Saturday, June 28, 2014

New Breeds?

There is an interesting rumor flying around about a certain type of dog breeder. I guess it isn't a rumor, since I found this website:

Blue Cedar Kennels

This is an example of the dogs they breed.

Envy is a "sport dog mix"...her dam, My-My is a Border x Border Jack and her sire, Pilot, is a Border Jack.

Then I found this one:

I've been looking up the breeders of these dogs because I keep hearing of a sport dog breeder out here in my neck of the woods. It started when I met a family while hiking with my dogs. The Dad was all over my dogs. He asked if I hunted them, I said, " Er, no."

"Why not?" he asked. "What a beautiful team you have!"

I was pretty confused. I was out with Brockle and Charlie. They were doing this:

This is what Brockle and Charlie do on walks, they don't strike me exactly as hunting team material, in looks or technique.

After a bit more conversation, I came to understand things a little better. The family was visiting from another country. At their home, dogs very similar to Brockle were used to drive prey across open ground, straight into the jaws of fierce little murderers like Charlie. This was a sport, as well as a standard hunting practice. He loooooved Brockle. I finally came up with, "Is he like a lurcher?"

"Yes! Lurcher!"

Not that he had lurchers back home, but it was as close as we could come to a description.

Then I met a woman walking a dog that could easily be a Brockle litter mate. Naturally we stopped and compared notes. She told me her dog was called a "Sport Dog," carefully bred here in the state for performance sports like flyball, agility, that thing where they jump of docks, frisbee, any competition where an agile, fired up dog does stuff really fast.

Her dog's breeder was trying for dogs that would succeed at the above and also in lure coursing, an event that's quite big out on the prairie. She crossed Lurchers, imported from England, with breeds known for their high prey drive, Border Collies, Dutch, and German Shepherds and the Australian herding breeds.

"This is serious? This person sells these dogs?" I asked.

I must have had an inappropriate look on my face. I was informed that her dog was winning like hotcakes in three events and there was a waiting list for pups at $800 a pop.

When I told her I got my dog off the clearance rack at the Humane Society she quit talking to me.

I haven't been able to find this breeder. I'll be honest, I haven't tried too hard. I did a bit of research into lurchers though.

I learned that Lurchers are sight hounds crossed with not sight hounds for different kinds of hunting. They're pretty common in Europe. They are a type, not a breed, come in different sizes, colors and hunting abilities. Historically, they were a poor man's dog, bred by a poor man's standards. If they were up for the task at hand, they lived and if not, well....

In Britain, Lurchers are hunted over different kinds of terrain: stubble field, smooth flat grassland, or rugged moorlands. So the dogs are chosen with both the quarry and the environment in mind. 
For these reasons, a useful working lurcher are bred from similarly useful working parents. Its not just a matter of breeding any old greyhound to the collie round the corner. Any responsible person wishing to breed a litter of lurchers  picks parents with a proven ability to work, and rules out the breeds no longer used for their original purpose. So, technically, while a cross such as a Borzoi/Old English Sheepdog is a lurcher, you'll be hard pressed to find one, at least on the other side of the pond.

Greyhounds, Deerhounds, Salukis, Whippets and Wolfhounds seem to be the primary sight hound influence, with crosses to collies, terriers and bull breeds (and mixes of those) to create what's desired. 

The thing is, these dogs have been bred forever. Not by crossing a collie and a greyhound, then adding in some pit or JRT the next generation.

They are bred to work. They are tweaked with fresh blood to improve performance. More like rat terriers were before AKC glommed onto them. Everybody knew there was a bunch of breeds in there, but a rat was still a rat, and was considered an all around barn, farm and ranch dog that fit in your lap.

On the flip side, breeds have to start somewhere, right? My interest was piqued. I haven't found this sport dog breeder yet. If by some obscure chance of fate Brockle did come from this program, he would be a dismal failure. He is too easily amped up to handle the intensity of agility, too dog aggressive to stay on track for fly ball (This is MY BALL, and SO IS YOURS!!!), and while he loves to chase stuff, and he's fast enough and agile enough to run neck and neck with a rabbit, his reaction is to bounce around and look really dopey.
"Aw....hi little bunny!" Brockle says.
"Send it over here! Bite it! Do something! Anything! Aw Jeez, you're killing me here!" Charlie screams.

And then, this morning, I see this.

She's a Malinois Greyhound cross at our local Humane Society. Is she a random mutt or a "Sport Dog" failure? Whatever she is, things haven't been going her way, that's for damn sure. My guess is she's sensitive, protective, insanely fast and smarter than her breeder. If I had the room, energy and time to take on another one, I'd go get her faster than Tess the Border Collie whips through the weave poles. Thing is, Brockle is a tough dog. Hard, reactive, insecure, full of beans, pushy, wary, and definitely smarter than me, the scars from his first months on the planet run deep. I can't imagine where this poor girl's head is at. 

This post is about questions more than opinions, at least for me. It's got me thinking about lots of things, but I'll be honest, mainly I'm thinking about that starved, frightened dog. 

P.S. Just so you don't think I'm totally nuts on the Brockle/lurcher thing...

image a and b are lurchers
         c and d are Brockle.


  1. Very interesting reading.

    To be honest, as a British reader, I've always figured Brockle was a lurcher type. They're not always tall, thin and built for speed, though many people breed them for that. My yard owner has a collie/GSD/sight hound lurcher which looks like a skinny, shaggy wolf, and a family friend used to keep a pair for lamping hares.

  2. I'm probably opening myself up to some hate, but I'll admit that I am on the list for a Painted Stars Farm breeding (Splash/Tattoo). I know several PSF dogs (all are lightning fast, driven, and have great personalities). I also know a few Blue Cedar dogs (same story).

    I compete in flyball and disc and dabble in agility (not enough time/money to get really good). My current superstar is a humane society special. She is a BC/lab cross with massive anxiety and energy management issues. I found her a job so that my husband didn't return her (would have been her 4th time) and I got hooked.

    Flyball has become my obsession. It is a big deal to a lot of people, and flyball-specific breeding has happened because of that. At first, I was mortified- breeding mutts?!?!? But the more I thought about it... We have so many breeds because people mixed and adapted the dog for what job they needed done. Well, dog sports is a new job and people are breeding to get competitive dogs. Like any breed/species there irresponsible breeders out there, but the top dogs aren't coming from them. Both Blue Cedar and PSF are well known in the sports world to be good breeders. I have met them both personally and like them and their dogs. They both actively compete in flyball, disc, agility, dock dogs, herding, lure coursing, and more.

    I won't always buy, but I love the parents of the puppy that I'm hoping to get. I won't ever buy a big dog- plenty of fast dogs in the shelter- but finding a height dog (small dog, lowers jump height) that can run under 5 seconds in a shelter is rare...

  3. Kendall- Good! I'm not crazy! SeeingSpots - you won't get some hate,at least not from me, I'm truly asking about this. My idea of buying a purebred dog was paying for my Rat. There was no AKC anywhere to be found
    in his lineage, but there were generations of proven working dogs, which I wanted. He's been everything I hoped for and has stayed healthy and sound. I'm exploring this whole idea and then some, so I hope everybody presents, as you have, their opinions with solid reason and thought. Thank you.

  4. I wouldn't be able to be critical today of anyone who loved their dogs and gave them the best life possible.

    I had to let the best dog in the world go today. I held him the first day of his life and told him he was mine. He was a good dog every single day of his life, he never suffered for one of those days, he always knew I would take care of him. I wish he had been with me more than 14 1/2 years. That's all I can think of right now. I did tell my other dog he was promoted to best dog in the world now.

  5. Aw Redhorse, I'm sorry. It's a rare opportunity to share a lifetime with a dog.

  6. My complaint against mixed-breed producers in general is that they don't care about _what_ they're produce or who they sell to, as long as they're making money. There are exceptions.

    Among the exceptions are the good sport-dog breeders. They're just as careful about the outcome of each breeding as the best purebred breeders. By "outcome" I mean sane, healthy dogs that are sold to carefully chosen families with lifetime fallback to the breeder if things don't work out. The best such breeders have waiting lists of a year or more for litters.

  7. Redhorse, I'm so sorry for the passing of your beloved, lifelong companion.

  8. The dog behavourist I worked with to try to save my screwed up shelter dog had bred a couple of liiters - one was a sable GSD/husky cross for movie work - wolves/wolf dogs cannot be imported into NZ - even for short term film work so they needed to get wolf substitutes. She said she would never, ever repeat the corss. Super high drive, independent thinking dogs that were smarter then most people - she kept all 4 permanently. The other mix was sibords - siberian husky BC crosses - got some superb agility dogs from those 2 litters.
    The sport dog cross breds are usually bred for a purpose, and by people that want a dog with longevity - you don't want to train a dog up to do agility and have it develop problems at age 3 or 4, so they do tend to be bred from dogs with good structure. To me it's a bit like horses. A horse or dog that is bred from a carefully considered mating between of a sire and dam that have complementary traits for the job you want the offspring to do should work out.

  9. My hubby's dog is a lurcher-type, GSD and hound-something. Also Humane Society special. When we got him the story was that he'd been picked up as a stray a few too many times; the final time Animal Control picked him up his owners left him there. He is VERY smart, and used to be a bit of an escape artist. I think his previous owners decided he was more trouble than he was worth. He used to give the greyhounds a run for their money down at the dog park. He is the most graceful athletic dog I've ever had the pleasure to own.

    The farms around me have mostly medium-sized smart fast dogs. Our next-door neighbour has another lean lurcher-looking creature, but a little fluffier than ours. She might have some husky or long-coated shepherd in her somewhere. She and hubby's-dog take turns flushing small furries out of the woodpile. My border collie/lab/? mix doesn't have the patience for the woodpile game on the other hand and spends more time on patrol for suspicious persons, or looking for the stinkiest horse manure to roll in.

  10. I moved to the UK from the US in 1999; I hadn't previously encountered lurchers, but they are pretty common here. I'd forgotten how odd I found them when I first moved. For most people in the UK, 'lurcher' is a generic designation for anything that looks vaguely sighthound'y that isn't an obvious purebred greyhound or whippet.

    They come in a range of shapes and sizes, very often with wiry coats, and are generally very prey-driven but easier to deal with than a pure sighthound.

    To my knowledge, they aren't much used for hunting anymore (except by travellers) in England, although I think they are still used for hunting in Ireland. Lure coursing is beginning to take off as a sport, which is good news for lurcher owners.

    The lurchers I know are closer to sighthounds in terms of energy level. They are active but not psycho, athletic, even-tempered, and generally easy to handle. Smart, food-driven dogs, so easily trained. There is one in my neighborhood that knows I always have something on me, so will come at a dead run across our 5 acre park to slam into a polite sit in front of me for a bit of cheese.

    I would have doubts about the 'carefully bred for hunting skills'. I think they were originally used for poaching, in situations where a whippet was not big enough, and were quite disposable dogs. (Still are, I think. Tons of lurchers come over from Ireland to rescues. Ireland is the land of puppy farms, the British term for puppy mills.)

    Again, the cultural link of lurchers to the travelling folk means they have a carryover of a bit of a dodgy reputation. I think they are handsome, useful dogs.

  11. The humane society dog is so appealing! Is there a website link you can give so I can check on her? I hope she is out of that cage... I am in CO too and put my good "Mexican husky" down a few months ago (oh, tears still). Not rushing out for another dog but keeping my heart open.

    Thanks for your writing.

  12. I have absolutely no problem with folks mixing breeds for a purpose. It seems kinda strange that we have been so indoctrinated the the only good dog is a purebred one. That is silly. I have two livestock guardian dogs that are intention crossbreds ( common in LGDs) they are perfect for my operation. I have one crossbred cattle dog that is pretty worthless, but he wasn't intentionally bred. I do use purebred dogs too, it depends on the purpose

    Anytime breeding is done in a thoughtful way, with a clear goal by a truly knowledgable person, it is all good. Doesn't matter what the species.

  13. Oh, also wanted to mention that your Brockle really reminds my of an Anatolian Shepherd cross. Some of thing you mention about his personality seem to fit too. It would also not be a rare find in Colorado.

  14. Anon...Anatolians are pretty common around here. I thought of that one, but he's so fine boned...I guess that could come from Border collie, or whippet, or...some day I'm going to have to break down and DNA him. It would explain a lot, from his mask to his guarding vs. herding temperament.