Thursday, March 21, 2013

Purebreds and Crosses to Bear

Pintabian Stallion, $10,000
OK. He's pretty bad, this proven, homozygous, pointy-butted  mess.
The only thing he's proven is he throws 100% color. He might be a cute gelding, I guess.

Yesterday I wrote about coming out of the Krazy Kolor Klozet.

Some of you fell into the "Old Krazy Kolors Bad! Only Plain Jane's Good!" trap.

Silly people. Don't you know me by now? I was laying the ground for the subject I'm REALLY thinking about. I'm a tad disappointed you mustangs didn't smell the bait trap before you galloped on in. 

If you truly read what I wrote, I just said I like pretty colors and lots of hair. I never, ever mentioned breeding, in the backyard or for color. Not once.

I have been thinking about breeding though. 

I've been reading the coolest book, "Dogs, Describes in a Practical Manner the Training, Handling, Treatment, Breeds, Etc., Best Adapted for Night Hunting as Well as Gun Dogs for Daylight Sport," by Oliver Hartley - first printed in 1909.

Despite it's wordy title, this book is short and to the point. It's the approach a respected hunting dog owner took to breeding his dogs.

I learned an approach to breeding that made SO MUCH SENSE, I was blown away. 

Hartley bred his dogs for his own use. He knew what he liked in a hunting dog and that's what he bred for. 
He set his basic need. He wanted a dog to stay on track, bay when it treed or cornered the prey, and stay there until he got there. 
Rabbit dogs were bred to hunt rabbits.
Squirrel and coon dogs were bred to hunt those.
Deer dogs were bred to hunt deer and so on.

So. He would take a purebred foxhound and cross it with, say a collie, to hunt deer.

Maybe beagle and foxhound for rabbit.

The neighbors good mongrel coon dog and foxhound for raccoon an squirrel.

His years as a hunter told him what he needed and he bred that. He did like foxhounds, but not in their pure form, unless he was hunting fox.

This wasn't an unusual concept back then. It was pretty standard. Dogs were bred which were suited to do the job at hand. Conformation was developed along with, because if the dog didn't have big, strong claws and well developed legs he couldn't get up in the trees. If he didn't have the deep lungs needed for distance, it was crossed with another breed that did and so forth.

Purebred dogs weren't considered the holy grail, they were just a solid, reliable ingredient.

He didn't call them designer dogs, he didn't fight about bloodlines, he just bred the dog he needed.

His approach wasn't unusual, because he talked about other hunters preferences and why they bred differently than he did.

This really got me thinking. Before the first Westminster Dog Show in 1877, there really weren't that many dog breeds. In the last 150 years the dog has become the most varied mammal in the world.

Those crazy Victorians took all that suppressed sexual energy and started creating dog breeds. Then they started showing them at dog shows.Around 1870, kennel clubs were established in the United States and Britain and stud books were created and closed.

 Pre-dog shows, breeds were divided in groups.Pointers were a breed, setters were a breed, spaniels were a breed and so forth.These dogs were defined by form an function. Post dog shows, these groups were divided by type and defined by parentage.So instead of pointers, you had Vizslas, German Short hairs and Weimaraners. 

Dog shows were primarily about looks. How the ear curved, how far the jowls hung, what color they were, and so forth. What didn't matter was how brave a guard dog they had, how sharp their sheep dogs were, or how sensitive the nose on their hunting dogs. What mattered was if the dog fit the visual standard created by the dog clubs.

Writings about animal breeding from the late 1800's to the early 1900's are full of demands to "eliminate the weaklings and invigorate the race by maintaining the purity of its blood. How creepy is that?

Leon Fradley, a renowned and respected dog expert of the times wrote The Complete Book of Dog Care, This is the Ccker Spaniel, Bloodhounds and How to train Them and How to Breed Dogs. He also wrote The Case for Sterilization, expressing his belief in the benefits of eugenics (essentially "line-breeding" people to create desired traits). Are we creeped out yet? The guy even got a fan letter from, yeppers, you guessed it, Hitler.

Once we started breeding for form instead of function, all kinds of crazy things began to happen.




Being people, we couldn't be happy by screwing up dogs. We had to expand to horses. we weren't breeding for looks, not just yet, but we were certainly changing the way horses looked while we changed the way they rode.

Thoroughbreds were fast, but we needed them faster, because horse racing is the Sport of Kings. Originally,  the majority of the preeminent stallions and mares were controlled by some of the oldest established families in the US – the Whitneys and Woodwards, the Bradleys and Wideners and the Klebergs and the Mellons.  A fundamental rule that these families abided by was to improve the breed from a practical standpoint, speed, stamina and soundness.

Ultimately, theses solid breeders lost control and breeders began to focus on speed alone. The trouble started with the immortal Native Dancer. The beautiful gray horse retired with 21 wins out of 22 starts. He retired early, by the time he was four, because of a chronic inflammation in his ankles. Native Dancer had developed osselets (bony growths).

After retirement, Native Dancer became one of the most influential studs in Thoroughbred history. Today, almost 75% of Thoroughbreds trace back to him. He passed on his speed, and also his weak ankles. Every year, the Thoroughbred has become more fragile, with the incidence of breaking down becoming higher.


The Quarter Horse Industry  has taken some blows too. Personally, I think we deserve it. Tell me these horses are examples of the same breed.

AQHA Cutting Horse - all grown up and ready to show
14hh and 750 lbs.

AQHA Halter Horse - 16hh and 1300 lbs.
I'm sorry, but ew.



AQHA pleasure horse - 16hh, 900 lbs
                                                                  I am so confused.
                                                     

AQHA has allowed so much screwing around, our QH's don't even come close to looking like the horse originally recognized as a breed in the 1940's.


People started dipping their sticky little fingers into breeding animals with no understanding of genetics. The more we learn, the deeper in epileptic dogs and cow horses with HERDA we're going to be. The worse part is, nobody seems to care much. Impressive bred horses are still spitting out babies with HYPP. Thoroughbred horses are considered so disposable they only have to win a few races to be a success. Who cares if they're crippled as a three-year-old?

None of these horses were bred for color. They were bred for speed, muscle, pretty gaits and cat-like turns. Look where it got them.

This is where all this studying and thinking has brought me. Back in 1909, Hartley didn't think about shows, blood lines or back yard breeding. He hunted and knew what he wanted. He believed in breeding for ability and had no problem crossing breeds to get what he was looking for.

If we pass enough laws to eliminate indiscriminate breeding we could eventually weed out the mutts and scrub fuglies we see on Craigslist. Of course then we would have to buy from "responsible" breeders.
Look where responsible breeding has gotten us. Dogs who have brains to big for their skulls, horses whose skin falls off the first time they are saddled, blindness, deafness and early death. I can't wait for the day my only way to have a dog or horse is to buy one from a breeder. Not a neighbor with a small program who breeds animals he deems useful, those folks will be considered backyard breeders and shut down. Wont be able to pick up a pup from a local rancher's good cowdog either. She was required by law to be spayed, since she wasn't registered.

Eventually we might figure out we can't breed for any one, specific thing, because you never get just the one. If you breed for speed, you get shattered ankles, breed for cow sense and you get a pony with birdy bones.
Breed for a gorgeous red coat and get a barking dumb blonde joke. Every trait comes with some others we don't know about.

I can't help but think we'd better hope some of those BYB's hang around, and there are still some irresponsible people in the world who don't spay and neuter. We'd better pray there's a pintwalkogoosa or two still around. It seems to me we're going to need those mish-mashed bloodlines some day, and we'd better hope nobody with sense bred them.













34 comments:

ORSunshine said...

I completely get what you're saying. I have two Aussies. One from show lines, one from sport lines (not working lines). Their coats are radically different. Their personalities and abilities are different. One lives to please, the other has an "F You" attitude. One is a natural at herding, the other... not so much. The show dog (not showed, he's not interested) is a great family dog, but not really an independent thinker as the breed was bred to be. He's also an obscene amount of hair, far from the wash and wear standard of this breed. My "sport" dog would have excelled at agility, flyball, etc, but he has a genetic eye issue that leaves him myopic at best. He also has pancreas issues that leave him on a special diet for life, and that will probably burn him out in the next couple of years, giving him a shorter life expectancy than he should have had.

And that's a comparison of just two of my dogs. The beagle that showed up here last fall as a stray? No interest in hunting or foxes. She's not interested in what her breed is supposed to do. In fact, she's afraid of rabbits. Perhaps she saw too much Monty Python as a teeny pup, but I suspect hunting has just been bred out of a lot of beagles nowadays.

Oh, and if you want to see a nicely put together part-bred hair machine, I bet Becky would happily share some pics of my girl with you. :) It's only a couple more days until she gets on the trailer to come East now.

foffmom said...

I don't know. Some breeders are responsible, some are idiots. Some of the good ones are large scale, some are small "back yard" low volume breeders.
But you know, I do not like the "accidental" breeders (wanted the kids to see puppies, or kittens. Or worse, some unneutered something got out. Or over the fence. )
I do not think dog breeds that cannot breed and birth without humans should be called breeds. I think they should be called what they are, biologic toys. JMO.

Cindy D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cindy D. said...

I had a big old long comment about the respectable breeders that I know personally, who truly are respectable, but deleted it. I'm going to make it shorter and simpler. Big time or small time, it doesn't matter. If a breeder of any animal large or small, is not breeding for the total package, then they are being irresponsible. The total package means soundness in mind and body for horses. It means checking hips, elbows, eyes, and hearts for dogs. It means that it takes more than AKC or AQHA to make good breeding stock.

If you don't believe me look in my pasture at the most beautiful little mare, who is hella lame on 2 front legs from navicular at the ripe old age of 6. She isn't even hardly broke yet! It's genetic and it comes from indiscriminate breeding.

That is all.

Katharine Swan said...

I get what you are saying. Dog breeds have tons of genetic problems because of too much selective breeding, and therefore mutts are typically healthier than purebred dogs. So I understand why you are hoping backyard breeders will be able to keep crossbreeding. However, keep in mind that a lot of backyard breeders don't care whether they are breeding animals with genetic physical ailments. While I see your point about how dangerous it can be to breed for looks, since unwanted characteristics always seems to come with the particular look you are seeking, I DO think we need to be breeding out things like HYPP in horses and hip dysplasia in dogs, and backyard breeders typically don't care about that kind of thing.

Katharine Swan said...

Also keep in mind that most backyard breeders and puppy mills TODAY are not like Hartley in 1909. If they WERE breeding for function, they would be actively deselecting animals with genetic problems, and that just isn't happening.

shadowlake2005 said...

("Victorians'...repressed sexual urges"--snort)

As someone who's done Italian Greyhound rescue for twenty-five years I can tell you that at Least 50% of them have some form of epilepsy, though blessedly--if you can call it that--it's usually of the petit mal form. How blind and greedy must people be to breed strictly for size, withought acknowledging or caring about the horrible hidden traits they perpetuate.

NotAFollower said...

I have a Weim...he's my second. My first came from a carefully bred litter - Dam and sire both excelled in the conformation ring and in performance. Both were checked for hips, elbow, and eye issues and the breeder looked for complimentary traits in the two. That dog was a wonder - steady, smart, loyal, sound. My current Weim was produced by a "breed for money" breeder and ended up in rescue and eventually with me. He's sweet, loyal, and (at 11 years) steady. What he's not is sound or smart.

I like what the Germans do when it comes to Weim breeding: no Weim is a 'champion' until it's proven itself to be the whole package: physically sound, conformationally correct, good in the field. I kind of wish we would do the same here in the US, as I'm seeing a growing divide in "show" vs. "hunt" Weims, with the show dogs getting too soft and the hunt dogs having a lot of drive but falling apart after a few years.

I agree that any breed of dog that has to be helped to conceive or whelp isn't a dog breed, it's a toy.

I'll stop there, or I'll rant for days.

NotAFollower said...

Yes to the Quarter Horse observations! I grew up in a very rural bit of southern CA, and there were ranches with working QH's. Lots of working QH's. Compact, sound, steady, not necessarily pretty.

I'm currently taking riding lessons at a barn that has a lot of Western Pleasure show horses, all QH's or Paints. Not one of them is under 16h, and a couple are over 17h.

Cindy D. said...

Okay, here goes...the rest of my long comment that I deleted.
My mom is a Labrador Breeder. She, with two other women who all operated under the same kennel name are one of the top breeders in the country. (Hyspire.com if you are interested) Breeders of dogs and horses could learn alot and make a difference if they all adopted Hyspires breeding program. They don't even breed a litter unless they need a dog for themselves.

This kennel is absolutely anal about which of their dogs get bred and which ones don't. Eyes, heart, hips and elbows cleared are a must. But it is more than that, they have to be the whole package. These dogs are drop dead gorgeous, all of them, but they aren't just pretty dogs. They hunt, they do agility trials, they do guide dogs for the blind, they are capable of doing everything. They are healthy in body and mind. Even the ones that are not considered to be show quality or breeding quality are healthy in body and mind and more than capable of any job.

This is the growing trend in Labradors and I believe in other breeds as well. Especially the hunting breeds. A dog has to be the full package or it cannot compete with the big breeders, because the big breeders truly want to improve the breed.

I also want to touch what many have said about dogs that "cannot breed and birth on their own" 99% of dog breeding- wait let me say labrador breeding, because that is where my experience is- is done from one side of the country to the other. Smart Labrador breeders learned long ago that too much line breeding is a bad thing, so most are trying to always bring in new blood. But if given the choice to ship a live dog or frozen semen, which would you choose? AI is just smarter and safer and actually less stressful for the dogs. Most breeders I know prefer natural delivery in their litters as well. But sometimes problems happen and C-sections are needed. But generally a bitch that requires a C-section twice in a row, will not be bred again.

In WY we have a ton of Labrador breeders. They breed pointing labradors, and silver labradors,labs that look like whippets, and everything that a lab is not. Hip and elbow displaysia is rampant in this state, and these breeders just keep on breeding their dogs because they have papers.

I think the real change will come about when people start to educate themselves on what they are buying. If and when people start insisting that a breed of dog (or horse) are mentally and physically sound, then breeders will have to start looking at the entire package. Unfortunately too many people can't get past, "Ooh my dog has papers, lets have puppies and make some money!" mentality.

An Image of Grace said...

I am often asked if I have considered breeding my mare. Of course I have considered it, but am not planning to breed her as I don't think it would be fiscally responsible at this time. That said if I were to breed her I would breed for what I want as the foal would not be created with the idea of selling but would become my own personal horse. When I looked at it like that I no longer coveted the Western Pleasure Stallion pages of the AQHA Journal but started to look at the Reiners and Working Cow bred studs. I know for sure I would want a stud with a shorter back and deeper hocks than my mare. As for color I would just assume I would end up with a chestnut and be pleasantly surprised if it turned out to be anything but.

Val said...

Breeding is easy, but not simple, and I think this is where a lot of breeders go wrong. I do not have dogs, but my observations of other people's dogs have led me to believe that mutts are healthier and usually live longer than purebred dogs. There is something seriously wrong with that. I imagine the same may be true for horses.

redhorse said...

I may have to stay after class. I wasn't paying attention. The last post was like this for me:

Trigger!

words words words

Pretty Horsey!

more words more pretty horses, awesome spots

Flicka! My brain doesn't work when the krazy kolor or hairy horse vision hits it.

I don't breed dogs and horses and never will. I try to get other people's rejects that have good functioning legs and feet and aren't completely crazy. They usually end up being pretty too.

But we do breed cattle for a specific purpose and I study the breeding of the bulls we buy, I'm also the one who picks replacement heifers. I'm aiming for a large steer that puts on the maximum weight on forage. I'm doing well so far and we "finish" our steers six months younger and with a lot less feed than we used to. They aren't purebred. With each generation I weed out the traits I don't like and improve the ones I do.

I understand Hartley's program, purely practical. I like dogs and horses who are bred to do a job. Function is what its all about and you can't fudge it. When you're breeding for the latest fad in the show ring, that's when you get Fugly.

greenie said...

We have a lot of border collie x Australian cattle dogs around here. The cattle ranchers like them because they find the purebred heelers to be too hard on the live stock and the collie to be too soft. There are also a few people who have created their own lines of cattle dogs by mixing the different breeds until the found exactly what they wanted. I like this kind of breeding. It's breeding function to form rather than form to function.
Most dogs however are created for the soul purpose of being someone's pet. Their previous uses as a breed have been mostly forgotten. Irish wolf hounds don't get the opportunity to chase down and kill wolves any more, mastiffs originally bred for war lounge on couches, Dalmatians don't run with coaches, terriers don't get to kill rats or cats, and poodles are all hair... Did you know they were a man's breed once? The lap dogs are the only one's who have held onto their original calling.

So how do you breed for function when your breed is no longer functional?

Jack said...

This is my perspective. Big or small breeder (dogs, horses, whatever), if they don't require at the start that temperament, function, and health are excellent in their breed stock, the stock they produce are going to run into trouble.

The great thing about people breeding to a working purpose is that real, varied, daily work is hard on the body and the mind and adds a dash of natural selection to our artificial breeding decisions. If your stock can hack it at work (and when I mean work I don't mean sport, which is generally focussed on a very narrow skill set), they can do a lot of things well enough. To do a lot of things well enough, you need to be a physical generalist, not a specialist. I think when we start overspecializing is when we run into trouble.

This is not to say that breeding for specific skills isn't also important, but if you specialize to the point that you can't also do general work you have gone too far.

I studied Farrier Science at UC Davis, and the professor, an old cowboy type who was head of the Farrier Science Department for many years and had served as Head Farrier at several Olympics, despised horse shows. There was only one equine competition that he held in any type of regard, and competed in himself - Endurance Racing, specifically the Tevis Cup. His argument was that 100 miles through mountainous terrain in 24 hours was a worthy test of soundness, and if the horse could complete it without getting pulled out at one of the rigorous vet checks, that was a sound horse worth breeding. Just thinking about him growling about "horse breeding these days" brings back the nostalgic smell of cadaver horse feet :).

zebradreams07 said...

IMO Backyard Breeder at this point means not just a small time breeder, but someone who breeds indiscriminately are often takes poor care of their animals. The latter is definitely a bigger issue for me, but if you cross a dainty Arab with a big hairy draft just to see what happens, chances are you're not going to get anything useful. Ditto Basset Hound and Greyhound. Yeah, sure, you could hit the jackpot and stumble upon an exceptional pairing, but it's not as if we're so short on animals that we need to be rolling the dice. Breed for something USEFUL, and TAKE CARE OF IT.

mugwump said...

Here's the thing. You know, the thing.
Anytime you (as in mankind) goes for breeding, the animal is going to pay.

" Even the ones that are not considered to be show quality or breeding quality are healthy in body and mind and more than capable of any job."
This is the growing trend in Labradors and I believe in other breeds as well. Especially the hunting breeds."

This is great news, but not the end all answer.
You are still talking about a limited gene pool and forced evolution, decided by people, not natural selection.

Poco Bueno was an incredible animal. The total package. Brains, looks, temperament, and HERDA.

Look how many generations went by before it started showing up.

The gene pool became smaller and smaller as the QH was divided into basically four different types of horses: stock, race, halter and all-around.

This is the equivalent of breaking retrievers off into Labs, goldens, chesapeakes etc.

I'm telling you guys, we're going to need the ignorant cesspool of bad breeding just to re-animate the purebred gene pools.

Anonymous said...

Soooo...even without "LOOKING" for it and all I was doing was helping out my cousin (who has no experience in the horse world at all)...I stumble across a AQHA non-byb/shower who thinks its FINE to have horses that are HYPP positive!! Keep in mind that my cousin is looking for horses that will be in their family (they have two little girls that will more than likely be in 4H) for a LONG time (they get pets and dogs as babies or from rescues and keep them till natural causes of death or humane euthanasia is the only sound option)...All that aside, here is the convo from FB:

**(my cousin): Travis (my cousin's hubby) what do you think? IMA HANDY ADVANTAGE - 2002 Bay AQHA Mare $1500 calgary.kijiji.ca

Handy Bar San (Peppy San) x Vantessa Too (Vantastic Too) Sire was 1998 ARCHA Cutting Horse Reserve Champion, and 1998 ARCHA Reined Cowhorse Circuit Champion. 1999 Merit Award Winner and 1999 Canadian National Open Working Cowhorse Champion.

Great project horse, Handy is a very sweet and willing little mare. I owned her dam for many years and did almost everything with her. Her pedigree shows AQHA points in many different events such as Halter, Pleasure, Reining, Heading, Heeling, Cutting, and Western Riding to name a few! She was a very versatile horse, I had lots of fun with her. Handy I'm sure would be very much the same, except even more driven to want to work cattle. She doesn't have as much time on her as she should for her age, but was a very easy mare to start, never offered to buck or run or anything. Very quiet from day one, one of the easiest horses I have ever started. She is very sweet and willing to please, but a lot of fun and would go all day for you. She really shouldn't take much to get going in any direction you want her to go. I would love to see what she can do on cows! Her momma was VERY cowy, and thanks to her sire's input, I'm sure Handy would be also. I could see her making an awesome penning horse.

Due to my own past injuries, and a young son and now another on the way, I just haven't had the time to spend on her over the years. As much as I hate to part with her, it's time for her to go to someone that will put her to use. Reasonable offers considered!

**(ME): Ask if she has been tested for HYPP...

**(So-Called Responsible Breeder friend of my cousin's): If she doesn't have Impressive in her bloodlines she will not have been tested for hypp. She looks nice. I can pull her records on aqha if you want. She is 11 years old with little work so keep that in mind. Probably not a kid horse right now but could be down the road. If she is cow bred keep in mind they tend to be a little hotter to handle. I think worth looking at. Let me know if you want me to look into her papers more but they really won't tell you too much other than pedigree. And hypp status if applicable. Just so you know most of my halter horses are positive for hypp and it has never been a problem but something you should be aware of.

**(ME): She has Impressive on the Dam's Sire's side http://www.allbreedpedigree.com/ima+handy+advantage

**(my cousin): Good advice ladies, thank you! Will keep you posted

PERSONALLY I would rather take my chances and have the byb who had some crossbred mutt horse that was good on trails that they bred to their neighbors working draft and they think it would make a great Mountain Horse (cause that's what I am interested in) than buying from a so-called 'responsible breeder' like above!

Anonymous said...

Really? And who's to say the grade horse from the BYB doesn't have HYPP, or HERDA, or PSSM, or OLWS, or...?
I can see the benefit to widening the gene pool, I own and raise AQHA and personally think they have gotten way too specialized, but at least with papers you have an idea of the bloodlines and get a 'heads up' regarding any family defects.
What would have happened if the horse you just described in the kijiji ad had been listed as grade?

Becky said...

Redhorse:

You and me both. While class was "in session", you and I just sat in the back and looked at the pictures in the book :P



KD said...

My daughter has picked out a puppy from good, proven hunting stock. It will be part Chesapeake, the rest Lab. It will be smallish, sturdy, intelligent and be a dog used for retrieving and be a loving pet. That's a lot to ask of a dog, but the breeder is well known for producing great family hunting dogs. BTW, it doesn't matter that the pup will not be AKC registered.

KD said...

I guess I should add that we are hoping that she winds up being all those things as well. :-)

Anonymous said...

While I agree that health testing and purpose-bred are the way to go, I disagree that re-inventing the wheel is better than building on the achievements of others. How many generations of dogs does the master breeder go through (and how many dogs does he discard) before achieving his purpose? How many years will it be before he has a useful rabbit dog, or 'coon dog?

Volume breeders, backyard breeders, whatever - regulating the breeders has never been the solution. Educating the dog-acquiring public so they no longer excuse themselves for "saving" the pet store/mill pup, for supporting the "designer" dog-of-the-month breeders, for expecting a BC to act like a stuffed toy or a Beagle to not follow his nose, THAT is what needs to be done. Breeders whose breeding criteria is all $$$ will diminish without a gullible public to feed on.

While I'm at it, the big myth that crossbreds are inherently healthier than purebreds should be humanely destroyed. Genes don't magically transform from disease-producing to healthy by context, and many genetically-influenced diseases occur across a large number of breeds.

greenie said...

I'll argue that it's not just a myth. There's something to hybrid vigor, it's seen in both plants and animals. Hybridizing even between lines should, in theory help reduce some of the inherited health issues. Of course genetics is complicated thing so it would never be a sure thing. Your going to have to sort through the results and weed out the failed crosses. That's easier, ethically, when you're looking a flowers.
As for dogs, you'll never find a bulldog as healthy as the mutt we saved off the side of the highway. There have been way too many problems concentrated in that breed. Our other rescue (saved from being chucked in the garbage) is healthy but I would suspect his hind legs are less than an perfect... So it mutts don't come with a health guarantee either I guess. Humans aren't born with them either...

Mustardly said...

I agree with everything you've said here. But I have one caveat. Good working dogs do not make good family pets. Labradors, collies and spaniels which are designed to spend the day running about do not adapt well to a pet home. I would say that the vast majority if problems with dogs are from getting the wrong dog for their lifestyle. People who live in flats and can only manage two shorts walks a day seem to think getting a husky or a collie is a good idea.

So breeds do need adapt to live in the modern world (or rather, we need to adapt them) but there is no excuse for inherited diseases, hip displasia, eye problems, breathing difficulties, folds of skin so big they cause health problems.

We do need to educate the general public. Only that will introduce change. It was only public outrage which caused the Kennel Club to change its policies on certain breeds. It should have been the KC who saw the problem themselves but there we are.

mugwump said...

I don't care how careful you are.
I get that responsible breeders are carefully selecting desired traits.
My point is, you don't get to have just the desired trait.
You get others that come with it.
I don't care how much education you have, how sure you are of your blood-line you may be.
When you manipulate and narrow a gene pool things are going to go wrong.
People cannot outbreed natural selection.
Period.
Our mutts are the out-crossing of the poor quality purebreds we, their creators, toss out in the trash. So of course there are going to be problems.

Mustardly said...

I'm going to take an example. I don't know if anyone here saw Crufts But you can find the videos on YouTube. Watch the gundog display and seen the Labrador clearing a 5 foot (ish) jump. Its really lovely to watch. He's fit, healthy and a lovely dog. Then watch the gundog group judging and see the Labrador that won best in group. Those dogs are apples and oranges. I don't get the appeal of the second one. But then I am a whippet person. Couldn't be more different!

I don't think there is anything wrong with a beagle with a poor hunting instinct. They fit much better into the modern world. BUT why do people want a beagle in the first place? They come from a breed that was highly pack and prey focused and designed to run all day. Why should they be kept as pets? You are right - people didn't think about the fact that a rounder head and flatter face in cavalier king Charles spaniels would lead to a squashed brain. Seems obvious right? We don't know enough about genetics (experts will be the first to tell you and most breeders are far from experts. Many think they are which is more dangerous).

Breeds are great. They give you some idea as to what the individual animal will be like (we all know that there will be exceptions) but we have a weird human obsession with purity of line and with creating breeds. I can't think of one now but I am sure we are all aware of an example of some breeder who is trying to get their super speshul pinto spotted hairilicious pygmy whatever recognised as a separate breed. And the tiny gene pool that comes with. It really is a big hangover from the Victorian days when they just loved to divide the world up. Seriously - there are hundreds of dog breeds but you could probably reduce that down to less than 50 once we have eliminated small differences in coat/colour/shape and size.

The stark truth is that we are in almost too deep. Established breeders will hang onto their old ways because they fear change and are too close to see the real problem. The BYB will continue to make whatever they want (or allow whatever 'oops' matings to happen).

It doesn't matter how much change WE want - there will never be a general consensus on what is the best course of action is for the animals. The only way to really make a difference is to force a market change. Just look at the regulation in the UK which prevents docking tails. Dog shows still look the same just with added tail bones. But many breeders would have never changed on their own as it was the done thing. Judges were just as guilty. But now the change has happened everyone has realised that it wasn't as bad as they thought it would be. But this change only came into force due to wider public pressure and a bigger piece of legislation.

You and I know it is ridiculous and that it is an outrage that people continue to breed animals with health problems but the obvious example of HYPP - it really could be eliminated overnight. But why isn't it? Because the 'old boy' network would lose too much money as all their N/H horses would suddenly be useless. We can work on changing perceptions but the best way to change the future is to educate the owners and breeders of the future.

The only fool proof method is to put it all in the hands of scientists and get them to decide all matings. But this is a pipe dream.

Pairing up with humans was the best thing to happen to dogs. They are one of the most successful animals on the planet. But they really are paying for that now ...

Kara said...

I'll probably be thrown out for this comment...but I've daydreamed many times about how sometime the quarter horse breed will have to open their registries to a few good mustangs or recent mustang crosses...to bring back in that blood that they originally started with...that hardy, naturally selected blood that actually founded many important individuals in the quarter horse breed. That would be the ultimate outcrossing in this day and age. But then again, I love mustangs so I'm totally biased.

Heidi the Hick said...

Cautiously sticking my head out here... I'm a Pug owner. He's my first paid-for, small, purebred, house dog. The kind of shepherd type mutts I grew up with didn't fit into our life at the time. A solid year of research came before his arrival. I knew what kind of huge potential problems Pugs can have. We found a breeder who regular traded studs with breeders on the opposite sides of the country. Her bitches were fit and healthy. They looked pretty happy.

This dog is awesome.

He is doing exactly what his breed was developed for hundreds of years ago: keeping my feet warm, snuggling, making me laugh, making me feel guarded when he growls at imaginary things, and forcing me to go for crazy runs with him. Most of all making me feel loved and important. And the foot warming.

Do you know how many times we marvel at how weird he is? Pugs aren't like "normal" dogs. Descended from wolves???? How did that happen? But Pugs have looked the same for ages, so something is working. Yes there are some maintenance things, like I have to keep his weight down and wash his face now and then, but he's been great. I'm not rounding up hooved animals with him. He's a terrible farm dog -- I can't trust him to run around unfenced. That's not what his kind of dog does.

So I guess I'm kind of defending a good breeder with my comment. I've seen Pugs who are so fat they can hardly move but darnit they've got that double curl in the tail, so I get the concept of the harm of breeding for show traits and losing track of the overall health and usefulness and purpose of the animal. (At least I think that's what we're talking about - am I getting this right?)


I wonder if cat breeders run into this? I've had thousands of cats go through my life and only one was a "breed" and he was an adorable deformed Burmese disaster.

Anyways we talk about getting another Pug someday but I foresee a nice mutt in the future. I still like mutts. Luckily most farmers around here do too.

Holly said...

I agree with Heidi and Mustardly - specifically the idea that when it comes to dog breeds, we should be choosing as PETS those breeds that were bred to be a PET first and foremost. Now then, if your lifestyle requires more than a singular companion, then there are a wider array of suitable breed options.

I love the looks of many different dog breeds, from English Setters, PBGVs, Bull Terriers, to Borzoi, BUT I know that these dogs are unlikely to fit easily into my lifestyle. I'm a 44 yr old work from home artist & writer whose idea of a perfect day is tea and a book, followed by dinner of popcorn and a G&T, and maybe finishing it up by convincing my hubby to join me and a few of our friends to go to our local Pub and rock the dance floor to live music of questionable quality.

For me, my breeds as pets are Newfoundlands and Persians. On the surface, most people only see hair as the common denominator (and granted, there is a lot of it!) However, what both breeds share is a docility, strong bond of companionship before much else, sweetness of temperament to the exclusion of exceptional problem solving skills, and the occasional outbreak of silliness. To me, these make them MY ideal pet breeds.

With a mutt the temperament and personality traits are a much bigger unknown, which can lead to issues of acclimation into an owners lifestyle. Without considering the breed characteristics in choosing a pet, I see many dog owners choose a breed almost exclusively on appearance, and unrealistically expect that a representative of breeds such as my dream list of English Setter, PBGV, Bull Terrier and Borzoi to all equally suit their needs and lifestyle.

As for horses ... unless we are talking about pasture pets (again that word, "pet") folks are usually better about defining their criteria for a working partner. Whether that is a dead broke oldie for a child to learn on or an endurance prospect to carry the 40 yr old re-rider, there is typically some acknowledgement (whether or not they stick to their guns) that some mounts and breeds are not generally suitable for consideration.

Unfortunately for a lot of dogs, this kind of assessment is not always the norm.

Anonymous said...

I am going to post as anonymous cause my google account is having identity issues. This is Wyo Faith.
I have bred Miniature Schnauzers for the last 8 or so years. I don't breed a litter a year, its more like every other year or when I feel I have the time to devote to a litter of puppies. My bitch came from show lines, my stud came from nothing special. I love Miniature Schmnauzers. I think they are just the best, of course I do or I wouldn't breed them. We live on a ranch and you better believe they keep the mouse/rat/vole/mole/picket pin population down. They also ride along with us when we gather, or head into the mountains. They are both AKC registered, both purebreds, one is better looking, one has a better temperment. They have really nice pups.
What am I saying with all this? I don't think purebred "breeds" are bad. I just don't. You may have bad breeders in both the show and the backyard arena, but I don't think it's worth throwing the baby out with the bath water. I agree with what many have already said- does the breed match you and your lifestyle? I think many people fall in love with a "look" rather than a "drive". Do you know what I mean? I'm from Wyoming and many people try and keep German Wirehair Pointers as pets- totally disregarding this breed's drive to hunt, to run, to locate fowl, etc. They want it to sit in their house and be happy. Not a good fit. A lot of frustration within the dog that results in bad behavior. So whose fault is that?
Dogs with brains bigger than their skulls? Well, I just have not seen a lot of that. I don't think it is a good reason to throw away breeding for standards. I think there can be a lot of hyperbole, hype and emotions involved with dog breeding, and I guess I just wanted to throw my two cents in.
I love the Miniature Schnauzer breed, for all of their characteristics: liveliness of temper, good ratting dogs, boundless energy, sweetness of personality, and chilled out behavior in the home. They also don't shed. In my eyes, perfect. Are some snappy and tempermental? Well, sure. There are differences in each animal. But as a BREED I think they are the best!

Net said...

I haven't been around warmbloods for long, but I am absolutely loving registries as opposed to breeds. Even my Trakehner filly, where Trakehner is considered a warmblood breed, has a dam who is 3/4 TB (actually more if you go back more generations) and sire who is 1/4 Arabian and nearly 1/4 TB. She was bred to be a useful horse, and happens to have natural dressage talent just goofing off in the pen. I believe the warmblood registries, by going for large gaits and not asking stallions to perform beyond their early years, then breeding to mares who go straight to the breeding shed without being asked to perform, are shooting themselves in the feet - tending to have too many pretty horses with major functional flaws. I absolutely LOVE a good Quarter Horse, and it makes me sad to see what has happened with a lot of that breed. But certainly someone selectively picking the traits to come up with the horse (or dog) they want means there is more likely to be a useful horse someone wants out there. Because the specific traits I want aren't the ones being pushed by the registries, I will most likely end up breeding my mare for her successor... after she has proven herself under saddle!
I would love to find a breeder who was combining standard poodles for the non-shedding factor with something a bit more mellow for the sake of temperament. I love standard poodles, but I do not want to deal with that temperament, and it's not as if a labradoodle would be better!

Swiftlys view of the world said...

A dog is a dog is a dog. But.
Pugs are fabulous, breed a dog with such a fabulous temperament that he laughs in the face of physical deformities. Wish we could breed the temperament without the problems or is it the problems that cause the fab fun temperament. Like some of the top competing horses out there more about their 'heart' than there physical eliteness.
The more I work on and with dogs( and therefore me) the less breeds I like for the majority of people. Village dogs as I call them are undoubtedly the most suitable for the majority yet there are types of village dogs I don't trust.
I am a lurcher girl and each and everyone bred for a purpose and each and everyone was a walking injury despite being kept/ fed and managed for their working life( they were pets just no one told their instinct so we worked them to keep them safe, trained to work got them on my side).
I have now gone over to the dark side and bought two pedigrees( Ibizan Hounds) a few generations back from all working lines. They are healthier way tougher than their lurcher cousins and they make me laugh every single day.
Why does my strongly held beliefs always come back and bite me on my bum haha?
I believe in taking responsibility for my actions don't buy into a system you disagree with. So I don't have a pug or bulldog but boy do I enjoy my little charges when I look after them.

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