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Looks like some people “in dogs” don’t know the meaning of the term “eugenics“; this is peculiar, since that is exactly what selective breeding is – “good breeding” at least, and that’s precisely what the word means; if we analyze it further “eugenics” also signifies noble birth, good genes and superior genetic qualities; so, breeding with the purpose of improving the progeny is, in fact, eugenics. The PETA protesters who stormed the main ring at Crufts Dog Show 2018 accusing breeders of practicing eugenics were themselves committing a tautology…
It was good old uncle Plato who introduced the idea of arranged marriages (another form of socially acceptable and still widely practiced human eugenics, not to mention forced marriages and sterilization still happening today). Nowadays fertilization clinics offer selection of desirable traits; women and couples go through the lists of sperm banks to choose the most physically appealing, healthy and intelligent sperm donors; parents exercise the option of improving the DNA of their children by removing defective genes before fertilization; these examples are in essence applied eugenics, no matter what you might choose to euphemize them as and absolutely zero doubt to become much more widespread with scientific advances in the future; isn’t the legitimate wish of medicine to prevent and eradicate disease and correct hereditary defects on the molecular level, a eugenic vision?
Eugene is the gentle, noble, well-born. Instead of demonizing words, we should first comprehend what they signify and then differentiate between theory, practice, method and consequence: what is done and how it’s done and to what purpose and with what result. Long before the concept was tainted by the atrocities of the Nazis, eugenics had already been in widespread practical use for millennia: artificial selection of domesticated animals and plants with the purpose of adapting them to human needs; selective breeding of dogs, horses, cattle, poultry, aquarium fish (you name it, we breed it, alter it, improve it or just mess with it), development of better varieties of fruit trees, food crops and pretty flowers is eugenics.
We shouldn’t be afraid of words – yes, Frank was right about that, like a good deal of many other things. What we should be concerned about is actions. The problem with eugenics, like everything else, is purpose and abuse.
The British especially should be familiar with the term as the human eugenics movement began in Britain long before it was adopted by the Americans and the Germans: the person who coined the term was Darwin’s second cousin Francis Galton : fascinated by his relative’s The Origin of the Species and especially the chapter on “animal variation under domestication”, he used the ideas that have been put forward in dog breeding to formulate his racist theories and propose a similar improvement of the human “race” (the white, “superior” race of course), by various means ranging from arranged marriages to population control, including enforced or coerced sterilization of the “feeble-minded” and “inferior” people. That’s how eugenics becomes genocide.
We shouldn’t be ignorant or worse, gloss over our cultural, social and dog History, lest we forget and repeat it: our Leon Whitney’s “fitter family contests”, or our Freeman Lloyd’s white supremacist remark about “the nigger in the woodpile”. Galton wrote of dogs: “If a man breeds from strong, well-shaped dogs, but of mixed pedigree, the puppies will be sometimes, but rarely, the equals of their parents. they will commonly be of a mongrel, nondescript type”. Canine & equine “racial purity” was the established paradigm of the aristocracy that informed not just Galton’s, but many systematic racist and institutionalized human eugenics concepts.
Human fascination with ancestry, genealogy, “ethnicity”, family trees, bloodlines and “blue-blooded” royal families (hereditary monarchy being another form of widely accepted -even revered, by many – eugenics and institutionalized discrimination, inequality, totalitarianism and essential fascism: it legitimizes the concept that some people are superior and automatically suitable as rulers, not just because of their “pedigree”, but even the order of their birth) has been given a new boost with the availability of human so-called “Heritage” DNA tests. Some of us no doubt will never just be happy being different, individual, unique (in the sense that everyone is different) yet equal: some aren’t satisfied unless they are above, superior to others…
The struggle that takes place in the human mind and conscience between the mongrel, the mutt, the cross-bred and the superior of race, the thoroughbred of noble birth and the pariah, is as murky as our assumptions about our own superiority as a species, as shady as our social divisions and prejudices, or our tendency to look at the animal world as a pyramid of advanced predators reigning over “weaklings”, and transferring the same erroneous concept to our societies; that model overlooks the interconnectedness and interdependence of everything and everyone: the flutter of “feeble” butterfly wings giving rise to hurricanes, the importance of the tiny honey bee for the survival of the entire ecosystem that includes us, the role of cooperation in social species. A similarly muddled and morally defunct conflict is raging as strong between the pedigree dog fancy and the Heinz 57s’ advocates, hurling insults at each other and refusing to engage in meaningful dialogue about their common interest – animals in general and dogs in particular. Both artificially divided camps put forth strong arguments and both are correct in some parts of their reasoning and entirely flawed and racist in others.
This antagonism is not of course merely taking place between so-called “dog lovers” and the so-called “anti-dog lobby”, or just between the pedigree dog devotees and the “dog is a dog” crowd; there’s something of an undeclared war going on even among dog aficionados in general and the pedigree dog fancy itself: superdogs vs underdogs, high-bred / well-bred / “bred in the purple” vs poorly-bred / “of indifferent parentage”; winners vs losers, “red” pedigreed vs common-as-muck peons, Supreme / Grand / BIS / BISS champions vs the untitled and the unshown, famous vs the unknown, tested in the field vs the untried, hobby-bred vs backyard bred, professionally bred vs novice-bred; pets vs show dogs, giant dogs vs tea-cup dogs, “macho” dogs vs “hairdresser’s dogs”, working dogs vs couch potatoes, bourgeois dogs vs utilitarian dogs, “useful” dogs vs “useless degenerates”, “pretty” dogs vs “ugly” dogs, skinny dogs vs stocky dogs, hairy dogs vs hairless dogs, “natural” breeds vs “man-made” breeds, men’s dogs vs women’s dogs, “proper” breeds vs “designer” breeds, ancient breeds with origins (oh so lyrical the cliche goes) “lost in the mists of time” vs new breeds, breeds vs landraces, registered dogs vs paperless dogs…We identify with them, they define our personalities, they (dog breeds or dog types) have become symbols: hallmarks of the successful, defiance banners for the working man; dogs and breeds and landraces are cult, culture & lifestyle, they are ethnic and national property and emblems, they are the stuff dreams and urban myths are made of… indeed for some they are integral elements of personas assumed and projected…and while there’s nothing wrong with being different, accepting the other different is essential; often the underlying assumption is that “we” are “better” and “superior” to “them”, we are the select Elite. That is, fundamentally, proto-fascist (ergo, racist).
Hunters and protection dog sport enthusiasts do not always bother to hide the fact they look down on “toy” pooches and “decorative” companion breeds that “never did a day’s work” (hardly to be considered “real dogs” by that lot of “doggy people”). German Shepherd Dog faithful seriously do believe and profess almost religious conviction that their “superdogs”, their “wolf-like” semi-gods (still as Aryan a legend to the neo-nazi white supremacist as the Führer himself) are the ultimate, heroic über alles deities of dogdom, and they also, needless to say, view every other kind of dog as inferior, ordinary, unfortunate plebeians. While just as many Pit Bull fans devote their exclusive adoration upon that mythical, exceptional hagiography of a canis familiaris, an anti-hero archetype: the misunderstood, much-maligned victim, crucified and risen, Jesus-like, to the realm of martyrdom and sainthood that renders its church above criticism; (and some of these followers of the bull dog faith wouldn’t, of course, be seen dead with another, not-so-magnificent a creature). Replace bull-dog / gsd with a few other breed / variety / landrace names and you get the gist of chauvinist hyperbole recruited to “promote” one’s preferred canine icon vs another…
Fanaticism and blinkered bigotry are aplenty in the opposite camp also: polemicists “proud” to only like or own or even approve the existence of “mutts”, as an antithesis and revolt to breedism, those who wouldn’t adopt a breed (heaven forbid if it happened to be, horror of horrors, a purered dog) even if it was in dire need of rescue or life danger; and those who believe that dogs belong in the wild, that the only canines worthy of the name are pariah dogs and primitive land races – yet these reverse purists wouldn’t even adopt one of those – because it would be “unnatural”, restricting the dog’s free will and rights, the right to go forth and make puppies above all; and besides they view dog rescuers as Messianic syndrome-sufferers…
Racism, intolerance and fundamentalist extremism is not something we decidedly put behind us as dog lovers just because we exorcized some words and made a scapegoat of the terminology as it’s a sore reminder of the ugly truth about humans: that every good idea can go wrong and every good use can deteriorate to abuse and exploitation. We are still the same flawed apes that are as racist, bigoted and intolerant within the dog world as human society at large is without. History is not something that happened in the past: it is what’s happening today – as we’re still entrenched in centuries-old concepts, traditions, good intentions, flawed, hazy or lazy thinking, lies often repeated and propaganda becoming “truth”: our most revered breed books are full of them, our most respected celebrities spew and repeat them every occasion they get. Like the “fact” that Denmark had nothing to do with the origins of the Great Dane, as we hear every damn year from the all-knowing super-expert commentators at Crufts and Westminster…
Our dog history is a tangled mess of good and valid intentions, racist ideologies, institutionalised nationalism (“national” breeds of dog belonging exclusively to, and being managed, authoritatively and solely, by the absolute power of a tiny elite governing the “parent breed club” in the country of origin, effecting totalitarian control even over breeds of global distribution, like the Great Dane) and even state fascism: I give you a prime breed example, the German Shepherd Dog (and the Great Dane, again). Dog histories are written and rewritten to suit the agenda of the victor in human expansionism and imperialism. Countries of origin change back and forth, breeds and landraces annexed in the same manner as geographical territories. Bismarck and Prussia helped themselves to the Danish Dog – “by iron and blood” – to serve as the ultimate power symbol: the Reichshund, the Dog of the Empire. There are too many examples of the dog as victim of human geopolitics and ideology to list here…one of the most recent being the attempt to officially attribute the Tibetan “Mastiff” to China: the official classification by the FCI is just a trivial matter in comparison to what is happening to these dogs since China entered the dog show World…
So I have to nail my colors to the mast on this one: I can’t sit on the fence. I must also differentiate and distance myself from the blind, fanatic, irrational cabal of “blood purity”.
Let’s stare at the mess with a cool head and objectively attempt to untangle it. We have to bridge the divide with integrity and intelligence. We need to evolve into a post-apartheid era. It is essential to decide, fairly and scientifically, what is legitimate and valid and useful and what is harmful in breeding selection. No matter what you choose to call it, we are still practicing eugenics – in humans, domestic animals, plants, dogs and more. There is nothing wrong with eugenics applied to domesticated animals (even, it could be argued, our precious selves, in the very specific case of alleviating preventable illness and death). There is nothing wrong per se with genetic engineering like there nothing wrong with nuclear research – it’s the purpose, and the applications that can go haywire and become harmful. There is nothing wrong in planned matings between dogs with the goal of producing healthy, clever, able-bodied, long-living progeny, capable of providing a service – and that includes “just” being well-adjusted, happy companions. Breeding selection per se is not ethical or unethical: it’s how you do it that matters. It’s the criteria, and the methods, and the objectives that make the difference.
The problem starts when the breed itself becomes a totem: it’s racial purity a one-way street, almost a religion with dictatorial effects, it’s “pure” status to be preserved, its “pure” blood protected from contamination by other, “alien” individuals, pure-bred or not, at all costs, especially, is the crux of the matter, at the cost of the dogs themselves. This is pedigree dog tribalism and manifests itself as chauvinistic to the extreme. There is no pure breed of dogs like there is no pure race of humans. All dogs are members of the canis species and all breeds are a mixture of other breeds and landraces before them and the ancestral wolves before that. Breeds are not distinct, separate species – that is such a simple fact and yet so many dog fanciers deny or ignore it, the mind truly boggles.
Isolating a dog population via a registry of closed pedigrees is not going to alter the genetic makeup of these dogs – they still carry the vast majority of genes that make them dogs; they are still going to be able to produce viable offspring with other dogs of different breeds, with non-pedigree dogs and with any other member of the genus canis (coyotes, dingoes, jackals and wolves). The only thing that segregation does is to distill and concentrate those alleles that govern the appearance of the dog, more and more, until they become almost identical to each other, conforming to the breed standard, to the exclusion of other alleles. As the breed becomes more and more uniform in type, by becoming more and more genetically homozygous, it becomes more and more impoverished in biological fitness traits – losing all those alternative alleles has a cost. We can’t isolate an undesirable trait and banish only it from our breeding: the phenotypically imperfect specimens we exclude do not just carry those genes that express themselves in the form of aesthetic flaws (that the breed standard objects to), they also carry a tank-load of useful alleles that the breed needs in order to be healthy, functional and with a species-appropriate lifespan. (And I’m not talking about extreme phenotypes like the hypertype deviations: those are the “basket cases” that we need to avoid like the plague. We don’t need hypertypical to breed typical, sound and healthy dogs – but the hypertypicals themselves can return to normal dog structure and morphology via matings with dogs of normal – free from exaggerations – phenotype).
So one day down this one-way “eugenic” street we arrive at the point where a breed is very uniform and perhaps very beautiful to look at, according to some subjective or even questionable criteria of beauty, but it’s also very sick and almost dead.
That is not an “improvement”.
That is the ethical issue with “pure” breeds in as far as by “pure” we perceive a population that is not allowed to mix with any other dog population at large. If pedigrees were open, and kept open indefinitely, or on an individual case by case basis even, to allow judicious cross-breeding between breeds, landraces and aboriginal specimens, maintaining diversity, biological fitness, health and longevity without sacrificing breed type, selective breeding wouldn’t be riddled with problems. It’s the “pure breeding” that causes ill effects, not the breeding itself. Cross-breeding does not sacrifice breed type, as we know from the countless examples of “pure” breeds that were crossed out and back-crossed to type. That is also how many breeds of livestock are managed and successfully avoid the pitfalls of inbreeding.
We have to abandon the closemindedness and exclusivity that created the pseudo-eugenic concept of blood purity: the racist, stupid, ill-educated method of selective breeding within isolated and segregated groups of dog and the propaganda which led breeders believe that only with closed pedigrees can breed type be achieved and maintained. We finally, eventually, in the molecular genetics, DNA era, must catch up with reality and natural laws: get rid of obsolete and ill-conceived theories and embrace a contemporary, scientific, realistic, pragmatic, ethical and effective way of breeding dogs in the 21st century.
“Reputable / responsible / KC breeders produce better / superior dogs than back yard breeders and puppy mills“
When I was a rookie in the dog world, this was the doctrine that we were taught, were supposed to believe, parrot at every opportunity and pass on to the newcomers.
We truly believed and espoused it and we proceeded to preach it from the pulpit with all the zeal and conviction and fanaticism of born-again Christians or islamic fundamentalists.
And then you grow up in the real (dog) world and you realize the marvelous Dogma is wrong.
You realize there’s mysteries in the Gospel that require Blind Faith and request that you forego all Reason and suspend all Logic in order to continue believing in its creationist, binary, unintelligent myths.
You soon discover that dog breeding practiced under the auspices of the FCI or any other registering body, does not guarantee quality, or ethical management, of dogs.
You realize that many of the supposedly “well-bred”, Kennel Club-registered pedigree dogs are afflicted by widespread health problems of epidemic proportions, drop dead like flies, or are abandoned and betrayed by their so-called responsible, caring, self-proclaimed breeders: dumped onto rescues and shelters; or stuck to languish in kennels, mass-producing puppies that massage the greeder‘s ego (and line his/her pockets). Worse still, there are “reputable” breeders who do this. There are breed Club members and Committee members and famous, respectable celebrities of dogdom who do this – people held as role models and educators, people who lecture others on dog care and ethical breeding, who do this.
Welcome to the real Dog World.
Where shameful things like this happen.
Where supposedly sane members of the homo sapiens species (and award-winning breeders, guided by almighty experts and governing bodies) do this & this
and that ^ becoming acceptable, normalized, respectable, even mythologized by pseudo-scientific drivel and divine authorities, then it gives license to tragedies at large, like this:
^ “toadline” (I kid you not!) “Bulldog“…
[The only connection of course of the above to bulls, being the bull-excrement that is sold by its greeders to brainless consumers of the uber-masculine (read: compensating) persuasion. But it’s not a joke. It’s not even remotely funny].
Guess what: the dog show rose-garden is no longer pretty but it’s abundant in manure and thorny issues. Like just about every other human activity, it is flawed and imperfect and corrupt. We found that out long ago. And it would make accomplices or idiots of us if we didn’t acknowledge the fact, and confess there are a lot of decomposing corpses and rattling skeletons in our closets – entire mass graves, in fact: a lot of things wrong with purebreds and dog shows. The word is out. To even attempt to really improve the situation somewhat, we have to admit our colossal collective failures. Closing ranks and shooting the messengers, accusing them of breeder-bashing, when in fact every sane human being and every caring true breeder should be outraged by this insanity, would just be adding insult to injury and committing yet another unforgivable betrayal of monumental proportions upon those we purport to love so much: dogs. And their best interests. (And good hobby breeders’ and caring dog lovers’ interests).
You see backyard – and puppy mill – bred dogs outliving their purple-born brethren. You see products of dubious, false or so-called “inferior” pedigrees and “paperless” dogs that are nevertheless better-made, of superior temperament, intelligence and performance, better equipped for working ability and fitness for purpose.
You see truly conscientious breeders trying their honest best, breeding from champions and fully health – tested “stock” and failing to produce consistently healthy and superior dogs.
But why are we failing? Of course, if you had partaken in even a whiff of genetics along the way you may have come to realize that breeding only from champions and using only fully health – tested “stock” (what an awful term to use for sentient beings! As if they were ingredients of a broth – which of course it’s somewhat true, if we look at dogs as merely the building blocks of ambitious breeding programs) is exactly the recipe for disaster that guarantees the loss of those very essential ingredients needed for breeding “better” dogs: available genetic diversity, differential alleles, randomness, variety, vigor, fertility, biological fitness – in other words all those fundamental qualities that life itself depends upon; the canine species was equipped with these for survival by natural evolution, and are absolutely necessary if the aim of breeding was to improve these animals in health, physical and mental abilities and performance. If the goal of so many wasn’t just breeding for looks and “to have something to show”.
Listening to people, at this day and age, mentor aspirant breeders to “tightly line-breed” gives me the shudders.
It’s not difficult to understand why. If you lock yourself in an airtight room and never allow fresh air to come in, you will die of asphyxiation. If you isolate a small pool so that no fresh water comes into it whatsoever, it will eventually become so devoid of oxygen, polluted and unable to support life that it will effectively become toxic, killing everything in it. A dead pool.
That’s precisely what is happening to our dogs “gene pools” at a rate that can no longer be described as alarming: it is simply horrific.
“Tightly line-breed to set type” – in a pedigree breed, that has been bred as an isolated population for generations, since the 19th century in some cases? As if “type” hadn’t been already set by breed standard conformity? how else have we arrived at the point of just looking at a dog and recognising it as a Dane, a Pointer, an Old English Sheepdog and so on, how would be able to declare that a dog is indeed a specimen that conforms to a breed standard or not, how else, by Freya’s tits and Tutatis wiener, would we be able to distinguish between typical, hypertypical or hypotypical, if type hadn’t been already set ?
Our old, established, “pure” pedigree breeds are no longer in the state of initial development. “Setting” type takes a few generations – we are dozens of generations down that road since. Our old breeds are dog-tired and inbred to the eyeballs. Further “tight line-breeding” for the sole purpose of cementing an even more inbred, personal (kennel) style? creating an even smaller gene puddle, totally deprived from any genetic variation left? oh how noble an ambition – not! How selfish, arrogant, destructive, utterly stupid, self-serving and ego-driven a goal… Biologically asphyxiate a group of dogs completely and totally to their detriment, causing ill-health, loss of longevity and ultimately, premature, preventable death, in order to achieve glory, recognition, influence and a collection of trophies on the mantlepiece, break some vainglorious championship “records”, secure posthumous place of prominence in breed books even? Is that really a valid motive for a true dog lover? Is that what a breeder is supposed to be about? It’s sickening, that’s what it is…
I guess I am truly a “pet-minded person” like I was accused, with utter contempt, by one of the doyennes of dogdom who believes that hereditary defects are a conspiracy of the veterinary profession (…) just like Trump believes Climate Change is a hoax invented by the Chinese…Yes, there are “experts” that are that stupid in dogdom…
I am proud to be a “pet-minded” person – neither a racial purist, nor an anti-breed purist. I find absolutism very not clever. I think inbreeding and cross-breeding can co-exist in artificial selection and contribute in a rational, effective, sustainable management of viable, healthy populations of domesticated animals. That fact has been proven beyond doubt. I can’t hide my head in the sand and pretend that somehow natural laws don’t apply to dogs. I can’t forego of reason and integrity to serve “special interests”.
I started in dogs like everyone else: I believed the hype, I embraced the dogma, I espoused, promoted and supported the ideology. But I kept an open mind and a keen appetite for study. My thinking has evolved. As my priority in breeding dogs was neither glory nor income, I maintained the spirit of the hobbyist, the student, the amateur aficionado, the devotee, the thinker who is always happy to examine new information and be convinced by facts. So I am only one of the many people, many breeders who have not shackled themselves to maintaining an image or a record at any cost.
Unfortunately, many of our “in shop” mentors belong in that category: they are successful breeders that have a keen personal interest in maintaining the status quo, not rocking the boat, keeping the system afloat. They argue against science like creationists. Even if well-meant, that simply isn’t good enough. I’m sorry folks, without self-criticism there’s neither advancement nor awareness. The system is not working and we got to do better, even if that means we take longer to reach our personal goals of success: improving the health and longevity of dogs more than justifies this “sacrifice” in speed. That’s why natural evolution is so much better: it takes a very long time. We have to adjust our methods to balance the detrimental effects of us speeding up the process and removing a large part of the practical evaluation mechanisms.
It’s incredible that people fail to grasp the harsh realities of breeding within a closed gene pool, while consanguinity has always been such a big taboo among humans; nature (evolution) has developed survival strategies and animal behaviors to avoid inbreeding in DNA – based organisms, otherwise they go extinct. If you repeatedly mate with just your own “blood” relatives for generations, your offspring will be more and more sickly until either all women are infertile and all men are sterile or every last one is dead as a Dodo: Nature gets rid of your defective existence – throws you in the garbage heap – once and for all.
So why have we been doing with dogs, what we are very careful not to do with ourselves?
Simply because when closed stud books & pure pedigrees first came into existence, people did not understand that the DNA of humans and the DNA of dogs follow the same basic rules of biology. They ignored that fact for a long time, and as inbreeding fixed aesthetic traits that were and still are (as enshrined in breed standards) appealing, in other words, produced beautiful – looking specimens & uniformity of “pure”-bred dogs (whatever your definition of beauty or your personal taste may be) the defects were ignored or seen as a necessary price to pay (collateral damage) for show-ring excellence; what competitors wanted was that distinctive “look” that separated the supposedly “superior” breeders’ kennel from the ‘also-runs’ and was reproduced reliably and with prepotency – because that was all those dogs had to pass on to their progeny, being as homogenous as inbred peas in a pod.
We know now how much of that is pure hogwash as we know that breed (blood) purity is a racist concept widely applied to dogs and horses by mimicking those very people who were “keeping it in the family” themselves : “blue-blooded” monarchs and their aping, servile subjects, “superior race” ideologues, proponents of human, genocide eugenics, pseudo-scientists, apologists of apartheid, racism, white supremacy and slavery. (It’s no coincidence that human eugenics and dog segregation into “pure” breeds share the same beginnings: 19th century “Imperial”, bigot-ridden, class-segregated, colonial, unashamedly racist, aristocracy-ruled Britain…).
And just how much of that Lernaean monster did we actually defeat and really put behind us since? Not a lot. Aren’t we seeing the same old racism, bigotry, xenophobia, class divide, oligarchy, tyranny and prejudice rising their ugly heads in our self-proclaimed, failing “democratic” bastions and “Weimar republics”, aren’t we just witnessing the nightmares of yesterday raising again to haunt us like thirsty vampires, calling for “blood and iron“?
Aren’t these seeds of hatred deeply rooted in the teachings we still instill in our children, that we as a species are superior, that animals – the entire world, even – were created by the God each camp happens to believe in (be it Allah or Christ or any other version of the only one “true God” and holy doctrine, warring with each other) for us to use and consume and entertain ourselves with? Aren’t these superstitious, hateful, cruel nonsense exemplified everywhere around us, in the way we torture and kill each other, in the manner we treat sentient beings, our own closest relatives, as they were inanimate, devoid of senses, emotions and intelligence? Aren’t they entangled in the assumption of superiority by the privileged who question why should they contribute to the education of the poor, and to the health care of the “others”, whom they look down upon as failures? Aren’t we still primitive, barbaric, aggressive, largely patriarchally-religious and testosterone-poisoned, suicidal, homicidal, genocidal, destructive and self-destructive, ignorant, all-tormenting and murdering apes?
How much I wonder of our eagerness to accept that racial superiority of pure-bred dogs isn’t rooted on some sticky residue of that centuries-old prejudice about superior humans, superior races, superior classes of people, superior gods, Führers and monarchs… In our hidden wish that we are somehow extraordinary, different, exceptional and above others, either by beauty, or descent, or intelligence, or strength, wealth, influence or accident of birth or some lucky, random event that decided we were born the children of millionaire white parents in the “developed” world, instead of some exploited aboriginal slaves in some “shithole” that we feel free to pollute and destroy and invade and strip of its resources and cut down of its rainforests so that we can pile our shitloads of money sky high ? How much of our stupidity is entirely our own and not born of our obsession with celebrities and anti-values, replacing everything decent, compassionate and fair about humanity?
We’ve been sold a pup: we were lead to believe that racial purity (closed pedigrees) is the only way to improve an animal population. That is simply false: it’s not what people have been doing for millennia, it’s not how it’s done in breeding livestock and it’s not how it’s done in real (not sport-simulated) working dog selection: improvement is achieved by selecting for fitness, behavior and performance. How did we arrive at totally vilifying and excommunicating crossbreeding, a method our ancestors have been using since the very beginning of domestication, demonizing, ostracizing it and replacing it with the ignorant and racist notion of racial purity?
Ah yes, of course: the reason our predecessors selected animals to breed to was some kind of usefulness other than the “purely” or primarily aesthetic; those dogs had to be good at something and it wasn’t very economical or sensible to breed them sickly and unable to perform tasks and prone to dying prematurely…(As the last breeder of working, gamekeepers’ Bullmastiffs once told me: “I’ve no time for breeding problem dogs”…) But take away the purpose landraces and dog types were originally bred for, and you end up with your criteria for defining breed type mainly reduced to looks and a generic, ingratiating temperament, devoid of drive. Take away the natural out of the living, and you end up with urbanized dogdom that has to fit in apartment buildings, professional dog walkers and clientele that has no clue (and no use) for what a breed was intended to be capable of. Accept the notion that we simply have the god-given right to do anything to other sentient beings, just because they are property, and we are the superior rulers of all and free to torture, disfigure and kill for our convenience. Soon, you end up with this.
Yet now, with increased awareness about genetics, we simply know better. We know that euphemisms such as “line-breeding” and “outcrossing” are meaningless: the only kind of breeding possible, by definition, within a closed population of pedigree dogs is, in fact, inbreeding. And inbreeding over this length of time, in the hundred or so years that we have been doing it to man-made dog breeds, initially landraces, is simply unsustainable. Unless of course we could afford to fund a preposterously expensive program of genetic engineering for pedigree dogs. Wouldn’t that be just fab? Divert millions away from much more useful needs of society in order to maintain our penchant for racially “pure” canines. Instead of just breeding dogs sensibly.
The way we’ve been going about dogs in the last hundred years (or less, since in the beginning, stud books were not closed) the cynic in me is even prepared to place a wager that it won’t be the sensible option that the fancy will choose: common sense looks as if it has gone entirely out of fashion in organized dogdom. Not surprised at all by that fact, since governing bodies elect to administer pseudo-education to breeders that is not just laughable – it is downright false, if not sinister. And I mean intentionally fictitious, spurious, misleading and designed to promote and maintain the “pure-bred” status quo that is, of course, the canine registries‘ bread, butter and cake combined.
Not only have we been inbreeding them literally to death, we have been removing genetic diversity by the bucket-loads, in every litter and at every generation: breeding from “only the best” (one or two pups from each breeding combination, mostly champions), excluding millions of individuals because they didn’t conform to minutiae of perceived perfection in appearance, desexing and placing our puppies in pet homes “not to be bred from” (although many if not most breeders agree that many of these “pet” puppies turned out to be better than their champion siblings), breeding them artificially (even against our bitches’ rejection of a male, we have bred them on rape racks), whelping them artificially, counting teeth and color spots and splitting hairs…
Not to forget of course, selecting for the generic “mild” temperament that is suitable for the “average dog buyer” – because someone (the dog-buying public) has to shoulder and subsidize the costs of ambitious breeding programs – resulting in the side effect of dogs unfit for their original purpose, overly aggressive, nervous, shy, fearful, unfit for purpose, incapable of living up to the title: canis familiaris.
The outcome is this. Entire breeds driven to extinction because they have been intentionally suffocated by caring breeders who don’t know any better and still refuse to listen and learn. Brainwashed by mentors who don’t bother with facts and by governing bodies that ought to know better – but, hey, its cool to be part of the ruling Elite (by invitation, just like old-fashioned gentlemen’s clubs) and money makes the world go ’round…
In a recent whole-genome study of 112 breeds, the Great Dane breed sits above the red line for genetic diversity loss: the red line represents inbreeding coefficient of 25%. That is not just alarming, chilling, terrifying: it’s unsustainable. If cross-breeding programs are not implemented, that is the road to hell in a handcart. So add some precious dog breeds (the Great Dane on the Endangered list) on the tally of the sixth mass-extinction tsunami event, it will hardly matter the way we’re headed…
To listen to supposedly intelligent and caring people who purport to love dogs, argue and insist for color segregation and breed purity, as more and more, thousands upon thousands of our dogs are dying too soon in gene pools that we have turned to pure poison, deprived of what is essential to sustain life, is a testament to the infinity of human stupidity.
People looking at the pros and cons of inbreeding and deciding that uniformity is preferable to life…seriously.
Seriously arguing that looking like peas in a pod or blades of grass is better than being alive.
Yes, it’s looking like that.
Supposedly rational people responding to the dilemma with “I’d rather see dogs die from preventable inherited diseases as I value their blood purity more than their lives”.
Yes folks, that’s the bottom line. That’s what we’ve practically doing, just not blurting it out. And it’s not just sick. It’s insane.
So, if even seeing the Great Dane on the endangered list isn’t enough to administer a kick in our collective pants, then give up all hope all who reside in the ivory towers of dogdom and its idyllic la-la-land.
I, for one, don’t wanna have that on my conscience.
I refuse to have anything to do with it.
And anyone who wants to claim even an ounce of reason and care about dogs, ought to think long and hard about this. Think where they stand and examine their motives with sincerity.
Fence-sitting on this issue is like enjoying a bullfight and pretending they can’t imagine the outcome.
Guess what, the bull always dies in the end.
I don’t call it “culture” because it’s not. It’s cruelty.
A hundred years ago we didn’t know any better and we’d be excused as uneducated ignoramuses for this madness. But now? When genetic science is staring us in the face and biologists sounding the alarm bells right and left and center?
I repeat to avoid misunderstanding: closed populations (closed stud books, a.k.a. “pure” pedigrees) mean that the only available method of selective breeding is inbreeding. The terms line-breeding and out-crossing, in pedigree dogs, are mere euphemisms: You cannot outcross in a pure pedigree breed: you can only use dogs within that isolated population. All these pure-bred dogs are relatives with each other. All the mating combinations within a closed population are ergo, in fact, inbreeding. “Line breeding” is inbreeding. “Outcrossing” is also inbreeding. The only difference is the degree of relatedness.
Reasonable people understand that we cannot continue this indefinitely without hitting a brick wall. You don’t need a degree in biology to realize we don’t procreate with our own brothers, sisters and close relatives for a reason. A very good reason.
No, I am not advocating that all pedigree breeds have their stud books opened tomorrow and let the crossing-out-at-random begin. What I expect and demand is that Kennel Clubs offer this life-saving option to the breeds in their care. What I am advocating, is that breeds with small populations / few founders are allowed to cross-breed judiciously before they reach the point of no return. What I propose is that Kennel Clubs enshrine this in their sets of rules making sure we don’t regress, and Breed Clubs begin work yesterday to make sure they are prepared for such an eventuality. What I support is that breeds with serious and widespread, life-threatening and quality of life-threatening inherited defects (such as eye disorders that cause blindness), instead of having their gene pool shrink even further by testing and excluding carriers, have their breed’s health and available genetic diversity (effective population) increased by crossing out to breeds that do not carry the disorders. Yeah, the same thing that saved the Dalmatians. It works.
What I am suggesting is nothing outrageous, preposterous, novel, heretic or radical: it’s old news; it’s what has already happened in several cases, with the approval of Kennel Clubs and Breed Clubs that are aware of the genetic realities. What visionaries in organizations like the Finnish Club, the Norwegian KC and other Nordic canine bodies have already enshrined and provisioned for, on a case to case basis. What has already been undertaken successfully in breeds like the Dalmatian above, the Pinscher, the Irish Red and White Setter, the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Boxer, the Brussels Griffon, the Mastiff, the Lundehund and many others. I would like to see this happening globally, and of course, needless to say I would like to see this measure adopted for some of the dogs I love the most: Great Danes.
I would like to see all Kennel Clubs and Breed Clubs that the Great Dane breed relies on for its preservation and survival, provide this option, make it available to the breed, educate breeders about it, and the sooner the better. We don’t want the Great Dane to become just another victim of the “too little too late” knee-jerk reactions that politicians (of the doggy persuasion or governmental kind alike) are prone to. Our breed is already losing immeasurable genetic diversity and thousands of beloved, irreplaceable family dogs to three major killers (DCM, Bloat & Cancer) and a plethora of other health defects that are a direct result of inbreeding depression.
How many more innocent dogs do we bear to lose before we step up to the task? I have lost three in quick succession. How many have you lost? how many more should we bury before we do what we can to save them? We haven’t got time to tweedle our thumbs.
Are we dog carers or dog funeral undertakers?
We need some real breeders education – and we need it now. We need courage and integrity; we need informed, visionary breeders and mentors and breed advisors and educators, guardians and sentinels – ready and able for a new era in dog breeding. An era of Enlightenment and Restoration. We need to tell the truth to ourselves and the public and we need to accept facts and stop living in cloud cuckoo.
We no longer live in the 1800s, when ignorance was bliss and naive pioneers could be excused for their relative ignorance.
When you know better, you got to do better.
There’s no excuse for ignorance and compliance anymore.
To insist in being ignorant you have to be either incredibly stupid or incredibly callous and insensitive to the damage that this causes to dogs – the discomfort, the pain, the suffering, the reduced quality of life, the shortening of their lifespan, the deaths.
It’s cruelty – pure and simple; it’s stupid, unsustainable, destructive – therefore it’s indefensible.
I cannot in all conscience forgo all reason, suspend logic and condone, excuse or support this veritable genocide anymore. I can’t trivialize it or tribalize it. It’s inexcusable!
I can’t, hand on heart, close ranks with the fellow dog fancier who chooses to accept and condone this “pure” evil because they are reluctant to stand up and be counted. How can I say I love dogs and yet watch them suffer and die in racial purity rather than do what genetic science and common sense dictates:
Stop with the closed pedigrees malarkey already.
Grow up. Evolve. We must.
It’s ridiculous that it took supposedly “expert” governing bodies thirty (30!) years to grasp elementary facts about canine biology. It’s unacceptable criminal negligence.
We simply don’t need closed pedigrees and breed “purity” to maintain type and functionality in dogs: Form Follows Function.
We simply got to breed dogs better.
Reblogged this on The Eros Principle and commented:
reposted in my other blog
Logan Rees said:
As you know, I have been trying to introduce old “lost” pedigrees, outcross to correct specific faults and seek other ways to introduce genetic diversity. We must protect this breed and avoid the mistake of boxing ourselves in through overuse of the “common sire”.
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deborah beaven said:
Great foresight here!! Thank you. But will we be able to step away from the show ring and ribbons long enough to make any leeway in saving the breeds? I was told by my mentor not to so much worry about the ‘betterment of the breed’ as to ‘do the breed no harm’. Well, we’re way past that point! No matter how much type a dog oozes, what good is it if it dies before it is a veteran? What good is it to take a BIS/BISS if a bitch or male can’t (or won’t) even reproduce naturally? Or when they are bred ( AI or whatever it takes!) they have a singleton pup, through a C-section? A whole big mess we’ve made with all our knowledge!
yes we have. We’ve made a huge mess – but the species is still alive and doing well, so the damage can be repaired and the breeds return to the axiom “form follows function” and saved with the infusion of healthy genes from each other… It is certainly possible to do it – but I am not optimistic that it will be done because the powers that be will continue to act blind and line their pockets. The movement needs leaders and it will take a lot of effort, but some progressive governing bodies like the Nordic Kennel Clubs are already moving in the right direction…
Maria,what exactly has the Nordic kennels and governing bodies implemented? I would like to know more about this. I have never been one for ribbons of hype, probably because I never fit into the so called “club” and never followed like a puppy, I truly believe in protecting our breed to be fit for function. But I would like to learn how to protect them better.
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Read “3.7.5. Open studbooks as well as crosses of breeds and breed varieties ” from the Finnish Kennel Club’s Breeding Strategies dodument:
Click to access breeding_strategy_0.pdf
There are several similar crossbreeding programs that I referred to in the post; one case in point: the Lundehund
The Boxer x Corgi cross that geneticist Bruce Cattanagh undertook in the UK and the progeny has since been registered with TKC
The Dalmatian x Pointer cross
The IRWS programme:
All these (and there are more) are examples of official crossbreeding programmes to save breeds with severe hereditary defects, supported and overseen by governing bodies.
This is the way forward; lifesaving & breed-saving solutions are available for breeds suffering from inbreeding depression and plagued by major widespread lethal genetic health defects such our Great Danes are plagued by DCM, Cancer & Bloat (to mention just three).
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You made a Deadpool joke in a serious discussion about dog gene pools?
People are applying this same attitude to Scottish Wildcats (part of Felis silvestris silvestris) as well. Hybrids can preserve the “breed” type of this cat, even if they have crossed (naturally done, unlike the Dalmatian x Pointer cross example) with domestic cats (part of Felis silvestris lybica).