Tuesday, February 16, 2016

No Tolerance for Diversity

The American Kennel Club has very little tolerance for diversity. The goal of conformation, after all is to conform.

And so, if we follow the history of AKC breeds, we find that the Norwich Terriers could not be shown very long with both ears up and ears down -- they had to be split into two breeds to conform to the AKC's intolerance for diversity.

The Fox Terrier could not come in both smooth coats and wire coats -- they had be split into two breeds.

The Corgis were split into the Cardigan Welsh Corgi and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi.

The retrievers were split into Curly Coated and Flat Coated (to say nothing of all the other divisions).

Cocker Spaniels were split into "American" and "English" varieties, while the Springer Spaniel was split into "English" and "Welsh" varieties.

The Mountain Dog was split into the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, while the Cairn Terrier cleaved itself into colored dogs and the all-white "West Highland White."

Can you tell the difference between a show Lakeland Terrier and a show Welsh Terrier? The difference is only a slight shift in color, but it is an intolerable difference to the AKC show ring.

Similar intolerances led to collies being split into Rough and Smooth coated collies (to say nothing of Border Collies).

The Poodle was shattered into three separate breeds based on size (while also being moved from its sporting roots into the "nonsporting" category).

Now, in the AKC, there is a push to split the Akita into two breeds -- the American Akita and the Japanese Akita.

As for the Jack Russell Terrier, the AKC has already split it into two different breeds -- the "Parson Russell Terrier" and the "Russell Terrier," each with their own invented histories.

And what is the point to all this breed atomization? No point higher than the chasing of rosettes.

Does the bird in the field, alive or dead, care about about the registry or "breed" of pointer or retriever?

Does the sheep care what about the registry or "breed" of the herding dog coming up the hill?

Is a cart pulled differently by a Swiss Mountain Dog as compared to a Bernese?  And what does the lay of the ear or the color of the nose have to do with it?

Does the fox, raccoon, groundhog or possum care about the coat color shift between a show Lakeland and a show Welsh Terrier?

Do rats run terrified from Norfolk terriers but give high-fives to Norfolk terriers based on whether their ears are up or down?

It is all pretty absurd and speaks to theory, bigotry and exclusion and rather than experience and practice.

The fox, raccoon, and groundhogs on my farms do not have theories about the shape of working terriers -- they have experience.  Length of leg?  Rough or smooth?  Ears up or down? Lay of shoulder?  It matters not a whit to them.

And so it goes, around the world, with sheep, cattle, hares, duck, quail, and pheasant each having experiences with dogs that are not too heavily impacted by theory.

And, of course, the working people have their opinions too. If you put any three of them in a room, see if at least five schools of thought are not presented on any given subject!

That said, do American houndsmen turn to the AKC to stock their hunts with American Foxhounds?

Do the indigenous people of Greenland consult with an AKC judge before selecting their sled teams?

Are rich gulf-state Bedouins standing ringside at Westminster, Crufts or Hialeah with rolls of money in their hands, so anxious are they to buy the winners at any price?

Nope, nope, and nope.

It's not that folks who work their dogs object to beauty; it's that conformity to patent nonsense is not how they define beauty nor is it a value they are likely to salute.


Cat, Tessie, & Strata said...

I think some of the breeds you mentioned, however, were split either by people who didn't care about showing OR even before the AKC got its hands on them.

It might be more correct to mention the split between ESS and what we now know as the English Cocker Spaniel. They used to be born in the same litter -- larger dogs were Springers and smaller dogs were Cockers (based off of what/how they hunted and the preference of hunters who wanted a smaller dog for woodcock, etc). Over 200 years ago, Welsh SS were born in the same litters as well but they quickly fell out of favor.

Might be worth mentioning that the HUNTERS knew the difference between English and Welsh SS, but that the AKC was the one who grouped them together initially, for show ring purposes!

Also, many historians are in doubt that the Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis are even closely related. They feel the Pembroke came down from Schipperkes, Pomeranians, and larger spitz varieties whereas the Cardigan came down from Bassetts mixed with other dogs. If you look at the dogs today, this makes sense -- the Cardigan is heavier-set, with much thicker legs than a Bassett, and a similar way of going.


Anonymous said...

Were these changes initiated by the AKC or the show breeders? Seems like the latter would have more to gain than the AKC.

Anonymous said...

I am not going to defend the AKC here as you make a lot of valid points in your posts regarding the narrow and harmful vision of closed registries, the exclusive focus on appearance and competition etc etc. However, when it comes to dachshunds, you did not get it right. In the AKC system, there is one breed, the dachshund, and the AKC certificate of registration does not even mention whether it is a miniature or standard, smooth, longhaired or wirehaired. Breeders are allowed to cross all these varieties, and some of them do. When it comes to genetic diversity, American breeders got the best deal in the whole world. Not so much when it comes to the FCI, which controls most of the European dog breeding. In the FCI system, 3 different sizes and 3 different coats of the dachshund are considered separate breeds (this makes 9 different breeds) and are not allowed to intercross! Smooth dachshunds segregating out of wirehaired parents are banned from being used for breeding (it does not make any sense whatsoever). Under the AKC I have a freedom to breed the best hunting dachhunds I can (with the selection based on health, temperament, working ability and functional conformation), under the FCI system I was not able to do so.

Caveat said...

I can tell a Lakeland from a Welsh quite easily, but I'm wonky that way.

It's about fashion.

The Norwich we know today was probably beating our Norfolk because uppy ears are snappier. A smooth Collie would have trouble going up against the glamourous Rough.

I have two Brussels Griffons, a Rough and a Smooth. Judges have trouble with the smooths because they don't see them often. The more flashy Roughs usually carry the day in the ring (except for one who is winning everywhere). However, they are shown together.

Technically, they should show Dachshunds by haircoat and size since the six types are quite different. But they don't over here.

As an aside, I've seen some gigantic Standard Dachshunds at shows lately. They look like setters or scent hounds on short legs. It's weird. Mine is about the size they all used to be. He's considered a 'mini' but he's no show dog - too snooty, too much leg, too many scars and a take-no-prisoners attitude - just the way I like 'em :>)

PBurns said...

Cat, etc.:

Breeds are a Kennel club construct and they are the ones that have been doing the splitting. Working people do not care too much about color of coat, color of nose, etc.

As for the Corgi, they are one breed doing one job and they are not separated by much land geographically -- get a globe and find London and find Wales and compare to any distance in the US. These dogs have been cross breed with each other for a long time as well -- let us not forget the dogs have traveled the world for as long as man has. This "complete geographical isolation" stuff is mostly nonsense. How do you think dogs got to the UK, eh?

As for Corgi's they were once working dogs. What defined them was the work, not the set of the tail or the color of the coat

At the link you have provided, there is one man who says he does not know anything about the origins of either breed but he speculates ... which is a nice way of saying he is making things up. In short, he is bullshitting. I have to say that this notion that one dog is related to a dachshund and the other to a spitz is a bit of a joke. ALL DOGS ARE RELATED TO ALL DOGS, and to start talking about pure uncrossed Corgi lines going back to 1000 AD, as this fellow does, is madness on the edge of town. Is it a joke? I note that the same link suggests maybe Corgi's were gifts from Faeries! Right. Of course. It IS a joke.


Anonymous said...

My favorite split breed is the Norfolk/Norwich terrier, where the only difference is ear carriage. The only difference.

I guess "dog taxonomists" of the fancy are splitters rather than lumpers.

stellaluna said...

I don't know -- I'm sure a lot of this is on the money, but still -- the Papillon (erect ears) and the Phalene (drop ears) are considered a single breed. Not a huge difference, true.

My breed (Xoloitzcuintle) is more complicated. Xolos are now in Miscellaneous, but what the parent club(s) consider separate varieties (miniature, intermediate and standard), the AKC will only allow to be shown as a single breed without varieties.

So the little guys have to compete with the big guys in the same ring, and it's either all on the table or all on the ground, which is potentially very inconvenient for somebody every time.

Add this to the fact that the breed comes in both coated and hairless, and there is a lot of confusion. But the AKC has stated that they will not divide varieties up any more, so there we are.

I'm sure this is all a matter of their convenience, but they didn't seem to have a problem with all the diversity in this particular breed.

Heather Houlahan said...

Do not forget the American separation of the Belgian shepherd dog into four "breeds."

In Europe, the coat types (colors and textures) are considered "varieties" and the dogs are freely interbred. The offspring are registered as whatever variety they look like. (Please forgive my feeble spelling attempts on these Belgian place-names.)

So if a long-coated pup shows up in a litter from Malinois (short-coated) parents -- well, it's a Tervuren or Groendael.

In the US, the only flavor of Belgian that consistently retains working ability and reasonable health are Malinois that are (here's a shock) bred for work. They are, in many places, the preferred breed for police and detection work, are popular for SAR, and can really tear up the Schutzhund field. They do not look like the weird, collie-ish, show Malinois, and outnumber them greatly.

A tiny cadre of breeders in this country who want fuzzy-coated Belgians with working ability have discovered a workaround. If they import a European dog who was fuzzy-coated and born of Malinois parents, or one Malinois parent and one Groendael or Tervuren (the only difference in the two latter is color) but registered as a Groendael or Tervuren, then in the US, it's a Groendael or Tervuren. Can be bred to their Groens or Tervs to reinject working ability.

Same dog born in the US is proclaimed an "incorrect" Malinois or an unregisterable mongrel, depending on the paperwork of the parent.

Something majikal and wonderful indeed happens in the air over the Atlantic.

Of course, the original mistake was in naming the coat types as "varieties" in the first place.

Why not "The Belgian shepherd comes in a bunch of colors and three kinds of coat?"

I once sat at a restaurant table where an old school "dog fancier" of Great Authority lectured a member of one of the Belgian clubs on the new show standard they were working on. There was conflict in the committee about whether a common slightly variant color should be a "disqualification." The Great Authority pronounced that the club must declare it so in order to have a "higher" standard!

This same man, sixty years "in dogs," frequently in Germany for the sieger show, had never heard of a landrace breed, and disbelieved the existence of the Altdeutscher Schaeferhund. How could it be a "breed" without a registry? It must be an imaginary mongrel I had invented.

PBurns said...

Thanks Jolanta -- I have corrected that as I think the split in the FCI German standard is actually work related. Certainly the focus on chest size is. See >> http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2004/12/teckels-that-are-gebraushund.html This may be a situation where a unified standard (without chest size specs) is what is wrong with the AKC standard.


PBurns said...

Xolos and the toy dogs have never had much purpose other than pets, flea collectors, and lunch (i.e. as a food item).

Perhaps one could split the Xolo based on three standards: Breakfast Xolo, Lunch Xolo and Dinner Xolo?

I have previously posted a recipe for this breed (http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2008/12/how-to-cook-xoloitzcuintli.html ) but maybe now we need to add the "Breakfast Taco" version? :)


Anonymous said...

Eh, the Xolo-as-good-eats thing is far too basic. In one form or another they really were "multi-purpose" dogs, not just din-dins.

They were important to the sacrificial aspects of the Aztec and Mayan culture, as well as being thought of as healing animals, much as cavies (guinea pigs, still used as food animals) are in Peru.

Even the small ones are excellent watch (alert) dogs. My miniature is probably the best watch dog I've ever had -- she does not miss a thing, and can pop up out of a sound sleep under a blanket to let me know someone is about to ring the doorbell. Nothing gets past her.

Another interesting book that mentions Aztec dog cuisine is http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/029271159X

This is really one of the most fascinating and loyal breeds I've ever known.

Anonymous said...

PBurns said:
"This may be a situation where a unified standard (without chest size specs) is what is wrong with the AKC standard."

The title of your post is "No tolerance for Diversity" and all I am doing is pointing out that as far as the dachshunds are concerned more diversity is allowed under the AKC system than any other. We can certainly have a very long debate, very boring to most readers, which dachshund standard is better - AKC/DCA or FCI - but this is not the point. There is just no doubt that you have a higher genetic diversity when you treat the dachshund as one breed, where different coat/size varieties can be crossed versus the situation when you split it into 9 different and separate breeds. That's all.

Anonymous said...

It's the same in the cat world. I'd like to see all the breeds which are descended from Thai cats (Siamese, Burmese, Korat and Tonkinese) put as variations into the same breed basket so that they could easily be interbred. Korats (a blue Thai cat) sometimes have blue colour-pointed cats in their litters. The Korat breeders seem to be setting up these cats under their own breed label, Thai Pointed, rather than having them recognised as blue pointed Siamese cats who, if they are bred, should be used in Siamese cat breeding programs.

The confirmation concept is definitely the main source of problems. Thai cats are a landrace of cats (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landrace), that is they developed in the Thailand area as a distinctive type of cat. As long as they are bred with each other they will retain their particular set of characteristics. Like all landraces, they have a natural range of diversity in them. I would like to see a conservation breeding approach with the aim of maintaining the health and character of Thai cats in societies where they represent only a small proportion of the cat population.

Breeders love to talk about breed improvement. Perhaps this makes sense for working breeds where you can aim to breed a faster greyhound or a more effective sheepdog or a keener terrier. I don't think it makes any sense for an animal whose main job is to be a companion. This is the situation for almost all cats and a large part of the dog population in most western countries.

The first Thai cats to come to the west, for instance, were already great companions who loved to socialise with their humans. Nothing that breeders have done in the intervening period has improved on this. Good health and a long life is what most people with a companion animal want and the best way of ensuring this is by maintaining a large enough, genetically healthy breeding population which retains its natural genetic diversity.


Sheila and her cats said...

It's actually more complicated than Amanda mentioned in the Cat Fancy! CFA, which is a club of clubs like AKC, splits breeds and is much like Amanda stated. On the other paw, TICA, which I think has individual members (like UKC?) lumps breeds and lets you register a colorpoint from Oriental Shorthair parents (for example) as a Siamese and it is showable.

TICA also permits registration of the "hybrid" cat breeds such as Bengal and Savannah, whereas CFA does not recognize these breeds. Since Bengals are one of the top four or five TICA breeds, along with the Persian, Maine Coon, Siamese and Ragdoll, I personally think CFA is cutting off their collective noses to spite their collective faces.

Demiandogs said...

With the Bernese Mountian dog and Greater Swiss I can understand placing them as separate breeds. Sense it's not only the coat of the dogs but the temperament and structure as well.

Now I do actually wish their was a legit separation of the Rottweiler breed like there used to be before they where a KC breed. One smaller type for herding and one larger carting type which is the popular or "correct" one today. Now the smaller more athletic ones have become very hard to find and no one breeds them for herding purposes.

PipedreamFarm said...

The number of different breeds the AKC can make from Border Collies is staggering (rough, smooth, medium, currly, and wire coated; pricked, tipped, and "flop" ears; mulitple coat colors, etc.)