Native American Dog Breeding vs the Eugenics Movement in Breeding Dogs

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If one inquires academia about “native American dogs”, the response is that there are no more nAds. They were overwhelmed by Euro dogs. They died of diseases the Euro-dogs brought in. Though I can’t find the actual sources that make those claims, they seem to be dogma.
(nAd: native American dog is not a breed name thus only “American” is capitalized)

nAds may not have been breeds as we think of them today, but they did come in distinct types or landraces that looked very much alike and were close to the wolf archetype in the prick ears and relaxed tails. They came in sizes roughly equivalent to foxes, coyotes and small wolves. No odd mutations marked the common dogs of the Americas, they retained the general shape of the wolf, though the particulars varied. The Harvard scholar , Grover Allen, who studied the entirety of nAd literature at the turn of the 20th century called the common dogs, Common Dogs. And that is because they were common, and found all over North America. This is the dog depicted in many artworks by 19th century Euro-artists who painted all aspects of the lives of various tribes.

These dogs all shared a phenotype, the general phenotype of the wolf. None of them shared the same “genotypes” with each other, because they were very outcrossed. There must have been times when dog populations got a bit inbred compared to free ranging wolves, due to a lack of fresh blood within a group, but these times rarely lasted and new dog blood was always welcomed.

The concept of sharing a genotype to be a true example of a breed or type of dog arose pearl dog croppedlout of the Eugenics Movement as it was quickly applied to dogs. The most elite of the Victorian era, the royalty, and to some extent, the nobility had kept a closed registry on themselves for many generations previous to the expression of the Eugenics movement by Sir Francis Galton, an unfortunate relative of Charles Darwin and quite inbred, himself. That is, the Eurostocracy bred from within themselves, a small, elite group of people who sought to contain the power of European thrones amongst the smallest group of people possible. This narrowing of purity in the royal bloodlines actually arose out of the idea of keeping royal power intact.

francis galtonSir Francis Galton, Father of the Eugenics Movement cousin of Charles Darwin

Generation after generation of these royals and nobles had married cousins and by Victoria’s age, the results of such inbreeding for many generations had begun to manifest in deadly ways. Deeply buried recessives started to couple up more and more often resulting in genetically based problems such as hemophilia and the “Hapsburg jaw”. The absolute worst of these genetic problems piled up in Carlito, the son of Phillip of Spain (ca 1700). Phillip himself was handsome and healthy in appearance, but his bloodline was so messed up, he could not produce a healthy, fit heir to the throne. Carlito was a dwarf, with diminished mental capacity and the most exaggerated of the Hapsburg jaws. He was also an emotional tantrum throwing mess who could not entertain a real concept of rulership.

carlito of spainCarlito of Spain.d. ca 1700 the first real monstrosity of Hapsburg inbreeding.
Charles II was moderately more inbred than the average among the offspring from brother-sister matings.

About the time the royals were figuring out that they needed new healthy blood and began to marry non-relatives or at least, distant relatives, Darwin published his theory of evolution. He was clueless that genetics was the basis of how evolution happened, let alone how genes worked, though he got the basic principles right.

So a big piece of the puzzle was still missing when Darwin’s so-called genius of a cousin, Francis Galton, seized upon his cousin’s work with a bunch of half-baked ideas about how to breed “better” people using the principle of “survival of the fittest”. He called his new theory of people-breeding, “eugenics”. He was still embracing the idea that royals should breed to royals as much as possible and nobles should try to upgrade their own bloodlines with royal blood, even if it was not legally recognized. He also thought that the unfit should be culled and prevented from breeding.

Well, these ideas soon ran into problems when applied to people, so the Galtonites who had focused on controlling the breeding behaviors of humans were soon recognized for what they were and disparaged, if not made illegal.

Strangely enough, while these ideas of pure breeding the best people and culling the others was soon squashed, those same principles were embraced by the dog breeding elite who were, of course, all influenced by the aristocratic Galton’s ideas. The idea of purebreeding elite dogs out of rough country stock dogs was the very expression of eugenics and dog breeding was the ultimate manipulation of “purebred” dogs and the “closed registry” was the ultimate expression of the principles of eugenics.
On the other hand, nAds were generally so outcrossed, weird genes hardly ever doubled up and became manifest, and though this seems to have happened many times, the general tendency was for the odd dog’s genes to melt back in to the general population within a generation or two. Although there were exceptions, this was the dominant tendency and so nAds tended to remain generally wolflike from large to small dogs.

Although purebred dogs can be said to share “genotypes”, this is an entirely new concept in dog breeding in the last 150 years. This word is a cleaned up way to say, “overly inbred” However, even people who disparage the closed registry policies of kennel clubs, if they have AKC dogs, they believe the genotype should be maintained as an intrinsic part of the breed.

They believe the genotype is everything! This is entirely racist thinking intimately connected to the true identity of the dog in question. Native American dogs are not about genotypes! They are about phenotypes. Genotypes are an aspect of Galtonian thinking. Phenotypes can sustain a large variation in genotype, yet all look similar.

adopt a shep huskyA belief that genotypes must match is behind the claim that nAds are extinct. This is an idea based on a eugenics theory that to be a true Native American Dog, your genes must match the genes of dogs who were here before the Conquest to a high degree even if a dog looks like a typical nAd. As I said before, this whole idea of requiring matching genes to be declared an aNd is pure eugenics theory put into practice.

I know that practically 100% of the American Indian Nations had dogs and loved dogs. One thing about dog people is that many fancy the different looking dog, so when Euro dogs arrived, they were probably embraced by any native who could get one. No doubt the new dogs, most with dropped ears, bred freely with the native stock. I would even guess the Euro-type dogs spread out more quickly than the Euro peoples, being that the entire continent was a vast intertwined network of trade and trading routes. I even think that grandfather of a breed, the St John’s Water Dog, could have arisen from an early mix of native and Eurodogs. Crosses with Eurodogs probably contributed to a lot of American hound breeding, too.

Eurodogs is my word for European created dog breeds.
My Pearl and the Wolf PackThere are many examples of dogs that look like the old native American common dogs still showing up in animal pounds across the nation. They are practically always called “husky/shepherd mixes” by the pounds. I am sure that some are husky shepherd crosses and that a few are other crosses that create a similar phenotype. The funny thing is, that if you took two such mixes and bred them, the offspring would retain the same phenotype as the parents, though there will be variations in tail set and ear set and/or size, coat length, texture and color, or the spitz tail can show up now and then. No matter what shows up, breeding the next generation from unrelated dogs with the husky/shepherd phenotype will produce more husky/shepherd lookalikes. It is a surefire formula to produce dogs that look more like wolves than any but a few brand new breeds of dogs. They can look very wolfy, but it is easy to see that are not wolves.

4 Comments

bikramadittya

Lovely and informative read. I live in a very warm region of India, where usually people keeping breed dogs limit their canine companions within a few available avatars like the GSD, Dobermann, Spitz, Golden and Labrador retriever, or an occasional Cocker spaniel. One morning I almost jumped out of the auto rickshaw that was ferrying me to take a closer look at an animal that looked like a Border Collie. I asked the man who was walking him, and he said, “I don’t know what he is; his sire is a GSD and dame is probably a cross between a Spitz and a Cocker Spaniel.” Take that! 😃

Reply

    Caitlin Williams

    Thank you. I am flattered. You also appreciate what I am talking about.In landrace types in the old days, there was one criteria for picking a dog. Could it do the work? If yes, it was bred, If not- its fate could be anything. The looks could vary from local to local and within the local, but the work ethic did not. The Kennel club, took those old Types and inbred them for looks alone,until they did not vary within their “breed”.

    Now, breeders are so fundamentalist about the purity of their dog’s genes, they faint at the idea of outbreeding to get some genetic diversity back into the breed. purity of genes belongs to only one fad, the fad of eugenics, which was a fad everywhere and died out every where as a fad, except among dogs. It is sad.

    Reply

      bikramadittya

      The fad of Eugenics (for looks or perceived functional ability) is also very strong in the world of horses. A friend of mine from Denmark has to take his mares to UK for covering (mating). Even if they have good thoroughbred stallions in Denmark, the stud book system is such that they will not register the foals as Thoroughbreds unless the sires are from UK. In Indian horses like Marwari, the fad to get the curled eartips and the long arching neck (termed swan neck) is strong and people often sacrifice function to form. Sad indeed. 🙁

      Reply

        Caitlin Williams

        I am always sorry to hear hear that. I have a friend who had a line of Crabbit Arabians and she quit showing because the super arched neck always won. Thanks for commenting.

        Reply

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