The term “hyper-type” is currently used to describe animals that exaggerate the expression of their breed’s morphological type overall, or else a particular feature which is looked for. An entire breed may be hyper-typed – classic examples of this are the Bulldog and the Shar Pei – and nonetheless include some animals even more hyper-typed than others: they are deliberately used by advertising, which contributes to the fashion in their favour. However, the most frequent case is where one sees the appearance from time to time of hyper-typed animals within a breed which nonetheless still remains “normal”; for example, excessive weights, features that initiate – or intensify – a flattening or a lengthening, more skin folds than usual, short backs that become excessively short, hair that grows too long, etc.
The drift towards hyper-types constitutes one of the “diseases”of today’s dog world. It is unfortunately encouraged by dog owners, who are easily attracted by an animal that is “different”, for example because its morphological type, overall or on a particular point, is significantly pronounced. It is then encouraged by judges, who have no hesitation in giving top awards to hyper-typed dogs. To cap it all, such animals very often do not comply with their breed standard! The French Kennel Club’s zoo-technical commission emphasised, more than ten years ago, that “hyper-type” should be assimilated to “lack of type”, which, quite logically, bars from confirmation. This means that certain champion dogs are not eligible for confirmation*!
One sometimes hears it said that breeders need hyper-typed dogs so that, with judiciously planned matings, they can return to the middle range which is tending to disappear. We challenge the word “need” since there are other solutions, more progressive ones, in the context of a properly conducted breeding selection; in any case, how did we manage at a time when there were few, if any, hyper-types? Even if true, it would be best at least to keep such animals in the kennels and not “display” them at dog shows.
If hyper-type was only to give shape to a new direction for the breed, there would be no more than two questions to be asked:
-wonder about the image that is being given to the breed, at a time when “animal rights” is taking on more and more importance, sometimes too much. It is concerned about the well-being of animals as well as the respect that is shown to them: and it is fairly obvious that a hyper-typed dog is, in a way, a “toy”…,
– what can we do to prevent this new direction from eliminating all the others? This brings us back to the question of how we manage variability, as has already been amply discussed.
In reality, often, hyper-typed dogs are weakened with respect to certain ailments and their life-expectancy tends to be shortened. Their well-being is therefore compromised and the show-dog world, because of this, offers arguments to its detractors, especially when these belong to the radical fringe of the animal rights movement. They are now actively proposing, via European legislation, to get a ban imposed on the breeding of a large number of breeds that it describes as “tortured”.
In order to prevent the excesses of animal rights, we should not simply reject all its arguments, refusing to enter into the debate, in brief clothing ourselves in our “dignity” but, to the contrary, make a point of calmly identifying the real deviations which are harmful to the animals and acknowledging that it is necessary to deal with them.The debate is not necessarily simple in scientific terms but it needs to be tackled. Its the collection of multiple observations and of discussion that will reveal the objectivity.
Professor emeritus at the Ecole vétérinaire de Nantes
Chairman of the Société d’Ethnozootechnie,
member of the Scientific Committee of the F.C.I.
*“Confirmation”: breeding approval
illustration: from”CITIZEN DANE”, published by the Association des Amis du Dogue Allemand (France). The dog on the right is 18 months old in the photo.
(view the current Great Dane breed standards here )