Posts Tagged ‘dog conformation’

Chow-types in Hong Kong

Here’s a video that features some chow-type dogs in Hong Kong. These are the smooth coated version, which makes sense for Hong Kong’s climate. Ignore the black and white puppy at the beginning of the video. The dogs I’m talking about are at the end.

From holewisym.

The chow dogs have definitely changed as they have been developed in the West.

There are two smooth chows in that photo that are a bit different from the dog in the video.

There are two smooth chows in that photo that are a bit different from the dog in the video.

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From the user MandyLionWWIII, who is very concerned about breeding dogs for healthy conformations.

See what happened to the golden retriever here.

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Breeding the smooth collie as a show dog has made it significantly dumber than the working collie from which it descends.

Breeding the smooth collie as a show dog has made it significantly dumber than the working collie from which it descends.

A report just came out of Stockholm University. The author, Kenth Svartberg, writes that a study of purebred dogs finds that dogs specifically bred for the show have significantly reduced working ability when compared to dogs that have been bred for working ability.

The Telegraph, of course, uses the words “intelligence” and “stupidity.” I’ll use them only with this caveat: we don’t understand intelligence in our own species, so how do we think we can divine the intelligence of an animal? This is a nebulous term, which explains why most ethologists and psychologists avoid using the term. The authors merely are looking at sociability and curiosity as traits to determine intelligence.

However, the Swedish researchers explored 13,000 dog in 31 breeds, dividing them into those that were bred for appearance and those that had been bred for function (at least to a certain extent.) They were comparing the breeds based upon curiosity and sociability, which are all important traits for any working dog.

Those dogs that were bred for the show had much lower levels of curiosity and sociability. Both of these traits are associated with our projection of canine intelligence.

The author of the study thinks that there might be a genetic linkage between breeding for the show and higher levels of fear and introversion.  That sounds interesting. It has to be a bit more complex than that, though, because there are lots of genes that make a dog “pretty.” And what makes one breed pretty is pretty unique to that dog.

The two breeds with the lowest levels of sociability and curiosity are the Rhodesian Ridgeback and the Smooth collie, which is a separate breed in the UK and the FCI countries.

I don’t know how one would compare these dogs to their working forms, because I don’t know if anyone hunts lions with ridgebacks. I’ve never seen a show smooth collie herd anything, and if it did, I’m sure it wouldn’t be as useful as a BC or an English or Australian shepherd.

The comparison study I’d like to see is a comparison of field line goldens versus the European show lines. I’m sure there will be vast differences between the two. My experience tells me that the two might as well be regarded as separate breeds.


Psychology Today’s blog has some issues with the sensationalized story that appeared in The Telegraph.

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The Neapolitan mastiff is a molosser breed from Southern Italy.

It was essentially saved by the author and journalist Piero Scanziani, who rediscovered this breed after World War II.

The dog is supposedly the ancient gladiator dog of Rome, fighting witht Roman legions and in the Colosseum. This dog supposedly descends from the Ancient Greek Molossus dog and the Pugnaces Brittanae, the mastiff of the Britons, supposedly also the ancestor of the bulldog, the mastiff, and the bullmastiff.

In reality, this dog may or may not have these dogs in its ancestry. It is the mastiff of the southern Italian estate owner. It probably has dogs of that ancient type in its background, but it also has other mastiffs crossed in.

The breed made it to the US in the 1970’s, where it was sold as an Italian bulldog.

The founding individuals of the breed that were found in Italy were not as massive or exaggerated as the modern dog.


As this breed developed into a show dog, it was developed into a massive mastiff. The dewlaps and flews became heavier.  The haws became more exposed.

As a result of breeding for these characteristics the breed has a pethora of genetic problems or health problems caused by its conformation. It lives 7 to 9 years on average (about as long as rabbit).

The breed is susceptable to cancer, which is not unknown in big dogs. You cannot name me a molosser breed, other than some of the livestock guardian breeds, that is not known for devloping cancer. Maybe breeding for that flattened face is also trapping in some cancer genes.

Hip and elbow displasia are the result of the massive frame. Entropion and ectropion affect the eyes, along with tendency to develop cherry eye. These are the result of breeding for such exposed eyes, and putt so much skin and weight around them.

Skin infections and a tendency to develop demodex mange around the skin folds is the result of breeding for such deep skin folds.

Caridomyopathy is not unknown.

Hypothydroidism plagues the breed. In fact, I will go so far as to say that the really “typey” Neos are almost always low thyroid. The big, blocky frame may be the result of thyroid issues, as I know it is with golden retrievers.

The dogs are often uncomfortable in the heat. Their flattened faces, giganatic frames, and dark coat color cause them to overheat realtively easily.

So are Neapolitan mastiffs healthy? Well, if we define healthy as a dog that can live 12 or 13 years (the average life expectancy) without major health problems or without major discomfort, then we have to say the Neapolitan mastiff is not a very healthy dog.

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This breed is really the most extreme example of what happens when the dog show fancy goes bizerk. It’s been bred as a show dog, though, ever since there were dog shows. It’s a breed that has been very much institutionalized by the fancy, and as a result, its entire gene pool is horribly messed up.

The original bulldog looked something like this dog, an American bulldog. This old type of bulldog was imported to the colonies of Georgia and North and South Carolina in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to help catch half-wild cattle and swine. Because the South became full of feral swine in the succeeding centuries, the original catch-type bulldog continued to exist there.


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