Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Carnival Barkers at the Dog Shows

Art by the always-terrific Kevin Brockbank - click to enlarge.
From the April issue of Dogs Today.
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This year the farce that is the Crufts Dog Show continues unabated.

Named after a dog food salesman that never owned a dog, Crufts started out as the Allied Terrier Show and helped speed the rapid destruction of almost ever breed of working terrier, from Fox and Welsh to Border and Bedlington.

Crufts is also the location where the genetic disaster know as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel first appeared, spurred by an American by the name of Roswell Eldridge who put up a cash prize for anyone who could come up with a dog that looked like those in the paintings of van Dyck.

The resulting dog was inbred to the point that today more than 50 percent of Cavaliers die from heart disease, and well over one-third of Cavaliers have Syringomyelia, a disorder of the brain and spinal cord.

A few years back, insult was added to injury when Crufts was taken over by discount sofa company sponsor.

Believe it or not, a sofa is now part of the Crufts logo!

The owner of the discount sofa company, DFS, has said (and I could not make this up):

"If DFS was a dog, it would be a Crufts champion."

Translated into English that means: "We sell products that look good in the picture but they fall to pieces the moment you try and actually put them to use."

The Latest Charade

So what's the latest charade?

Just this: The London Times reports that "The Kennel Club has rewritten the rules for the Crufts dog show to give a veterinary surgeon the authority to exclude any unfit dog."

Right.   And how does that work? After all, there are entire breeds that are unfit. As one bobble-headed English Bulldog breeder helpfully explained to a television crew:

"In the heat and the lights of the show, they can overheat and actually go down in five minutes. Instead of a long snout, where it's an open airway, it's smashed like a coke can and the breathing has to go through many, many curves and turns."

Fit for function, provided the function is cremation.

Of course, the English Bulldog is just one breed. What about all the others? Is the Kennel Club going to go around disqualifying all the Basset Hounds and Bloodhounds that have cherry eye?

Are they going to toss out all the German Shepherds with sloping backs and collapsing hocks?

What about all the achondroplastic (dwarf) and brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds that cannot move or breathe well?

Is the Kennel Club veterinarian going to green-light all those Chihuahuas that have holes in the top of their skulls which leave their brain unprotected by bone?

Don’t count on it.

One clue as to which direction the Kennel Club is going is that they have said they plan to pay particular attention to the Chinese Cresteds this year.

The Chinese Crested?

The Chinese Crested is a semi-hairless dog that looks like a mutant from Mars.   This breed routinely takes the prize at ugly dog contests due to its hairless body, chronic skin conditions and missing teeth which are all a byproduct of a genetic defect called canine ectodermal dysplasia (CED), which is the defining characteristic of the breed.

So is the Kennel Club going to toss this genetic mess?

Good heavens, NO!

In fact, the Kennel Club’s concern seems to be that some of the dogs might not be defective enough!  You see, some of the “hairless” Chinese Crested actually have quite a lot of hair.

In the past, these dogs have been shaved and slathered with depilatory cream in order to achieve the show ring “perfection” of a “hairless” dog. But the Kennel Club now says it’s going to put a stop to that! Only naturally deformed hairless mutants for them!

Of course it’s all just a game. Now the dogs are going to be shaved the night before rather than ring-side.

But shhhhhh! Tell no one!

To Tell the Truth

Of course, dog shows are not about the reality of dogs, but about the romance and artifice of dogs, which is why dogs shows are all about aggressive grooming, and not about the true history of breeds or fixing the real health and genetic problems that plague dogs.

And yet what a thing it would be to hear the truth!

What a breath of fresh air it would be to hear:

"The German Shepherd is a relatively new breed, created around 1900, and it was never much of a herding dog. Today the genetic stock of this dog is so racked by chronic hip dysplasia that many lines of German shepherds can barely walk, and anyone with an ounce of sense stays away from show lines completely.”

The English Bull Dog would be properly introduced as a national embarrassment:

“The English Bull has been reduced in stature by show ring pretenders who crossed it with a Chinese Pug to create the bench-legged, flat- faced, heaving monster you see before you today.

“These dogs are so ungainly that bitches have to be strapped into rape racks so they can mate, and the heads on the pups are so over-sized that over 90 percent of the dams have to be surgically cut open because the new-born pups cannot squeeze down a birth canal.

“See the tight pig tails on these dogs? That’s a source of chronic skin infection to the point that most show dogs have their tails amputated when they retire from the ring.

One final bit for you prospective owners: these dogs have such twisted digestive tracts, due to their shortened body length, that they end up passing more gas than a rugby team after a dinner at a Mexican restaurant. You will learn to light a match if you own an English Bull Dog!”

And what if we told the truth about the Irish Wolfhound. The howls!

“This dog is a complete fake -- a 19th Century Scottish recreation of an extinct Irish dog.

“It was created to chase wolves? Ridiculous. Wolves are not exterminated by coursing with dogs, but with poison, traps, baited hooks, and snares. That’s true today, as it has always been.

“In fact, from the beginning, this has been a dog dealer’s dog -- an imposing beast sold to people who needed an ego boost for themselves, or perhaps an impressive gift for royalty. And yet, as imposing as this dog appears on a leash, it’s probably not long for this world. You see, this giant breed does not stop growing until age three, but it’s generally dead by age 7 due to bloat or bone cancer. Get an Irish Wolfhound if you want, but you probably won’t have one for long!”

I could go on, of course.

The Bull Terrier and the Boston Terrier, for example, are non-functioning dogs created by dog dealers eager to sell to a gullible, show-ring besotted public.

Aside from a common history, these two dogs also share something else: on average, both are dead by age 8 or 9 due to cancer, kidney or heart failure.

The Dalmatian is a breed that seems to have no clear purpose other than to carry around its spots. This breed not only suffers from a high rate of congenital deafness, but also from painful uric acid stones in some male dogs, which can necessitate a urethrostemy in which the scrotum is removed, and the urinary tract is permanently relocated to a hole punched into the base of the dog’s penis so it urinates like a female.

Harlequin Great Danes are simply a color variant of a giant breed that, on average, is dead by age seven. Of course, a lot of Harlequins are dead before then, as one in four Harlequin Great Danes are born deaf and most are put to sleep.

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

All of the Setters have cancer rates of about 25 percent while, the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Scottish terrier struggle with cancer rates of over 45 percent and Golden Retrievers with cancer rates of about 40 percent.

And so it goes, down the list.

So are all Kennel Club dogs complete crap?  No, of course not.

I have no doubt you can find a healthy Beagle than can also work if someone will take it out and give it a chance in the field.

Border Terriers are a pretty healthy breed, and if you look very carefully you might even be able to find one small enough to fit down a fox hole!

Many of the pointing breeds are not too wrecked in terms of health, though I suppose it should be said that no serious hunter would ever turn to a show kennel to find a working dog.

Not all of the lap dogs are incapable of sitting on a lap, though a frightful percentage are whelped in squalid Kennel Club-certified puppy farms.

My point is not to indict all Kennel Club dogs. A healthy dog can generally be found if you fence up against certain breeds and choose very carefully among the others.

That said, when you go to a dog show be aware and beware. Most of what you will hear from the announcer is pure fantasy and most of what you will hear from the breeders is pure fiction. Imagine that you are surrounded by carnival barkers, flim-flam men, tinkers, frauds, pickpockets, and pretenders. I promise, you will not be far wrong!
From the April issue of Dogs Today..


grapfhics said...

The percentage of Goldens that succumb to cancer is higher, more like over 60%. But this number may be skewed because not everyone reports back to the national club.

PBurns said...

Yes, around 60% in US and 40% in the UK -- this article has the 40% number as it's written for the UK.


HD55 said...

I have enjoyed coming across your blog, and agree with pretty much all of your sentiment in this post. All things aside I don't actually understand the motivation to show a dog and doubt I ever will.

It was your comment on the Bulldog that drew my attention. I recently came across a cartoon drawn in 1906 that is relevant and posted about it on my blog. The link is as follows as there isn't space or need to regurgitate it. It surprised me how long this has been going on. Anyway, I look forward to reading your get started!

The link is as follows

PBurns said...

That's a GREAT Punhc cartoon. The world could use a better scan, as it makes the point and how else to save this bit of history??

HD55 said...

I will upload a better scan and try to post it somehow


alfmcmalf said...


I visited Crufts yesterday, for what must have been about my 15th time, and this circus is well and truly holed beneath the waterline. Eeyr! That analogy doesn’t work too well but you get my drift.

There is a marked hesitancy in British media to “celebrate” this event and the majority of the non doggy people I know are confused as to whether this phenomenon is something one should be seen to support or condone.

The “show” itself has lost its lustre and the Harrison Huggers (me being one of those) are not the only contributory factor. Ms Harrison BTW got many many hugs.

The KC’s list of breeds to watch, having received a formal health warning, casts an official shadow of doubt which I believe has begun to suppress the celebratory nonsense. That alone is not the only factor turning this “jewel in the crown” into a tawdry embarrassment.

Our laws around docking mean that arguably our current generation of fittest for function dogs aren’t even allowed in.

The aging constituency of judges and show officials does not appear to have any “hot on their heels” up and coming, rearing to go new blood, desperate to depose them.

The cost of a visit – petrol now here at £6 a gallon, parking £8, entrance fee a staggering £17, show catalogue another £7 – and all to be admitted to and try and make sense of what is actually just an overblown trade show.

The show posters and billboards are all last year’s – well we have austerity measures in place over here you know.

Our terrestrial TV coverage (now that it is no longer presented on the BBC) can only be described as bizarre. Two hours a night (well actually about 90 minutes a night once you’ve allowed for the sofa shop and sanitary product advertisements breaks – yes those are the companies that are buying that ad space) of broadcast where the editor seems hell bent on NOT showing any show dogs until it is absolutely necessary. Tonight I bet they cleverly cut any footage of the GSD that reveals the dog’s back end. I will happily report back tomorrow. Heaven knows what they will do about the Chinese Crested.

But on the plus side of my visit- the presentation we had on Mate Select made me hopeful that there has been some breakthrough work at the Kennel Club and at that presentation I met a Jacquie Easton who heads up the KC’s registration services. You would like her. She is passionate about using new technology to maximise the power of the information held by the registry and is committed to the mate select initiative.

She, and others like her, remain hindered of course by the outmoded leadership team of Irving and Kisko. Regime change is still desperately required in Clarges Street. If we could secure that to help unleash the talent and fervour of Ms Easton, and even Dr Sampson and their ilk we would be doing the dogs a big favour.


PBurns said...

Love, love love, the site!

Coverage of Crufts this year DOES seem muted even from this great distance. No doubt part of it is that their sofa-sales sponsor has moved on, no decent TV sponsor has been found (the outfit they have doing it now is a sham), and so no cash is flowing in. Add in the fact that "the cat is out of the bag" as far as breed health and the genuine travesty re: docked breeds, Chinese crested, GSDs and bulldogs, and you have a perfect spiral of bad messaging. Job One at the Kennel Club is to get a better person doing messaging, and Job Two is to get a better message. I had high hopes that Ronnie Irving would figure out that he needed to step in and manage the mess to a better effect, but clearly he does not have the capacity or the power. His grandfather would be well and truly embarassed by this performance!