Friday, December 28, 2012

Vintage Photos Girls and Puppies

Little girls and puppy dog tales...

Source: Library of Congress

These photos are from my collection unless otherwise noted.  You may reproduce them, but please be nice and credit my blog.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Dog Tail Shapes and Sizes

About ten years ago I statistically analyzed the shape of dog tails in 330 pedigreed dogs listed in the Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World (Wilcox and Walkowitz, 1995).

With the assistance of my 12-year old neighbor, Grace, we figured out that the most common tail types (56%) are the otter and whip tails.
Labs have otter tails.
Greyhounds have whip tails.

The ring tail is a trait found in 15% of all breeds.

The sickle tail is common in only 3%. 

Only 1% have a screw tail.
Docked Tails - twenty four percent of registered breeds have their tails cut off, although the trend is toward not docking tails or ears, and in some countries it's illegal. Dobermans usually have docked tails.

But a lot of breeders are leaving tails as nature intended.  When a breed's tail is no longer docked, what shape is it?  It might be any shape because breeders never selected for tail types. (I know a geneticist who has a drawer full of docked puppy dog tails.  I'm not naming names. He is studying the mutation that affects tail shape.)

This is a Dobie with something between a ring and sickle shape tail - very cute.

And here's one with more of a whip x otter  tail shape.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi tails are traditionally docked.  
But here's one with an otter tail.

And one with a very wet ring tail.
    And one with a cute I don't know what tail.

    Only 1% of registered breeds are born without a tail at all, called  bobbed tailIn a few breeds it's a fixed trait, like the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog.

    In all, 23 breeds have naturally bobbed tails, but the trait isn't fixed which means they may or may not be born with a tail.  These include among others Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Australian Shepherd, Brittany Spaniel, Jack Russel Terrier or Schipperke.

    Of the 23, 17 have a specific mutation on the T-box transcription factor T gene (C189G). Geneticists still haven't figured out what accounts for the bobbed tail in the other six breeds. If you want to know more about the science behind this mutation, click here.

    Doctor Barkman says no tail is a bad shape or size, and the best tails are ones still attached to the dog.
    I rest my case.

    Monday, December 17, 2012

    Who were the first dogs? Explaining genetic diversity

    Scientists still don't know. But whoever the first dogs turn out to be, if they're not extinct, they'll be the dogs with the most genetic diversity - almost as much diversity as the wolf.
    The First Dog by Benjamin Cheever
    The gray wolf, the canid with the most genetic diversity (let's say100% ), is the progenitor of all domestic dogs.

    The Empty Nest

    Dogs move in packs.  Each time dogs broke away from the original family and moved on to better opportunities, they would mate with close cousins who'd migrated with them.  Their offspring would have had less genetic diversity than their ancestors' because the parents were more closely related.  As this process continued over thousands of years, diversity was reduced.

    Humans, by applying artificial selection, have created smaller and smaller populations. If it's a very small population, it's called a bottle neck. In the case of dog breeds, the least amount of diversity will be a breed that's gone through the narrowest bottle neck.

    The Norwegian Lundehund is a good (but unfortunate) example.

    The ancestors of the Lundehund were not a breed per se, but rather a landrace, a local variety of domesticated animal that developed largely by natural processes.  Their natural environment included rocky surfaces, craggy cliffs and steep fjords.  For thousands of years the Lundehund was a genetically diverse balanced population.

    The dog in its natural environment.

    About a hundred years ago, the landrace was artificially "perfected" to negotiate rocky cliffs to hunt Puffin birds, now an endangered species. Some breed diversity was lost.
    Puffin Bird
    Two distemper epidemics, the first in the mid 1940s, wiped out all but a handful of dogs. The breed (current population about 1500-2000) was rescued with just six dogs. Unfortunately, five of those were descended from one mother.  Small groups of individuals who are this closely related, whether they be human like the Hapsburgs, or canine like the Lundehund,  have a high incidence of genetic disorders.
    The Hapsburgs had many genetic problems.
    Hemophilia was probably the worst.

    The Lundehund suffers from a life threatening digestive disorder (Lundehund gastroenteropathy) that causes the dog to be unable to absorb protein and nutrients from food.  Not all dogs are afflicted, but all Lundehunds are carriers.  Although the disease can be managed, there is no cure.  The average age of death is 7-8 years.

    The unique feature of the Lundehund is it's polydactyle foot with fully formed, jointed and muscled toes.  Note the six toes instead of the normal four. I wonder if she can open the refrigerator door.

    In addition, the dog has extreme range of motion in its shoulders, neck and ears. (The ear canal opening can be controlled by ear movement). These distinctive traits, found only in the Lundehund, likely developed from natural pressures the dogs experienced thousands of years ago.  If breeders were to cross the Lundehund with another breed to increase diversity and reduce the incidence of disease, these extraordinary features would be lost forever.   Breeders face difficult decisions.

    To read more about the unusual Norwegian Lundehund, click here

    Friday, December 14, 2012

    My favorite dog cartoons by Jerry Van Amerongen

    Jerry Van Amerongen's dog cartoons prove he's a tried and true dog lover.  You can see all his cartoons at    These are some of my favorites:

    Monday, December 10, 2012

    Vintage photos of students with dogs

         There really was a time when dogs followed kids to school, then waited by the classroom door all day.  When school was over, the two walked home together.

    1920s photo of students enrolled in Catholic school. 
    I wonder who the dog belongs to.

    He poses with such a sense of purpose.

    Depression era photo of children attending a one-room school house.  
    The dog is on the left (enlarged below). Many of the kids are barefoot.

    There's no question as to whom the boy belongs. 
    He may have no shoes, but he has something better-
    The love of a loyal dog.

    Class of 1908. Their mascot is in the front.

    What kind of ball is that?

    Friday, December 7, 2012

    Tibetan Mastiff, rare vintage photos

    Rare 1910 photos of Tibetan Mastiff

    These priceless photos of Tibetan Mastiffs are courtesy of my friend, Kathy Hoskins.  In the early 1900s her grandfather lived in Kalgan, China, an international trade city and the chief northern gate in the Great Wall.  Located about a hundred miles northwest of what is now Beijing, it was the major entry/exit point from China through Mongolia to Russia on what was called the Tea Road.

    Look closely and you can see that the dog is secured with a rope. 

    The Chinese word for the breed is do-khyi, translated as home guarddoor guard or dog which may be tied.  Not actually a Mastiff, the dog is a flock guard.  They were usually tied outside the home during the day and allowed to run loose at night to protect livestock. 

    In the background of the photo below, you can see an automobile, Mongolian horses (the first domesticated horse) and camels.  Where ever it is they're going, they have transportation covered.

    The man standing in front of a traditional yurt has something, perhaps food, in his hand. Yum. As every dog lover knows, food is the universal and timeless treat that crosses all cultures and centuries.

    The breed had already made its way to Europe as early as the mid 1800s. Queen Victoria's dog, Bout, is below.
    Queen Victoria's Tibetan Mastiff, Bout.
    c. 1855, by William Bambridge

    An ancient breed, it was depicted in art as early as the 1600s.

    Read more about the Tibetan Mastiff

    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    Great Dane in Danish Film, "A Royal Affair"

    One of my pet peeves is the inaccurate depiction of dog breeds in period films that are otherwise historically accurate down to the wall paper. 

    So I say hooray for the person on the crew of the film, A Royal Affair (2012), who was responsible for getting the King's dog right. The Harlequin Great Dane that the mentally disturbed King Christian VII of Denmark fawns over is not the gangly giant we're familiar with today.  The great Danish mastiff of the mid 18th century was a large sturdy dog that looked a lot like this guy.

    Danes bred in Europe continue to be more typical of the early breed types.  But elsewhere, by mid 19th century, breeders began creating a more stylized dog.  This is what the Great Dane looked like in 1907.

    And today.  
    To read about other accurate or inaccurate representation of breeds in period films, read my other posts:

    Corgis in The King's Speech

    Lab in Downton Abbey
    Scroll down in the Downton Abbey post to read about the accuracy of pooches in other films:
    Blue Gascony Hounds in The Last of the Mohicans
    Yellow Labs in Howard's End
    Xolos in Apocalypto
    Spaniels in Sense and Sensibility
    Dogs in Amazing Grace