Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A True Dog Man

Study what man has done to dogs, and you can become a bit cynical about humans.

Which is not an accident.

It turns out that the word "cynic" refers to dogs.

The term was coined by the Greek philosopher Diogenes who noted that dogs judged men and situations by what they did rather than what they said.

Diogenes recognized that many of the social values and institutions of humans are the product of little more than corrupted theory untested in the real world.

A bit like the American Kennel Club ....

Diogenes went on to note that many social conventions were simply put in place to demonstrate power by a controlling authority, such as government or church. People simply followed on, parroting what others said, and conforming to power in order to achieve social status and approval.

A bit like the American Kennel Club ...

Was Diogenes a crank?

Or surely!

This was a man who lived in a earthenware cistern and was known to urinate and defecate in public (he maintained they were natural actions). Plato called Diogenes "a Socrates gone mad," while for his part Diogenes said Plato's lectures were a waste of time. Later, when Plato defined Man as a "featherless biped," Diogenes plucked a chicken clean of all feathers and brought it into Plato's lecture room with the words "Here is Plato's man." Somewhat reduced, Plato was forced to add to the definition, "having broad nails."

To some degree the battle between Diogenes and Plato is still being waged today.

The Kennel Club's definition of beauty is a Platonic Ideal -- one in which the dogs in the ring are compared to a picture, and theory is used to conjure up a "standard" which has nothing to do with canine health or function.

The result, Diogenes would note, is not natural, is almost entirely arbitrary, and is often evil -- dogs that are being bred with high and rising rates of physical pathology ranging from defective hearts to shattered hips, and from wrecked eyes to cross-wired brains and diseased livers.

And yet for decades nothing has been done.

The various Kennel Club hierarchies have whistled past the dogs that cannot walk, cannot breathe, cannot reproduce on their own, and who endure shortened lives lived in pain.

Diogenes would not be surprised at that outcome. In his day he noted that men often saluted what was conventionally deemed evil, while often ignoring -- or even encouraging -- things that were truly evil.

And how was this done?

Often with sophisms -- verbal tricks of the tail.

George Orwell called this "double-speak," and Stephen Colbert has called it "truthiness," but it is all much the same -- words that sound correct and which are used to confuse while seeming to illuminate.

The Kennel Club version is the nonsense phrase that "form follows function," and never mind that two dogs which have exactly the same function are given entirely different forms!

The terrier and the dachshund do the same work, but they do not have the same form.

The setter and the pointer do the same jobs, but they do not look alike.

The Corgi and the drover's dog known as the Bouvier Des Flandres once had similar functions, but they do not look a bit alike.

Has no one else noticed?

But, of course, there is no percentage in noticing, is there? Instead, people parrot the words and conform to convention, and the charade in the Kennel Club ring continues uninterrupted.

And why? Diogenes knew.

It is because humans seek the approbation of other human beings, and in so doing enslave themselves.

In their chase for the blue ribbon, otherwise smart people park their brains in neutral and mindlessly embrace conventions made up by nameless, faceless people with dubious credentials.

Never mind that the dogs are being wrecked. The people in the ring need approval, and if the dog has to suffer for that to happen, then that is the price that will be paid for the blue ribbon.

Diogenes understood.

He was, after all, a cynic -- a true dog man.

Three Sodas a Week = Six Pounds of Fat a Year

I'm not sure a tax is the way to go, but I know education can help. Want to know more? Learn more by reading Omnivore's Dilemma

Related Post

The Corries :: Jock O'Braidislee

Video link

The Song is Jock O'Braidislee and the lyrics are here, complete with references to "twa grey dugs" which would be to two large grey coursing dogs in this case.

The cultural refererence is a bit deeper than it first appears, of course, for any reference to Twa Dugs is also a nod to the Robert Burns Twa Dugs poem. For the poem (and a modern-English translation), see here.

For those wondering about the instruments that Ronnie Browne and Roy Williamson are playing, they are called "combolins" and are instruments made by the late Roy Williamson.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Please Neuter ...

Coffee and Provocation

  • Irish Man is Champion Sheep Shagger:
    The Scots, of course, are mortified (to say nothing of the Greeks and the Australians), but it seems an Irish man has shagged 731 sheep in eight-hours. I'll bet he was sore!

  • Get Kennel Club Qualified to Kill Dogs!
    If you're willing to take a simple four hour course, the U.K. Kennel Club will certify you as a breed expert, and you can go out and identify "pit bull types" so they can be killed as quick as you can say "Bob's your Uncle." Step right up for the Kennel Club Killing Classes at the Battersea Dogs Home on February 18th. The class starts at noon. There is a special discount if you take the earlier course offered that day: How to Identify a Jew.

  • Cat Fight Over Pedigrees:
    It seems that "Australian Mist" cat breeders (cough cough) have found a perfect way to protect their cartel: sell only neutered or spayed animals. Of course, a local pet store figured out another source: slap the name on any damn cat scraped up out of the back of a barn and put a big price tag on it. Result: Cat Fight! Pur-fect.

  • Dogs in the Womb:
    Dogs in the Womb will be on TV on Sunday, January 4th at 8 pm on the National Geographic Channel. Preview video here.

  • Finding A Use for Endemic Canine Defect:
    Purebred dogs are such genetic messes, that human diseases are now studied in dogs because the combination of detailed canine pedigrees and endemic genetic diseases in nearly every Kennel Club breed means it is possible to find gene mutations faster in dogs than humans by simply comparing healthy versions of the dog (if ones can be found) with defective ones. There is a whole web site devoted to this.

  • Dominatrix Pet Maven Victoria Stilwell:
    Victoria Stilwell shows her softer side in this "Purina Pets for People" Top Ten Adoption Checklist. Pretty basic, but people are dense, and you can never say the basics often enough.


Monday, December 29, 2008

One Year in Forty Seconds

I routinely walk parts of about 3,000 acres of land and hit another 1,000 acres or so about twice a year, and yet every time I go out, it's like an entirely different set of farms.

The pictures, above tell why. A fellow by the name of Eirik Solheim put together the above clip using a year’s passage of still photos taken through four seasons. For the record, the pictures are taken in “the english park” at Skøyen in Oslo, Norway. Perfect!

Of course, this 40 second clip shows only a single year of change. Add in real time -- a few years -- and you can see that the land virtually boils with life, death, and perpetual transformation.

Modern Scientific Trapping

In Management by Majority Ted Williams writes in Audubon magazine that:

"When legholds are used by people who know and care about what they're doing, the animals rarely suffer serious injury.

The wolves now thriving in Yellowstone National Park, for example, are routinely caught with leghold traps so they can be outfitted with radio collars.

More than 2,000 river otters have been caught in legholds in the South and released virtually unscathed in midwestern states where the species had been extirpated. Of 14 otters captured last year by graduate student Tasha Belfiore of the University of California, Davis, none suffered more than a slight bruise or abrasion. Belfiore had spent three years designing the study, which was to have assessed genetic damage to otters from pesticides used in the Sacramento Valley. Her study might have helped preserve otters and other species, but because of the trap ban she has had to abandon it. 'If all the facts are out on the table and we still disagree, that's fine,' she told me. 'But to be making a decision based on misinformation isn't fair.'"

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Posthole Diggers for Terrier Work

I cannot speak for anyone else in the world, but in the hard, rocky and rooty ground in which I find I am frequently digging, you are a fool not to have a set of heavy duty posthole diggers with you.

The heavier the better.

You want a model with big blades.

I strongly advise people to not get a cheap lightweight posthole digger -- they cannot do the job, and you are better off buying a good shovel and not using a posthole digger at all.

The posthole digger pictured at right has two one-piece high-carbon steel blades that have pre-beveled edges for easier soil penetration. Extra large hinge bolts are used for improved durability. The handle is mounting with outside nuts for easy tightening. The round handle shanks are made of solid Ash, and the whole thing weighs about 17.5 pounds.

Some heavy-duty posthole diggers now come affixed to stiff fiberglass handles that are lighter than the wood ones. These work well and are easier to carry, but the handles have to be stiff fiberglass, not the flexible variety, or else they will spring too much and absorb the impact when the posthole digger is driven into the ground.

A posthole digger with fiberglass handles will weigh about 12 pounds as compared to about 17.5 pounds for a heavy-duty wooden-handled posthole digger of the kind you can get at Home Depot.

Hand tools tend to gravitate towards success, and the heavy-duty "Hercules" design shown here has stood the test of time. This type of posthole digger is the same style used by telephone pole installers when they are required to dig very deep holes by hand. The models sold by Peavy Tools come with handles as long as 12 feet, but a regular five-foot handle is fine for terrier work.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Continuing Crisis

Drill here, drill now.

From Fox News:
A former Beverly Hills, Calif. liposuction doctor claimed to have the environment's best interests at heart when he began fueling his and his girlfriend's SUVs with human fat sucked out of his patients.

Unfortunately the practice was illegal, according to California state health officials.

An investigation by the California public health department revealed that Craig Alan Bittner created "lipodiesel" from his patients' fat and used it to power his Ford SUV and his girlfriend's Lincoln Navigator, reported this week.

"The vast majority of my patients request that I use their fat for fuel — and I have more fat than I can use," Bittner wrote on his now defunct Web site. "Not only do they get to lose their love handles or chubby belly but they get to take part in saving the Earth."

California law forbids the use of human medical waste to power vehicles.

Bittner's practice, Beverly Hills Liposculpture, closed in November.

Several former patients have filed lawsuits against the doctor, claiming he allowed his unlicensed girlfriend and an assistant to perform procedures, causing mistakes that left the patients disfigured, attorney Andrew Besser, who represents three of the former patients, told


Flawed Paws

Dr. Paul Mcgreevey writes in New Scientist:

In the wake of the documentary [Pedigree Dogs Exposed], leading animal welfare charities such as the Dogs Trust and the RSPCA have spoken out against pedigree dog breeding, and withdrawn their support for Crufts, the UK Kennel Club's flagship event. It is time for a new approach to dog breeding: that is based on a comprehensive understanding of their biology; that values health, longevity and suitable temperament; and that ensures we get the best out of companion dogs by helping them to help us.

Many veterinary geneticists saw the crisis that now faces the Kennel Club looming many years ago. The closed studbook system used by pedigree breeders inevitably involves inbreeding that increases the risk of inherited disorders caused by recessive genes. Such disorders are now recognised in all established breeds of dogs and cats, as well as horses, farm animals and a growing number of captive exotic species. But the problem is worst in dogs, which have been intensively bred within the closed studbook system since Victorian times. Many dogs now have inherited disorders that cause them to suffer so much that it is unkind to keep them alive.

Worse, pedigree dog breeders compete to produce animals that conform to written standards, which may include morphological and behavioural traits that compromise quality of life. These traits were incorporated into the first breed standards when dogs left the working arena and entered the world of dog shows in the late 1800s, and many of them may have been valued by early dog domesticators because they served a particular purpose. Unfortunately breed standards now tend to prioritise appearance over functionality.

For example, the breed standard for Weimaraners demands that the chest is "well developed, deep" while the abdomen is "firmly held" and the flank is "moderately tucked-up". These requirements may help to make Weimaraners appear athletic but veterinarians know that breeds with deep chests are at risk of gastric dilation and torsion, an extraordinarily painful, life-threatening condition in which the stomach bloats with gas and can become twisted. Or take the Pug, which according to its breed standard should have eyes that are "very large, globular in shape". Breeders oblige the judges and select for this feature, leaving Pugs with eyes that bulge so badly their lids scarcely meet well enough to wipe the eyeball clean. The poor dogs undergo a lifetime of chronic conjunctivitis that eventually scars over the cornea and blinds them.

The emphasis in dog breeding needs to shift. To minimise rates of inherited disease, closed studbooks may need to be abandoned.There are also calls for each breeding population of dogs to be placed under surveillance, so that new disorders can be tracked as they emerge.


Earthrise 1968

December 24, 1968. Earthrise is captured, for the first time, by astronaut William Anders during Apollo 8, the first manned voyage to the orbit of the Moon.

This photograph changed the way we see ourselves, leading to the entire environmental movement as we know it today.

If you don't think this book was the beginning of the Internet, then you don't know this book.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Kennel Club Dog Owners: "Just Following Orders"

Milgram Experiment. See #1, #2, #3, #4, #5

Those who took college psychology classes might remember a study called the Milgram Experiment in which it was found that people would blindly follow orders from an authority figure when told to administer what they believed to be painful -- even lethal -- electric shocks to other humans. As Milgram himself wrote about his 1963 experiment:

Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' [participants'] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' [participants'] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not.

The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation

Now, more than 45 year later, the Milgram Experiment has been repeated again, with much the same results reports The San Jose Mercury News.

It turns out that people are so conditioned to follow authority (even when the authority is entirely contrived and asserted without documentation) that humans will routinely apply painful and potentially life-threatening jolts of electricity to people when told to.

Almost all people will apply 150-volt jolts to other humans (significantly more than household current), and about half will crank it up to more than 450 volts, even when the person they are shocking is no longer responding and may in fact be dead or passed out from the pain.

Why do I bring this up here?

Simple: think about dog breeds and breed standards.

People know that breeding very large dogs and very small dogs results in a very high, and very predictable, amount of painful canine pathology, ranging from cancer and bloat to syringomyelia.

People know that breeding achondroplastic and brachycephalic dogs results in a very high, and very predictable, amount of long-term breathing problems, joint problems, and heart disease.

People know that breeding Bloodhounds results in dogs that will often be in pain due to bloat, gastric torsion and cancer, and that more than half of these dogs will be dead by age 7.

So why do people do it?

Simple: they are simply "following directions."

The directions are written down in a "breed standard" created by a namelesss faceless group of people who claim "history" as their guide even when the history is entirely invented.

The directions say that no dog can be bred outside of the Kennel Club's closed registry system.

The directions say that a pure breed dog is better than a "mongrel" gotten from the pound

The authority is the Kennel Club.

The pain administered to the dogs is minimized by "expert breeders" and Club potentates who spend considerable amounts of time and energy denying, rationalizing and explaining away defect, deformity and disease in their breeds, and who also routinely lie to potential puppy buyers about breed longevity.

Deaf dog? Never had one.

Uric acid stones? Not in my line.

Heart problems? Oh, that occurs sometimes among "backyard breeders" but never in the kennels of the board members of the breed club.

Cancer, skin conditions and eye problems? That just comes with the breed.

In fact, only the best Chihuahuas have moleras, and only the best Finnish Spitz's have epilepsy, and only the best herding dogs have the merle gene which is so often linked to deafness.

Defect is proof of quality!

In a world in which people will administer killing levels of electric shock to other people on voice command alone, it should come as no surprise to find many people are able to rationalize breeding dogs that will be in pain or discomfort for much of their lives.

After all, it's not like every dog in even a deeply troubled breed will have a painful defect.

And if it happens, it can easily be fobbed off as a "bad break" . . . for the owner of the dog.

And yes, that is how we say, isn't it?

Oh your [cancer prone breed] is dying of cancer? I'm, so sorry for the terrible expense.

Your dachshund has to be put down with a spinal cord injury? I'm so sorry for your loss.

Are you getting another one?

Oh good! It would be a shame if you let that one dog change your opinion of the breed!

. . . .
Related Links


Monday, December 22, 2008

I Got Me a New Hero

Arches National Park

The Bush Administration has been trying to ram through auction of 149,000 acres (232 square miles) of public lands in southern and eastern Utah without public comment or an Environmental Impact Statement, and in direct opposition to officials at Arches National Park and Cayonlands National Park which borders the BLM land.

The good news is that the kleptocracy that is Bureau of Land Management under George W. Bush was moving so fast they forgot to make sure bidders at this public land sale were actually bonded.

Canyonlands National Park

The result: a 27-year old student was able to derail one of the biggest public lands auctions in U.S. history, and by so doing preserve the integrity of two of our most beautiful National Parks.

From The Salt Lake Tribune

He didn't pour sugar into a bulldozer's gas tank. He didn't spike a tree or set a billboard on fire. But wielding only a bidder's paddle, a University of Utah student just as surely monkey-wrenched a federal oil- and gas-lease sale Friday, ensuring that thousands of acres near two southern Utah national parks won't be opened to drilling anytime soon.

Tim DeChristopher, 27, faces possible federal charges after winning bids totaling about $1.8 million on more than 10 lease parcels that he admits he has neither the intention nor the money to buy -- and he's not sorry.

"I decided I could be much more effective by an act of civil disobedience," he said during an impromptu streetside news conference during an afternoon blizzard. "There comes a time to take a stand."

The Sugar House resident -- questioned and released after disrupting a U.S. Bureau of Land Management lease auction of 149,000 acres of public land in scenic southern and eastern Utah -- said he came to the BLM's state office in Salt Lake City to join about 200 other activists in a peaceful protest outside the building Friday morning. But then he registered with the BLM as representing himself and went to the auction room.

There, he thought about the times he has marched, fired off letters to his congressmen, signed petitions and supported environmental organizations -- all to no avail.

"What the environmental movement has been doing for the past 20 years hasn't worked," DeChristopher said. "It's time for a conflict. There's a lot at stake."

DeChristopher won the bidding on 13 parcels, totaling 22,500 acres of land around Arches and Canyonlands Natioal Parks but then announced he could only afford to pay for a few of those acres.

"He's tainted the entire auction," said Kent Hoffman, deputy state director for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Utah.

Which is surely Good News!

Now the parcels of land cannot be sold until after Barack Obama takes office, and so they are unlikely to ever be sold without public comment, an Environmental Impact Statement, and the expressed authorization of the U.S. Park Service which oversees Arches and Canyonlands.

Yes, this land is still your land.

Thanks to Tim DeChristopher.



Robert Crumb's Short History of America. This is a 12-panel gif. Give it a second to flip through, or reload the page to see if from the beginning.

For those who are not familiar, R. Crumb was one of the founders of the American underground comic movement, and is famous for both the "Mr. Natural" cartoon and the cover art for Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin.

Not to be confused with Gilbert Shelton who did the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

Pedigree Tells a Story You Can Be Part Of

Mary Grace, a Jack Russell, needs a forever home. Link

Mary Grace, a Jack Russell, gets adopted. Link

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Some Old Logging Photos from Around the Nation

Spruce, Del Norte County, California, 1959

Oregon, 1896

Washington State, 1919

Mononghalela National Forest, West VA, 1939

Idaho, 1911

Massachusettes, Morse Pond, 1939

Minnesota, 1909

Georgia, big wheel skidder, 1903

Fir, Washington State, 1900

Sequoia stump near Fresno, California, 1910

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rick Warren: Here's Your Sign

Billy Graham-pretender in the middle.

Susie Bright over at Boing Boing writes:

Deja vu: major Fundie evangelist can't stop talking about how disgusting gay people are, comparing them to incestors and pedophiles. Decries loose women having abortions. Demands his enemies be offed. Then caps it all off with how much he "loves" everybody. Send your check now!

Warren has all the earmarks we saw with Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, Bob Allen, David "DiaperPants" Vitter, et al. It's a bad rerun.

If this dude isn't found in a bathroom with a wide stance and a hooker in the next year, someone's not doing their job. Paging Jeff Gannon!

Ah well.

We who pray at the First Church of Field and Stream ("Let Us Prey") always look for God to give us a sign. It is our way.

And, of course, He does. The Daily Mail (London) reports:

A pair of gay penguins thrown out of their zoo colony for repeatedly stealing eggs have been given some of their own to look after following a protest by animal rights groups.

Last month the birds were segregated after they were caught placing stones at the feet of parents before waddling away with their eggs.

But angry visitors to Polar Land in Harbin, northern China, complained it wasn't fair to stop the couple from becoming surrogate fathers and urged zoo bosses to give them a chance.

In response, zookeepers gave the pair two eggs laid by an inexperienced first-time mother.

'We decided to give them two eggs from another couple whose hatching ability had been poor and they've turned out to be the best parents in the whole zoo,' said one of the keepers.

'It's very encouraging and if this works out well we will try to arrange for them to become real parents themselves with artificial insemination.'

Wildlife experts at the park explain that despite being gay the three-year-old male birds are still driven by an urge to be fathers.

'One of the responsibilities of being a male adult is looking after the eggs. Despite the fact that they can't have eggs naturally, it does not take away their biological drive to be a parent,' said one.

One campaigner who did not want to be named welcomed the move and said: 'It wasn't fair to stop them becoming parents and keep them apart from all the other birds just because of the way nature has made them.'

We Want Our Mutant Dogs, Never Mind Their Pain

Heather, over at Raised by Wolves, asks if breeding Chinese Crested dogs with canine ectodermal dysplasia and the problems associated with that genetic defect (teeth loss, skin problems, eye problems) for a "World's Ugliest Dog" contest is any worse than raising a brachycephalic and achondroplastic bulldog that cannot breath or run in order to win a blue ribbon at an AKC show.


No, of course not! Same thing, and a good point.

No matter what the breed, breeding dogs for misery-inducing deformity is all about the same.

Which brings me to the latest news out of the U.K. which is that, according to DogWorld, the Bulldog Breed Council has unanimously rejected the Kennel Club's proposed breed standard changes.

"We don’t like the whole thing," said council chairman, Robin Searle who is a former Crufts judge. "We see it as the Standard being changed and the dog will look different compared to how it is today.”


That's the idea.

But of course Mr. Searle is a bit thick-head on that point, isn't he?

No surprise then to learn that this man has spent the last 50 years chasing blue ribbons in the Kennel Club.

If you were looking for Exhibit One for the kind of inbred thinking that has resulted in so many Kennel Club dogs being genetic basket cases with shortened and miserable lives, Mr. Searle might take the prize.

As Emma Milne, from BBC One's Vets In Practice has noted, the modern Bulldog is a "mutated freak."

"Modern bulldogs can't run, they can't breathe, they can't give birth.

They have enormous problems with too much soft tissue in their mouth and it adds up to a dog that is struggling for air all its life."

Struggling for air it's entire life? Robin Searle and the bulldog breeders who make up the Kennel Club's breed council do not give a damn about that!

For them, the dog is all about blue ribbons, and shiny trophies. Never mind the tarnish on the dog. The dog is not even in the picture!

And so, we come down to the question of how to get through to these people who are so breed-blind.

Perhaps when we meet Mr. Searle, we can all wish that his grandchildren be born with the human equivalent of what he prizes in a bulldog -- a severe brachycephalic head and achondroplasia (dwarfism).

Perhaps with hairless Chinese Crested breeders we can wish their children be born with ectodermal dysplasia and the dental, skin and eye problems that come with that genetic condition?

Perhaps with show-ring German Shepherd breeders we can wish upon them children with twisted and dysplatic hips?

And, of course, for the Dalmatian breeders who continue to reject the back-cross dogs that are free of uric acid stones, we can wish them (or their husbands) a urethrostemy, in which their scrotum is removed, and their urinary tract is permanently relocated to the base of their penis so they can urinate like a female.

Hey, if it'd good enough for the dog, it should be good enough for their owners and their families!


Dolphin Stampede

Very, very cool.


Bull Frog Swallows Bird

I'm not sure where this video was shot (China?) but the same thing happens right here in the U.S., as my friend Larry Morrison will tell you.

Check out the wonderful still shots he took in his backyard, in Maryland, of an American bull frog swallowing down a starling.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Breeding Dogs for Intentional Defect

Sam, winner of ugliest dog contests 2003-2005.

All of the winners of the world's ugliest dogs contests have been Chinese Cresteds.

Why is this?

Well, it's more than the lack of hair
on the dog's body, or the odd placement of what little hair that does exist.

It's also the horrible condition of the teeth, and the fact that the dogs appear to have a hard time keeping their tongues in their mouth.

All of this is by design if not quite by intent.

Elwood, winner of ugliest dog contest 2007.

Rascal, winner of ugliest dog contest 2002.

You see, when folks are breeding hairless dogs, they are breeding for a specific genetic mutation of the FOXI3 gene, which controls both the development of coat and teeth in all hairless breeds.

Because the gene that controls hairlessness also controls teeth formation, hairless Chinese Cresteds generally have missing teeth, deformed teeth, or misplaced teeth, and it is fairly common for hairless dogs to end up completely toothless at some point in their lives.

As a result, the American Kennel Club standard for this made-in-America breed says that the "Hairless variety is not to be penalized for absence of full dentition."

Chinese Crested dogs, Mexican Hairless (Xoloitzcuintle), and Peruvian Hairless all share the same no-hair and poor-dentition gene mutation, and all are believed to be descended from a single-dog mutation which occurred in the New World some 4,000 years ago.

While hairless dog breeders are intentionally breeding defective dogs for canine ectodermal dysplasia (CED), the same condition in humans is considered a fairly serious problem.

Actor Michael Berryman was born with Ectodermal Dysplasia : A nice man.

As with hairless dogs, humans born with ectodermal dysplasia have malformed teeth and extremely sparse hair, and a higher-than average chance of having misshaped facial features and skin and eye abnormalities. This is because, as the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias (NFED) notes, "The ectoderm contributes to the formation of many parts of the body, including the skin, sweat glands, hair, teeth, and nails. During embryonic development, these and/or other parts of the baby’s body, including the lens of the eye, parts of the inner ear, the fingers and toes, or nerves, among others, may fail to develop normally."

This is not to say that all hairless Chinese Crested dogs look like Zuul the devil dog in Ghostbusters anymore than to say that all humans with ectodermal dysplasia look as startling as Michael Berryman.

Most hairless Chinese Crested look like the dog below -- some with a little more hair, and some with a little less.

That said, most have teeth issues, and the breed has a relatively short average life -- just over 10 years -- quite a bit less than the number typically stated in the all-breed literature.

The Continuing Crisis at the Zoo

The staff at Chessington Zoo has issued an apology after guests at the zoo expressed their horror at the potent smell that started emanating from the gorillas' enclosure.

Gorilla keeper Michael Rozzi said: "We feed the gorillas brussel sprouts during the winter because they are packed with vitamin C and have great nutritional benefits. "Unfortunately, an embarrassing side effect is that it can cause bouts of flatulence in humans and animals alike."However, I don't think any of us were prepared for a smell that strong."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Kennel Club Freak Show

Lionel the Lion Faced Man at right.

People go to dog shows to see pretty dogs, but let's face it they also go to dog shows to look at some very odd-looking dogs.

And so it is with some amusement that I see Kennel Club apologists expressing outrage that the RSPCA's chief vet, Mark Evans, has said that when he goes to Crufts, "What I see in front of me is a parade of mutants. It's some freakish, garish beauty pageant that has nothing frankly to do with health and welfare."

Nor does it have anything to do with working dogs, might I add.

Now to be fair, not all of the dogs entering the ring look like freaks.

But also to be fair, most of the breeds being paraded have serious health issues.

These issues include jaw-dropping rates of cancer, congenital deafness, liver disease, blood diseases, epidemic-levels of epilepsy, painful eye problems, hip problems, back problems, and ... well it goes on forever.

Almost every breed has a serious health issue that is endemic to it. Many are fatal, and frequently they are quite painful.

What's particularly maddening are those cases where breeders are intentionally breeding for a characteristic that they know will cause real pain and misery in a predictably high number of dogs that are born.

Tom Leppard, the Leopard Man of Sky at right.

For example, when people breed spotted and merle-coated dogs that look like the tattooed man at the circus, they are also breeding for a coat pattern they know that in some breeds will predictably lead to high levels of congenital deafness in their litters.

With Harlequin Great Danes, for example, as many as one in four may be born deaf and put to sleep -- something a professional breeder might "take care of" by simply slipping a new-born puppy into the freezer.

Schlitzie the pinhead at right, around 1935.

With Chinese Crested dogs, the gene pool is so toxic that if two hairless dogs are bred to each other, the homozygous offspring is prenatal lethal. Hairless Chinese cresteds are made by mating a "powderpuff" Chinese crested with the hairless variety to avoid perinatal mortalities. All hairless Chinese Cresteds have canine ectodermal dysplasia (CED) which results in teeth loss and a high chance of serious eye and skin malformations and defects.

"Happy Jack" Eckert at right, 1918.

Bulldogs are such genetic wrecks, one does not even know where to start. This is a dog with a head so large that almost all are born cesarean; a breed so poorly formed that it cannot have sex without assistance; a dog which is so achondroplastic that it cannot run; a dog with such a pushed-in face it cannot breathe; and a dog whose insides are so twisted in a knot that it farts from morning to night. In addition, the dog is prone to cherry eye, frequently has hip issues, and is so prone to skin infections that it is common for the pig-like tail of this dog to be surgically amputated after a show career in order to cut down on veterinary bills.

Unknown female sideshow performer with extra skin at right.

Shar Pei's are another breed with numerous serious health issues. This is a dog bred for their freak-show like folds of excess skin. In addition to hard-to-treat skin conditions, Shar Pei's also frequently suffer from entropion, caused by excessive skin over the eye which results in the eyelashes curling inward into the the eyeball. Left untreated it can cause blindness. Another common problem in the breed is "Familial Shar Pei Fever" and "Swollen Hock Syndrome" caused by the dog's inability to process amyloid proteins -- a condition which can lead to renal failure.

Six-toed Lundehund foot at right.

The Norwegian Lundehund is another dog bred for mutation. In this case we have a very undistinguished-looking small Spitz-like dog whose claim to fame is that it has six toes and a rather serious genetic disorder of the digestive tract (Lundehund gastroenteropathy) in which the dog loses its ability to absorb nutrients from food resulting in malnutrition or even starvation in extreme cases.

At left, Welsh giant George Auger (8' 6" tall), with
Tom Sordie (29") poking out through the coat tails.

And of course, we have all those giants breeds and teacup breeds, most of which are beset with serious, life-threatening and painful health problems. Giant breeds suffer from mind-numbing rates of cancer as well as heart problems and joint problems, and routinely die from bloat. Teacup breeds have bones so weak they can snap by jumping off the couch. In addition many teacup and toy breeds have skulls too small for their brains, resulting in open fontanels at the top of their heads. Add to this other common ailments, such as heart problems and dental issues resulting from their jaws being too small for their teeth, and you have a veterinary bill on legs and misery on stilts.

I could go on for pages, but if I were to only talk about the odd-looking dogs with health issues (and there are many more), I would do a serious injustice to the dogs that look fine from the outside, but which also have serious health problems.

The average Bull Terrier or Boston Terrier, for example, is dead at age 8 or 9 due to cancer, kidney and heart failure.

The show German Shepherd is an animal with such wrecked hips that it is often described as "half frog and half dog."

The Dalmatian suffers not only from congenital deafness, but also from painful uric acid stones.

All of the Setters have cancer rates of about 25% while, the Bernese Mountain Dog struggles with a cancer rate of over 45%!

The average Bloodhound is lucky to make it to age 7 due to serious gastrointestinal issues and cancer.

And so it goes, down almost the entire spectrum of 200 Kennel Club breeds, both old and new.

And so when Mark Evans talks of a "parade of mutants" at the Kennel Club, I suspect he is not only talking about the dogs that look bizarre; he is also talking about the Kennel Club people who profess to love dogs and yet continue to breed and sell animals they know will be in pain and discomfort much of their lives.

There is something seriously twisted here, and it's not all in the double helix of the dog is it?

Barnum's Freaks -- Cigarette insert from 1890 for Ogden's, an English brand.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Time to Eat More Kangaroo and Camel

The first camel being unloaded in Australia in 1890.

The latest advice from Australia
: eat more camel and kangaroo:

Australians were urged Tuesday to eat camels to stop them wreaking environmental havoc, just months after being told to save the world from climate change by consuming kangaroos.

A three-year study has found that Australia's population of more than a million feral camels -- the largest wild herd on earth -- is out of control and damaging fragile desert ecosystems and water sources.

The Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, which produced the report, plans to serve camel meat at a barbecue for senior public servants in Canberra on Wednesday to press its point.

Report co-author Professor Murray McGregor said a good way to bring down the number of camels was to eat them.

"Eat a camel today, I've done it," he told the national AAP news agency.

"It's beautiful meat. It's a bit like beef. It's as lean as lean, it's an excellent health food."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pictures From an Ignoble Past

Bison bones being loaded for fertilizer, 1890s or so. Click to enlarge.

Bison hides, 1874. Click to enlarge.