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Archive for the ‘German shepherd dog’ Category

I love reading old breed books. Getting into German shepherds now means that I have a whole new selection of books to read, and in older German shepherd books that are written in English, there is a strong desire to distance this breed from wolves.  At one time, the breed was banned in Australia because of its supposed wolf ancestry, and Australian sheep interests were quite concerned that the breed infuse wolf phenotype and behavior into dingoes if they got loose and crossbred. So there is a tendency to downplay any relationship between this breed and wolves, and this tendency sometimes gets quite ridiculous.

In the first few pages of Jane Bennett’s book on the breed, which had its last printed in 1982, I noticed this image of a wolf.

Jane Bennet Wolf German shepherd

If you cannot read the full caption, check it out here:

Tomarctus wolf Jane Bennett

So I don’t expect to see accurate zoology or paleontology in dog books, especially from old ones. And to be honest, I am skeptical that German shepherds are especially wolf-like dogs with close wolf-like ancestry.   It is possible that some of the Thuringian sheepdogs in the breed’s ancestry had some wolf crossed in, but I don’t think they are wolfdogs in the same way that a Czechoslovakian vlcak is.

But the idea that the most recent common ancestor between a wolf and German shepherd was Tomarctus is not at all accurate. In some of the old dog books I have, Tomarctus is sometimes mentioned as an ancestor of modern dog species.

However, current paleontology places Tomarctus in the Borophagine subfamily of Canidae. Not a single living descendant of the Borophagine dogs exists. These dogs lived only in North America and all were extinct by the end of Pliocene. Tomarctus went extinct about 16 million years ago, which would be in the Miocene.

So it was not even a late surviving Borophagine dog, and it certainly was not the most recent common ancestor of wolves and German shepherds.  If it were the most recent common ancestor, then Czechoslovakian vlcaks, Saarloos wolfhonden, and Volksoby would have been impossible to create. 15-16 million years is more than enough time for two mammalian lineages to lose chemical interfertility, and dogs and wolves simply are chemical interfertile right now.

The most recent common ancestor between a German shepherd and a wolf could have been a wolf kept at the Frankfurt zoo that some think is behind the Thuringian sheepdog Hektor Linksrhein/Horand von Grafrath, which is the foundation dog for the modern German shepherd breed. Or it could have been a wild wolf that mated with a sheepdog somewhere in Germany, and that sheepdog line got mixed into the breed. Further, dogs in Eurasia, some of which may have German shepherd in them, are interbreeding with wild wolves at a much higher frequency than we might have imagined. 

I honestly don’t know, if the GSD breed has close wolf ancestry, and reasonable people can disagree on this issue.  I have not seen definitely proof either way, so I do remain agnostic on this issue. The temperament of the breed, though, is of very trainable herding dog.

But whatever the truth is, I don’t think anyone thinks the most recent common ancestor of the German shepherd and the wolf was a species that outside the lineage of both.

This claim isn’t as bad as the claim that chow chows are derived from extinct digitigrade  bears or from an extinct predatory species of red panda.

Jane Bennett’s book includes lots of good information in pedigrees and care of a German shepherd, but that page of the book indicates a strong desire to distance the dog from the wolf in a way that those of us living in the era of molecular biology and modern cladistics would find a bit bizarre.

The current thinking from full-genome comparisons is that all domestic dogs are derived from a now defunct lineage of Eurasian gray wolf. To keep Canis lupus monophyletic, we must keep the dog as part of that species.

So I have noticed a theme in many of these older books to keep German shepherds as distant from wolves as possible, even if it means making a claim that could easily disproved with a simple look at the Czechoslovakian vlcak or the Saarloos wolfhond, which both existed when this book was last printed.

Jane Bennett bool

 

 

 

 

 

 

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quest in a mountain stream

We came to the mountains from the south.  For two days, we rose out of the heat of Florida into the rolling hills of Georgia. We spent a night in Greenville, South Carolina, and then began our ascent into the Blue Ridge.

We came into the woods with a van full of dogs. The two whippets, the greyhound, and our German shepherd were ready and steady, yearning for a good run. So after climbing up into the land of the rhododendron, we eased onto a forest service road and let them rip.

The sighthounds hit the ground running. Double-suspending in their gallops, they seemed to float over the trail But it was Quest, our maturing German shepherd, who came to into his own in the mountain forests.

His meaty wolf paws carried him over the rough country, as did his sound gait. He leaped wildly, cavorting as if he were a young stallion just racing out from his band in search of new territory.

For a tossed stick, he dived into the clearest mountain stream. Any little brook trout that might have been lurking in the depths would have shot back under their fallen log redoubts, for they were under an aerial assault of the canine kind.  Young dog leaping into the  cold water,  ecstatic joy that our own species either cannot experience or ever hope to tap into.

The whippets and greyhounds are the speeding luxury cars. They would be made by some Italian manufacturer to zip around the highways of Rome, but the German shepherd is all-terrain and amphibious.  What it lacks in speed, it holds up better when the terrain turns rugged and muddy.

For decades, so-called experts, especially self-appointed ones, have told us that the German shepherd is a catastrophe on four legs.  They are all hock-walking and broken and dysplastic. They are no longer the true working dogs of Central Europe.  They just cannot do all the things normal dogs can.

But watching this creature charge about the forest, leaping over logs as if they weren’t there, I now know even more that much of what we read about these dogs is just rubbish.

Experiencing a rugged Appalachian woodland in Western North Carolina with one of these dogs is certainly eye-opening.  This is a dog bred for the show ring. His ancestors have been bred mostly for that purpose for decades. From what we all think we know about this breed, one would assume that he would have such a hard time being a mountain dog, but he covers the land with power and grace and, yes, simple elan.

And so we trundled away from our time in the mountains. Our hearts were filled with sorrow of leaving, but my mind was on the stolid nobility of this young dog when he stops to stare back at us on the forest trails.

He is a creature meant for this world of long forest hikes and cool dips in mountain springs. He is natural but still domesticated and cultivated and fancy. He is a contradiction, a paradox of sorts, but a magnificent one nonetheless.

He is a youngster just coming into his own. He has a lifetime of running and swimming ahead of him. Many adventures are yet to come. Much is unwritten, but stories that will unfold will be rich ones.

So we left the mountains. For a little a while.

But we will be back. And the young dog will get his chance to cavort in the woods and water once again.

 

 

 

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second major

Quest got his second major this morning. He was Winners Dog and Best of Winners both days at the Medina Kennel Club’s March show, which was held at Tallmadge.

He got six points out of the weekend. He has to have two majors and a total of 15 points to finish.

He’s on his way.

Thanks so much to Anya Dobratz for handling him and breeding such a great dog!

 

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Quest got his first AKC conformation points, and it was a major!

I think he might finish. He’s only 10.5 months old.

quest first points

Congratulations to his breeder, handler, and co-owner Anya Dobratz for that great win! And this major makes his mother an ROM.

 

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The stills do not do this trot any justice. You have to see it in person to see how amazing it is. His inner hock is not touching the ground either.

flowing gait quest

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Ever see an AKC German shepherd engage in a double suspension gallop? Well, you  have now.

quest in flight

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We got a big snow last night. The dogs enjoyed frolicking in the aftermath.


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