Sunday, July 29, 2012


A bully dog is any dog that has a predominance of English Bulldog in its ancestry.
Not this English Bulldog. 
But the one below - the unexagerrated version of the modern Bulldog pictured above. The old-fashioned dog is the precursor to most of today's bully dogs.
English bulldog, about 1800, litho
by Howitt
Bully dogs include the American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Pit Bull, Miniature Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, and others, or combination thereof.  Like all breeds, the popularity of bully breeds fluctuates.  

During the first two decades of the 20th century, from city to suburb, bully dogs were one of the most popular dogs in America.

About 1905

Many of these dogs were breeds in the loose sense of the word- just a hodge-podge of dogs that looked similar and performed similar tasks, most as loving companions.

Like numerous breeds, bully dog ancestry is debated.  But many people agree that 19th century British Isles immigrants brought the ancestral root-stock to the US.

As is always the unfortunate case, some dogs were used for fighting.

But overall, the dogs' protective temperament made them devoted companions.  On the back of this circa 1900 postcard someone has written, "This is the baby Inez Brinson and my bull dog Noodles.  Will send front of baby later."
Bully breeds worked for a living on farms (dog is
next to boy with reins).

And lived a life of luxury, too.

The breed was so popular it was used as a mascot by RCA 

Buster Brown Shoes 

And the comedy series, Our Gang.
Our Gang's Petie did his own stunts.
...and had his own fans.
By the 1920s, the popularity of bully dogs faded making room on the couch for the more fashionable Cocker Spaniel and terrier breeds, along with a brand new upstart - the German Shepherd.

If you want to know more about bully breeds, here's a link to a good article by  Sarah Christie.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


How good is your dog's sense of smell?  Pretty remarkable considering that...

  • Less than 1% of your brain is used for smell. More than 12% of your dog's brain is dedicatated to olfaction.
  • You have 5 million scent receptors. Your dog has over 300 million.
  • Whereas the scent detecting tissue in the human nose is equal to the size of a postage stamp, your dog's tissue is equal to the surface of her body.  

You smell the fragrance of a flower.
Your dog smells every visitor.
Drug detection dogs have located marijuana  hidden in boxes of dead fish, found cocaine sealed in airtight containers floating in gasoline, and detected drugs in a car parked in a lot with 5000 other cars.

When your dog digs a hole, it's like
reading a history book.  She knows
who was there and when they visited
Arson detection dogs have the ability to smell one drop of fire accelerant, such as gasoline, in 180 gallons of water. That's the equivelant of one drop of water in 6 bathtubs full of water.

How does it work?
Scientists don't fully understand how the canine olfactory system works.  But it's safe to say that dogs see in smell.  The nose and the brain work in unison to process odor.   Your dog has to activate her sniffer to smell something, just like you have to open your eye lids to see something.  When your dog sniffs, she first forces air out to disturb the chemical molecules in the odor which she then pumps back into her nose as she sniffs again.
By sniffing, she is redirecting the odor to flow over the special nasal olfactory cells.  When you see her nostrils pump air in, she is, in effect, carrying messages to her brain where the odor is analyzed and cataloged.

Your dog's nose can even prove her identity in the same way your fingerprints prove yours. 

Look at the distinct patterns of swirls and circles on your dog's nose.  Like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two wet cold noses are ever the same. In some countries, canine nose prints are used to identify lost or stolen dogs.  The Canadian Kennel Club has been doing this since 1938.

To read more about canine olfaction check out this article - What a dogs nose knows

Sunday, July 22, 2012


All of the articles here were cut out of the San Francisco Chronicle or Oakland Tribune between 1924 and1945 by some long forgotten dog lover. I'll post a few here from time to time because incredible dog stories, whether fib, fable, fiction or fact, are always worth a second printing.

No story tugs at our heart strings like that of a faithful dog.  Saving people from fires, plucking drowning children from raging rapids and thwarting no-good burglars were sentimental canine soap operas retold in newspapers throughout the 19th century well into World War II.
Amazing indeed...
Admittedly, some stories were fictional or in the least fanciful, but I would like to believe that dogs have remarkable talents still unexplained by science, like halting a locomotive as this headline indicates.
Or  the ability to travel a long distance to return to their person who is located in an unfamiliar place. If monarch butterflies can do it, why can’t dogs? What triggers some dogs to start off on their journey?  How can they travel such long distances?  How do they know where to go?

With more stringent leash laws, thankfully creating a shortage of lost dogs, stronger fencing materials to keep roving rovers in the yard, and people like you and I who are committed to rescuing any dog we see trotting down the interstate, it’s not likely that science will ever have an opportunity to learn anything about this extraordinary behavior and how it works.  

Incredible dog stories, whether fib, fable, fiction or fact, reached their zenith in World WAR II, then found their way to the big screen with “Lassie, Come Home” (1943) and the small one with “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.” (1954-1959). They eventually fell victim to parody and all but disappeared by the 1960s.  

Today dog anecdotes are mostly relegated to websites and super market stand tabloids.  To find new fangled versions of old fashioned yarns visit American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards website.

Thanks to my friend Sue Ashline who owns this special scrapbook.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


The Boston Bull Terrier, 1907, from Leighton's Book of the Dog

America's sweetheart, the Boston Terrier, was the first fully recognized American bred non-sporting breed.  Developed in Boston, Massachusetts, after the civil war and registered with the American Kennel Club in 1893, the breed was an admixture of two older more established dogs, the English Bulldog and the English White Terrier (now extinct). Additional crossings with the English Bull Terrier, Boxer and French Bulldog contributed to the development of the modern breed.  

The original dogs weighed as much as 45 pounds.  

In the 1890s, an assortment of "pocket" breeds were faddish. Although both genetic variants are now extinct, Beagles and  Boston Terriers were bred so small "they could sit in a man's hand."

In the Victorian era, pedigrees were snobby indicators of dogs and the people who owned them.  As a rule, purebred puppies cost $15 to $300 - a luxury item working class families could ill afford.

By 1900, as the standard of living improved, Americans were moving in droves from cities to suburbs. For the first time, regular folks could own a single family dwelling, a garden and a family dog. And not just any dog - a purebred dog.

Hobby-kennels of wealthy aristocrats gave way to large numbers of small commercially operated kennels.  Costs of purebred dogs dropped substantially making papered-pooches within reach of a large part of the American public.
For the next thirty years the Boston Terrier ranked as the first or second most popular breed in America.

To find out which breeds are genetically linked to Boston Terriers,  check out this genetics website.  
You might be surprised.