The Pleistocenic Imagination is Alive and Well….

“How the Dog Became the Dog”  Mark Derr

Mark Derr a wonderful doggie writer in my favorite area, the ancient history of dogs, has published a new book, “How the Dog Became the Dog“. This is better than the year “Women Who Run With the Wolves” came out. Or even “The Wolf” by David Mech, though no book has recently brought me back to David Mech as this one has.

early, early hunter and dog, Africa
early, early hunter and dog, Africa

First, I am happy to report my Pleistoscenic imagination is similar to Derr’s as witness my August article on where dogs came from. And I was just imagining what could have happened… Somehow, even the word neoteny, which was the only Coppingeresque idea I ever noticed, fell apart just as I realize his dump dog theory didn’t extend back into the Pleistocene when/where I always thought it all happened with wolves and men. In fact I am positive they were aware of each other as environmental factors before men were even men. I never noticed that dump dog debate much, and just as well. Poof. It’s gone.

Hey and I really like the brand newly coined word, “dogwolf”! That one word is worth the whole book. I am retired. And laid back. I may or may not get all my ideas out in this blog, but the infusion of the one word, dogwolf, is exciting. I’ll own it right this second. Before it gets all divided up and allocated – and some are “forbidden” to use it as happened to the word “wolfdog” when actual wolf hybrids took over the name and ruined it.

An Audubon-like print.
Dogwolf? An Audubon-like print.

What exactly was a “dogwolf” back when? According to Derr, it was a (mostly? fully?) domesticated animal that still looked essentially like a wolf, but toned down in size, in teeth, in temperament. This dog to the right is about the size of a small African wolf. Maybe it is one, though very doglike with the white feet and muzzle; I can’t read the print…..

There are still a whole lot of dogs out there that are not beginner’s dogs, but are too curious and playful, adventurous, independent, with endless energy, for the average suburban family to keep in a yard. Some even still look pretty wolfy, ie, all the old sled dog types, basenjis, some Asian dogs like the Shiba Inu; but what they have in common is they did not arrive completely tamed at the AKC and still aren’t.





Amy's book is very interesting reading, but she is at the core a Show Breeder of the Old Guard, and her entire worldview is colored by that foundation and bias.Most people involved in rare and new breeds still see the closed registry and show ring of the AKC/FCI as 'the big leagues' and the natural goal for their breed to attain. The questioning of the system is still fairly new, even though the flaws of it have been discussed ad nauseum for almost 100 years already, I think that the concept of saying 'the entire system is bad, toss it out' is still too radical for most people to even think about, especially those who have been in purebred dogs for decades and steeped in the culture and doctrine of it all.


Kate Williams

I don't think they should throw the whole system out. I think they should open the stud books as they already have for Besenjis.Amy personifies raw ambition to me. She craves recognition and status and even over claims certain aspects of her expertise. She really remains a fairly amateur artist though some of her stuff is very nice, her technique is not great- it is rather stiff- and yet she seems to claim a level of expertise in art she does not demonstrate in art. I think the stiffness in her art is reflected in her thinking, which was far from creative.And, for all her expertise in breeding, her dogs are cobby and rather stiff too. They are not especially graceful in line or demeanor. I like Lyn's much better. Acceptance by the establishment is Amy's highest goal. I intend to expand on these thoughts at some point.


Lori Z.

I have that book, too. (BTW, I got it on Amazon). I found it interesting, but I had a real problem with her cavalier dismissal of the Chihuahua as being a Johnny Come Lately, while the Xolo is the true, ancient breed of Mexico. I have found this attitude to be common among the few Xolo breeders I have spoken to, all of whom deny any genetic relationship or similarity in temperament between the two breeds. Like you, my opinion is that the hairlessness is a trait overlaid on the basic, “Techichi” type. I think this is fairly obvious when you look at the lack of type in the coated Xolo—I have seen pictures of dogs with coats from very short to quite long, border collie type coats. There is obviously a lot of “stuff” (genes) in there that are being masked by the hairlessness. The breed is not as ancient and pure as these people would have us believe, JUST LIKE the Chi. And why they went AKC is beyond me. The TYPE is old, but the breed is not.


Kate Williams

When the AKC types first went after the Xolo in the fifties to shape it to their owns ends- (there is an extra-special cache to the folks in the AKC that actually develop new breeds) – they only accepted the standard size. However, so many people had tiny naked dogs, they eventually relented. By having 3 sizes they can take care of the whole continuum in size, that express the gene.

In my opinion, the toy xolos are a different type than the big ones, they are in fact Hairless Techichi, a type of dog that was well described by the early Chihuahua breeders who .came to the SW to pick up the foundation stock for the future Chihuahua. The dogs favored by the east coast breeders were what we would call sports, runts, or teacups, although they did not know that, at first.

I am beginning to deal with some of these ideas on my new blog, reached through clicking on my name or photo.

I am so thrilled you are reading on through.But remember, the further back you go, the less clarified some of my idea are.


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