Posts Tagged ‘dogue de bordeaux’

Photo by Marlies Kloet

Photo by Marlies Kloet

On the Pedigree Dogs Exposed Facebook group, debate is very common, and things have heated up in the aftermath of Crufts.  So many controversies are going on with Crufts this year, but one of them that has me curious is one involving the issue of breed standards.

Last week, rancorous debate ensued when it was suggested that the golden retriever that won the breed at Crufts was overweight. I don’t have an opinion about the weight of the dog, but I was curious about why golden retrievers in Europe are so divided between show and working types.

The answer I was given was that golden retrievers in Europe were just pets, and it didn’t matter if they were built for the purpose or not.

Earlier I had posted an image of a golden retriever winner at Crufts in 1927, and I asked why they were okay with breed changing so much.

The answer I received was that the breed should just be allowed to evolve.

Both of these answers are problematic.

Everyone who gets interested in dogs learns that dog shows and breed standards were developed to preserve the breed, but if conformation is allowed to slide just because the dogs aren’t used anymore or are allowed to “evolve” based upon fashion, then how can anyone say that dog shows have anything to do with preserving the breed?

I got no answers to that question.

This evening things have taken an even more bizarre turn when the issues turned to those surrounding the tendency to breed for extreme type in conformation with dogues de Bordeaux. On my group, it was asked why dogues de Bordeaux were being bred to look like giant red English bulldogs, and it just so happens that we have video of the author of the FCI standard for that breed excoriating breeders for producing such extreme dogs.

So if the even ideas of the people who helped standardize the breed don’t matter, then the entire edifice of the dog show is pretty tenuous.

It ultimately comes down to people will breed whatever they like, just so long as the judges award them with prizes. Judging requires understanding the standard, but much of the standard is like scripture– quite open to interpretation.

If all it comes down to is what wins in the ring, then this appears to be one of the worst ways of selecting breeding stock. Breed type and what wins in the ring become self-fulfilling prophecies rather than objective ways of evaluating dogs.

I assumed that some of this was going on all along, but I did not expect it be articulated to me in such a way.

It is rather quite distressing.

And yes, people do use golden retrievers in Europe, but it is now all but impossible to have a dual purpose dog in the breed now.

And people still do breed dogues de Bordeaux that look and move soundly.

It is just that dog shows and breed standards aren’t what they are portrayed to be. They are not the final word on a dog’s quality.

I think it may be long past time for the pretense to be dropped entirely.






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This is an interview of  the author of the FCI/French dogue de Bordeaux standard, and he has a lot of interesting things to say. He thinks the dogue should join the AKC, so the American dogs will be able to be used in international bloodlines. But he’s worried that AKC recognition could “change the dog.”  He’s very concerned that people will breed for a larger size and poor head and body structure if the dog becomes AKC.  (In case you were wondering, the dogue de Bordeaux has since joined the AKC.).

Part I:


Part II:


These questions are important for any critics of the institutionalized dog fancy.

You may have issues with it, but if you want your dogs to contribute to the future and to international lines, you almost have to go along with the nonsense.


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If you don’t believe me, listen to this interview of a well-known French Dogue de Bordeaux expert– who wrote the breed standard that is used for the FCI. There is so much discussion of the specifics of what this animal is supposed to look like that you wonder if he’s talking about a biological entity or something that one would mold from a lump of clay:


Link to Part II.

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This painting is by the French artist Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755).

The dogs appear to be forerunners of the dogue de Bordeaux, which once came in a great many more colors, including brindle.

The wild boar piglets are clearly striped, as all wild boars are when they are first born.

Thanks to Nara Uusihanni for passing this one on.


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Dogue down

Yesterday, a Dogue de Bordeaux named Marley collapsed on her way out of arena at Crufts.

She died shortly thereafter.  The diagnosis was laryngeal paralysis, something you might have heard about on this blog. (Miley no longer has any paralysis of any sort.)

Of course,  this disorder can affect virtually any breed at any time.

One cannot blame this on breeding or anything else.

It just happens.

So please don’t use this story to attack the problems of dog shows.

It is not intellectually honest.

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One of my favorite dog movies is Turner & Hooch.  It’s not a particularly good Tom Hanks movie, but it’s a pretty good dog movie.

The dog who played Hooch was actually named Beasley.

Beasley was a Dogue de Bordeaux, but when I first saw it, I thought he was a pit bull.

When I later learned about this breed from advertisements in Dog World, I realized that this film had essentially put this breed on the map in North America.

Now, as I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been looking at dog longevity quite a bit. I often reference this site on dog longevity, and based upon the e the average lifespan for this breed is 5.21 years.

Beasley doesn’t look very old in the movie, but because he never appeared in any other films, I just assumed he died at an early age.

Well, I was wrong on both accounts.

It turns out that Beasley was about ten years old when this film was made, and he died at the age of 13!

Talk about an outlier!

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This British Dogue's name was Sans Peur ("Without Fear").

The Dogue de Bordeaux only became somewhat popular in the English speaking world after one starred in the film Turner and Hooch.

The dog above was imported to Britain by H.C. Brooke in the late 1890’s. As you can see, he looks very much like a modern Dogue de Bordeaux, just with cropped ears.

However, if he were to make an appearance today, I’m sure that people would be asking “Is that a rednose pit bull?” And after hearing the answer, they’d tell their friends “I just seen the biggest rednose pit ever!”

W.D. Drury wrote about the Dogue in his British Dogs, Their Points, Selection, And Show Preparation (1903):

Of comparatively recent introduction from abroad, the Dogue de Bordeaux, or Dogue of the South of France, as it is more familiarly called, is one of the few varieties that have not taken a hold in this country. Any popularity that it might have attained was endangered at the outset by the edict that went forth against cropping. Indeed, those who championed its cause here suggest that it was the abolition of cropping that was mainly responsible for its fate here (pg. 401).

When dogs are cropped, breeders do not select for a particular ear carriage. In Europe, dobermanns have nice floppy ears that have a particular set and carriage. In America, where the dogs must be cropped to be shown, the AKC standard does not  even describe what an uncropped ear should look like. Ear-cropping was banned in the UK in the 1890s, and this caused certain amount of trouble for many terrier breeds that were traditionally cropped. Creating a definite ear carriage was very difficult to do, when the dogs always had them cut off. There were no selection pressures for correct or uniform ear type, and this might explain why nonstandard Jack Russells have so many different ear carriages. Nonstandard JRT’s came from ancestors that were cropped, and no one really tried to select for an ear carriage or type after the ban was enacted.

The Dogue is similar to the bullmastiff breed, which may have been one reason why they shunned in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Why go for the French version, when one has a very similar dog  in the home country?

However, in the 1890’s, this breed could have become quite popular in Britain. As soon as cropping was banned, all interest in the Dogue dried up. This fact tells us that the breed was never meant to be a working dog of any sort in the UK. It was meant to be a show dog.

Dogues became modestly popular in the US after Turner and Hooch came out. I remember seeing dozens of ads for them in different dog publications.

However, it wasn’t until 2008 that this breed was recognized by the AKC.

By then, the breed had already developed a uniform ear carriage and type. As cropping loses its importance and legality throughout the world, many breeds are going to have a hard time adjusting.

It is amazing how much cropping prevents people from selecting for a particular ear.  It only becomes evident when those traditionally cropped breeds have their ears left intact.








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