Monday, January 26, 2015

Geographic Origin of 400 Dog Breeds

Of the 400 plus dog breeds in the world, more than 300 were created after dog shows gained popularity in the 1870s. To put it another way, it took ten thousand years to create 100 breeds, and about 100 years to develop the other 300.  The graph below shows the country of origin of all 400 breeds.

This is the breakdown by country and number of breeds developed there:

Great Britain - 60
Scandinavia - 31
Europe - 121
Asia - 8
North America - 30
South America - 9
Australia - 9
Africa - 6
Japan - 10
Middle East - 16
Eastern Europe - 22
Russia - 80

Monday, January 19, 2015

What Keeps Your Dog's Feet from Freezing?

It's winter time and your dog is likely jumping from one snow drift to another without a care in the world while your feet, in spite of wool socks and foot warmers, are as cold as ice.
Canine physiology protects dogs' feet to temperatures
as low as minus 31 F.

What keeps your dog's feet from freezing?

A team of scientists figured out that dogs have special blood vessels in their paws that protect them from cold.  Using electron microscopes they found that heat was transferred from the artery in the dog's pad to a network of veins where the blood is warmed up before it returns to the body. This in turn  prevents the feet from cooling down. Dog's paws are kept at a constant temperature in cold weather.

Read more in BBC Nature News.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Mutt Facts

MARS VET LAB says there are 38 million mutts in the U.S., meaning about 50% of US dogs are of mixed parentage. And they should know as they own the monopoly on the DNA test franchise. 

But that's a whole lot less than the Humane Society's estimate. They say around 70% are mixes. There are 61 million mongrels in the U.S. within the 83.3 million pet dog population. Additionally, 75% of shelter dogs are mutts.  And 20% of U.S. companion dogs are adopted from shelters. They should know, right?

Whatever the correct answer is, the good news is that shelter euthanasia has decreased significantly in the last few years because shelter volunteers, bless them, socialize the canine inmates, so more people are adopting.  

Do mutts have fewer genetic health issues?  Yes and no. It's true that a mutt with, for instance, a distant Golden Retriever ancestor will have a lower incidence of cancer than a purebred Golden. But a mutt that's only one generation removed from her purebred parent may have the same risk. Although pups have 50% of each parent's genes or variants of the gene, you don't know which parent's genes will be expressed.

Overall the incidence of genetic pathologies in mixed breeds is a little lower than their purebred counterparts.  Read more details about disease averages at this site.  

But I won't argue which dogs are the best.  Mutts of course. Here are some of mine:

Lollie, Jess, Izzy, Gus and Chance

Monday, December 29, 2014


UPDATE:  AND THEN UPDATE AGAIN: Pope Francis says dogs go to heaven! Not exactly. Soon after he made the statement, conservative theologians came back saying he was only speaking conversationally. "Dog don't have souls hence have no place in heaven". Oh please.  Dog is God spelled backwards.

Will Rogers said, "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."

The Rogers family
Do dogs go to heaven?  Of course they do.  But if you're wondering which religions sanction the dog's eternal salvation, here's a list of answers.

  • Mormons? Yes.  Uh Oh. Watch out Mitt Romney.
  • Buddhists? It's complicated.
  • John Calvin, founder of Calvinism? Yes.
  • Martin Luther, founder of Lutheranism? Yes.  He had a number of lap dogs in his little itty bitty committee.
  • Hindus? All animals have souls. That's all they'll commit to.
  • Baptists?  No way (correction -one of my readers commented that it depends on the church.)
  • Buddhists? No.
  • Unitarians? Can't say.
  • Muslims? No.
  • Jews? Hedging their bets, but leaning toward not so much to maybe.
  • The Bible?  It depends on who's translating the text.
  • Protestants? There's is no biblical assurance that pets will be in heaven (see The Bible above.)
  • Catholics? No then yes, then no. See update above.

Saint Roch is the dog's patron saint. Read more about Saint Roch here.

And if your church believes that dogs go to heaven, let me know.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Doberman Pinscher History in Vintage Photos

"The Doberman Pinscher, one of the most important and distinctive of German terriers, is a large and handsome black-and-tan dog, of about the same weight as our Airedale. He is built and muscular, and his appearance signifies speed, strength, and endurance," wrote dog expert Robert Leighton in 1907.

These photos of "typical Dobermann Pinschers" circa 1900 are included in his book on page 504.

The breed was developed in the late 1890s by Louis Dobermann. 

Dobies today.

Dobermann, very early.
Today the breed name is spelled with only one "N", as in Doberman Pinscher.

First Chancellor of Germany, Otto Von Bismark, about 1890
Are these Dobies?

About 1940
Ear cropping is illegal in most of Europe although still
widely practiced in the US and parts of Canada.
Dr. Barkman says that the best ear is the one nature intended.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ivermectin Sensitivity in Nine Herding Breeds

This is from an article I wrote for The Bark. You can read the entire piece, Deconstructing Gene Pools: Dr. Mark Neff and his team uncover the surprising origin of a potentially deadly mutation (The Bark, issue 34, Jan/Feb 2006).

“Recent research has shown that a single mutated gene, unnoticed for over a century, is responsible for sensitivity to several modern medicines. These adverse drug responses can cause illness or death in dogs that harbor the mutation, including nine herding breeds.”

The ubiquitous working collies and spaniels of Europe spawned a number of the breeds created during the prosperous, class-conscious Victorian era. In the age of upward mobility, those on the way up claimed many of the privileges of the upper class, including the luxury of breeding, showing and “creating” pedigreed animals.
Clockwise: Four of nine affected herding breeds with frequency of mutation:
Silken Windhound (17.9%), Long Haired Whippet 41.6%),
Miniature Aussie (25.9%), and Collie (highest frequency - 54.6%)
More than one-quarter of the world’s estimated 375 breeds were created between 1859, when the first dog show was held in the UK, and 1900, when Westminster and Crufts were well established; even the most subtle differences in weight or color were enough to allow registry of a new breed type. In many cases, the subdivision of farm dogs was an unintended consequence of competitive exhibition in dog shows.

Responding to the shows’ strict criteria for body type, size and color, breeders drew from an increasingly smaller number of founder populations to create dogs who conformed to these standards. Breeding closely related dogs to one another became a popular way to refine a breed, which today means a group of dogs with a common gene pool and characteristic appearance and function.
Unfortunately, the down-side of homozygosity (having two identical genes at a specific location on the DNA strand) can be disease and unsoundness. Partly as a consequence of this intense concentration on form, modern dogs suffer from more than 350 genetic illnesses, and today’s breeders bear the burden of restoring their lines to health.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bull Terrier History in Vintage Photos

If you're reading this it's probably because you love Bull Terriers, but then again, who doesn't. 

In 1907, "eminent dog authority" Robert Leighton wrote in "The New Book of the Dog": The Bull-terrier is now a gentlemanly and respectably owned dog, wearing an immaculate white coat and a burnished silver collar; he has dealings with aristocracy, and is no longer condemned for keep bad company. But a generation or two ago [that would be about 1860]  he was commonly the associate of rogues and vagabonds, skulking at the heels of such members of society…" p 329.

The Bull-Terrier in 1900,
Source: Leighton's New Book of the Dog

The historical record remained, but the dog's shape didn't (nor did the hyphen in the name). Bull Terriers have been redefined over the last hundred years. The photos below show how much the skull has changed.

Breed standards from 1900 and 2014 describing the head.

It wasn't an abrupt change as these photos show.
About 1940

Detail 1940
Bull Terrier about 1960 - the egg shape skull is becoming more prominent
I wonder if any breeders are returning to the old standard.  If you have an old fashioned Bull Terrier send a photo to and I'll post it here.

Source: Wikipedia

Monday, December 1, 2014

Blood Type in Dogs

Is blood type breed specific? A little research (and I do mean a little) says the answer is yes, no, maybe and sometimes.

Blood Type Inheritance Pattern 

Blood groups are inherited from parents just like other genetic traits.  But unlike other traits such as ear shape, leg length and head width, blood type doesn't appear to breed true in most dogs.

On the other hand, a significant association is found in certain breeds including German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Greyhounds and others. For instance in Dobermans, 75% of the population has one blood type.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Prehistoric Canine Burials

My article about prehistoric canine burials, Digging Up Bones, was recently published in the Winter 2014 edition of The Bark magazine.

"Dogs have been buried more often than any other animal: singly, with other dogs, near people and with people. This ancient practice was a global phenomenon, one that crossed nearly all cultural boundaries. Precisely why dogs were buried may never be clearly understood, but the universality of the practice suggests it may be embedded in the human psyche and according, is a fundamental part of the human/dog connection."

Modern research techniques applied to prehistoric bones suggest it wasn't all sacrificial killing. Rather like us, some ancient people just loved their dogs.
In 2006, dogs were found in a thousand year old
pet cemetery near Lima, Peru. Many had
separate plots near their people and were buried
with food and blankets. Read more.
These are other posts about ancient dog burials:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dogs That Don't Bark

This is a list of truly bark-less recognized dog breeds. They make other noises to communicate, but they don't bark typical of domestic dogs.

Australian Dingo 

Indonesian Dingo

African Basenji

Carolina Dog
(Southeast United States)

Santal Hound of India

New Guinea Singing Dog

Telomina of Malaysia

Monday, November 3, 2014

Why Do Male Dogs Lift Their Legs to Urinate?

I documented our puppy's development by taking a photo each week and noting changes in his biology and behavior.
Was Gus a
late bloomer?
Most dogs begin lifting their legs somewhere between 6 and 12 months of age.  Yet even at a year, Gus was not yet a leg-lifter.

Boys squat to piddle
until at least six months.

It wasn't until 14 months that Gus lifted his leg to urinate. This caught my attention and I wondered about the biology of leg-lifting, so I did a little research. This is what I found out.

Leg-lifting behavior is hardwired, not learned. Within the first few months of leg-lifting, dogs reveal a side preference as to right rear or left rear leg-lifting. Leg-lifting side dominance is consistent with side-preference of front paw use. (See my post about canine side-preference.)

He's a southpaw.

He's a righty

In dogs, muscle strength develops front to back. Head first, then neck, front legs and paws, finishing up with hind legs and tail.   This means puppies don't have the muscular wherewithal to stand on three wobbly legs while one is lifted.
Getting up on the couch? Little guys use their front
legs because that's where their strength is.  Within a
few months they jump up using their hind legs.
The onset of sex hormones such as testosterone, even in dogs who were neutered at a very young age,  is directly related to when dogs lift their legs. Since the behavior is related to sexual maturity, and some breeds mature more quickly then other, then my question is:
Is timing of leg-lifting breed specific?  

If anyone knows the answer, please comment.