Posts Tagged ‘University of Georgia’

russ the uga

This bulldog is a mascot for the University of Georgia’s football team.

Anyone who knows anything about bulldogs knows why this dog, which “Russ,” also known as “Uga IX,” is sitting on a bag of ice. Bulldogs cannot cool themselves properly, and Georgia is in America’s humid subtropical belt. That means it gets quite hot and humid right through much of football season.

It’s not the best place for a dog with such deformed respiratory and cooling, which, as I noted in my pug post, are actually the same system.

Russ was given a “battlefield promotion” when Uga VII died of lymphona when he was about year old. Uga VIII’s tenure followed the very short life of Uga VII, who died of heart failure before reaching a year of age.

This breed does not have a very good track record at all. It’s one of the least hardy dog breeds you can find, which is why it is so expensive to insure. The dogs have a legendary toughness that has largely been bred out of them through breeding them to what is clearly one of the most absurd breed standards in the entire dog fancy. These dogs were messed up over a hundred years ago– after only about twenty years of being bred solely for the show ring– and one particularly “typey” specimen couldn’t even win a walking race.

Is this the symbol the University of Georgia wants for its football team? A dog that can’t even walk two miles?

And it’s not like Georgia doesn’t have its own native bulldogs. There is the Alapaha, which is often merle,  and there is the so-called “white English bulldog,” which might be better called the “Old Southern white bulldog.”  Of course, they don’t look like the Ugas, but these dogs were bred to do something in places like Georgia. They were all-around farm dogs, hog-catchers, and guardians. These dogs likely barked and snarled their warnings as Sherman’s troops marched through their owners’ lands on their way to the sea.

But the tradition at the University of Georgia is to use this particular type of bulldog.  They are always owned by the man who started the tradition, a prominent Georgia lawyer named Sonny Seiler. Seiler donated the first Uga to the team in 1956, and as of 2011, he had no interest in changing the bulldog at all. He told a writer for the New York Times Magazine: “Change this dog too much, and it won’t look like a bulldog anymore…. Besides, Uga gets the best veterinary care, and we do everything to keep him safe. These dogs have a good life.”

And this is precisely the problem. The dogs may be cared for amazingly well. They may have the best vets in all of Georgia at their beck and call.

But it is questionable how good a life these dogs actually leave. Remember, that extreme brachycephaly is associated with problems breathing and cooling.  Bulldogs often never know what it’s like to be fully oxygenated. If you’ve ever struggle to breathe, it’s not a fun experience, but bulldogs go through it their entire lives.

So you may have an animal that is well cared-for, but it’s life is pretty miserable.

It can’t tell you that it’s miserable, and because dogs are stoic, it will put up with all the misery that has been inflicted upon by human stupidity.

The nineteenth century dog fancier Rawdon Lee called the bulldog a “burlesque” of a national symbol. The bulldog of the University of Georgia is also surely a burlesque.

But in the South, football is a religion– much more so than even the dog fancy, and it is very unlikely that this mascot will change.

They’ll just have to change them ever couple of years as they die from conditions that normally don’t befall normal dogs until they are least ten.

It’s kind of pathetic and sad in a way.

I readily admit that I don’t really understand football, but I don’t get is how people can get so wrapped up into symbolism that they cannot think for a minute about what their symbol actually is.

This bulldog is an import– developed solely by the British dog fancy and sold to people with more money than good sense.

America– especially the South and Georgia in particular– have a very strong tradition of bulldogs. Bulldog and bulldog-terrier types were once common in every little town and every little farm and plantation. These were hardy, sagacious animals that made life in the subtropics endurable. You can’t control half-wild range hogs with with a collie, unless you want a dead collie.

Football is supposed to be a celebration of toughness and a distinct American-ness that surely could be better exemplified with a true Georgia bulldog.

But that’s trying to make logic out of the illogical.

Modern football traditions are all that matter.

Animal welfare and common sense be damned.

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We all know that the people of Georgia celebrate their traditions and heritage as much as they love their football.

Among those traditions is Uga, the bulldog mascot of the University of Georgia. All of these dogs have been AKC-type “English” bulldogs, the ones that often appear in critiques of purebred dogs, usually because these dogs have a plethora of health conditions that typically come from their unique conformation.

All of these facts came to a head when Uga VII died Thursday morning at the age of 4. He unexpectedly died of a heart condition, and his owner said the dog wasn’t all that active compared to other bulldogs. Gina Spadafori at Pet Connection correctly suggests that lots of reforms have to be made to make a “less extreme” bulldog that can live a good long life (and also links to a post of mine that has a video of David Hancock’s analysis of historical bulldog conformation).

I think those reforms should be made, but I have another proposal.

The bulldog mascots are all what are called English bulldogs, as in they were developed solely in the United Kingdom.

However, Georgia already has a native bulldog, and it is also a less extreme version that looks a lot like the old-strain of bulldogs in the video.

In the American South, the bulldog was able to exist almost exactly as it did in England. The large plantations and wilderness farms required good catch dogs for moving and controlling livestock.

Virtually every part of the South had its own peculiar form of this dog. Today, these animals have been standardized into several breeds, including the relatively well-known American bulldog.

However, in the Alapaha region of South Georgia, a unique strain of the old-type bulldog has been preserved. The Lane family of Rebecca, Georgia, collected preserved this strain of bulldog, which they were afraid was becoming extinct.

The breed has since been called the Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog, and it is very clearly an example of the old bulldog strain.

They are apparently healthier than the typical English bulldog, even though they are larger.  According to the various sites I’ve looked at, the life expectancy is 12-15 years.  According the best analysis of English bulldog longevity, the average lifespan for that breed is a little over 6 years.

Now, an Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog is a larger animal than an English bulldog, and they do have a somewhat sharper edge that one can expect from these type of bulldogs.

But it would be a great statement if the University of Georgia would choose one of these dogs to be the next Uga.

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