Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Kennel Club's "Ancient Breed" is Fake News

Getting dog advice from UK Kennel Club spokesperson Caroline Kisko is like getting cooking recipes from Jeffery Dahmer -- just because it's written down, doesn't mean you should consume the product!

Kisko is the professional "liar for hire" at the Kennel Club, and she has penned a piece about the Irish Red and White Setter that is a textbook example of weak thinking and disinformation.

Kisko's knowledge of dogs appears to be gossamer thin. She writes:

The future of one of our ancient dog breeds, the lovely Irish Red and White Setter, characterised by its distinctive red and white coat, is in jeopardy and experts believe these gorgeous dogs could die out if more people don’t choose them as pets.

"Our" ancient breeds? Really? So a dog with Irish in its name is now a British dog?  Right. I must tell the IRA.

And an "ancient" breed? (:: cough cough ::)  There are damn few ancient dog breeds, and the Irish Red and White Setter is certainly not among them. In fact, this dog was was not shown at Crufts until 1980, when an Irish dog born in 1977 ('Harlequin of Knockalla') was exhibited as an Irish Setter.  

Since Ms. Kisko seems to know little about setters in general, and Irish-type setters in particular, let's review a little history.

The splitting of types into breeds, the closing of gene pools, and the removal of dogs from performance evaluation is how Kennel Club setters swirled down the toilet bowl, same as so many breeds before them.

When the Irish Setter was pulled into the Kennel Club, and a standard based on a coat color was elevated over work and health (both of which were given ZERO points) the demise of that breed was assured.

It did not take long.

In 1946, Field and Stream's Horace Lytle wrote an article noting that Irish Setters in America were almost completely absent from the hunting field.

In fact, between 1874 and 1948, Irish Setters produced 760 conformation champions, but only five field champions -- a rather dismal state of affairs.

Lytle proposed that Irish Setters be rescued and returned to their working roots by implementing an outcross program. And what was he going to outcross to? Why to the best field champion English setters!

But wouldn't these "cross" dogs have white in their coat? Why yes, but so what? Before the Kennel Club got its hands on it, the Irish Setter often had splashes of white in its coat. The dogs had always had a bit of white on them back when they had actually been working dogs.

And so an outcross program was begun by Ned LaGrange in Pennsylvania, with the dogs systematically bred, in later generations, to return them to a pure red color.

But were these Irish Setters?  

The working folks who registered their dogs with the Field Dog Stud Book (FDSB) called them Red Setters, but they were given reciprocal registration with the American Kennel Club as an "Irish Setter".

The problem was that nonworking AKC Irish setters found it nearly impossible to compete in AKC field trials against Red Setters which has been infused with a dash of working dog genetics.

What to do? Well, eliminate the competition, of course! 

And so, in 1975 the Irish Setter Club of America petitioned the AKC to deny reciprocal registration to Field Dog Stud Book-registered dogs, and the AKC obliged. As a result, the AKC Irish Setter remains, to this day, the "least likely to succeed" bird-hunting dog to be found in America, while the Red Setter is a dog that is at least sometimes found under a shotgun.

In 1974, at about the same time the Red Setter controversy was working its way out on the American side of the Atlantic, the first "Irish Red and White Setter" was admitted to the Irish Kennel Club -- more than 50 years after the Irish Kennel Club was created.  The Irish Red & White Setter Field & Show Society was not formed until 1981. So, an "ancient breed of dog"? Not quite!  But have there always been red and white setters -- sure, for at least a few hundred years.  But this was not a breed, but simply a color version of a type.

Ms. Kisko writes that "these gorgeous dogs could die out if more people don’t choose them as pets" and then goes on to say that:

"[N]umbers of Irish Red and White Setters - a breed currently thought to be as rare as the Giant Panda - have fallen so low in the UK that the breed is at risk of disappearing from Britain for good. Numbers are now at the lowest they have been in over 30 years with only 63 born last year, and a nearly 40 per cent decrease in the last three years alone... The Kennel Club and Irish Red and White Setter Club of Great Britain believe the reason the breed is struggling is that there is no public appetite for it, because people simply do not know it exists. People are overlooking these lovely dogs in favour of more trendy, ‘exotic’ dogs, like the French Bulldog or Chihuahua, which is a great shame as they could be the perfect choice for people looking for a breed that fits their lifestyle.

No, no, and nope.

Let's start with the simplest idea: dogs are an international commodity, and Britain is not the beginning or end of anything; it is simply a small island that cannot feed itself, and which has as its national canine symbol a wheezing bulldog that cannot run and cannot mate or breed on its own. The beginning and end of no breed starts and ends in England, and it is both arrogance, ignorance, and stupidity to act as if it does. Sorry Ms. Kisko, but the empire is gone and it's not coming back. Ask the Irish!

And "the lowest number in 30 years"?  Please tell us what year this dog first appeared on the Kennel Club's roles?

The simple truth is that there are setters all over the world, and anyone who wants a Red and White Setter can find one in seconds. Even more can be made in less than 70 days by simply crossing an Irish Setter with an English Setter. But does anyone want a lot more of them?  Not apparently

Ms. Kisko seems to think all this dog needs is a little publicity and then it can replace the Chihuahua.


This is being said by an adult given a responsible position in the world of dogs?  Good lord!

A Setter is not a Chihuahua.  It is not a French Bulldog.  It is a dog whose existential purpose is to run in fields and find birds,

The fact that Ms. Kisko does not seem to understand this is sad and -- for the dog, at least -- frightening.

The fourth point -- the elephant in the room -- is that people do not want crap dogs. The American Foxhound is among the rarest dogs in the world not because we are not running thick with fox hounds (they are the state dog of Virginia, and we sell them by the pound), but because the folks who want fox hounds want a working fox hound, not an inbred Kennel Club show dog that has never seen fox or field.

The same is true in the world of working dogs across the board. There's no shortage of working setters, pointers, terriers, sled dogs, catch dogs, and running dogs. But no one who is running the Iditarod is going to a dog show to acquire a lead dog, any more than anyone with a deben locator collar is going to Crufts to find a good hole dog.

And this is not new.

Back in the 1960s, Walt Disney made an entire movie about the dysfunctional world of the Irish Setter where show dogs and working dogs had little to do with each other.  Will someone please rent a copy of Big Red for Ms. Kisko?

Finally, let's put an end to all this "rarer than a panda" nonsense while we are at it. Pandas are having a bit of a breeding boom thanks to Panda-porn but, that said, less than 30 giant Pandas were born last year, and that's a worldwide number.  No Pandas at all born were born in the UK

Bottom line:  Almost every single point made by Ms. Kisko is provably wrong, ill-informed, and little more than puppy-peddler hand-wringing.  But of course, that's to be expected I supposed. Is the Kennel Club anything more than a puppy-peddler club? Not from what I can see.


dp said...

Ever heard of Margaret Sierakowski and her Dalriach Irish Red and White setters?

PBurns said...

Breeder / owner in Scotland. Anything more to know? I never talk about individual kennels or breeders as most is gossip, and the dogs are the proof and they are quite variable, one to the other. I am interested if people regularly work their dogs and breed exclusively for work.