Friday, December 30, 2005

Cloned Dog Not a Fake



A Korean science company has run tests on the dog that Korean scientists claimed they had cloned and they say the dog is indeed the result of a cloning process. The Korean scientists tnat made the claim, HwangWoo-suk, is under fire for fabricating virtually all of his embryonic stem cell research. The Korean institute HumanPass ran tests and determined that Snuppy is the world's first cloned dog. It said DNA fingerprint tests showed cells from Snuppy matched those of its cell donor, an Afghan hound named Thai.

Hunt Numbers are Up, Up, Up




Yorkshire Post, December 27, 2005

Outlawed - But Hunting is More Popular Than Ever

Massive crowds expected to show support at Boxing Day meets
by Simon McGee, Political Editor

HUNTING with hounds is more popular now than before it was outlawed - and today's Boxing Day meets are expected to be the busiest in the history of Yorkshire's hunts.

Membership across the county has risen by about 10 per cent, although in some areas hunt rolls are up by 20 per cent, the Countryside Alliance (CA) says.

A year ago there were widespread fears that the Hunting Act, which came into effect on February 18, would lead to the disbanding of packs, retirement or destruction of dogs and loss of thousands of countryside jobs.

But masters of hunts and organisers say the ban and the controversy surrounding it have galvanised support for the pursuit and acted as a recruiting sergeant for people who had previously no links or interest in the sport until the political furore made it front-page news.

It is now so popular that at least one Yorkshire hunt has had to take the almost un-heard of decision to cap the numbers of riding members turning up on meet days, because of concern for the farmland they ride across.

Hunts say the law, which took eight years of Parliam-entary wrangles and hundreds of hours of debate in Westminster, has so many loopholes and so much scope for interpretation that they can continue going out with hounds and killing foxes.

The law allows packs of hounds to be exercised, and absolves huntsmen from blame if dogs catch a scent and kill a fox, so long as they do not set out to go fox hunting and do everything they can to stop the chase and a kill taking place.

Dogs can also be used to flush out underground foxes that are considered a danger to game or livestock, so they can be shot.

Yorkshire's hunts are killing about 15 foxes a week, the same number as before the ban, the CA has previously estimated, and to date the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has not proceeded with a single prosecution anywhere under the Act.

The CA's Yorkshire regional chairman John Haigh said: "Everyone said last year's Boxing Day hunt would be the last, but as it happens we're now looking forward to massive crowds of support at every meet across the county.

"We've shown we can stick together in the face of the Hunting Act and we're determined to carry on and keep everything in place for when the Act is one day repealed".

In North Yorkshire Glaisdale Hunt says subscriptions are up 20 per cent, while the Bedale has not only reported a 10 per cent rise but also a limit on meet days because of concern about the potential damage to farmland by too many horses.

Hurworth Hunt has also seen a 10 per cent boost in members.

Subscriptions to the Badsworth and Bramham Moor Foxhounds, which meets across the middle of Yorkshire, are up by eight per cent.

Barlow Hounds, which hunts in South Yorkshire and North East Derbyshire, has seen the number who turn up to ride regularly rise from about 50 to 60 and a clear increase in subscriptions.

Hunt secretary Caroline Excell-Thomas said: "We have more subscribers and members coming along twice a week than ever before. And we have all these people coming along who had no connection with hunting before the ban gave it so much publicity.

"Overall, we're well up on last year and are expecting our biggest Boxing Day meet ever. We're going great guns".

The Holderness and York/Ainsty South hunts said membership was as strong as it was a year ago.

Ryedale's Tory MP John Greenway, who vigorously opposed the ban, said the popularity of hunting with dogs had shown that the Act had been "a complete and utter waste of time".

"The law is unworkable and defective. It's as simple as that and we said so at the time. You only have to look at how it's boosted hunting. I'm not surprised that membership is up - it's what I'm hearing all the time. As many people as ever, if not more, will be turning up today".

One of many Yorkshire Labour backbenchers who supported the ban, Selby MP John Grogan, said: "So long as everyone is obeying the law I'm happy that the spectacle of horses riding across the countryside continues.

"If they are not staying within the law, as some people allege, then no doubt there'll be a prosecution at some stage".

The CA's new chairman, pro-hunt Labour MP Kate Hoey, will be at Riley-Smith Hall, Tadcaster, on Thursday, January 12, as part of a regional tour to meet members and supporters.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Keeping a Dog Warm After Work



It's foxing season, and though its about 50 degrees out at the moment, that will change very soon and fox will then be found to ground. After an hour or more underground in very cold weather, a dog ending its work will come out of the ground very adrenalized and warm from the work and the natural insulation of the earth.

That will soon change, however, as the adrenaline in the dog's system falls and its body temperature drops. The dog will be breathing heavily, drawing large volumes of cold air into its lungs. At the same time, it's energy and sugar levels may be falling. If the dog is a little wet from the ground or the snow outside -- and especially if a wind is blowing -- it may begin to suffer from hypothermia.

Take care of your dogs and keep them warm. A space blanket weighs very little and costs very little, and can boost a dog's temperature and cut off the wind if it is rugged up inside it. Another good item to have with you is some sort of chemical hand warmer. "Heat Factory" warmers are disposable and cost only 75 cents to a dollar for 12 to 24 hours of continuous heat. These are excellent things for you to have for yourself, and may be critical for the dog. "ReHeater Reusable Heat Packs" are another variation. These can be reused, but cost $7 dollars a unit and provide only 45 minutes of heat. See Cheaper than Dirt for other options.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Scouting for Fox Dens



Went out today without the dogs to explore a new large tract of land. Found a lot of old groundhog dens and three or four dens I suspect are fox digs due to their size, placement and/or recent digging.

It rained yesterday, and the temperature was over 45 degrees, so the snow is melting and the ground is far too boggy to dig and no self-respecting fox will be to ground in this warm weather. Come a cold snap, however, and I have a couple of new likely spots to try.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Trapping Still Going Strong in Pennsylvania



From the Scranton (PA) Times-Tribune:

Deer and turkey hunting seasons get most of the attention, but few realize the trapping industry is alive and well in Pennsylvania. In 2004, Pennsylvania sold 24,094 furtaker licenses, up from 1999 when 17,604 were sold.

While the sport provides enough financial return to just about cover the trapper’s expenses, they do a far more important job keeping the state’s furbearer population in check.

“Residents who think nuisance wildlife problems are bad now can’t begin to imagine how bad they’d get if these individuals weren’t removing some of the surplus furbearers our state produces annually,” Vern Ross, Game Commission Executive Director, said.

“Trappers help reduce the number of furbearers that spread rabies, stalk pets, prey on livestock, raid garbage cans, flood rural roadways, and cause crop-damage,” Ross said. “Each year, they annually remove thousands of surplus furbearers from fields, forests, waters and suburban areas.

“In the process, they are helping to align furbearer populations with the carrying capacity of the habitat they live in, and reducing the frequency in which residents will encounter these animals — or the damage they can cause to property. It’s a great help to those people who are looking for relief from the troubles caused by nuisance furbearers.”

Generally the trapping season begins around mid-October and lasts through February with special seasons for some species. Prime pelts, ones that bring the most money at the international fur market, are found when animals grow thicker coats as the weather gets colder.

In 2004, the Game-Take Survey that the Game Commission normally conducted was cut due to budget constraints. But in 2003, furtakers took about 105,000 raccoons; 71,500 muskrats; 34,000 opossum; 31,500 red fox; 16,000 gray fox; 6,500 mink; 11,500 coyote and 9,500 skunks. These figures have been relatively stable during the last few years.

Beaver trapping opens Dec. 26 and will continue until sunset March 31. Beaver trappers no longer are required to have their harvested beavers tagged by a Game Commission representative.

Beavers were reintroduced into Pennsylvania in 1917 and, in the last 20 years, they have expanded their range greatly and have substantial populations in our area. In 2003, trappers took 6,757 beavers, up from 4,538 the year before, but down from 2001 when trappers collected 10,934. Variances are greatly influenced by weather conditions, such as ice and heavy snow.

In order for a person to run a trap line in Pennsylvania, he or she must possess a furtaker or combination license. Traps must have an identification tag with owner information and the owner must check each trap every 36 hours.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

FrankenFido



William Saletan, one of Slate's national correspondents, wrote the piece below, which I hope folks will circulate widely as it may get people to thinking about where closed dog registries lead -- concentrated genetic defects without hope of outcross.

I suppose the breed clubs will have their own spin on this: "show ring breeders help cure cancer." And of course, it will be true, though not the whole story by any measure. . . .

By William Saletan, Slate Magagine, Dec. 14, 2005


Dogs: Made to order

Have you heard the latest news? We've decoded the DNA of dogs. Here's how the media-approved version of the story goes: We're showing our love for "man's best friend" by discovering and treating the genetic causes of his ailments. In return, we'll learn to treat the same ailments in ourselves.

It's a heartwarming story, but it's a fraud. The reason we targeted the dog genome for decoding is that it's useful for genetic research. The reason it's useful for genetic research is that dogs are neatly divided into breeds, each of which is plagued by specific diseases. And the reason dogs are divided into diseased breeds is that we made them that way. Dogs are the world's longest self-serving, ecologically reckless genetic experiment, perpetrated by the world's first genetically engineering species: us.

Dogs were just a loose category of wolves until around 15,000 years ago, when our ancestors tamed and began to manage them. We fed them, bred them, and spread them from continent to continent. While other wolf descendants died out, dogs grew into a new species. We invented the dog.


We didn't pick just any wolves for this project. We picked the ones that could help us and get along with us. Dogs are dumber than monkeys and other mammals in many ways, but they excel at one thing: interpreting human behavior. Three years ago, scientists tested this talent in wolves, adult dogs, puppies raised in households, and puppies raised in kennels. The wolves couldn't read humans well, but the puppies could — even the puppies raised in kennels. Through selection, we've hardwired human compatibility into dogs. We've made a species in our image.

But that wasn't enough. We had specific needs. We bred hunting dogs, herding dogs, sled dogs, and guard dogs. (We also tried a few unauthorized uses.) We turned reproductive separation and inbreeding into a science, multiplying and dividing the species into more than 400 breeds. The American Kennel Club sorts them into the Sporting Group, Working Group, Herding Group, Hound Group (whose ancestors were "used for hunting"), Terrier Group (whose ancestors "were bred to hunt and kill vermin"), and Toy Group. "The diminutive size and winsome expressions of Toy dogs illustrate the main function of this Group: to embody sheer delight," says the club's Web site. Every dog has his duty.

Each need, each breed, called for special traits. We bred collies for vigilance, Rottweilers for aggression, retrievers for obedience. In a span of decades, we bred ferocity into Dobermans and then, with equal deliberateness, bred it out. We treated dogs like guns. We designed and bought them for protection, then complained when they hurt us. When cities banned pit bulls, we bought Rottweilers. It was as easy as replacing an illegal assault weapon with a legal one.

Not all our designs were utilitarian. We made some breeds just for fun. Some, like the Pharaoh Hound, were thought to be ancient because they looked like dogs drawn on Egyptian tombs. But last year, when we checked their DNA, we found no evidence they were older than modern breeds. Apparently, breeders crafted them by mating dogs that looked like the drawings. Life imitated art.

In the course of engineering dogs to look, feel, and act as we wanted, we ruined millions of them. We gave them legs so short they couldn't run, noses so flat they couldn't breathe, tempers so hostile they couldn't function in society. Even our best intentions backfired. Nature invented sexual reproduction to diversify gene pools and dilute bad variants. By forcing dogs into incest (which we ban among humans, in part for biological reasons), we defied nature. We concentrated each bad gene in a breed, magnifying its damage: epilepsy for springer spaniels, diabetes for Samoyeds, bone cancer for Rottweilers. That's why the dog genome is so nifty: We can find disease genes just by comparing one breed's DNA to another's.

Well, too bad for the dogs. But three cheers for us and our experiment. "The dog genome is a wonderful playground for geneticists," exults the New York Times. "A treasure trove," says the San Francisco Chronicle. "A convenient laboratory," agrees Reuters.

Man's best friend, indeed.

Monday, December 12, 2005

New Land on a Snowy Day




I went out yesterday and found 1,800 new acres very near where I hunt now. I haven't been over but a small bit of it, and it's under an inch or two of snow, but it looks like it will be very nearly ideal.

Fox tracks all over my regular farms, but nothing to ground that the dog and I could find (42 degrees is a bit warm to find fox to ground).

On the new ground I found more fox tracks and also turkey tracks.





I just had one dog with me, and she found the possum below. A small muddy day, but no day out with the dogs is wasted time.





Friday, December 09, 2005

FREE Postage, International and Domestic



For those looking to order American Working Terriers, I have just discovered that you can get FREE shipping, both domestic and international, by simply selecting "Supersaver Shipping" from the postage method box. Who knew? It ships a little slower, but it's free (proof that time is money).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Canine Genetics Made Easy?



First we had artificial insemination, then we had artificial insemination with frozen sperm ("pupcicles"), and then we had dogs being cloned ("Clone, clone on the range, where the dogs and the puppies all play ..."

Now scientists have mapped almost the entire canine genome. The article below, from The Boston Globe, gives the details:


Team of Scientists Maps Out 99% of Dog Genome

Scientists have finished a sophisticated map of a dog's genes, providing new insights into the deep links between humans and one of their most treasured animals, as well as creating a unique tool for studying a range of diseases, from cancer to blindness, that affect people and their dogs.

The team of scientists, led by the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, determined virtually the entire genetic code, or genome, of the dog, making the achievement the canine equivalent of the completion two years ago of the Human Genome Project, the scientists said yesterday. Rough drafts of the dog genome have been released over the past several years, but the new work represents the first highly accurate version and also includes, for the first time, a detailed library of common genetic variations seen in dogs -- making possible a new generation of fast, accurate genetic studies of diseases and other traits.

Biologists have taken up the genetics of many animals, but the dog is uniquely interesting and useful, the scientists said, because of its history. The modern dog, including several hundred breeds, is the product of thousands of years of careful breeding, aimed at drawing out specific behaviors, such as the obsessive herding of the Border collie, or appearances, such as the hairless Chinese crested. By applying the modern tools of genetics to these breeds, it is now easy to find the small genetic variations responsible for the differences, with applications from dog breeding to human psychiatry. The genetic map of the dog announced yesterday should also accelerate the search for the genetic causes of diseases that plague certain breeds, perhaps leading to cures for dog and man alike.

''It is a historic day in the relationship between man and dog," said Eric S. Lander at a press conference yesterday, as a pug and an Akita tussled in the back of the room at the Bayside Exposition Center, where a dog show was being set up. Lander is the director of the Broad Institute and the owner of two golden retrievers.

Scientists said that the dog also stands as a testament to the power of evolution -- and its importance -- at a time when some are challenging its teaching in public schools. Looking for the genetic causes of human diseases in dogs makes sense only if humans and dogs are close evolutionary relatives that share a common ancestor -- a fact that is strongly supported by the genetic map Lander and his colleagues found.

''Biomedical research today depends on evolution," said Lander. ''It is hard to say that it is 'just a theory.' "

The research, which is reported today in the journal Nature, was led by Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, co-director of genome sequencing and analysis at the Broad Institute. Using a blood sample from a boxer named Tasha, the team determined about 99 percent of the sequence of DNA that makes up the dog genome.

The team, which included researchers across the United States as well as in France and the United Kingdom, also compiled a list of 2.5 million places in this sequence where there are common differences among dogs. This was done, according to the Nature paper, by comparing Tasha's DNA with DNA from a poodle and a number of other breeds -- enough, the scientists said, to record many of the most common variations in dogs.

Having this list of common differences will make it far easier for researchers to do genetic studies involving large numbers of dogs, because they can focus on the places in the genome where dogs are likely to have differences that might explain why one dog gets bone cancer and another does not. For example, scientists who are interested in why some greyhounds get bone cancer, and others do not, can look at these places to see if there is a pattern, without having to determine the entire genetic code of each dog -- about 2.4 billion molecules long. ''This is really the big thing," said Gregory M. Acland, a senior research associate at the Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University.

Many ailments -- including cancer, epilepsy, and heart disease -- are thought to be similar in dogs and humans, but it will be easier to identify the genes involved using dogs, said Acland, who studies genetic diseases that affect vision. In contrast to humans, dog breeds are highly in-bred, making two dogs in the same breed more similar genetically than two humans. Thus, for example, scientists could compare Dalmatians that are deaf with those that are not deaf, and there would be fewer random genetic differences between the dogs clouding the picture than if the same study were done in humans.

The work described yesterday, and follow-up work planned to study specific diseases, were made possible by the efforts of the American Kennel Club and dog owners who agreed to send in blood samples from their pets. (Owners of pure-breed dogs who are interested in participating can find more information at www.dogdna.org.) The research was funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Dogs themselves are a human creation, thought to have begun when people domesticated the wolf in East Asia. The new analysis suggests that this happened about 30,000 years ago, said Lindblad-Toh.

The researchers also compared the DNA of dogs with completed genomes for humans and mice, and what they found challenges one idea about what makes humans special. When the human genome was first compared with that of the mouse, several years ago, scientists found evidence that the genes that are active in the cells of the brain seem to have evolved more quickly in humans than in mice, hinting that this might explain the intellect of humans. The new analysis casts doubt on this theory, because it shows that the brain-related genes in dogs have been evolving just as fast as those of humans, according to Tarjei S. Mikkelsen, a scientist at the Broad. The dog has about 19,300 genes, slightly fewer than humans, who have about 20,000 genes, according to Lindblad-Toh.

The researchers also identified a portion of the genome, about 5 percent, that is shared by dogs, humans, and mice -- meaning this portion is apparently essential to mammals. Yet less than half of that is devoted to genes. What the rest of the genetic material does is a mystery, but it is thought that some of this material may regulate when the genes turn off and on in particular cells. Still, the fact that the function of this crucial part of the genome is unknown underlines how much there is to learn.

For those who have been involved in dog genetics for years, there is hope that the new work will put the dog on the same footing as other favorite research organisms, such as the fruit fly and the mouse. In a way, it is a logical next step for the dog, which has done so much for humans -- guardian, hunter, companion. Yet there is also irony in discovering the scientific potential of dogs, noted Mark W. Neff, a scientist at the Center for Veterinary Genetics at the University of California, Davis. ''We are so close to our pet dogs, that we stop thinking of them as this incredible, unique species," Neff said.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Death of the Fox Inn


The Death of Fox Inn is now a private residence.

In 1768, Washington was appointed as a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and managed to fill his need for fox hunting at the Gloucester Hunting Club across the River from Philadelphia in New Jersey near present-day Haddonfield. It was largely because of the social and political connections made while fox hunting that Washington's social prominence rose, and in 1775 Washington was Congress's unanimous choice as commander of the new Continental Army that was to lead the American forces in their fight against the British.

In 1774, one year before Washington was tapped to lead the fledgling Continental Army, William Eldridge began a tavern at 217 Kings Highway (aka County Road 551), in Mount Royal, New Jersey. The tavern was known as Eldridge's Tavern or "The Death of the Fox Inn".

The name is derived from the fact that the hunters of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club (1766 to 1818) often gathered at the inn after the chase.

Fox hunting shaped several key components of the Revolutionary War. A fox terrier owned by British General Howe was found during the middle of a battle, and was later returned to him by General Washington. Some historians believe this later led Howe to resign when told he must show the American forces no mercy.

After the revolution, it was the members of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club, meeting at "The Death of the Fox Inn" that engineered Washington's selection as the first President of the United States.

Great nations from tiny fox hunting clubs are borne.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Mad Scientists Lose Funding for Fox Extinction



Back in August of 2004, I posted a piece ("The End of the Game") on something called viral immunocontraception. The basic thrust of this Australian mad-scientist scheme was to create a virus to sterilize entire populations of animals: fox, rabbits, people, mice, rats, carp, etc.

The chance for such a thing to run out of control and end "Life on Earth as We Know It"seems pretty obvious ... but apparently not to a small cadre of Australian scientists warmly embraced by Animal Right lunatics willing to risk killing off everything on Earth in order to prevent hunters from firing a shot.

The good news is that the the main groups of scientists working in this arena have lost their funding after 10 years of no subsantive progress in the field.

A news story, from the Australian media, is appended below:



Fox Free to Breed Like Rabbits

Australian scientists have abandoned attempts to develop a contraceptive vaccine for rabbits and foxes, saying the approach has failed to produce results after 10 years.

Dr Tony Peacock, chief executive officer of the Invasive Animals CRC, formerly the Pest Animal Control CRC, says resistance to genetic modification from the grazing industry has also influenced the decision to scale back the contraception work.

Hopes had been high for the success of a contraceptive vaccine delivered via the myxoma virus for rabbits and via non-toxic bait for foxes.

But Peacock says the rebadged CRC is changing tack on controlling the European rabbit and the European red fox, among Australia's worst pests.

"There are major changes in those two programs because the immunocontracepive work we've been doing for a decade in those species we can't take any further at the moment," he says.

"We couldn't make it work well enough to justify the millions and millions of dollars we'd have to spend to keep going [and] the grazing industries are very nervous about proceeding with the GM approach, and our work is genetic modification."

While the rabbit project will be scaled back from a "full-on development", he says basic research into the rabbit reproductive system will continue at the CRC.

The CRC also intends to press ahead with efforts to develop a contraceptive approach to mouse control, which has proved more effective and is better accepted by the grains industry, Peacock says.

Some smaller groups will continue to study contraceptive methods of pest control, he says.

New focus

Peacock says the focus will move back to the rabbit calicivirus, introduced in 1995, and new, improved fox baiting.

"We think the lethal [fox baiting] approach has some advantages and we can deliver it more quickly," he says.

Meanwhile, calicivirus has been effective in some parts of the country but has failed to make a real dent in others, and the CRC wants to see how its effects can become more uniform.

Peacock says feral rabbits and foxes remain an "enormous" problem and admits researchers are still scratching their heads for a solution.

"What we would advocate is, if it's possible to look at a biological control we should pursue it," he says.

"But it's long term research and it's only happened twice in the world, twice in Australia, twice on the rabbit."

Funding row

But all the CRC's new plans could be derailed by a funding row that Peacock says is threatening the organisation's future.

He says one of the CRC's partners, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, is considering pulling out of an agreement to provide A$10.5 million because of a dispute with the New South Wales government.

If the commission decides to pull out of the CRC it would directly affect the so-called daughterless carp program and potentially affect all other aspects of the CRC.

A spokesperson says commissioners will meet in Queensland next Tuesday to make a decision.

"They agreed to put in A$10 million and now they're reconsidering it to anywhere between ten and zero," Peacock says.

"If we lose a big chunk of money then the committee that recommended the CRC [for funding] needs to reassess it."