Archive for July, 2013

Here are some Cope’s gray tree frog tadpoles on their way to becoming froglets.



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Because no one ever takes photos like this…

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From “Britain’s Unique Retrievers– And the One that Got Away!”

When I see overweight Rottweiler-headed Labradors or over-furnished, biscuit-coloured, so-called Golden Retrievers at dog shows, usually devoid of motivation and demonstrably bored, I sigh for them. Such specimens are not true to their breed heritage in conformation and all too often do not know what they are for. The retrievers at the working test were in a different world: of stimulation, arousing smells, activity, eager excitement and fulfillment. These breeds, valued as much outside Britain as in, were developed in the most testing circumstances: freezing mud, icy estuaries, frozen windswept kale-fields and along ice-cold riverbanks.




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Snoring pugs are not cute. This poor creature suffering from stenotic nares. The nares are the nasal cavity, and stenosis just means they are abnormally scrunched up.


The dog is actually having a very hard time oxygenating itself while it is in prone position.

The entire reason why this health condition exists is simple breeding for extreme brachycephaly.

I can’t imagine going through life without being able to oxygenate my body as fully as possible, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to have my breathing obstructed every time I went to sleep.

I have had a person very close to me with COPD that resulted from a lifetime of smoking.  One of the reasons why I don’t smoke and never will is that I have no desire to be in that situation. I never want to have the discussion about my health ever to involve a discussion of oxygen tanks.  I never fail to appreciate how important it is for me to be able to take in full breaths of air.

But it’s one thing for a person to develop breathing problems as the result of a lifetime of smoking.

It’s another to breed for it in a dog.

It’s even more of a problem for dogs because dogs dogs use their respiratory systems as their primary cooling systems. Dogs pass air over their moist mucus membranes when they paint. This causes evaporation, which leads to cooling. When dog has such a scrunched up muzzle, it cannot cool itself efficiently.

This is why pugs and other brachycephalic dogs drop like flies on hot summer days.

The biggest welfare problems that dogs face today in the West are not neglect, dog fighting, or puppy mills.

The biggest welfare problems they face are distortions in conformation that have very real consequences for their health.

The reason why this is such a big welfare problem is that it’s not seen as being objectively cruel like those other practices. Dogs win prizes because they have a particular conformation, even if it is very bad for them.

Jemima Harrison used a pug as a good example of what this sort of breeding has produced in Pedigree Dogs Exposed:


The sad thing is that people think this is normal.

Not only do the laypeople think this is cute, dog shows reward extreme muzzles.

Dog shows are respectable and esteemed institutions, and as a result, you don’t see as much of a public outcry against extreme brachycephalic breeding as you do with dog fighting and puppy mills.

And because of this discrepancy, the welfare issues that result from this sort of selective breeding are an even bigger problem than those disgusting ones.

If we can say no more to dog fighting and puppy mills, why can’t we say no more to dogs that can’t fully breathe or oxygenate themselves?

No one is saying end brachycephaly in dogs.  After all, most dogs are brachycephalic when compared to wolves, and some breeds have always had shorter muzzles.

But we’ve gone too far.

We’ve pushed the organism’s anatomy too far, and we’ve got to stop and think about where this is heading.

There is a certain banality of evil that exists with pugs and other breeds like them. I don’t wish to use that Eichmann analogy too lightly, but it seems uncomfortably appropriate.

People accept that it’s wrong to fight dogs or breed them like broiler chickens, but they are entirely okay with dogs that spend their entire lives struggling for a breath.  The axiom that leads to the cruelty is the breed standard, and virtually everyone who buys one of these dogs wants a little flat-face, no matter the consequences.

In fact, it is unlikely that most people who own these dogs ever seriously consider the cruelty by anatomical distortion when they decide to get one of these dogs. These are not callus people. They are dog lovers, who often spend lots of money on their charges.

But they have allowed the flat-face to blind them.

They cannot see how much of deficit these dogs actually face when it comes to breathing and cooling themselves, and the sad part is that the deficit is seen as cuteness or even a breed trait.

It is in this realm that we’re decided to we have allowed obvious discomfort to go unchallenged, and in this respect, we now have a problem that is going to be next to impossible to fix without outcrossing– which no one wants to do.

The pug is a victim of our own caprices and vanities. It never served any purpose in the West, except to be a nice pet. We allowed it to become an object that we could mold in any way we saw fit, and now we are suffering the consequences.

We’ve lost site of this animal as a biological entity. In the eyes of many, it has ceased to be a dog. It is an animate toy.

Its canine anatomical necessities have been put on the backburner in order to mold into the image we have created for it.

And until we recognize that pugs are indeed dogs, they are going to continue to suffer.

This is not the way we treat animals we love.

And if we truly do love them, it’s time to look at things from their perspective.

Have a bit of empathy.

Would you like it if you struggled to breathe every time you went to bed?

What if your sweat glands couldn’t cool you on a hot afternoon?

We need to think about these issues before we start nattering on about what’s cute or “excellent breed type.”

These are secondary considerations.

We make breeding decisions for dogs. We write out breed standards. The dogs have no say in it, but they do suffer when we don’t put their interests first.

We’ve clearly not put their interests first when we allowed pugs to turn out this way.

It’s time to change it.

For the love the dogs and simple human decency, we must change.


Update: This dog has already undergone an operation for stenotic nares. It turns out that the reason for her problems are that her entire upper respiratory system is stenotic!

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I have no idea what this is, but this year, there are tons of these things.




I know zoology. As soon as we start to move outside the animal kingdom, my knowledge base evaporates.

What are these things?





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I admit it.

I was wrong. I thought there was no way there could be giant three-toed dogs running around the backwoods of West Virginia. I thought those Mountain Monsters guys were full of crap.

But I when I took Miley out this evening, she didn’t want to go.

And then I cam across these tracks:

devil dog track

These were huge dog tracks, but they were unlike any dog I’d ever seen.

I noticed they appeared to have only three toes on each foot. Where a normal dog or coyote would have two toes in the middle, it looked like whatever made these tracks has had this toe replace with only a large single toe with a very long claw.

Interesting! Three-toed carnivorans have not been documented before!

Then I hear the brush crash about a hundred yards ahead of me, and out the clearing came a giant whitish yellow beast. It was twice the size of Miley.

I jumped behind a tree and turned my camera on. I zoomed in as close as I could, but in the evening light, the resolution was terrible.

Here’s what I saw:


I’ve never seen anything like it!

It was like a giant wolf-bear creature– very similar to the one on Mountain Monsters.

The one on mountain monsters was much more short-coated than this creature was, but it does get a lot colder up here in North Central WV than it does down in Logan County.

I guess ours would have longer hair.

The creature then ran off into the brush, but I was amazed to have seen something so unique. I suggest that we call this species Canis luciferus–  the devil dog!

Of particular interest are its tracks. Notice how long the claw on that middle toe is?

I think this species of dog must be evolving a long the same lines as the horse, which also started out with five toes on each foot. Then it became three. Then it became one.

This long nail must give the devil dog some advantage in running down its favorite prey, Canis latrans.

We’re going to need to set up camera traps in this area. My guess is there is pack of these things running around here.

And no, I’m not telling you where this is. I don’t want every yahoo in the country staking this place out!



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Taxidermy taxonomy fail

ethiopian wolf taxidermy

This taxidermy was being sold as a dingo:

We rarely come across dingo taxidermy mounts and are proud to carry great specimens at a great price. The dingo is a free-roaming dog mainly found on the continent of Australia. The dingo has several names in both scientific and non-scientific literature, like of which the word “dingo” is the most common term, but also include “dingoe” and “wild dog”. Who do you know that has a Dingo? Want one? Sign up for our Wish List!

The big problem is that this specimen is not a dingo!

In fact, it’s something even rarer than a dingo, which is a feral domestic dog.

It is an Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis), which is a critically endangered canid that is found in the Ethiopian Highlands.

Because it’s such an endangered species,  the legality of selling such a specimen is certainly suspect, and it’s certainly worth a lot more than an old dingo mount.

But this isn’t the first taxidermy taxonomy fail I’ve covered on this blog. A few years ago, I went after an ad that was selling a gray fox taxidermy as a kit fox.

One would think that people who deal with these sorts of specimens would have an idea about the exact identity of the creatures that it is selling.

But I guess not.




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1890's pug

Photo from Nara U.

This is the 1890’s version– back when they had a muzzle!

This is what they look like now:


This breed has not been well-served by the fancy in the past 120 years.

Like many brachycephalic breeds, they have a hard time breathing and cooling themselves, and those wrinkles have a tendency to collect gunk that allows bacteria to flourish.

The double-curled tail has created a selection pressure for deviated spines, and oh, those bug eyes have a tendency to fall out under even modest trauma.

It’s very sad what we’ve done to this breed. It’s also a good example of how dog shows lead to extreme distortions in type.

This breed has no work. It never has had any work.

There is no way to divine a working trial for them.

But because its utility was solely in how it looked, extreme conformation could be justified.

There is absolutely no need to make any claims about this conformation giving the dog an advantage at doing a task– something that even the English bulldog fanatics at least attempt!

This sort of dog should have been built upon a different standard:  Can it be a healthy and active family pet?

In its current form, the pug is compromised in its utility.

No one wants a dog that has all of these potential impairments.

But the attitude among the pet buying public has been “It’s cute. So who cares?’

This attitude needs to change.

And if it does, maybe the pug will come out better for it.

The expression on the dog in the 1890’s photo is much more reflective of the breed’s temperament than the distorted modern version.

These are sly little dogs.



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Trying out the wings


They have been getting really fat on frogs.

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