100 Years of Breed “Improvement”

The dogs on the left are from  the 1915 book, ‘Dogs of All Nations by W.E. Mason. The examples on the right are modern examples from multiple sources. To be able to make an honest comparison, the author has used pictures with similar poses and in a couple of cases flipped the picture to get them both aligned in the same direction. The author had to skip some breeds because of the lack of detail in the older photographs.

It seems incredible that at one time the Bull Terrier was a handsome, athletic dog. Somewhere along its journey to a mutated skull and thick abdomen the bull terrier also picked up a number of other maladies like supernumerary teeth and compulsive tail-chasing.

The Basset Hound has gotten lower, has suffered changes to its rear leg structure, has excessive skin, vertebra problems, droopy eyes prone to entropion and ectropion and excessively large ears.

A shorter face means a host of problems. The modern Boxer not only has a shorter face but the muzzle is slightly upturned. The boxer – like all bracecyphalic dogs – has difficulty controlling its temperature in hot weather, the inability to shed heat places limits on physical performance. It also has one of the highest cancer rates.

The English bulldog has come to symbolize all that is wrong with the dog fancy and not without good reason; they suffer from almost every possible disease. A 2004 survey by the Kennel Club found that they die at the median age of 6.25 years (n=180). There really is no such thing as a healthy bulldog. The bulldog’s monstrous proportions makes them virtually incapable of mating or birthing without medical intervention.

The Dachshund used to have functional legs and necks that made sense for their size. Backs and necks have gotten longer, chest jutted forward and legs have shrunk to such proportions that there is barely any clearance between the chest and floor. The dachschund has the highest risk of any breed for intervertebral disc disease which can result in paralysis; they are also prone to achondroplastic related pathologies, PRA and problems with their legs.

The German Shepherd Dog is also a breed that is routinely mentioned when people talk about ruined breeds; maybe because they used to be awesome. In Dogs of All Nations, the GSD is described as a medium-sized dog (25 kg /55 lb), this is a far cry from the angulated, barrel-chested, sloping back, ataxic, 85-pounders  (38 kg) we are used to seeing in the conformation ring. There was a time when the GSD could clear a 2.5 meter (8.5 ft) wall, that time is long gone.

The Pug is another extreme brachycephalic breed and it has all the problems associated with that trait – high blood pressure, heart problems, low oxygenation, difficulty breathing, tendency to overheat, dentition problems, and skin fold dermatitis. The highly desirable double-curl tail is actually a genetic defect, in more serious forms it leads to paralysis.

Once a noble working dog, the modern St. Bernard has been oversized, had it’s faced squished in, and bred for abundant skin. You will not see this type of dog working, they can’t handle it as they quickly overheat. The diseases include entropion, ectropion, Stockard’s paralysis, hemophilia, osteosarcoma, aphakia, fibrinogen deficiency.

It is unrealistic to expect any population to be free of genetic diseases but show breeders have intentionally selected for traits that result in diseases. Conformation breeders claim that they are improving the breed and yet they are the cause of the poor state of so many animals. No dog breed has ever been improved by the capricious and arbitrary decision that a shorter/longer/flatter/bigger/smaller/curlier “whatever” is better.  Condemning a dog to a lifetime of suffering for the sake of looks is not an improvement; it is torture.

(Via: Science Of Dogs)

National Geographic – Shiba Inu is Most Wolflike

In their February issue, National Geographic (NatGeo? Not a fan of the new name) published an article about how we came to have so many different dog breeds and what we can learn from their genetics. Included in the article is this chart  that generated quite a buzz in the Shiba Inu community. The reason? The chart states that the Shiba Inu breed is genetically closest to the wolf. Chow Chow and Akita came in second and third, Malamute 4th.

The descriptions for each of the 4 categories are a bit vague, with the description for the Wolflike category as follows:

“With roots in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, these breeds are genetically closest to wolves, suggesting they are the oldest domesticated breeds.”

I would not misinterpret this as Shiba Inu having the most wolf-like mentality (pack order, alpha… etc), to me this conveys that the Shiba Inu breed did not have as much genetic tinkering and stayed relatively true to how nature intended. At least that’s how I read it. What do you think?

Yoshimi, a beautiful Shiba Inu, is a frequent VIP guest of The Hydrant.

The Kennel Club removed the Chinese Crested removed from list of High profile Breeds

n a move that isn’t going to be the greatest surprise in the canine world, the Kennel Club announced yesterday that it has removed the Chinese Crested from the list of high-profile breeds singled out because of health and welfare problems.

This is a useful PR move for the Kennel Club which recently announced that the high-profile breed list is a two-way-street. (“See…look how quickly a breed can come off the list!”). And I see the move has been welcomed already out on the breeder fora.  But, actually, the addition of the breed to the HPB list was always a bit of an anomaly; added not because of conformation problems – but because of concerns raised on this blog and elsewhere regarding the denuding of these dogs with razors and depilatory cremes in order to make them conform to showring demands. The process can leave some dogs looking and feeling very sore.

Of course, breeders are still denuding the dogs. It’s just that they’re now doing it behind closed doors; not publicly on the benches – and, these days, they are more careful about presenting dogs that are obviously sore in the ring.

Why are they still doing it? Because showring fashion dictates that today’s Crestie looks like My Little Pony – all flowing mane, tail and fetlocks – but bald elsehwere. Unfortunately nature rarely delivers such a dog.

So they fake it.

Today’s Chinese Crested breeders have selected for hairier and hairier ‘hairless’ dogs in order to give them the requisite furnishings – and then they just remove the hair from the bits where they don’t want it using electric and wet shavers and depilatory cremes.

What’s wrong with that? Well in some cases they are removing a LOT of hair. Some of the dogs that you see naked in the show-ring would look like this if exhibitors allowed the hair to grow.

Here’s what one American breeder, who has chosen to be honest about the process, describes as an “average” hairy-hairless in terms of natural body hair.

“Some Chinese Crested Dogs come with a very decent furnishing with minimal body hair,” she explains.  “The degree of thickness may also vary from thinner to thicker. Unfortunately they remain in the minority.  Unless there is a good reason to let the hair grow, most breeders will keep the hairy Chinese Crested shaved most of the time.  I am sure for most part; some breeders don’t even know just how hairy their dogs are because of the frequent routine grooming.”

We’ve discussed the ethics of this here several times before and there’s a diversity of opinion. Some think it’s cheating. Crestie exhibitors in the main think it’s just fine to do whatever it takes to make a dog look “good” for the showring. A few express concern about the loss of the original “true” hairless dog (there are still some to be seen in the show-ring, but they are very often beaten by their flashier, hairier cousins). Others believe that we shouldn’t be breeding dogs with a mutation that leads not just to hairlessness, but very poor dentition; a mutation that is lethal in a double-dose.

While accepting that there are worse insults foisted on other breeds, I hate to see the videos on YouTube of very young puppies being wet-shaved or having their ears taped or glued to make them stand up correctly (something else Cresties often have to endure).

So what does the Kennel Club think?

Have a look at the wording in yesterday’s release:

“The breed was added to the list in 2010, in light of welfare concerns about the shaving of some dogs for exhibition. The General Committee is satisfied that this issue is no longer of sufficient concern for the breed to remain on the HPB list.”

A casual reader might think that the KC is satisfied that dogs are no longer being shaved for the showring. But of course that’s not true.

What the KC is really saying is that Crestie breeders can do anything they like to their dogs; just don’t leave any marks that would give those horrid critics any ammunition.

Indeed, the KC endorses the denuding of the Chinese Crested. There has been never been any public censure of the practice; no KC dispproval that the breed standard (for what it’s worth) is being completely flouted by today’s Crestie breeders.

The KC’s Breedwatch which highlights points of concern for judges states merely: “Clipper rash or burns caused by shaving.” Not “dogs shaved to look like true hairless when they are not”. 

Absens haeres non erit.

See also:

The bald truth about the Chinese Crested 

Breeding dogs for intentional defect (Terrierman)