Monday, August 26, 2013

Short History of Greyhounds in Vintage Images

"A Gentleman might be known and judged by his hawk, his horse and his greyhound."
-Old Welsh proverb    

Eos, beloved companion to HRH Prince Albert
Greyhounds descend from a type of landrace breed, and were probably developed in the Middle East. They've been created and recreated throughout the world for the last 6 to 8 thousands years.  I say recreated because ancient Greyhounds are not ancestral relatives of today's Greyhounds.   They just look alike.

As far back as the fifth century, elegant Greyhounds
 frolicked in complicated pictorial tapestries.

The British created their own version of the dog, the English Greyhound, 
during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Milo, English Greyhound, c 1860
Source: Antique Pooch

On the back of this photograph it says,
"Dick L 1896"
Source: Antique Pooch
In the early 1900s, Owen Patrick Smith invented the artificial lure, and Greyhound track racing was invented. So were Greyhound coursing kennels. On the back of the stereo card below it says, "Northern Surprise and Jessamy, sire and mother of America's best coursing hounds, Lowes Kennels, Lawrence Kansas, 1903. I'm from Lawrence, Kansas, but I don't know where these kennels were.
Source: Library of Congress

Coursing hounds worked hard, but their fashionable, slimmer, show-dog cousins hardly worked at all. Below is the first Miss America, Margaret Gorman, posing with some arm candy, her Greyhound named Long Goodie.
Source: Library of congress

This looks like God and his Greyhound.
If so, the dog is indeed an ancient breed.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Strangeness of Dog Evolution

In comparison to other domestic animals, dogs are truly strange.  Although there are size and coat variations, most human-made animals look very much like their ancient ancestors.  Dogs don't.

The ancestor of the domestic pig is the wild boar. Domestic pigs were created in an area near Iraq and Turkey, around 15,000 years ago.
Wild Boar                                                                               Domestic Pig

Domestic felines evolved in the Middle East about 10,000 years ago. Their ancient ancestor is the Near Eastern Wildcat.
Near Eastern Wildcat                                                                 Domestic Cat

People began using horses for transportation in the Eurasian Steppes or possibly near Kazakhstan, about 6,000 years ago. They likely evolved from the wild Przewalksi's Horse, animals that look similar to the now extinct Tarpan.
Przewalski's Horse                                                               Domestic Horse

Domestic dogs began begging for food somewhere between 10,000 and 35,000 years ago, but it could be longer.  Their place of origin continues to be debated.  You don't need scientific evidence to see how different domestic dogs looks from their wild ancestor.  Why this happens is yet to be determined.    Dogs are weird.

Grey Wolf                                                                                   Domestic Dog

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bloodhound History in Vintage Photos

Bloodhounds haven't changed much in a hundred years.  

But the breed looked a lot different in the early 1800s.

And didn't change much during the next 50 years. 

And then a fairly abrupt change thirty years later
Cassell's 1880 print below shows a more exaggerated conformation.

Dog exhibition and its requisite breed standard created a more exaggerated look, with more pendulous ears and looser skin.  I wrote an article published in the Fall 2013 issue of The Bark about the down side of using breed standards to define dogs.

The standard, written in 1896, has hardly changed since the breed was registered with the United Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club.  Neither has the dog.
2013 Wikipedia

This 1880s photo of Arizona Rangers with their scent hound stole my heart.
A dog and his boys
Read more about Bloodhounds.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dog Jokes

Light-hearted joking is a tactic your dog uses to interact with you. The laundry thief who runs through the living room dragging your undies is engaging you in her idea of a dog joke.

It’s a moment you’re both thinking about the same thing at the same time and having a bit of shared humor, something that reinforces the relationship. The dog knows that when you respond with laughter, you relax.


Dogs excel at sight gags. These are dog jokes from readers:
  • My dog would push his toy under the couch just out of reach of his paw, then whine until I got up to pull the slimy thing out. As soon as I sat down again, he’d repeat the routine, continuing the game until I finally say “Enough”. Then he’d grab his toy – Surprise! He could reach it the whole time– and out of the room he’d prance, looking for some other naive victim who would tolerate his sophomoric joke.

  • I know my Lab is joking because he carries stuff he is not supposed to have. That way he can guarantee that I will ask him to give it to me.  He is generally very good at giving me things. I will tell him to pick something up and when I say ‘give’ he will put it in my hand.  However, sometimes he will walk up to me with something he is not supposed to have and when I say ‘give,’ he will drop it just out of my reach.  I tell him to pick it up and he does, but then he will drop it just outside my reach again.”
  • Our Terrier will go stand by the back door like he wants to be let out.  Then when one of us gets off the couch, he runs around behind us and steals the empty seat.  Then he acts like, ‘What?  Who me?’"
  • My dog puts his tennis ball in the sink when I’m brushing my teeth.
  • Within minutes of my taking my shoes off, my Border Collie comes and takes them and stashes them in her dog house.  Sometimes she has 8 or 9 shoes in there and she is perched on them like a chicken on a nest of eggs.

  • In the show ring, a certain dog would sit up and beg whenever a judge approached, a joke that entertained the crowd a lot more than it did the judge.
  • When our 10-year-old dog hears, “Is it BATH time?” it’s an invitation to clown around. He starts by assuming that “Want to play?” stance, with front legs extended in front of him and hind end up in the air. The thing that cracks us up is that he makes the whole movement really fast, sort of slapping his front legs and splaying them out in front of him, and repeats the movement as he runs around the house, preferably with a toy in his mouth.  We find this pretty funny, and egg him on by chasing after him.  It’s obvious that this is fun for him and he’s enjoying being the center of attention, making us run after him. 

If you know a wisecracking pooch with a wicked sense of humor and would like to share a story or two, let me know and I’ll post it. My email is

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Do dogs laugh?

Dogs certainly smile.

But do they laugh?  Researchers who use computer spectrograms to "see" sound, say that the huffing sound dogs make during play looks a lot like human laughter.  On the monitor, dog laughter looks like "hee hee hee" without the h.  (Read about Patricia Simonet's study in Bark magazine.)

This is not a human and dog laughter spectrogram,
but it would  look a lot like this.
Mounting evidence shows that many animals make vocalizations that sound a lot like laughter.  Lab rats laugh when their tummies are tickled! See this marvelous video of scientists tickling rodent bellies.

A friend of mine who uses a guide dog told me, "My dog would confidently guide me to the wrong hotel room door, always the one that was just before ours.  I knew this was a joke and not pure naughtiness because she would wag her tail furiously and make a happy dog laughing-huffing sound, then take me to the correct door.  She loved playing this game and would wag even more furiously when we finally arrived at the correct room, as if to say, "Wasn't that just the funniest thing?"

"Wasn't that just the funniest thing?"

Monday, August 5, 2013

Do dogs dream?

Anybody who's been amused by a sleeping dog's muffled barks and jerky legs knows that dogs dream. In tests with people, scientists have determined that rapid eye movement (REM) is the stage when dreaming occurs.  The body is relaxed but the mind is active - the brain producing waves similar to those we have when we're awake. People acknowledge that it is during REM sleep that dreaming is most intense. We know that dogs experience REM sleep, so it stands to reason that dogs dream during that stage of sleep as well.

When dogs enter REM sleep, their legs and eyes may
twitch and their tails move erratically.  Whining,
growling and barking is common, too.

Do dogs sleepwalk?  During REM sleep, our bodies go into a relaxed but semi-paralyzed state to protect us from responding to what's going on in the dream.  When the body fails to silent itself, sleepwalking occurs.  Less than 4% of people sleepwalk and it's probably even less frequent in dogs.  You can see why in this YouTube video of a dog sleepwalking.

What do dogs dream about? Missing a final exam or forgetting to put clothes on?  Not likely. But dogs probably dream about situations equally as stressful.  And equally as pleasant.

Will we ever know?  Probably. As scientists refine MRI tests indicating where certain thoughts and images are processed in the human brain, awake as well as during REM sleep, they can compare brain hot-spots in both species. Canine and human brain anatomies are very similar.

Read more about how scientists are using MRIs to get inside the minds of dogs.

Jennifer Coates DVM talks about dog dreams, too.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dog Lovers with August Birthdays

Alfred Hitchcock
August 13, 1899
Alfred Hitchcock was fond of Sealyham Terriers.  In a cameo appearance, at the beginning of his 1963 film, The Birds, he can be seen walking two of his three dogs.

Myrna Loy
August 2, 1905
Although Asta was her costar along with William Powell in The Thin Man series, Myrna Loy had many of her own dogs as well. Here she is with Skippy, who played Asta.

Lucille Ball
August 6, 1911
Well known as a dog hound in Hollywood circles, Lucille Ball stood up for dogs by appearing on the cover of Our Dogs: A Magazine for Dog Lovers (below).

Ingrid Bergman
August 29, 1915

Fred MacMurray
August 30, 1908
He was known as The Shaggy Dog series star (with his co-star below).

But in real life he hung out with bird dogs.