Archive for the ‘purebred dogs’ Category

The old-type peke looked a lot like a Tibetan spaniel (compare:

The old type peke looked a lot like a Tibetan Spaniel (compare:

I’ve noticed a common tactic among those who defend the status quo in the dog world is to try to paint their critics as being in league the animal rights extremists. I’m not talking the nice vegans with whom I disagree on certain issues.

I’m talking about the people who support terrorism, theft, and vandalism in the name of liberation. I’m also talking about those who would rather tell other people how to live, rather than working together to try to find ways to reduce animal suffering. (Temple Grandin is a very good example of someone who actually does this work to improve the lives of livestock.)

I’ve always thought liberation was a nebulous term. After all, a Marxist sees liberation rather differently than a libertarian, and in that comparison, I’m talking about two members of the same species.

One can only imagine what liberation would mean to dog, a cat, a hamster, or hippopotamus. Of course, that assumes that these animals know what their liberation means at all.

I’ve known horses that were raised in stables that seem perfectly okay with that lifestyle.  It is all they have ever known. When such horses are released into a pasture, they seem lost and certainly don’t act as if they are free. It’s only when they return to a barn stall that seem to feel comfortable again.

That said, I do oppose any intentional animal suffering that is necessarily prolonged. The wold is full of suffering. We all experience it.  All species feel pain, suffer, and die. The only thing enlightened and moral people can do is reduce suffering. Veganism is one way to do this. However, it will never become the universal diet of the planet. I don’t do well without meat in my diet. I’ve been at my happiest and healthiest when I reduced my carbohydrate intake and embraced the hunter-gatherer blood coursing through my veins.

The way I justify these two apparently contradictory notions that lie deep within my ethical sense is that I take a Benthamesque approach. I don’t do it exactly as Peter Singer did. I am willing to tolerate a certain amount of suffering and pain so that I can live, but the main goal is to reduce it. I particularly am more opposed to actions that result in prolonged pain and suffering than those that cause the animal suffering for just a very short time.

And for that reason, I can tolerate foxes held in leg hold traps (especially those that have been designed not to damage the fox’s foot) far better than I can tolerate breeding dogs with conformation that makes their whole lives miserable. That fox feels discomfort only for the last few hours of his live, because in most states, the traps must be checked daily. A pekingese that cannot cool itself properly suffers for a longer period of time than that fox does.  The peke suffers from excess heat through its entire life, while the fox got to be wild and free for most of its life.

The animal rights people may have locked onto the issues of purebred dogs.  On some issues, they are correct. On others, I respectfully disagree.

You see, the animal rights lobby doesn’t have the institutional power that the dog fancy has right now. The animal right lobby does have some victories, usually in the industrial farming sector, but in stopping hunting, meat consumption, and dog showing they haven’t been that successful.

In Europe they have been more successful in stopping hunting and even stopping reasonable farming practices (like the use of sheepdogs!), but that happens because most European countries (with the exception of the Nordic countries) have had a long history in which hunting rights were the realm of only the very wealthy. In the US, the hunting culture is more egalitarian, and thus, you don’t have the major center-left parties siding with the animal rights lobby.

In comparison, the purebred dog fancy does everything it can to ensure that reforms never take place here. The registries must operate closed stud books, and breed purity is everything. Those who do try their best to breed for health are often confronted with a general loss of genetic diversity and the sudden appearance of new genetic disorders that were previously unrecognized. Breeders who go outside the strictures of the fancy are pilloried.

It’s because of all of this that I am more outraged by the dog fancy than I am outraged by the animal rights people. I might make common cause with the animal rights lobby on this issue, and I hope that meat-eaters and vegans can at least agree on trying work together to reduce animal suffering. I’m with them on that one, but on the issues of banning hunting, dog-ownership, and the consumption of meat,  I’m definitely not singing off their page.

However, if you group me with the really nutty animal liberationists out there, you are setting up a straw man. And that’s one argument tactic I find particularly exasperating.

The dog fancy defenders like to portray everyone who opposes them as existing within the framework of either being with them or with the animal rights extremists. It’s a nice dualism, and in highly dualistic, melodramatic culture, this narrative certainly helps their cause.

However, the real world is always more complex than this narrative. The world exists in shades of gray, not clearly defined bands of black and white.

And that’s why it’s a mistake to assume those who want a better system for breeding dogs are also in league with those who want to ban dog ownership. It’s called nuance, and it’s something that is apparently much harder for people to see than I thought.


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Trip the Chesapeake

The answer to the question I asked last night is that it this dog was a Chesapeake Bay retriever. The illustration comes from John Henry Walsh’s The Dogs of Great Britain, and Other Countries (p. 121).

The dog’s name was Trip.  He was owned by C. H. Tilghman of Easton Maryland.  This particular dog won “first premium” at a dog show in New York in 1877.

Walsh often got things wrong, but his description of the three types of Chesapeake that existed in the 1870’s is very interesting:

As there now appears to be three types of this dog, the members of the Maryland Poultry and Fancier’s Association, at their first show, held at Baltimore, January, 1877, appointed a committee to draw up a standard of points for judging. On the evening of January 8, 1877, they met the members of the club, and made their report, which was adopted. The committee consisted of the following gentlemen (each representing their respective type): Mr. John Stewart, representing the Otter breed, in color a tawny sedge, with very short hair; Mr. O. D. Foulks, the long-haired, or Red Winchester, and Mr. J. J. Turner, Jr., the curly-coated, in color a red-brown – the bitches showing the color and approximating to the points of the class to which they belong, a white spot on the breast in either class not being unusual. The measurements were as follows: from fore toe to top of back, 25 inches; from tip of nose to base of head, 10 inches; girth of body back of fore leg, 33 inches; breast, 9 inches; around fore feet, 6 inches; around fore arm below shoulder, 7 inches; between eyes, 2 1/4 inches; length of ears, 5 inches; from base of head to root of tail, 35 inches; tail, 16 inches in length; around muzzle below the eyes, 10 inches.

The Otter-type is the one that wound up taking over the Chesapeake breed. Long-haired (“Red Winchester”) and curly-coated varieties have since disappeared in the standardized form. (However, long-haired Chessies do pop up every once in a while.)

I found it interesting that there were some different guesses on the identity of this dog.

The best diagnostic feature of the Chessie is that its topline is usually not level– “hindquarters as high or a trifle higher than the shoulders,” says the AKC standard.

The long hair may have come from the way-coated retriever, which was evident in the US at this time, or it may have inherited some long-haired genes from the odd long-haired St. John’s water dog. Collie-types and setter-types could have also played a role in producing some long-haired dogs. The Irish water spaniel is also a possibility.

Yes, this is yet another breed that had a bit more diversity before it became fully standardized.

Update: Does anyone know of any good books or websites on the history of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever?

In case you didn’t know, this is what they look like today: show chessie


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George Sussex Spaniel

This depiction of a Sussex spaniel comes from John Henry Walsh’s Dogs of Great Britain, America, and Other Countries.

This book was originally published in the nineteenth century, and this depiction shows what a working Sussex looked like back then.

It is definitely a myth that they always had very, very short legs. Like the dog in my earlier post.

The dog in this depiction is most likely what Mr. Fuller wanted. He was interested in a somewhat shorter-legged spaniel that could work the undergrowth better.

Of course, once the breed became a show dog, breeding for the short legs got out of control.

And that wound up hurting them in the long run.

I still think they might be saved as a pet dog. I mean they are very different in appearance from most other breeds of gun dog, and they do have rather cute puppies.

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 Ch. Bridford Giddie owned by Moses Woolland. You can't tell me that such short legs are functional to a working spaniel.

Ch. Bridford Giddie owned by Moses Woolland. You can't tell me that such short legs are functional to a working spaniel.

Very few posts have resulted in more invective on this blog than my two posts on the Sussex spaniel. (You see them here and here.)

I have since researched this breed a little more closely.

There have been liver spaniels in Sussex for a long time. The one that Stubbs painted was probably quite similar to the original dog.

Sussex spaniel

This painting was made in 1782.

In the early 1800’s, a particular strain of this liver spaniel was founded by a man known as “Mr. Fuller” from Rosehill in Sussex.

It was he who actually founded the modern dog called a Sussex spaniel

Now, maybe the dogs worked really well for him. And maybe the dogs do have some utility today–although most likely as museum pieces and “heritage breeds.” These spaniels do have good noses and a methodical hunting style that might be of some use.

However, the breed is not the working dog it once was. As a show dog, it was bred for shorter and shorter legs (as you can see in the case of Bridford Giddie.) The dogs stopped being bred for working traits, and the working spaniel people passed them by.

That’s why the breed is in such trouble today in terms of numbers.

The related field spaniel had exactly the same problem.

Ch. Bridford Brilliant, a black field spaniel owned by Moses Woolland.

Ch. Bridford Brilliant, a black field spaniel owned by Moses Woolland.

It also suffered a rather severe drop in numbers from which it has not recovered.

However, its exaggerations have been moderated. In fact, they not only have been moderated, they have been replaced with a requirement for more moderate conformation. And the field spaniel, at least in this country, does have a somewhat more modest footing since the conformation changed.

Please do not assume that I dislike the Sussex spaniel. A spaniel of this type could reasonably have some utility, but when run against the English springer or even an upland game retriever (especially a golden or European working Labrador, both of which have very good noses), it is not going to come out well.

The Sussex might be able to save itself if it were marketed as a docile, non-Avalanche of Rage prone spaniel. I could see this dog as a yuppie puppy– the latest trend among urban professionals who want something unique for their canine company.

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Harding Cox

Harding Cox

In case you were bored with all of that retriever history, I found a little tidbit.  In Harding Cox’s piece on retrievers in Drury’s British Dogs: Their Points, Selection and Show Preparation, I came across rather clear critique of competitive dog showing. Although the piece is about retrievers, Cox launches into an attack on the logic behind competitive dog showing. I only wish he had included retrievers in his criticism, but because he was a retrieverman who showed his dogs, I don’t think we could expect it.

Here it is:

The utility of dog shows as a means of maintaining and improving purity of type in the canine race, without impairing utility, has often been called in question, and really the spurious evolution that has taken place in some breeds, notably in Fox-terriers and Bulldogs, is greatly to be deplored. It is a case of cause and effect, induced by the exaggeration of type, and the sacrifice of a well-balanced and symmetrical whole, to the undue and excessive development of some special “fancy” point. For instance, the craze for exceedingly narrow chests in Fox-terriers has evolved this supposed desideratum at the expense of depth and strength of rib, and consequently of power of loin and quarters. One seldom sees a well-ribbed, square-quartered Fox-terrier nowadays. Again, it was laid down that Bulldogs should be more powerful in front of the saddle than behind it, and that the shoulders should be loose, and the elbows well turned out. Harping on this string, fanciers have produced a result of which they have no reason to be proud; for what do we too often find? Weak, ricketty legs, foundered chests, and wasted loins; rendering what should be a powerful, active dog, a monstrosity and a cripple. Such examples could be amplified ad infinitum.

This book was published in 1903, and 106 years later, we’re still writing about these things. To have such an assessment from someone so feted by fancy is truly remarkable. After all, Mr. Cox appears in the Charles Henry Lane’s Dog Shows and Doggy People (1902), a veritable hagiography of the dog fancy of the early years of the twentieth century.

It is a shame that no one really paid that much attention to him. I wonder what he’d say about retrievers today. I bet he would not be happy.

No more retriever history for a week, I promise.

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The dog above is known to all flat-coated retriever enthusiasts as Ch. Moonstone. He is very important to the flat-coated retriever, but I’m sure that his pedigree can be found in the golden retriever’s founding stock as well. (He looks a lot like Ch. Noranby Diana.)

His sire was Ch. Zelstone, and his dam was named Think. Zelstone is given a pedigree, but he had a very strong Newfoundland characteristics. which may have been through his possible St. John’s water dog ancestry or the fact that he had more than just a touch of the Newfoundland in his pedigree. I’ve read several different accounts of this dog, including one that calls him a full Newfoundland.

Think’s sire was Dusk, and her dam was Wisdom (also known as Jenny). Dusk was the result of breeding two full litter mates from the breeding of Paris and Lady Bonnie. (If you don’t believe me, have a look!) Wisdom’s parents are Moliere (a dog named after a French playwright) and Maud, but their pedigrees are not given. Wisdom is discussed in The Complete English Shot, but her ancestry and that of her parents are  not given.

The reason why I am so interested in the ancestry of Think is that she had a secret. Now, for those of you who were squeamish about the previously mentioned breeding of a brother and sister, get ready for something oedipal.

Moonstone was bred to his mother, and something strange happened.

She had a red puppy. Moonstone’s secret is that he carried the recessive gene for red to yellow.

This dog was named Foxcote.  Because the dog had this particular name, I think one can safely judge this dog to be an actual red, not a liver colored dog. This red color most likely came from the setter, and it probably was not all that rare in wavy/flat-coated retrievers. After all, the main outcross for this strain was the setter, and an Irish setter was considered a top working dog in those days.

And now something else makes sense.

Moonstone’s full brother was Tracer. Like Moonstone, he was black.

Tracer was bred to Gill, one of the Tweedmouth bitches, perhaps in the hopes that he would introduce some new blood from wavy-coats carrying the gene for red.

This breeding makes more sense now. I had originally said that this breeding happened because the 1st Baron Tweedmouth wanted his dogs to have the best possible wavy/flat-coated strains in his dogs. This is certainly true, but if Moonstone and Think could produce a red puppy, maybe Tracer and one of the Tweedmouth dogs could produce some reds and yellows.

However, it didn’t work out that way. The breeding of Gill to Tracer resulted in 10 black puppies, one of which was Queenie, who was bred to Nous II, a dog of the more typical Tweedmouth strain color.

Now, I think the existence of dogs like Foxcote shows that the development of the golden retriever most likely included lots of interbreeding with flat-coats that carried this gene. Because the only flat-coats of that day that were of that color were from Irish setters, the color became quite dark, even darker than the very dark dogs that made up the later dogs in the Tweedmouth strain. This could explain why mahogany dogs were so common.

I should also note here that Moonstone was declared the “perfect” retriever, and just from looking at him, he has a lot of the conformation I prefer in a retriever. He has just the right amount of bone and leg. He is without exaggeration. He looks so good that no wonder he was bred to his mother! (I’m sure that’s what his owners were thinking. No doubt in my mind.)

Of course, this one little survey of early flat/wavy-coat pedigrees shows that there was a lot of inbreeding early on in the breed, which certainly hurt the flat-coat when its numbers dropped in the Interwar Period. The golden, which was selected from the recessive red to yellow dogs in that pedigree, most likely has also suffered from that early inbreeding. However, the likelihood that their ancestors had setter close in their pedigrees may have mitigated some of this early inbreeding– at least until recent years.

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Black Drake

Black Drake

This photo of  “Black Drake” comes from a 1903 text by William Drury called British Dogs: Their Points, Selection and Show Preparation. Black Drake was a descendant of Moonstone. From my reading of the Tweedmouth pedigree, Zelstone was the sire of Tracer and Moonstone.

The selection on retrievers in this book is quite interesting. This piece was written when wavy or flat-coats had essentially had to be black to win anything in a dog show. It is dismissive of liver and red-colored (“golden”) dogs. “Sometimes the cross of the Gordon, and even the Irish, Setter has been resorted to, as evidenced by the throw-back of red- or liver-coloured puppies.” It is from these odd reddish colored way-coats that the 1st Baron Tweedmouth developed his strain, which eventually became the golden retriever.

Drury also obtusely states that the curly-coated retriever “is doomed to practical extinction is a notable and an undeniable fact, which must be put down to the inevitable law of the survival of the fittest.”

Of course, that didn’t happen, but the curly is still quite rare.

One must remember that the flat or wavy-coated retriever was heavily promoted as a working retriever.  It was bred to be easily handled and for really strong working characteristics.

The curly of that time period was like the show golden retriever of today. It had been bred for appearance and not for working ability, and the dogs were considered second rate.  This reputation sunk the curly-coated retriever.

However, this poor reputation ultimately saved it, because the only people who owned curlies were people who actually cared about producing good ones. As a result, the breed has been preserved for its working characteristics, although I doubt that it will ever be popular as a working retriever. I should mention that this is the only retriever I’ve not seen (other than the Murray River curly-coated retriever, which doesn’t exist in the Northern Hemisphere.)

On the Labrador, it talks about using the flat-c0at and the Irish setter as outcrosses to improve it:

Of late years the Labrador has grown in favour, and though the writer has no personal experience of his merits, there are knowledgable sportsmen who swear by him, by reason of his alleged possession of all the virtues which a Retriever should possess. Many of these dogs have been carefully bred and the strains jealously guarded; but to the writer’s eyes they appear, for the most part, rather coarse and cloddy; so that the element of the Setter becomes a necessity, if the quality of the modern Retriever is to be maintained. But first get your black Setter – no easy matter forsooth; though the cross of the red Irish setter with the Labrador would probably produce a fair percentage of blacks. These could be crossed in with a high-quality, show, Flat-coated Retriever, and thus a fresh current of blood would be introduced, which not only would check the tendency to excessive inbreeding, but would probably increase the powers of scent, and induce that steadiness which, it must be regretfully admitted, is often sadly wanting in our modern dogs; for they are high-couraged creatures, and somewhat impatient of restraint.

The expert Drury consulted on that retriever section was Harding Cox, who owned several top flat-coats of his day, including Black Drake and Black Queen. All of his dogs had the word “Black” in their registered names.

Finally, the more I look at these contemporary flat-coats, the more I think that this dog is a long-haired Labrador.

Text of the section on retrievers in Drury’s book.

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