of wolves surely has had some effect in how wolves behave, including their innate tendency to accept humans and other novel stimuli in their environment.

Wolves are often so fearful that they won’t cross roads.  They just avoid people at all costs, and it just seems that this is an animal that we couldn’t possibly domesticate or even habituate to our presence.

This has led some people to suggest that dogs aren’t derived from wolves, but some Canis x creature that is related to dogs and wolves, but it is ancestral to the former but not the latter.

Genome comparisons have shown that such claims really don’t work. Dogs are derived from an archaic wolf population, and in this way, they are sort of genetic living fossils, holding the genomes of a Pleistocene wolves that no longer exist. But these wolves that became dogs were still part of Canis lupus, and thus, we have to maintain dogs as part of Canis lupus as well in order to retain the monophyly of the species.

Except for dogs that have modern wolf ancestry, no dog is actually derived from a wolf population that exists today.

And the wolf populations that exist today just seem so hard to tame and work with that it makes sense then to consider the need for Coppinger’s scavenging wolf-to-village dog stage between wild wolves and modern dogs.

The thing is, these studies using modern wolves are only using wolves that are derived from these heavily persecuted populations, and it is very unlikely that these animals are representative of the wolves that lived during the Pleistocene.

We know that when wild dogs have never experienced human hunting, they are intensely curious about us. Timothy Treadwell had a pack of tame red foxes that followed him around like dogs while he was off communing with the brown bears. Darwin killed the fox that was named after him by sneaking up on one and hitting it with a geological hammer.

Lewis and Clark came onto the American prairies where there were vast hordes of wolves lying about.  The wolves had no fear of people, and one wolf was actually killed when it was enticed in with meat and speared in the head with a spontoon.

After these wolves experienced the persecution of Western man, the only wolves left in the populations were those that were extremely wary and nervous.

In fact, the only wolves that exist now that have never experienced widespread persecution by man are the white wolves that live in the Canadian High Arctic.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching two documentaries about these wolves. The first was by Jim Brandenburg.  Brandenburg and L. David Mech spent a summer living with and filming wolves on Ellesmere.  These wolves showed no fear of them, and they allowed them to observe their natural behavior in the wild, including allowing them near their den sites.

Virtually the same documentary was recently made by Gordon Buchanan of the BBC. Buchanan came to Ellesmere and became accepted by a wolf pack, which eventually trusted him enough to allow him to babysit their pups while the adults hunted.

These wolves hunt arctic hare and muskox. They live hard lives, but because they have no real history with man, they are oddly curious and trusting of people.

It seems to me that these wolves are much more like those described by Lewis and Clark, and they are likely to have behaved much like the ancient Pleistocene wolves did. They had never undergone extensive persecution by man, and thus, they were probably quite curious about man.

If these ancient wolves were more like the Ellesmere wolves, then it seems domestication would have been a pretty easy process. In fact, it appears to me that it is so easy to have happened that the struggle would have been preventing it from happening in the first place.

So if these High Arctic wolves are a better model for the ancient wolves that led to dogs, why aren’t they included in the studies?

Well, these wolves are hard to access, and what is more, because they represent such a special population, it might not be wise to remove any of these wolves from the wild.

So the socialized and imprinted wolf pup studies really can’t be performed on them.

But we could still get DNA samples from them and compare their behavior-linked genes to those of dogs and wolves from persecuted populations.

All these other studies are ever going to do is tell you the difference between dogs and certain wolves from persecuted populations. They aren’t really going to tell you the full story of why dogs came to behave differently from wolves.

So for the sake of science, we need to understand that evolution through artificial selection has affected wolves as well as dogs. Dogs have been bred to be close to man. Wolves have been selected through our persecution to be extremely fearful and reactive.

So as interesting as these studies are, they have a big limitation, and the assumption that these wolves represent what ancient wolves were like is major methodological problem.

 

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Not a snow dog

Cammie is not a snow dog.

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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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Maddie and Timmy

All photos courtesy of Laura Westfall Atkinson.

timmy

  Timmy was a nice little dog. I spent many, many hours walking him on the beach between Atlantic Beach, North Carolina and Fort Macon.

Maddie was his mate. Both very nice dogs. Maddie and Timmy had several litters together.

Maddie was his mate. Both very nice dogs. Maddie and Timmy had several litters together. 

Maddie with Catie. Catie is now a chemical engineer in Baton Rouge.

Maddie with Catie. Catie is now a chemical engineer in Baton Rouge. 

Good ol’ dogs.

Just memories now.

 

 

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Intruders

I got these photos of the neighbors’ Old English sheepdog cross pups. They are terribly socialized and hate Miley very much.

That’s probably because Miley is by far the scariest monster they have ever seen. If she shows up, they run off in terror! Never mind, that she is not a dog that starts fights. They think she might eat them or something.

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If you wanted proof that Old English sheepdogs are nothing more than very modified collie-type dogs, all you have to do is look at these two crosses. Their father is a very shaggy OES, and their mother a 35-pound yellow Labrador mix (with something smaller than a Labrador).

I call these dogs Smithfields, for this is the old bearded-up droving “collie” of southern England. A similar sort of dog is also found in Australia, which was crossed into the various strains of Australian cattle dog or heeler.

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Sniffing out the woods

Rhodie and Spike sniffing out the woods.

This was about how far they will go.

They were too afraid to go much deeper.

These two dogs have the same (wire-haired and dwarf) father. Rhodie is a broken-coated, cheetah-legged dog. Spike has shorter, Queen Anne legs and a true wire coat.

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The first JRT I’m watching this weekend is Spike.

No one told me that he would attack the water hose if you use it.

I turned it on. He yapped.

And charged into it.

He’s wanting me to turn it on again.

BAAAAAAADLY!

He’s Cammie and Rhodie’s half brother. It was not known that he was of this particular coat. It  just sort of developed.

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Black pugs were once considered a very distinct variety from the other colors. According to contemporary accounts, they were derived from more recent imports from China that were quite distinct from the pug that developed in England by the nineteenth century.

The conventional story on the origin of the pug goes as follows:

The Chinese, who were well-known for breeding brachycephalic dogs, had several types of brachcephalic dogs when European traders arrived, first from Portugal and then the Dutch.

The Dutch in particular were taken by the little brachycephalic dogs, usually referred to as “happa dogs,” which they brought back to Europe.

The Dutch then developed their own strains of smooth-coated, brachycephalic dogs that then contributed to the toy griffons of Belgium and the brachycephalic toy spaniels of England.

So much were the dogs associated with the Netherlands during the period of the Dutch Republic, that they are were called “Dutch pugs.”

It’s really not clear how much of this story is true.

Initial genetic studies that examined the differences between breeds didn’t find the pug to be that closely related to the shih-tzu or pekingese. This study looked at only 100 genetic markers, so the results could have been biased. However, at the time, it was a revolutionary study that examined the differences between breeds.

However, a genome-wide analysis that examined 48,000 SNP’s found that pugs were most closely related the Brussels griffon, whose Petit Brabancon variety looks very much like a small pug (when its ears and tail are left intact). However, the study found that pugs and Brussels griffons did share a common ancestor with the peke and shih-tzu.

This latter study appears to confirm the claims in the conventional history of the pug. The pug would be more closely related to the Brussels griffon because both breeds would have descended from happa dogs that were imported at an earlier date than the time in which pekes, which were crossed with contemporary happas and Japanese chin, and shih-tzus arrived in the West.

However, another genome-wide study, which unfortunately didn’t include  Brussels griffons, pekingeses or shih-tzus, found a close affinity between the pug and the Jack Russell terrier. This study examined an even broader sample of the genome than the earlier 48,000 SNP study. It looked at 170,000 SNP’s, which is the biggest sample of dog genetic material I’ve seen analyzed in any paper, but because it didn’t include pekes, shih-tzus, or Brussels griffons it’s pretty hard to say if Jack Russells and pugs are that closely related.

But it may be that the initial happa type came over in only limited numbers during the height of the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century, and Dutch and later English and Belgian breeders added small European breeds to the initial happa imports, increasing its leg length and creating the Brussels griffon.

Pugs originally came in many more colors than they do today, and it was only with the rise of the institutionalized British dog that the modern pug was developed, and it’s here that we can find accounts that are somewhat different from the official stories.

Rawdon Lee, the late nineteenth century dog expert, claimed that pugs were from “Holland,” which is a word that is sometimes used to refer to the Netherlands, even though Holland is only a region within the Netherlands. However, Lee also contended that the black pugs were from China.

On the origins of the non-black pug, Lee writes in his A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland (Non-sporting Division) (1894) that this type of pug was  most likely from Europe:

The pug has never been claimed in this country [the UK] as a native breed, but was supposed to have been a native of Holland, and even to this day is sometimes called the Dutch pug. As it happens, at present more of them are with us now than is the case in any other country on the Continent, although the pug has a wide range, extending pretty much from the east to the west of Europe. In France and Italy it is a favourite with the ladies, and at one period of its existence, but for a short time only, it was known in the former country as the Carlin, owing to its black mask or muzzle, a name given it in honour of a popular harlequin named Carlin. This, of course, was but a passing fancy, and prior to Carlin’s popularity they had been known as doguins or roquets, but afterwards they obtained the commoner, if less euphonious name of pugs (pg. 254)

On the black pug, which has its own section, Lee writes:

Here is a new variety, which has certainly appeared and obtained identity as such within the past two or three years, although we must go back a little further for the time when a few specimens were occasionally exhibited in our show rings; these being the property of the late Lady Brassey, and they were first shown at Maidstone in 1886. Perhaps to form a direct contrast to these early specimens, some kind of an attempt had been made to produce white pugs; but herein success was not achieved, the nearest approach thereto being one that a couple of years ago was shown in New York, and another sent to the Birmingham show in 1892, by Miss Dalziel, of Woking, but neither was of that snowy whiteness which one would require, and both I should take to be more “sports” than anything else. Still I do not see any reason why white pugs could not be produced by judicious crossing with the palest fawn specimens, with a slight dash of white bulldog or bull terrier to assist matters. However, this is digression.

It seems strange that with such a modern variety of dog there should be serious doubts about its origin, and there are certainly differences of opinion on the matter. On one side it is stated to have come from the North of China, and that Lady Brassey brought a specimen therefrom when she was touring round the world in her yacht, the ” Sunbeam.” Again it is said the breed first sprang up accidentally, it being a ” sport” produced in the north of London by one of the working fanciers in that locality, who had a particularly dark-coloured strain of the ordinary pug. Mrs. W. H. B. Warner, of Northallerton, at the close of 1893, showed a little black dog which she had brought from Japan, where it was said to be of a rare and choice breed. This is nothing else than a long-coated pug- i.e., pug in character and shape, but with a jacket such as is seen on a Pomeranian. But there is no reason to doubt that in the East there are as many varieties of the dog as we have here. However, it is only in place that this latest of importations should be mentioned here. In, however, suggesting that our black pugs may have come from some such dog as this, it must not be forgotten that they have very short and thin jackets, the antipodes of this little fellow of Mrs. Warner’s.

Personally, I believe there may be truth in both statements, that a black pug was accidentally produced, and at the same time a specimen or two had been brought from the East. Although Lady Brassey makes no allusion to a black pug in her published journals of the voyage of the “Sunbeam,” still I know as a fact that two or three similar dogs were on her yacht, but whether they were then called black pugs is another question. More likely they were known as Chinese pugs.

A writer in a recent number of Black and White says: “It is rather unfortunate that the late Lady Brassey should have allowed the origin of the new pug to remain a mystery, but there seems little doubt that it hailed from China, as in a weekly contemporary, only the other day, I saw a copy of an advertisement which had been appearing in the North China Daily News: ‘Lost, near the Hong Kong and Syezchen Roads, last evening, a small Peking Pug, black body and head, white paws. Anyone finding same will be rewarded on bringing it to Kelly and Walsh, Limited, Shanghai.’ The white paws were evidently uncommon, and were the lost dog’s distinguishing marks. I have also learned that a lady in the West End bought a black pug bitch from a sailor on one of the cargo ships just in the docks from China. Another lady at Willesden also bought one in the same way. This one was, however, unfortunately burnt in a fire, and before the purchaser had bred from her; but it is an undoubted fact that these pugs came off a Chinese vessel just arrived in port, and were sold to them as Chinese pugs. One lady describes hers as ‘very short in face, good curl tail, and a beautiful jet black’—a perfect pug in points. Again, I have heard of a ‘Chinese pug’ being bought at Portsmouth from a ship calling there.

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The black pug is now a more cobbily and thickly-made dog than was the case three or four years ago; he is lower on the legs, and his head, face, and skull are more characteristic of our own pug dog, and he is likely in the future to breed quite as true to type as any other of our modern varieties; thus in due course he will popularise himself.

Although it was not until 1886 that black pugs first appeared at our shows, long before this time Lady Brassey had them at Normanhurst. A pair were given to a lady in Liverpool. Lord Londonderry was likewise presented with a specimen, and later I hear that Her Majesty the Queen took one, amongst her other canine companions, to Balmoral, on the usual royal visit to the Highlands. The royal pug, which bore the name of “Brassey” in honour of its donor, died at Windsor in 1891, and, so far as I can learn, not one of these four animals left any progeny behind (pg. 269-274).

Lee thought that the black pug was really quite distinct from the non-black variety. Not only was its origin in China rather than Europe, it was a very different in its constitution and health:

Mrs. Fifield and Miss “Mortivals”  both accord the black pugs excellent characters. They say they are hardier than the fawn, especially when past puppyhood, and even when young they are not much trouble to rear. Oily food suits them best, and Miss “Mortivals” gives hers linseed once a week, it improving their coats and making them appear smarter and cleanlier than they would without it.

Mrs. Fifield writes that “the black pugs differ materially from the fawns; firstly they are not so susceptible to cold. The prettiest sight I remember was seeing the delight of an exquisite litter of black puppies in their first snowstorm; they simply revelled in it. They are much more tenacious in affection, for, while the fawns freely make friends, no enticements will induce the blacks to leave their owners, and, although very timid, they are wonderfully intelligent and easily learn tricks. They are cleanly in their habits, but, whilst the fawns are proverbially greedy, the blacks are extremely dainty feeders. A combination of such excellent traits makes them the most perfect companions ladies can possibly wish for.”

I think I have produced sufficient evidence to satisfy carpers that no wrong has been done in introducing in this volume the Black Pug as a distinct variety. The evidence of those who keep him proves this, not only because the blacks are, even in disposition, unlike the fawns, but because the former breed equally true to type as the latter

So far as the points and description are concerned, excepting in colour the two should be alike, but whether by introducing the “fawn” strain one or two of the distinguishing traits in the blacks may be ultimately lost is a question upon which there may be two opinions. The blacker the black pug is the better; he should be free from white, and any brown or bronze tinge is a very severe handicap when being judged in the ring (pg. 277-278).

By Lee’s account, one could have made the case that the black pug should have become its own breed. However, there likely weren’t many of them in the UK at the time, and it may have been impossible to create a breeding program for them without having to include some “native” non-black dogs as outcrosses. Black is a dominant color, though, it would have been fairly easy to get it established within pugs with just a few crosses to these anomalous black dogs from China.

It’s very likely that these black dog do descend from animals brought over from China. They would have been of the happa type, though with longer legs and less extreme conformation than the European pug. These dogs likely were breeding with very little human intervention– and very little inbreeding– and it would not have been a surprise that they would have been a bit hardier than the show pugs in England at the time.

It would have been very interesting if the black pug had been established as its own breed. From what Lee suggests, it would have been fairly easy to make the case that these dogs were quite distinct from the European pugs of the time, and thus, they were in need of their own registry.

In the end, it seems fairly clear that the history of the pug involves dogs from both the East and the West.  The landrace of small brachycephalic dogs that is still quite common in parts of China was cleaved off through importation of some individuals into the West and then “improved” through the judicious addition of small European dogs. And then there was at least one other wave of later importation from the East, which introduced the black color into the breed.

In this way, the history of the pug most closely resembles that of Labrador retrievers, which were initially derived from smooth-coated St. John’s water dogs that were imported from Newfoundland. The strains that gave us the modern Labrador were kept by the Dukes of Buccleuch in Scotland and the Earls of Malmesbury in England through much of the nineteenth century. In the 1880’s, the two lines were merged and then augmented with more imports from Newfoundland.

Both of these breeds were refined in the UK, even though at least some of their ancestry could be traced to other parts of the world.

Indeed, the UK is the FCI patron country for both the pug and the Labrador retriever. If it had not been for British dog breeders, neither of these dogs would exist in its current form. Pugs would still be a variable type of dog in Europe, and the Chinese landrace of small brachycephalic dogs would still exist as it does today.

So the pug is a creation of the British dog fancy, even though it has origins in other parts of Europe and in China.

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Some may think that my analogy that compared the pug to the Labrador retriever is incorrect.

The fairer comparison is the basenji.

Basenjis were imported from Central Africa in several waves, but it wasn’t until 1990, when the studbook accepted 14 imports from the Congo, that the brindle coloration was added to the breed.

The black pug, one might argue, is similar to the brindle basenji in that a color from the country of origin was added from a later import.

However, I think this is a false analogy.

Pugs, unlike basenjis, were not kept in closed registries when they were initially brought to Europe. They were heavily outcrossed to indigenous European breeds, which likely created the Brussels griffon as we know it today. It also could be a source for some of the brachcephaly that exists in English toy spaniels– which is a great historical irony.  The toy spaniel was associated with the Stuarts, who worked very hard for a more powerful monarchy in England, and the pug  was associated William of Orange, who overthrew the last Stuart king, James II,  to begin the Glorious Revolution. William of Orange was a Dutch statholder, and it was the Dutch who introduced pugs to England during this time period.

The pugs that existed in Europe from the seventeenth century to the late nineteenth century would have been very different from those in China– much more so than Western basenjis are from those in Africa.

So the pug is truly an invention of East and West, while the basenji is still African.

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