Monday, July 28, 2014

American Dingos

The American Dingo is a an ancient dog rediscovered in the 1970s in Georgia's isolated cypress swamps in the Southeastern U. S. by ecologist Dr. Lehr Brisbin.
The dogs weigh 30 to 44 pounds.
Like its Australian Dingo cousin, the free ranging dog, called the Carolina Dog,  is a landrace or naturally selected type of dog, although today some are bred in captivity.  The dog is similar to Native American dogs depicted in early paintings and drawings.
"Crow Lodge of 25 Buffalo Skins"
By George Catlin 1830

When Europeans arrived in the Americas they found close to 20 indigenous breeds. Most bred with European dogs and within a hundred years had all but disappeared. The Carolina Dogs probably survived extinction because they were adept at living in packs in the wild, far away from people, which is precisely where they were when Lehr Brisbin found them.
A typical pack of Carolina Dogs looking for something yummy to eat.
Photo Source:
A DNA study led by Peter Savolainen of Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology proved that Carolina Dogs arrived with people as they migrated from Asia, as long as ten thousand years ago. They are without some genetic markers indicative of European origin.

They look a lot like other ancient breeds including
 the New Guinea Singing Dog and Shiba Inu.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Dingos are free ranging dogs found mostly in Australia. 

They are ancient domestic dogs that reverted to wild status about 5000 years ago, although some scientists say they may be twice that old. Based on genetic analysis, dingos are descended from only a few dogs, theoretically one pregnant female.  She probably accompanied seafaring explorers from southeast Asia.
Although the largest population is in Australia,
dingos inhabit much of southeast Asia.
Some think dingos originated in Southeast
Asia and were then brought to Australia.  

Dingos weigh between 29 and 44 pounds.  Although they bark like dogs, they howl and whimper more.  Their social behavior is like that of coyotes or wolves.  They live in packs of three to twelve, although some remain solitary and nomadic.  The size of the pack corresponds to the size of the most common food source.  Hunting is opportunistic and scavenging common. A pack consist of one mated pair along with adult offspring. Only the alpha pair successfully reproduce.
Although their coat colors vary, most look like this fella.
The dingo fence (below right), still maintained today, was constructed in the 1880s to protect sheep. It stretches 3488 miles.

Dingos are endangered by hybridization.  Less than 30% of the population is pure due to crossbreeding with domestic dogs.

Read more.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dr. Barkman Reviews Ray Coppinger's Book Fishing Dogs

Fishing Dogs: A Guide to the History, Talents, and Training of the Baildale, The Flounderhounder, The Angler Dog, and Sundry Other Breeds of Aquatic Dogs (Canis Piscatorius)

Skyhorse Publishing, 2014
Author: Raymond Coppinger
Forward: Nick Lyons
Illustrations: Peter Pinardi
Buy the book at Amazon

According to storyteller, dog biologist and fisherman Raymond Coppinger, some time ago, when fishing technology hit a high water mark, and anglers had more leisure time, generic fishing dogs were bred for increasingly specialized tasks – to balance and bail the boat, set and find fish, and carry home the day’s catch. Today, the serious angler would never use a Log Dog where a Matt Dog was required. Nor would the noble Monsoon be appropriate for balancing the boat when the proud Bowplunk is best for ballast. Coppinger takes playful aim at dog culture and science, lampooning breeders, anthropologists, registration agencies, Germans, geneticists, Italians, trainers, and dog scientists including himself (see Chapter 6 on Bilge Puppies, founding stock of all fishing dogs). Tongue-firmly-in-cheek, he lays out canis piscatorius’ evolution, taxonomy, and complicated ancestry along with each breed’s specialized merit, from the rare Flounderhounder that attracts romantic Flounders, to the Stringer Spaniel that carries fish home in its coat. Artist Peter Pinardi’s delightful illustrations add whimsy to Coppinger’s droll narrative.  Fishing Dogs is biting satire that sometimes tips precariously toward mockery, especially regarding registration agencies which the author lampoons 22 times.  But for those who know dogs, fishing, or both, it’s a fun read.

Read Dr. Coppinger's 
guest post about starch 
digestion mutation in dogs.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mange in Urban Coyotes

This article has been updated. Read more about rat poison 's link to mange and death in local wildlife:  Household rat poison linked to death and disease in wildlife
(Thanks to one of my readers for sending the link.)


I've seen a whole lot of mangy coyotes this year in my Altadena foothills neighborhood, a lot more than last year. And nocturnal coyote songs and yips have all but disappeared. Is there a relationship?  Apparently so.
Coyote with sarcoptic mange

Coyote with healthy coat
Photo Source: Jim Coda
Sarcoptic mange (not to be confused with the less serious demodectic mange) is a highly contagious infestation of a burrowing mite. The little fiends dig into the skin causing intense itching, pustules, skin crusting, hair loss and secondary infections that can lead to death in some animals.  Sick animals move closer into the neighborhoods to find easier sources of food and water, and exhibit unusual behaviors like lethargy and lack of wariness.
This poor little fella has advanced stage sarcoptic mange.
You can see why hairless coyotes
gave rise to the Chupacabra legend.
As bad as these animals look, only about 20% die from mange or conditions directly associated with it. In really bad epidemics it can be as high as 50%,  In those that die, it will take anywhere from  a few months to over a year.  Less than 15% recover and regrow hair.

Under normal circumstances mange drastically affects population size because infected females either reabsorb their fetuses, or give birth to pups that usually don't survive. However coyotes eating rats that have ingested anticoagulant poisons are significantly more likely to suffer and die from mange. (Read more here), Although I couldn't find any literature on mange and coyote population reduction, in a  red fox study, the population was reduced by as much as 90%. 
Source: Mary Cummins
When animals overpopulate a territory, resources get scarce causing immune systems to weaken. The incidence of mange increases and the coyote population plummets. As the infestation recedes, the population increases.

The incidence of mange fluctuates, but is likely always around.  According to a long range study in Canada, 24% of the population consistently harbored sarcoptic mange mites. In comparison, a really bad epidemic can affect 70% of the population (Texas, 1980s).  I couldn't find any studies that said how bad it is in the Los Angeles area right now.  

Will your dog get mange mites from coyotes traveling through your yard?  They could, especially if the coyote is nesting there at night.  But researchers think it's not likely because monthly application of tick and flea meds may control mange mites in companion dogs.

So … Don't buy or use anticoagulant poisons for rodent control. Keep your dogs up to date on their flea and tick meds. Don't leave food out for coyotes no matter how destitute they look.  And maybe, until the coyote population increases again, we can let our cats go outside.

If you want to read more, I recommend a thesis paper by Evan C Wilson, The Dynamics of Sarcoptic Mange in an Urban Coyote Population. Although the study took place in the Chicago area, much of the information can probably be applied to local populations here.  This KCET article is about how rat poison is increasing  immune system dysfunction, sarcoptic mange and death in California bobcats.