That’s how the system works, folks.
Had Britain joined the FCI when it was formed in 1911, it would have been a different story. Had the US joined, it would have made a difference too. I’m not saying that they would have been positive or negative differences. But the balance would have been different. Many breeds would have been managed differently, shifts in countries of origin and parent clubs, shifts in focus and geopolitics, potential differences in breed standards and how they are implemented, how judges and breeders education is provided.
Had Afghanistan been a member, Iran or Tibet, what would have been the consequences for the Afghan, the Saluki and the Tibetan breeds ? Potentially huge. Actually, the way the Afghan Hound breed is managed internationally, with a worldwide forum regularly coming together at Afghan World Congress events held in different countries, is a model system that should be followed by every breed of international status. So in this case, having a patron (Great Britain) outside the FCI instead of an FCI – country of origin in charge of the breed, has actually worked in its favor, at least in that respect of global community co-operation and communication. Maybe its because Afghan hound people have a different mindset. Maybe its the patron country clubs that have a different mindset. (That’s right, Clubs, plural, as in the UK there’s more than one breed club per breed and representatives of all of them together form a coordinating & KC-liaising Breed Council). I don’t know, but whatever it is, it is enviable.
Had Denmark been an FCI member from the beginning, would we have a dual country of origin status in place for the Great Dane, like is the case of some breeds ? How would that have played out ? Would the breed have been managed differently, would a closer communication between the superpowers of dogdom, Britain, Scandinavia, US, FCI, have resulted in less fragmentation, more compromise, more democracy, more representation and exchange, more harmony ? would there have been a doggy “Cold War”? Would the scars left by the two world wars have been healed quicker, restoring bridges and exchange of dogs ? Had Greece been a member from the start, would breeds like the Molossian been erroneously classed as ‘extinct’ and misnomers like “molosser” ever invented ? Would the Spanish mastiff exist only as a variety of the Molossus of Epirus ? Would the Suliot Hound have flourished ? Would the Cretan Hound, the Hellenic Hound and the Alopekis be household names around the world ? Would the modern history of the Maltese, the Bichon, the Bolognese be different, with the contribution of the aboriginal ancestor, the Melitaio Kinidio / Kokoni ? Would the Pointer and the English and the Gordon Setters, the Laveracks and the Llewellins, the British and the continental strains have been less segregated and split between show types and working types? Would so many breeds be on a critical list? The possibilities are mind-boggling. There are so many stories which could have developed infinitely different if the river of history had taken different directions.
Dogs both unite and divide people. Because people both unite and divide people. It’s as impossible to take politics out of dogs as it is to take politics out of every aspect of human endeavor. As Pericles famously quipped, “just because you don’t take any interest in politics doesn’t mean that politics will not take any interest in you”.
The FCI has put a foot on the brake when it comes to recognition of new or ‘new’ breeds. The Federation rather favors adopting varieties that can interbreed with each other, instead of small populations with precariously limited genetic diversity.
This realistic mindset allows some optimism for possible breakthroughs regarding stagnation in breeds that had been established long ago and now find themselves in trouble; breeds that have unnecessarily cut off from their roots, aboriginal dogs coming to the rescue, geographically isolated populations throwing a lifeline to each other, old relatives helping each other out. Genetic and population studies can offer solutions, reveal possibilities and open new pathways.
Dog breeds resemble plants scattered all over a diverse landscape; we look at their superficial differences and they seem cut off from each other; but underneath the surface their roots are interconnected and tapping in the vast groundwater system that sustains them. The dog genome evokes a similar network image. There is no separation, instead there is inter-connectedness.
We shall never now what could have been. But we can hope and work for more openness, more co-operation, more communication. We can stubbornly remain realistic, short-term pessimists but long-term optimists, refusing to give up. Because for every solution there is a problem and vice-versa, even if they are as esoteric as Columbus eggs.
In 1927, the most perfect Great Dane in the world was Etfa v.d. Saalburg, full sister of Dolf. Etfa was magnificent. The photograph shows an animal supremely fit for purpose, free from exaggeration, flowing from tip to toe, clean-headed and looking able to run all day. She crossed the Atlantic several times, becoming Siegerin in Germany and winner at the Westminster Dog Show in New York. Back then, it was possible for such a thing to happen in Great Danes: the same criteria, the same standard of excellence applied on both sides of the Atlantic and aficionados united in celebration of the same type, the same ideal, the same glorious Great Dane.
I would like to see something like that happen again.
Wouldn’t we all ?