Advertisements
Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘whippet’

Wow. What a find on my lawn!anka bat-eared fox zoom

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

dead groundhog zoom

The lawn is mowed and manicured. The only grass that rises from the soil is that lush green kind that the herbivores crave.

For over twenty years, the lawn has been mowed and the soil has brought forth this bounty. And the highways churn away on both sides of the land, and the only predators that stalk its grounds are the black feral cats that slink around property’s edge.

It is a paradise for the Monax. They are a grass-eating people who find such grounds beyond perfection. All day, they rise from the old huts in the back and undulate their fat forms on the lawn. Their rodent teeth crop at the grass. The sun shines upon their forms, and in winter, when the time of hibernation comes, they sleep soundly through the snow squalls and hard freezes, and in spring, they trundle out with their little ones.

And for these two decades, they have raise their young in this verdant land of plenty.

But one day, a change came wafting in on the late spring breezes. A good, hard rain had fallen, and the evening sun was casting its glow upon the green grass.

Any of the Monax worth their salt as grass croppers decided to wander out. This was the time to graze and grow some fat on that thick, green grass.

A soft breeze was in the air. Wind chimes some yards distant were clanging about.  The cars on the highway were motoring on and on.

But in the air came the softest jingle, and the Monax didn’t know what to think of the sound. It was eerily soft, and then it would fall still. Then the sound would rise again, and the tempo would increase.

Then came the sound of running feet on the grassy ground, which matched the cadence of the jingle sound almost perfectly.

And then it came upon them, that running, whirring whiteness. It was a beast of prey, but one they had not seen before. And the Monax raced away on their stumpy legs and sowbellies.

They dived for their holes among the wood huts and along the edge of the woodland. They had never before experienced such terror before. After all, the Monax came to this land because there were no coyotes or foxes to molest them here, but now, their land had been taken over by the Great Running White Fox, who nearly hourly cast running sorties across the grounds.

But the message was not well-received among the Monax. Impetuous youth caused the young males to wander out onto the lawn in midday, testing their luck against the jingling and running whirs of death.

For nearly a week, this coterie of the young came to out into the mid-lawn, and several times, a day the Great Running White Fox was descend upon them, running hard and casting his fell jaws at at their fatty hides.

One day, a young male got the fright of his life when the beast of death ran him down, but the predator had never before killed such a creature and so was left filling the air with some wild barks while the Monax youth rose on its hindlegs and showed its teeth.

And that display was enough to make the Great Running White Fox back down.

But that would not stop the sorties, but it would not stop the bravado of youth either. It was as if both sides were unaware of what the other could do, and they were now testing the waters to see how far it all could go.

And not two days passed, when a young Monax heard the jingle, jingle and the running of feet, and decided not to run until the beast was upon him.

This time, the Great Running White Fox grabbed the young Monax and shook it violently in its jaws. On this foray, a yellow dog had come along for the sortie, but all she did was bark wildly at the Monax youth that stood to watch in horror as their comrade was shaken to death.

And so the first Monax in two decades had died at the jaws of a predator. In this case, it was a running dog, a cream and white whippet, a beast brought over from England and supremely adapted to the runs against the rabbit and the hare. The short legs of the Monax were no match for long legs of the dog.

From then on, the Monax knew to live in fear. They crept about the lawn only with great caution, for now they knew the real world of predation. They were prey, and the predator could come at any moment.

This is the way the Monax live where there are only forests and fields. The coyotes and the foxes and the farm dogs all take their toll upon the Monax. The .17 rifles take out the Monax as well.

It is only in these odd anomalies that we call “development” that predator-free paradises can exist, but they are anomalies that barely register in the history of life on this planet. Where there is vegetation, there are grazers and browsers, and where there are grazers and browsers, there are fanged beasts of prey to hunt them.

The introduction of the whippet to this artificial grassland made it oddly more wild  With a domesticated killer to run the domesticated landscape, there was a sort ecological balance provided to the waves of grass.

But it an ersatz ecology to an ersatz landscape. It is only made slightly more complete with the whippet’s running feet.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

sartorius small greyhound

As a result of my recent experiences with a whippet, I’ve been thinking a lot about how a breed can evolve such a strong bond with its special human.

Some of this strong social bond has some roots in their origins as sighthounds. Most sighthound breeds are somewhat more primitive in their development compared to more derived breeds.

With whippets, though, this devotion to just a select handful of people borders on separation anxiety.

It seems that the evolution of this trait has to do with the development of the whippet as a commoner’s dog.  The origins of the whippet come from the larger greyhound, which have been bred in the British Isles for centuries for the pursuit of deer and hares.  Coursing was mostly a pursuit of the wealthy, especially in the Middle Ages, but within greyhound kennels, there would be born smaller individuals that obviously could not handle a deer.

So these dogs were either killed or given to the commoners. Commoners had to have their dogs “expeditated” to prevent the dogs from bothering deer. This procedure involved cutting off two of the toes on the front feet, so the dog could not run a deer at all.

The commoners had an incentive to breed for smaller size. Smaller dogs eat less food, and a smaller dog would not get the attention of authorities that might lead to a dog being confiscated.

Further, there was a selection pressure placed upon a commoner’s greyhound that would select for dogs with a stronger tendency to bond to one owner or family. Dogs that wandered in the forests would be killed, but dogs that stayed at home had a much stronger tendency to pass on their genes.

As time progressed and the poaching became a way of survival in much of rural England, the need for a dog intensely bonded to its owner became even more of a necessity.  Any dog that ran off and got lost would either be killed by the gamekeeper or offed by the fierce “night dogs” or mastiffs that would be patrolling the estates.

So the evolution of the whippet as a commoner’s greyhound forced the breed to evolve a tendency to bond to just a handful of people.

Now, these thoughts could be entirely wrong, but breed temperament often follows its history. The super social temperament of golden and Labrador retrievers has to do with their use as retrievers on shoots where lots of strange people would be wandering about.  Livestock guardians have been selected for a very strong distrust of strange dogs, while pack hounds have been selected for super tolerance of other dogs living near them.

So it is very possible that the whippet’s strong devotion to just a select few people has to do with its evolution as a breed among the working class of England.

 

Read Full Post »

Meeting a whippet

 

zoom whippet

My experience with sighthounds is limited.  There really isn’t much of a culture of them in my part of the country, except that we do have greyhound racing.

But I spent last week helping a friend of mine move from Florida to Ohio, and among the creatures I spent time with during this adventure was a whippet named Zoom.

The extent of my knowledge on whippets goes as follows:

They are extensively used for racing in parts of Northern England, and I associate them heavily with the actor Robert Hardy. Most people associate him with Cornelius Fudge from the Harry Potter series, but to me he will always be Siegfried Farnon, the senior partner of James Herriot’s semi-fictional Yorkshire veterinary practice. Hardy’s character was always wearing a green cap and walking with a whippet. I did not know when I saw the series that the whippet in the series was actually Hardy’s own personal dog named Christie.

I’ve see footage whippets assisting in ferreting, catching runaways that bolted from the warrens and didn’t get caught in the nets, and I’ve seen footage of them ratting like terriers.

And that’s what I knew about whippets.

I didn’t know exactly what devoted creatures they are.  Zoom has one concern in life, and that concern is the well-being of his human. If she is sad, he trying to make her feel better. If she is happy, he is charming and playful.

These dogs have very small “circles of trust.” They just don’t run off with anyone, but within just a few days, Zoom included me in his circle. He even slept with me a few nights, and when I went into a Walmart alone and he and his human were forced to wait on me, he kept examining every male human coming out of the store.

The only other dogs I’ve been around that have this sort of devotion are terriers and dachshunds, but unlike those breeds, he’s totally docile. He does not snap at strangers. He doesn’t enjoy a good fight with another dog.

He’s a just a devoted English country squire of a dog, a special creature, always thinking and feeling. He is a sort of quiet intellectual that gives his devotion to few, but once he has given it, he is truly a truly friend.

He stands like a fine piece of art, which he can fold into the cushions and the background, but then he can launch those muscles into a speed approaching 30 miles per hour.

He is truly a special being.

He’s certainly won me over.

I now know the whippet, and I can see why Robert Hardy loved them so.

 

 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: