A Beginning for an Anthropology of English and North American Kennel Clubs.
Pickles, an excellent ancient type dog at the Lake Lanier shelter.
I really never got to the powder puff as breed in the last post, I got distracted laying out the background, so now, I will get even more off on a sideline and do a bit of background on kennel clubs and new style dog breeds. Nowadays the true history of almost all dog breeds is mythologized by the keepers of the breed. Each breed has a few lines to hand to the Announcer about the breed being shown. These lines are usually Paul Bunyan stories about the breed, originally done tongue in cheek since the time of their origin as part of the Victorian social game system. New breeds were given ancient or exotic origins In the Victorian days when dog breeding became fashionable for the gentry, (it always was popular amongst the royalty and their trickle down nobility) it marked a huge deviation from old style dog breeding patterns of breeding the dogs that were strong, healthy and did their jobs well.
Instead, the new gentry played a new, very Victorian game. Exhibitions. Exhibit something. Exhibit machinery, plants, exotic animals. Exhibit dogs. They had the first dog show, a parade of pointers at some exhibition. And a new sport was born. Thus the most beautiful of a type would be bred together then exhibited, often for a few dollars prize. Premiums often went to the new, the bizarre and the most unusual breeds as well as the most beautiful.
The Kennel Club, the absolute archetype of dogdom’s most royal British Lordly bureaucracy, was born to keep the fights about dog’s names to a minimum. After all, a dog’s name was truly not something to duel over. It brought the whole tone of the sport down. And exhibiting the prettiest or most unusual dogs was a sport that ladies enjoyed very much. It was just by chance, that pedigrees came into play at first, to separate dogs of the same name, but it was certainly a logical extension of a central dog authority to keep stud books. Knowing dog people, I’ll take bets that the above story is rather fanciful, in itself. The truth is, Lords and Ladies had strong ideas of what made “good breeding” and practiced it on their cattle, horses and dogs, surely, for thousands of years.
“Pure” breeding was becoming quite fashionable in dogs even as it began waning in Royals where it had been practiced a little too long. The following is simplified for brevity. The gentlemen’s dogs were bred in numerous kennels, each with its own line of Pointer, Setter, hound, or whatever. They bred within type among their own kennels or from another kennel, as desired. The clubs competed. The dogs were purpose-driven- at least in belief. They kept stud books at each kennel at first then clubs started having the stud book centrally located for breeds. The gentlemen then bred from within the stud books, generally. It was a society thing that the stud books were closed to dogs whose parents weren’t listed. It mirrored the owner’s own beliefs in breeding- as in marriages within the class or higher than one’s own status. Any group could get together, decide on a standard for their breed and write it down. When breeds joined, the all breed Kennel Club, they determined the standard for their breed and even control it. That is still the general practice.
Dog Breed clubs have had changing rules about what dogs get in, but once in, the stud books generally close and don’t open again. It means all dogs of a breed share the same gene pools as the others of its breed. If that pool, no matter how large, is closed, then the genes start circulating within and the chances of recessives pairing up starts increasing. One hundred years later, most breeds are in a dangerous mess, but each breed has advocates who claim the right to show, breed show dogs, and sell their puppies, in the face of their lack of political correctness. They paint themselves as legitimate compared to backyard breeders and heaven forbid, puppy mills. Yet many of their breeding practices are just as terrible and by emphasizing beauty over soundness and function, have allowed breeds to become more extreme and really thinned the gene pools out.
On one of the forum that I visit, someone started a thread about their dogs. Really sweet. Everyone who posted had AKC dogs and after they told you the breed, the name etc, they all talked about their own dogs health problems! Health problem in dogs is a purely AKC kind of thing. Mutts and landrace dogs
tend to be extremely healthy with no genetic defects.
So, Although I like stud books, I have some problems with breeding practices and the practice of not registering outcrosses. A lot of sneakiness goes on under this system. I am not here to rant, but in a world that has a surfeit of dogs, I disapprove of self-styled breeders selling genetically damaged stock or pups with known health problems. The down side of dog in-breeding is you have to cull and that appears to be going out of style.
The control the breed club has over a breed is absolute. This is why Collies noses started looking like Borzois, (I am sure genetic tests will prove that Collie breeders outcrossed to get that nose, then bred it in sneakiness of the AKC rules) It is why a bull terrier’s skull looks like an exaggeration of itself. It is why German Shepherds have the over exaggerated hips, why genetic defects have been enshrined in breed descriptions. Breed clubs create breeds. They specialize in grabbing some old type or breed and enshrining it in their club or in creating a breed such has never been seen before, like the Chinese Crested. The CC breed standard is strict, but self defeating, in this breed because several of its varieties are not considered to be desirable.
I think the Basenji stud books should always be open to new African stock. There is no reason why Basenjis should not be returned to their landrace status in the US. They are a very clear cut example that would teach breeders a great deal about what an AKC dog could be, if not inbred at all.
Breed Clubs and the AKC have a perfect right to breed their dogs and even try to make money at it. Breed standards are so absurd in so many breeds that genetic defects get built in, or their gene pools are so small, or they breed to an ancestor so much, they become burdened with many genetic illnesses. This is a sad state of affairs.
My biggest issue is that people treat the AKC like it is hallowed ground and that anyone breeding an AKC dog is legitimate.