Archive for March, 2011

This dog is Billy, and he is mentioned in Stonehenge’s  The Dog in Health and Disease (1859). Stonehenge (John Henry Walsh) believed that his very curly coat showed that he had some setter or spaniel in him, which is possible. He was owned by Bill George, the famous (or infamous) dog dealer, who is best known for developing the old baiting bulldog into a pet and show dog. Billy could have been a cross between a long-haired St. John’s water dog or wavy-coated retriever and a curly-coated retriever, a cross that would have happened fairly often before these dogs began to standardize.

Another depiction of a long-haired St. John’s water dog is this “St. John’s Labrador.”

I cannot find the original source for this image, but this particular dog has a straight, flat-coat, which is quite profuse. The dog appears to have a more substantial coat than Billy. He is also built more like a modern Labrador or a short-haired St. John’s water dog.

Of course, these dogs both could be thought of as wavy-coated retrievers, which were the ancestor of the modern flat-coats and golden retrievers.  They were very common in Britain in the middle to later part of the nineteenth century.

One of the reasons why these long-haired dogs were so popular as retrievers is that Sewallis Shirley, the founding president of the Kennel Club, was a major patron of the breed.

The other reason is that these longer-haired dogs were the type of St. John’s water dog that were more easily procured in Britain. Long hair is a recessive trait to the smooth-haired St. John’s water dogs that were common in Newfoundland until the 1970’s.  None of these later dogs had long hair, but they seem to have been really common in England during the nineteenth century, where they were often registered as wavy-coated retrievers.

The reason why the long-haired dogs became common in England and disappeared from Newfoundland can be found in the writings of William Epps Cormack, the first European to walk across the interior of Newfoundland in 1822. He wrote of the settlers of Newfoundland using their smaller water dogs to hunt waterfowl and game birds, but they preferred to use the short-haired dogs for this task:

The dogs here are admirably trained as retrievers in fowling, and are otherwise useful. The smooth or short-haired dog is preferred, because in frosty weather the long-haired kind become encumbered with ice upon coming out of the water.

Any long-haired puppies that would have been born to the smooth-haired dogs would have been among those they would have exported to Britain, where they would have worked very nicely as working retrievers on shooting estates. In the more mild climate of the British Isles, the long coat would not have been so much of a problem.

The famous wavy/flat-coat Zelstone, who was born in 1880. If one traces his pedigree, one notes that his paternal grandmother and his maternal great grandfather were both owned by someone named Farquharson.

That Farquharson was Henry Richard Farquharson, an importer and breeder of Newfoundland dogs. He was an MP from Dorset, where the port city of Poole is located. Poole was a major port for the cod fishing fleet that worked the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland. At one point, Farquharson had 125 dogs of the “Newfoundland” type on his property, Eastbury House. Keeping up with so many dogs was a daunting task for his servants:

Henry Richard Farquharson was also a fanatical breeder of Newfoundland dogs. He had a pack of one hundred and twenty five, 50 bitches and 75 dogs. This pack had taken twenty five years to create. Two kennel lads had the job of exercising the dogs. They knew that they had to keep the bitches and dogs separate whilst exercising them. One day both groups accidently met on Chettle Down and the two kennel lads could not stop a fight starting. Forty-five dogs were either killed outright or had to be put down. It is said that the two kennel lads were almost killed as well – not by the dogs but by Farquharson who had a remarkably quick temper.

(Farquharson also played a role in the Jack the Ripper story, but I’m leaving that out for this post!)

Those ancestors of Zelstone that were said to be owned by Farquharson were likely long-haired St. John’s water dogs that looked like the ones mentioned in this post.

Most of these dogs would have been registered as wavy-coated retrievers or would have been referred to as such. They would have been put to work on shooting estates and would have been bred to setters to give them and a stronger tendency to air scent birds and other shot game.

I’ve noticed that in much of the literature on the Labrador retriever, there is a tendency to ignore these long-haired dogs. That’s because the modern Labrador is derived mostly from later imports from Newfoundland. These dogs arrived in the 1880’s, and they were mostly smooth-coated. The cod fishery was in decline, and many of the ship’s dogs were no longer useful. So even the much valued smooth-coated water curs were arriving from Newfoundland by this time. Because the short-haired dogs made up the population of these later dogs, it was assumed that they every single one of these dogs that ever existed possessed the smooth “otter” coat.

If all St. John’s water dogs were smooth-coated, the smooth-coated dogs would have dominated the entire British retriever gene pool in the middle and later parts of the nineteenth century. This simply isn’t what the historical record showsat all. Some of these dogs had to have had the feathered coat, and my understanding of Cormack’s account suggests the reason why the long-haired dogs became common in England and disappeared from Newfoundland.

The Newfoundlanders preferred smooth-coated dogs, and they were more than eager to export the feathered puppies to British dog dealers and shooting enthusiasts.

And the shooting enthusiasts were more than willing to buy them. Most sagacious animals. Gentlest retrievers with the softest mouths.

Just what the shooting sportsman needed. Long-haired water curs from Newfoundland.






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You can see from this litter of golden puppies with a dark golden mother and cream sire what the inheritance is. These puppies’ ears tell us that most of them will mature fairly dark in color, though probably not as dark as their mother:

One of these puppies will likely be a light gold, but the rest will be middle to dark gold in color.

Cream is not dominant over the dark colors in terms of inheritance.


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The Bizarro World in the DC comics universe is a place where everything is the opposite.

The planet is cube-shaped, and its official name is “Htrae”– Earth spelled backwards.

Everything about it is supposed to be the opposite of the way things are on this planet.

A while I ago, I decided to determine the Bizarro version of the golden retriever would be.

To do this, I have considered what the characteristics of the golden retriever are:

  1. Western breed.  Goldens are derived from solely Western dogs.
  2. Recent origin. The yellow wavy-coated retriever strain was founded in the 1870’s. The breed as we know it today didn’t become standardized until the early twentieth century.
  3. Bred for trainability. Goldens have been selected to take direction from trainers and handlers at a very high level. They also excel at obedience trials and other more modern dog sports. They have performed as guide dogs for the blind and as assistance dogs for the mobility impaired. They have also been used as search-and-rescue dogs, where their trainability and good nose combine to make superior working animal.
  4. Friendly dog. Goldens tend to like everyone. They are usually not good watch dogs. They are often recommended as family pets, and they are often employed as therapy dogs. Goldens are usually great dogs to take out in public. Miley has attended several parties, including a wedding reception with no fuss or confusion.
  5. They like the cold weather. I have never known a golden that didn’t like the coldest days of the winter. When the first snow falls, that is a national holiday to a golden retriever. They have dense, thick coats that protect them from the coldest conditions. These dogs will swim even if there is ice in the water.

The closest I can come to the opposite of these traits is the azawakh, the dog in the photo above.

Take these five characteristic and see how they compare to the golden retriever.

  1. Non-Western Origin. Azawakh are native to the Western Sahel, transition region between the Sahara and the savannas regions.
  2. Rather ancient origin. Dogs of the azawakh type have likely been wandering around the Sahel for thousands of years.
  3. Bred to be a camp guardian and hunting dog. No one selectively bred these dogs to be trainable. They were meant to think for themselves to assess threats to people and livestock, and they were meant to think for themselves when hunting prey for people who had lived for centuries without firearms (because they weren’t invented yet).
  4. Bonds closely to just a few people.  Azawakh were the companions of the Touareg/Tamasheq nomads. If the dogs were so friendly, they’d likely wander off and be killed by a predator or die of starvation. Only those dogs that bonded very close to a few people were likely to survive, and it is likely that the dogs that were more closely bonded made better watch dogs. If a dog doesn’t trust everyone, it is very likely to bark if an intruder shows up.
  5. Hate cold weather. Because these dogs were developed in a land with extreme heat and because they don’t have a lot of body fat or coat, they are not well adapted to cold climates. Like many sighthounds, they detest winter.

So the Azawakh is the opposite of the golden retriever.

It is the bizarro golden retriever– or the closest thing I can come to it.

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    This is the late Mick, who belonged to a reader from Minnesota:

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    The Daily Mail has a wonderful story of zoological ineptitude :

    Vets say it’s impossible – but to Chinese farmer Liu Naiying his birth is a miracle.

    For Mr Liu insists one of his sheep has given birth to a dog

    The ‘puppy’ has wool like a lamb but its mouth, nose, eyes, paws and tail look more like a dog’s.

    His ‘sheep dog’ even plays like a hound.

    The birth has prompted thousands to flock to his farm in Shaanxi Province to see for themselves.

    Mr Liu told how he found the unusual baby animal shortly after it was born in one of his fields.

    ‘I was herding the sheep, and saw a sheep licking her newborn lamb on the grassland. The lamb was still wet,’ he said.

    ‘When I went up close to check on the lamb I was shocked because it looked so weird, like a cross between a sheep and a dog.

    ‘I was a bit frightened, as I’ve been raising sheep for 20 years and had never seen such a creature.’

    Yue Guozhang, a researcher at Xi’an City Animal Husbandry Technology Centre, said sheep and dogs were different species.

    ‘It’s not possible that a sheep could become pregnant with a puppy,’ he said. ‘It’s likely that this is just an abnormal lamb.’

    Um. No.

    Closer inspection of another photo of this creature reveals its identity perfectly.

    It’s not a sheep/dog hybrid. And it’s not an abnormal sheep.

    The scientific name for this particular monster is Canis lupus familiaris.

    It’s a domestic dog with matted fur. Its feet are very clearly seen in that bottom photo, and everything about it says dog.

    It may be a puppy or a small adult dog. The coat seems awfully matted to be from a puppy, but it is still possible.

    My guess is the ewe lost her lamb and came across this cute little dog. The cuteness of the canine brought out the ewe’s maternal instincts, and that’s why the farmer found her licking it.

    But it’s a dog.

    It may be a puppy, but I’d still like to know more before making a conclusion. I’ve never seen a puppy so matted. It appears to have some sort of skin condition, which could contribute to is disheveled coat.

    But it’s not a “sheep/dog hybrid.”



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    Here’s a young working-type golden with a very nice wavy coat:

    (Source for image)

    To see the advantageous of this coat, please read Rawdon Lee’s comments on utility of the wavy coat for a land-based retriever.

    The other working coat for a golden retriever is flat, but it should be dense and hard to provide the same protection.

    Both coats have a dense undercoat and very active oil glands in the skin to keep the water from chilling the dogs when they swim. That is a very useful feature for a dog that needs to be comfortable in the water for a long time.

    I happen to like the true wavy coat a little more than the flat-coat, just because I think it provides a little bit more protection. (Miley is a moderately wavy-coated golden, in case you were wondering.)


    I was recently sent a study that compared the condition of the skin of different dog breeds. The only retriever in the study was a Labrador, and Labradors had thicker and more hydrated skin than the other breeds by a very significant margin. Now, this study should have compared Labradors with other breed of their size (beagles, fox and Manchester terriers are hardly fair comparisons to Labradors).

    If the study had includedsome other large dogs, my guess is the results would be somewhat different, but I do not doubt that Labradors have unusually thick skin.  Thick skin does insulate the dog in the water much more effectively. It also keeps the thorns from cutting up the dog as it tears through the undergrowth.

    From family lore, I have heard that the smooth dachshund that was also a great hunting dog was even more prone to being cut up in the brambles than the beagles were. That goes a long way to explaining the desire of the Germans to breed wire-haired and long-haired dachshunds as their main working dogs. One very rarely sees a smooth dachshund hunting in Europe. Most working dachshunds are wire-haired.

    I do know that having been around both beagles and golden retrievers that have run over the same thorny ground, that the goldens never were as hacked up in the undergrowth as the beagles were. Of course, goldens have a much thicker coat, and the Norwegian elkhound I knew very well also never got so severely cut up in the briers and multiflora rose bushes. How much the elkhound and golden retriever strength in heavy cover was the result of having thick skin and how much was the result of having a thicker coat are questions that I cannot answer.

    These comparisons of dog skin anatomy need to be explored more fully, but they are pretty interesting. We know that the average dog has thicker skin than virtually all of wild dog species. The only exception appears to be the sighthounds, which are notoriously thin-skinned, and they get cut relatively easily.


    I am amazed at how much this dog resembles the golden in this Reuben Ward Binks painting:

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    (Source for image)

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    I am not wading into that Balkan war that is fought over the identity of these dogs, so please leave that discussion off this blog. I gives me terrible headaches.

    But Stonehenge makes mention of this dog in The Dogs Of Great Britain, America, And Other Countries (circa 1880):

    The Albanian dog is said to stand about 27 or 28 inches high, with a long pointed muzzle, powerful body, strong and muscular limbs, and a long bushy tail, carried like that of the Newfoundland dog. His hair is very fine and close, being of a silky texture, and of a fawn color, variously clouded with brown. He is used for hunting the wild boar and wolf, as well as for the purpose of guarding the sheep-fold from the latter; but the accounts of this dog vary greatly, and are not much to be relied on.

    This sounds like the dogs we call Šarplaninac or Illyrian shepherds.

    My guess is that Stonehenge knew little about them. These are traditional livestock guardian dogs, which have been known to kill wolves. From my understanding of that footage, the shepherds penned up the sheep in an enclosure that allowed the wolves easy access to them. The wolves show up, and they turn their dogs loose on them.

    I’ve not heard of these dogs being used to hunt wild boar.

    It’s possible, but it doesn’t sound like a livestock guardian breed behavior.

    Unless the boars were threatening the sheep.

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    Rabbit beagles

    Rabbit beagles-- Giant and Ringlet.

    I grew up in rural West Virginia, where archaic English phrasessometimes persist in the vernacular.

    When I was a kid, I never heard anyone ever say the word “beagle” by itself. It was always “rabbit beagle.”

    As I got older, I decided the name was redundant.  Beagles were used to hunt only rabbits and, at higher elevations, snowshoe hares.

    I saw no purpose behind calling them “rabbit beagle,” so I just dropped it.

    Well, it turns out the this phrase does have a particular meaning, but the context in which it was used in late twentieth century West Virginia was not the same as it was in the nineteenth century.

    In Stonhenge’s The Dogs of Great Britain, America, and Other Countries (circa 1880):

    The dwarf or rabbit beagle is a very small and delicate little hound, but with an excellent nose, and much faster than he looks. Some sportsmen have carried their predilection for small dogs to such an extent, as to use a pack of these beagles which might be carried about in the shooting pockets of the men; and in this way have confined their duties to the hunting alone, so that they were not tired in trailing along the road from the kennel to the huntingfield and back again. The average hight of these may be taken at 10 mches, but their bodies are disproportionately lengthened Patience and perseverance are stil” more necessary in these hounds than in their larger brethren, and without them they soon lose their hare, as they must be content to hunt her at a pace with which a man can readily keep up on foot, horses being quite out of place with such a diminutive pack.

    A pack of rabbit-beagles, the property of Mr. Crane, of Southover House, England, we believe to contain the best “patterns” we have ever known. We have seen them on a cold bad scenting day work up a rabbit and run him in the most extraordinary manner, and although the nature of the ground compelbd the pack to run almost in Indian file, and thus to carry a very narrow line of scent, if they threw it up, it was but for a moment (pg 65-66).

    In nineteenth century Britain, “rabbit beagle” referred to the smallest beagles imaginable. These dogs were around 9 inches tall at the whithers.

    Now, the dogs called “rabbit beagles” in West Virginia were not that small. They were the “medium-sized” beagles that Stonehenge mentions. These would be within the 13-inch and 15-inch beagle varieties that the AKC recognizes. Stonehenge also mentions a rough-coated beagle, which would be something like a griffon, and the Kerry beagle, which is much larger dog. I have known unregistered working-type beagles from West Virginia that were more or less harriers. I don’t know their exact ancestry, but these dogs were all used for hunting rabbits.  I don’t know if they had foxhound in them or if they represented a distinct harrier-type hound that is endemic to West Virginia.

    The tiny beagles were something of legend. I remember hearing stories about “pocket beagles” that would fit in a man’s coat, which Stonehenge mentions in his account of the “rabbit beagle.”

    But “rabbit beagle” always referred to the normal beagle in West Virginia, and the pocket beagle was a creature of legend.

    Not only are we two people divided by a common language, we are two people divided by a common language that evolves with the times.

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    The Fila Brasileiro:


    See my post on the ojeriza temperament for exactly what I’m talking about.

    This temperament makes sense in parts of Brazil, where the crime rate is insane.

    In America, it’s a lawsuit on four legs.

    Very few people think it’s such a great idea to breed for super aggression, even breeders of protection dogs.

    When this level of aggression becomes the defining characteristic of the breed, you have a problem.



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