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Posts Tagged ‘chihuahua’

chihuahua vs skunks

This photo, which was obviously staged, appears in Harold Elmer Anthony’s Mammals of America (1917).

The dog’s breed is listed as an “Irish terrier,”  but it looks like no Irish terrier I’ve ever heard of.

It looks a lot more like a Chihuahua, and it might be an early American Chihuahua.

 

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Fennec foxes are not the ancestors of Chihuahuas. If you believe this, you’ll believe anything.

As we’ve looked more closely at dog DNA and compared it to other Canid species, a very consistent fact has been confirmed time and again.

Domestic dogs are very closely related to Eurasian wolves.

Most of the genetic literature on dog origins is hotly contested.

But the ancestral species is not.

Dog DNA is wolf DNA.

It may be  that the wolf is the sole ancestor of the domestic dog.

However, there are four species that are chemically interfertile with each other.

The dog and wolf species, Canis lupus, has produced fertile hybrids with Ethiopian wolves (Canis simensis), golden jackals (Canis aureus), and the coyote (Canis latrans).  Dingoes and New Guinea singing dogs (which should be called “New Guinea dingoes”) are feral landraces of domestic dogs and belong to the dog and wolf species.   We know that all of these animals are chemically interfertile only thorugh circumstantial evidence. Because dogs are derived from wolves and have mated with Ethiopian wolves and produced fertile offspring, we know they all can. Ethiopian wolves are the most distantly related species of the interfertile Canis from the dog and wolf species. If they can interbreed and produce fertile offspring, then they all can.

Thus far, no one has found any genetic markers in domestic dogs from any of these other interfertile species. They might be there. In fact, they likely are.

But any genetic material found from these species is very likely to be trivial.

The only dogs that are known to have the blood of species other than wolves in them are things like the Sulimov dogs, which have golden jackal blood in them, and the intentionally and accidentally bred coydogs.

We might even find genetic material dire wolf or other extinct Canis species in domestic dogs, especially if we’re looking at DNA samples from ancient dogs. (There is some evidence that dire wolves were domesticated by the Clovis people.)

But none of these facts would change what the primary ancestor of the domestic dog is.

Their DNA is overwhelming the same as Eurasian wolves.

Thus, we should think of dogs as being domesticated wolves.

That’s what the evidence shows. One can split hairs and say that dogs have a different ecological niche than wolves and classify them as their own species– which is classically Canis familiaris. But the phylogeny of Canis familiaris stems so closely and so directly from Canis lupus that it makes more sense to call them Canis lupus familiaris.

But for whatever reason, these facts are rejected everywhere.

And not just in fringe publications or on e-mail lists where lots of lunatic “experts” like to hang out.

Perhaps the most recent author of any authority to make claims that domestic dogs are derived from multiple species is Stanley Coren.

In The Intelligence of Dogs, Coren contends that a wide variety of species played a role in developing the domestic dog.   He repeats the falsehood that basenjis and Rhodesian ridgebacks are derived from the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), even though this animal has never interbred with a domestic dog and probably cannot.  And even if it could, the offspring would likely be sterile, as we’ve seen when silver phase red foxes have been bred to blue phase arctic foxes.

Coren’s book came out in the mid-90’s, and we’ve since learned many thing about dog origins since then. However, Coren repeated the same claim that basenjis were derived from African wild dog in How to Speak Dog, which came out in 2001.

By that time, I don’t think anyone was seriously considering the African wild dog as a potential ancestor to any domestic dog breed. In fact, by that time, there were moves among conservationists working to save this species to change the common name for this species. Calling them “African wild dogs” was causing lots of confusion. People were considering them feral dogs, and in some areas, they were being killed as an invasive species.  The truth is that they are likely a descendant of an early wolf-like Canis relative– Xenocyon lycaonoides–  that once roamed over most of Africa and Eurasia.  The African wild dog and the dhole maybe the surviving descendants of this early wolf-like species.

Coren also claims that jackals are an ancestor of domestic dogs. But the phylogenetic tree that was drawn from sequencing the dog genome revealed that jackals are not monophyletic. Golden jackals are in a clade with wolves/dogs, coyotes, and Ethiopian wolves. The other two species of jackal– the black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) and side-striped jackal (Canis adustus)– are even more distantly related to the clade that includes wolves/dogs, coyotes, and golden jackals than the dhole and African wild dog are.

These two jackals cannot cross with dogs. Lots of people claim they can and will often point to domestic dogs in Africa with jackal-like features. Those dogs are not evidence of cross-breeding. No one has confirmed a black-backed jackal/dog hybrid with any DNA test.

These hybrids exist only in urban legends.

But if these memes won’t die even with experts like Stanley Coren, they have a lot of legs among the laypeople.

If you want to see what I mean, check out the comments on my post about why Chihuahuas can’t be derived from fennec foxes (Vulpes zerda).  No, they can’t be– even though they look so much alike!

Here are some gems:

I’d be interested to know what kind of “research” Claire was engaged in. My guess is she was playing with Google, and looking up romantic breed origin myths. That’s not really research.

I answered Claire that Chihuahuas and other small breeds have a gene that makes them small, which is very closely related to a smallness gene that is found in Middle Eastern wolves. One subspecies of Middle Eastern wolf, the Arabian wolf (C. l. arabs) is often quite small, sometimes weighing only 25 pounds.

As I noted earlier in this post, no one has found any genetic markers or genes from other species in domestic dogs, and what’s more, they’d have to come from species with which dogs can interbreed.  Dogs cannot interbreed with any kind of fox in the genus Vulpes.  If arctic and red foxes produce only sterile offspring when hybridized, the chances of them ever being able to breed with anything as distantly related as a dog have to be a zero percent.

Then comes Phoebe. Phoebe tries to through God at me.

Phoebe appears to be functionally illiterate. The study I quoted came out in 2010, not 1993.

There are no proven facts that Chihuahuas are derived from anything other than wolves. All the evidence shows they are toy dogs, and at least with AKC Chihuahuas, they are primarily derived from European dogs.

The origin and ancestry of Chihuahuas is not a theological question. It is not a matter of belief or opinion. It is a hypothesis that we can test empirically. And when we test these hypotheses, their results are not determined by the belief of the majority.

If the majority of Chihuahua owners think their dogs are derived from fennec foxes, this does not make them correct.

If the evidence shows them to be derived from wolves, then the majority Chihuahua owners are wrong.

And then there is Cindy, who just quotes some website. Everything on the internet is true, right?

Yeah. That website totally falsifies all the peer-reviewed papers that show that Chihuahuas are derived from wolves!

But the final one is the best one!

Murray Richardson seems to think lots of bizarre things about dog taxonomy!

Almost everything he claims to be fact in that comment is false.

Chihuahuas have unusual teeth because they are brachycephalic. They don’t have rooms in their mouths for all their teeth. They would have normal dog dentition if they had normal mouths. Strike one!

Chihuahuas and all dogs have round pupils, as do wolves. Vulpine foxes, like fennec foxes, have cat-like pupils. Swing and a miss!

No North American wild fox has any dog DNA. That “fact” was entirely rectally derived. Strike three! You’re out!

And Chihuahuas don’t need to drink water? WTF?!

When was the last time anyone crossed a fennec with a maltese?  I don’t know, but people do keep fennecs and dogs togehter. Fennecs are a relatively common exotic pet in the United States. I’ve never heard of any crossbreeding or if dogs even respond to a fennec vixen in heat. Domestic dogs don’t respond to red foxes in heat, so why would they respond to the fennec?

I hoped that Murray Richardson was just pulling my leg.

But I was wrong.

Because he came back with this canard.

Facepalm.

Murray seems to believe that all wolves are very large animals, probably because the only ones he’s seen on TV have been of the several subspecies that are native to Canada, Alaska, and parts of the Northern US.

There actually are wolves that are much smaller than these rather famous subspecies. Arabian wolves, which have a similar smallness gene to small domestic dogs, aren’t like these animals at all. A 25-pound wolf can easily become a 3-pound Chihuahua through selective breeding.

After all, we’ve bred tiny horses through selective breeding, along with very small pigs. I don’t know of anyone making claims that these little animals have to have been derived from different ancestors.

Why can’t selective breeding produce super-small dogs?

I wonder what it is about Chihuahuas that makes people believe something so patently absurd.

But I think the unfortunate thing is that so many experts have given license to this nonsense.

Charles Darwin thought that several species begat the dog.

Charles Darwin lived long before we looked at DNA or even knew what it was.

He didn’t know everything.

He was not a religious prophet.

He was a scientist who was constrained to his time and place.

Konrad Lorenz also believed that most dogs were derived from jackals (which he called “aureus dogs”) and that others were derived from wolves (“lupus dogs.”)  He later dropped all of this nonsense after listening to the vocalizations of dogs, wolves, and golden jackals.

But by then, he’d already written several books in which he had posited this theory, and it had already been accepted by so many people that one can still run into people who will parrot this lupus and aureus dog dichotomy.

In the end, I think people still have a hard time accepting that dogs are derived from wolves.

Wolves are the only large predator that we have managed to domesticate.

It’s the only domestic animal that is derived from an ancestor that has occasionally considered humans to be prey.

Paradoxically, it’s also the domestic animal with which we have the most intimate relationships. Even cats don’t open themselves up to us in the profound ways dogs do.

How can we have an intimate relationship with an animal whose wild ancestors occasionally hunted humans?

That’s the cognitive block that keeps people from accepting the lupine origins of domestic dogs.

For much of human history, killing off wolves was seen as a great service to civilization.

It’s only been in the last 40 years that we’ve changed our views about wolves.

At the same time, breeding and training dogs that are useful for humanity has also been considered useful for civilization.

Accepting that the useful dog is derived from the much-maligned wolf is really quite difficult.

And that’s a major reason why people have such a hard time accepting that the wolf is ancestor of  rhe dog.

The other reason– and the one I think is driving these Chihuahua loons– is that owners of a particular dog breed like to believe that their dogs are super special.

Nothing makes them more super special than to say they derive from an entirely different wild ancestor than other dogs.

It becomes almost a theological discussion when trying to convince them of their error.

These sorts of theories and postulates should be severely ridiculed and debunked when one comes across them.

They are as bad as any kind of creationism, and they prevent any sort of rational discussion about what a dog actually is.

These theories are just mythology.

And there are already too many myths about dogs and what they are floating around.

These particular myths are relatively harmless, but accepting these really poorly thought-out theories means that one might be willing to accept ones that do result in lots of harm to the welfare of the animal.

The notion that Chihuahuas don’t need water because they are derived from fennec foxes really would have a welfare consequence.

I can just see all these Chihuahuas dying of hyperthermia or dehydration because their owners buy into that particular cock-and-bull story.

Facts are stubborn.

And just because you believe a falsehood with a lot of fervor doesn’t mean that it stops being a falsehood.

It just means you like to be wrong with a lot of fervor.

And you look like a fool!

 

 

 

 

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Only $6,000!

It is a known fact that all chihuahuas derive from fennec foxes, but this one is part gray alien.

Just like the Starchild! It has alien DNA!

***

All the above was sarcasm. Except for the price of the dog, every single word above is false.

Here is the truth about the Starchild.

Here’s the truth about chihuahuas and fennec foxes.

There are some absolute fools who come on this post on semi-regular basis with so-called “evidence” to prove me wrong. It’s quite entertaining what some people want to believe about chihuahuas.

They are no more fennec fox than they are gray alien.

But that’s what I, a self-proclaimed defender of orthodoxy, want you to believe.

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Good question!

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The chihuahua and the banana

Paris should enjoy her little fashion accessories while she can. They only exist in their current form because of a lot of human intervention. And with each generation, more intervention is necessary.

At Borderwars.

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Several years ago, Paris Hilton helped start a craze for Chihuahuas. Chihuahuas now swamp California's shelters.

Every couple of years, a new fad pet pops up. You never know what it is going to be, but all of a sudden, you see celebrities with some kind of unusual animal and then you see average people spending exorbitant sums for these creatures. Then, almost predictably, the shelters and sanctuaries start to fill up with these animals. Reality sets in, and their fickle and often ill-informed owners dump them.

This week it was reported that the Chihuahuas are now overrunning California’s shelters. It is actually pretty easy to see why.

In recent years, the Chihuahua has been the fad pet of so many celebrities, not the least of which is Paris Hilton.

“High volume” breeders began to produce as many Chihuahuas as possible, often breeding the smallest and most sickly animals they could find in order to produce dogs that could fit in handbags. (Of course, it’s actually quite hard to mass produce the smallest Chihuahuas, because it is very hard for them to give birth.)

I remember going on youtube and looking at videos of tiny Chihuahua puppies. Their parents were not present in the photos, so one can only assume that they were enjoying their lives as battery-cage breeding stock.

Of course, Chihuahuas have a major fault. It is not that they are all sickly and neurotic and aggressive.

It is that they aren’t treated like the dogs they are. They are more likely treated as babies or fashion accessories, and this treatment turns them into demons.

And as the Chihuahua fad has begun to wane, the dogs that were treated in such a fashion have now matured into two or three year-old maneaters (if Chihuahuas were big enough to become maneaters).

And thus, they have been sent to the shelters.

It’s very sad that so many people want the pets that their favorite celebrities have.

I always thought Paris Hilton was an example of a bad role model.

And in the case of dogs, she definitely is!

***

A few years ago, Paris was into keeping animals that were illegal to keep in California. She had a ferret hanging around in hand bag.

Now ferrets are totally legal in most states in the US, but California does not allow them.

But they are not such unusual pets, so I doubt that she could have started a fad with that animal.

Then Paris upped the ante.

In 2005, she purchased a kinkajou, which she named “Baby Luv.” (A sickening name if you ask me.)

Kinkajous could have gone the way of the Chihuahuas. However, things didn’t turn out quite as well.

Despite the moronically cutesy name that Paris gave to this animal, Baby Luv still had enough of her wild instincts left.

In 2006, Baby Luv bit Paris, and Paris had to go to the emergency room for a tetanus shot.

I had read in several places that California authorities confiscated Paris’s kinkajou. Some of these sources claimed that a kinkajou was a pet monkey. Kinkajous are actually procyonids (the raccoon family.) They have prehensile tails that are very similar to those of many New World monkeys. In some parts of Latin America they are called “monos de noche” (night monkeys), but they are not monkeys at all.

In fact, there are only two members of the order Carnivora that have prehensile tails. The other is the binturong or bear cat, which a type of civet that is also known for smelling like popcorn. No one would mistake this animal for a monkey, and Paris would have hard time putting one into a handbag, which might explain why they have never become fad pets.

Of course, Kinkajous didn’t become fad pets either,  thanks to Baby Luv’s little nip!  Kinkajous are docile animals most of the time, but they hate being woken up in the middle of the day (a trait it would share with Paris). If given free run of the house, they have been known to come into bedrooms and attack people while they sleep. They also cannot be house broken. Kinkajous live in trees, so they just let it rip where ever they are.

I honestly cannot see why anyone would want one as a pet.

***

Now that the Chihuahua fad has started to subside (and the consequences of such buffoonery are coming to the fore), a new handbag creature has suddenly appeared.

We have left the Order Carnivora entirely.

Now it is the Order Erinaceomorpha.

The latest handbag accessory creature is the hedgehog. (And you thought I was talking about moonrats, which are also Erinaceomorphs.)

Now, there are no hedgehogs native to the Americas.

However, in the mid-90’s, pet shops began offering what were called African pygmy hedgehogs. These hedgehogs descended from two interfertile species of African hedgehog and are not technically a true species. They are derived from the four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris), which is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Algerian hedgehog (Atelerix algirus), which is native to North Africa but is also found in Spain, France, and the Canary Islands, where it was introduced.

Now, these hedgehogs are not terrible pets, but they do have specific requirements. They need large cages in which they can move around, and for a small animal they require lots of exercise. They also have very specific dietary needs, which must be low in fat and high in protein. They also must of chitin in their diets, which they obtain in the wild from the exoskeltons of arthropods.

They also have a host of genetic diseases, which may come from either inbreeding or genetic issues that result from their hybrid ancestry. They are well-known to have various forms of cancer, but they also have a disorder called wobbly hedgehog syndrome, which is thought to be a genetic neurological disorder.

They also have to be kept at a temperature above 70 degrees Fahrenheit or they will hibernate, and as nocturnal animals, they are most active at night.

Is this an animal that belongs in a handbag?

Most certainly not.

And my guess is it won’t be long before the shelters start to fill up with hedgehogs.

***

America has a long history with fad pets. In the 80’s, it was the pot-bellied pig and llama, both of which are domestic animals but have very specific requirements. In the 70’s, it was the ocelot that everyone had to have. In the 60’s,  everyone wanted to keep a big cat (so lots of fools bought leopards, cougars, cheetahs, and even lions and tigers, which then wound up released into the countryside.)

And one cannot forget the fads in domestic dogs. In the nineteenth century, the Newfoundland dog was hawked by every dog dealer on the street. Then bull terriers and collies became the dogs that every middle class family wanted. Today, the bulldog and the aforementioned Chihuahua have experienced an uptick in popularity.

And then I haven’t even mentioned breeds that have been in the AKC’s top ten in registrations for decades, like the German shepherd, the poodle, the Labrador, the beagle, and the golden and Labrador retrievers. These animals seem to get no break at all from a constant fad breeding and mass production.

I think it is time for all of us who care about animals to say no to fads. Not every breed or species is for everyone, and no one should get animal that is illegal to keep in the first place or has specific care requirements that the prospective owner doesn’t know about, is incapable of providing, or simply refuses to provide.

It should also be noted that one should probably should not consider an animal that either considers humans to be prey or possesses lethal venom. Those animals are a bit risky.

Of course, keeping such animals does help thin out the human gene pool.

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little white dog

The little white dog in the photo from yesterday was a toy bull terrier. It was very similar to the English white terrier, which is one of its ancestors.

I actually have hard time telling these extinct dogs apart. The only reason why this dog isn’t an English white terrier is that the English white terrier apparently was  either very rare at this time or already extinct (the last record of the breed was in 1894). This particular dog comes from a book by W.E. Mason called Dogs of All Nations. Mason has no photographs of either toy or standard English whites, and only claims that the both breeds are very similar to the Manchester (English black and tan) terrier, which is an accurate description. Both were the result of breeding whippets or Italian greyhounds to terriers.

Here’s an English white terrier from around 1890:

English white terrier, circa 1890.

They were popular house pets and occasionally used for ratting. However, the English white dogs became almost universally deaf. The white color that they have is associated with deafness, and in that breed’s standard, no colored markings were allowed.  Eventually, the public stopped buying them and breeding them. The Manchesters still exist in much more limited form today, although I’ve seen several rat terriers that very obviously show their Manchester terrier ancestry. I knew of one that looked exactly like a toy Manchester, and she was a working squirrel dog.

Still, I must admit that I have a hard time  telling photos of toy bull terriers and English white terriers apart. They are close relatives. The big bull terrier was derived from crossing a bull terrier with a bulldog, and this smaller dog looks like a cross between the English toy white terrier, which weighed less than 6 pounds, with the smaller versions of the bull terrier breed.

The toy bull terrier also went extinct. I should note here that the miniature bull terrier is not the same breed as this dog. The miniature bull terrier is simply a smaller version of the modern bull terrier. It looks like a 20-35  bull terrier.

***

Now I’m going to show you something interesting.

What would you call these dogs?

Toy Bull terriers

How many of you said “Chihuahua”?

Well, these dogs were not Chihuahuas.

They were also toy bull terriers.

This photo comes from Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia 1910-1912.

Now, the fact that these dogs look a lot like Chihuahuas probably isn’t a coincidence.

I have a hard time believing that the Meso-American dogs were originally as small as the modern dog we call a Chihuahua.

The apple heads and moleras that so define the Chihuahua breed most likely come from cross-breeding with toy bull terrier and toy English white terriers. Considering how common these terriers were in the late nineteenth century in the fancy, it would make sense that Chihuahua breeders would have crossed them with their dogs to “improve them.” The toy English white terrier was as small as the modern Chihuahua, weighing less than 6 pounds, and it would have been a useful outcross to reduce size.

 

 

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