Archive for April, 2009


These dogs appear to be two yellow Labs and a golden.

Note that there is less emphasis on lining and handling. Much more of it is the dog’s ability to find game. Steadiness is also important. None of these dogs barks or bounces to break the line.

That golden sent for the blind in the cover, exhibits really strong quartering behavior as I would expect from that breed.

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This puppy has a lot of natural retrieving instinct, so it is best to do little more than encourage the pup to retrieve at this point. As they get older, you can start adding refined working retriever behavior.

BTW, this is the same dog as a young adult:


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There’s a chance that they might– but it’s not very good.

The thylacine or Tasmania tiger is a marsupial carnivore closely related to the Tasmanian devil and the quolls. (In fact, I think quolls look like mini-Thylacines).

It became extinct on the Australian mainland around 3,000 years ago, not long– in natural history time– after the arrival of the dingo. Man further burned large sections of the mainland as part of their hunting strategy. These big marsupials preferred to hunt in denser cover than the open plains. In an arid country, such extensive burning resulted in fewer plants growing on the landscape, and fewer plants meant less cover for a predator that hunted using the cover.

Further, dingoes were far more adaptable than the thylacine. Dingoes were able to eat a wider range of prey and form packs to hunt effectively. The dingo also has a thicker skull than the thylacine had, and with a thicker skull, it could withstand blows from larger prey than the thylacine. Also, dingoes were able to suck up to the early Native Australians, who allowed them free range of their camps, where they could augment their diets through scavenging.

That’s why they were able to survive in Tasmania for there were no dingoes and little burning.

The last thylacine died in 1933. “Benjamin” was a captive at the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania. Despite the name, this specimen’s gender is still unknown.

Today, both Tasmania and mainland Australia have thylacine sightings. Many of these can be attributed to foxes or dingoes with mange. However, Tasmania has no dingoes, and it has a very small fox population, which is heavily culled for fears that the foxes will kill off small native marsupials on the island and is even further culled by the Tasmanian devils, which eat fox kits. It is possible that a population of these beasts still lives in the Tasmanian forests. If they do exist, they are critically endangered and have very low genetic diversity. Until we get better evidence of their existence, though, we have to say that they are extinct. I’d love to be proven wrong on this– I really would.

Interestingly,  it is thought that three factors led to their extinction in Tasmania. The first of these is that people shot them, and there was a bounty system on “tigers.” The dense forests of Tasmania were also being felled, and the thylacines lost their stalking cover. Then Tasmanian settlers brought dogs to the island, which were far better at killing game than the thylacines were.


Often ignored as one of the main factors for the thylacine’s extinction is the arrival of a mystery disease. This disease was something like canine distemper, and it spread very quickly through the thylacine population. If the thylacines hadn’t been hunted extensively, forced into competition with dogs, and trying to survive in a rapidly fragmenting habitat, the thylacines could have withstood the disease. All of these factors coming at once were too much for any animal.

I wonder if these last thylacines had low genetic diversity. Low genetic diversity could have added another factor that could have made them less likely to survive the epidemic.

We do have a similar case in the Tasmanian devil. In 1995, Tasmania devils started coming down with a horrible cancer. It was discovered that this cancer was transmitted by a parasite.  It is one of those rare transmissible cancers. This disease is called devil facial tumor disease, and it severely disfigures the devil’s face,  which then prevents the animal from feeding. The animal typically dies of starvation. Since it was discovered, it has affected nearly half of the Tasmanian devil population. The Tasmanian devil could actually become extinct because of this disease, so many conservationists are doing all they can to create sanctuaries in which this disease doesn’t exist.

Early settlers killed the devils as readily as they killed the thylacines. Their numbers got quite low before this species was protected by law in 1941. From those days its numbers grew quite rapidly from rather low numbers. The current population of devils is derived from a small number of founders.

Low genetic diversity means that these animals don’t have as much a chance of producing resistant individuals that can survive epidemics. That’s one of the main reasons why genetic diversity matters in wildlife conservation.

Perhaps the thylacine also suffered from low genetic diversity, and it could not withstand the pressures of disease, hunting, habitat distruction, and competition with dogs.

Western man has had a bad record in Australia. Many of its native species could not withstand our encursion into their world. The thylacine was one of these animals. We didn’t take the time to understand them. We took many specimens to zoos throughout the world, but no one ever thought of breeding them. They were a novelty– a great wolf possum from Van Diemen’s Land.

I hope that such an animal still exists in this world, roaming the wilderness and back country of Tasmania. But I don’t hold out much hope.

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Snoopy can now glow in the dark.

Four beagles in Seoul, South Korea, look like normal dogs during the day.

At night, they glow red when exposed to an ultra-violet light.

These puppies were cloned from skin cells from a bitch beagle that were inserted with genes from jellyfish that cause biofluorescence.

These are the world’s first transgenic dogs, and they may be useful in coming up with new gene therapies.

The head researcher for this project was Lee Byeong-chu, who was a top aid to the now disgraced scientist  Hwang Woo-suk, who used fake data in his stem cell experiments. Hwang Woo-suk did clone the first dog, named Snuppy.

Now I’m thinking of the utility of using a glow-in-the-dark beagle. You could hunt rabbits at night and lamp them with a UV light. Of course, I’m sure the laws for spot-lighting game would apply.

Article is  here.

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Chinese painted quail


Remember how I said that New World quail aren’t that closely related to Old World quail, especially the Coturnix quail?

The Chinese painted quail or Asian blue quail is the smallest of the Coturnix species. It is relatively common species for aviculture, and it is often kept as an aviary species. Its natural range runs from southern China through Southeast Asia into Australia.

However, it is not a buttonquail. In fact, a buttonquail isn’t a quail. It is not an Coturnix or a New World quail. Buttonquail aren’t even in the order Galliformes, the order for chickens, pheasants, and other birds of that type. The Asian blue quail is often sold as a buttonquail, but it is not.

The true buttonquail (Turnix)  are actually more closely related to shorebirds, especially plovers.

The Luzon or Worcester’s button quail of Luzon in the Philippines was once thought extinct, but one was found earlier this year in a market in the Caraballo Mountains. A photograph was taken of the bird, where it was being sold as table fare.


I would like to have finch aviary one of these days.

And I would love to have a few Chinese painted or Asian blue quail running along the aviary floor. But just don’t call them buttonquail.

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These are Topbrass puppies–  a high quality strain for working-type goldens.

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The Serama comes from Malaysia, and it is a small chicken. We usually call small chicken breeds “bantams.” And they are so small, that they can be kept in a relatively small place. Now, bantams of all breeds produce tiny eggs, and if you want to eat one, there’s not that much to make a meal.

These little chickens are the Yorkies of the chicken world. They are bold and curious, and they are quite lively.

Now, if you’re not into that, well, there is a breed of bantam that is the golden retriever of the chickens– the silkie.


Silkies make perfect brood hens for hatching other birds’ eggs. They very easily can be coaxed into taking eggs that aren’t theirs. This broodiness trait has been bred out of most egg producing strains of chicken.

Also, they have black meat, skin, and bones. They don’t produce much meat, but the Chinese value this black meat for medicinal purposes.

These are but two breeds of chicken that are small enough for the average person to keep. Now, I won’t say that either is a great egg or meat producer, but both can make wonderful and rather exotic looking  pets.

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Music by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Lyrics by Friedrich Schiller

Lyrics in German and English!

Golden hamsters are from Syria.

Tegus are from South America.

They are not natural enemies in the wild.

The only thing that has me worried about this video is the hamster bit the tegu a few times. Those bites can cause an infection.

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How a breed gets started


Remember the Andean tiger hound and the various strains of double-nosed pointer?

According to that video, it seems that some South American dog fanciers are trying to create an “improved” breed of double-nosed Latin American dog.

This is a good example of how many breeds got started.

If these two dogs in the video did not have the double nose trait, we would think them ordinary pariah-type dogs. We wouldn’t give them a second thought.

However, because they have a double nose, it is now considered a worthy endeavor to turn them into a strain that breeds true.

After all, my breed started out as an unusal color in the wavy/flat-coated retriever breed. It was simply selected for this unusual color in one strain of these dogs.

We are a highly visual species.

Anything unsual in appearance catches our eye. Very often, we get quite excited about unusually colored animals or those with other abnormal physical characteristics.

We breed dogs in so many shapes, sizes, colors, and coats that they all look like separate species, but also have bred virtually all of our domestic animals into such unusual strains. It is simply because dogs have lots of tandem repeats in their DNA sequences that we can produce such unusual specimens in the canine species. I think that the accumulated effects of breeding for so many novelty traits has been detrimental to dogs, but as a species, their ability to morph through selective breeding into so many forms is quite remarkable.

I don’t know whether the South American double-nosed dogs will become a breed, but selecting for an unusual physical trait or behavior is how this process gets started.

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