Friday, December 27, 2013

What Makes Small Dogs Small

Dog breeds under 20 pounds are small because of a single DNA mutation that puts the brakes on growth hormone production.  Because the mutation happened only once, about 15,000 years ago, we know that all miniaturized dogs are closely related.  You can't make one without another.
The mutation may have popped up in a wolf, although no living wolf
population has the gene today, or an ancient dog. People recognized
an advantage and made more.

It's not difficult to image that when people saw a teeny version of a big dog they were so smitten they wanted to make one of their own.  Who wouldn't want a portable Mastiff?   Today there are more than 25 breeds with this unique mutation.

Oh yes. And one more. The Rottweiler. Which means there's a whole lot more to learn about what makes little dogs little, and for that matter, big dogs big.

I think she looks like other miniaturized mastiff-type dogs (think Pug)
 in everything but weight.
Read more about how it works here.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Vintage Photos of Old Houses, Families and Dogs

 I've collected many hundreds of vintage photos that include dogs in the picture. 

As a cultural historian trained to look for differences between today and yesterday, I've been delighted to find so many thrift store photos that capture a sense of what life was life in 19th and early 20th century America.  But the photos that delight me the most are the ones that include a dog in the picture.  Below are some from my collection of house/family/dog category.

The enclosed water tower (right side of photo) was common in northern California.  In the close up you can see that the dog is a Pointer.

Is he sitting on top of his dog house?

The farm house below was somewhere in the Midwest. The photo was taken around 1890-1900. The dog looks like a working collie dog.

The wagon is good too.

This craftsman era bungalow indicates a west coast neighborhood, probably around 1915.  You can see two dogs in the close up.

Another craftsman style house.  The Saint Bernard was very popular at the turn of the 19th century.

The citrus orchard makes me think this is California, but the dog is an all-American mongrel.

You can hardly see the dog in the photo below. I think it dates to about 1880.  I like it because in addition to the kids, parents, grandparents and family dog, they invited all their horses and mules to join in.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

King Charles Spaniel History in Vintage Images

By the mid 1500s, a variety of miniaturized spaniels, likely originating in the Far East, became the darlings of European royalty.   Below: Felipe of Spain and Maria Tudor with two very teeny Spaniels, about 1550.

The King Charles Spaniel was made famous by, and named after, its most renowned patron, King Charles II of England (1630-1685).   Charles was rarely seen without a bevy of little spaniels at his side.  He loved the dogs so much that when he became King, Charles II wrote a decree that the miniature Spaniel was to be accepted in any public place, even in the House of Parliament, where animals were not allowed.  Read more about Charles' dogs here.

Charles II, royal heir to the English throne, and his favorite dog.

The mid 18th century print below indicates that the dog was not named a King Charles Spaniel but was referred to as the dog the king owned - King Charles's Dog.

King Charles' dog, about 1750
Print by Alexander Bell
British Museum

Note this mocking caricature of ladies fashion includes
a teeny spaniel on the bustle. 

The longer muzzled-types popular in the 1700s were crossed with Pugs, another popular breed of the day (read my Pug post) to create the brachycephalic version of the breed.  Edouard Manet's 1866 oil painting below features the dog with a modestly flattened muzzle. King Charles Spaniels were considered luxury items, and in the 1890s could cost as much as $350, when as a rule, wealthy people would pay $15 to $75 for a purebred dog.

The breed's shortened muzzle was increasingly exaggerated, as the 1920s photo below shows.
Actress Mildred Davis who was married to Harold Lloyd
About 1925
Library of Congress

Breeders didn't understand the genetic implications of creating such exaggerated traits, many of which small spaniels suffer from today, such as Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome.
Add caption

The lesson being "All Things in Moderation"

Monday, December 2, 2013

Vintage Dog Show Programs

Unlike most vintage dog show programs, this one shows the year -1896. (Not sure what kind of breed that is.  He looks a little like Buster Brown's dog, Tigg.)
Tigg was a little scary looking.
But the historian's dilemma is the too frequently undated program.  Based on breeds on the cover, I can usually guestimate to within five years of publication. For example, the Cocker Spaniel, featured below, was recognized by the AKC in 1878, but didn't become popular until the early 1900s. In 1892 only 20 dogs were registered, but by 1902 the number had increased to 354.  
So 1905 is a pretty close guess.

The program below is harder to date. The Toy Manchester Terrier (in front) was  recognized in 1886, the Yorkie (far right) in 1885, the Bulldog (looks like a Boston Terrier) in 1893, and the English Mastiff in 1885.  So it would be after 1893. 

About 1910, the Bulldog looked less like a Boston Terrier and more like what we see today. 
So based on the old fashioned Bulldog in the illustration, the exhibition date would be 
somewhere between 1895 and 1910.

This is what the Bulldog looked like in the 1890s.

Russian Wolfhounds were all the rage in the 1920s
 as the flapper in this undated program indicates.  

By the 1930s most programs included the year, like this 1933 catalogue.  
But even if it didn't, the Fox Terrier would give it away. 
The breed was very popular due to its starring role
 in the Thin Man series, playing the role of Asta.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dog People with November Birthdays

Will Rogers, November 4, 1879

Roy Rogers November 5, 1911
Roy, Dale and one of many Bullets.

King Edward VII, November 9, 1841
The King with his famous Caesar
Edward, like his mother Queen Victoria, was
a great lover of all dogs.

Silent movie actress Louise Brooks
November 14, 1906
Not sure what's going on here.

Artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
November 24, 1864

Dogs were frequent subjects in Lautrec's paintings.
Touc Seated on a Table 1879-1881

Fleche, 1881

Andrew Carnegie, November 25, 1835
Carnegie was a Collie man.

Winston Churchill, November 30, 1874
Churchill and an English Bulldog - comparing mugs.

He was actually a Poodle lover and had many.

Mark Twain, November 30, 1835
"Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would
stay out and your dog would go in." - Mark Twain

November is Adopt a Senior Dog month, National Senior Pet month, National Pet Awareness month and Pet Diabetes month.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why Do Dogs Mark Territory with Urine?

Dogs pee for two reasons: to piddle or send a message.  Considering that more than a million and a half gallons of urine are deposited daily in the US by roughly 57 million dogs, that’s a lot of information. 
Sending a message 
Odor, like e-mail, moves over great distances, remains in place long after the sender is gone, and hangs around until the sendee picks it up.  

Picking up her p-mail message

Urgent, special delivery, confidential, registered, return to sender?  How do dogs ever sort it out?  University of Colorado biologist Marc Bekoff found a novel way to “see” how dogs respond to odor, by examining yellow snow.

Professor Marc Bekoff and his assistant, Jethro

Scent-marking is differentiated from merely urinating by a number of criteria that include sniffing before urinating, or directing the urine stream at urine that's already. 

During five consecutive winters in snowy Boulder, Colorado, Professor Bekoff moved nearly 400 clumps of fresh, yellow urine-saturated snow from place to place to see how his dog, Jethro, would react to his own urine and that of other dogs.  (How people reacted to the Professor isn’t mentioned.)

The science behind yellow snow
Bekoff shoveled snow that was stained with his dog’s urine and moved it to various posts to see if Jethro would cover his own scent with urine. The professor noted that Jethro created a map, urinating regularly at specfic posts.  Jethro was least interested in his own urine, and spent most of his time investigating the urine of other males compared to females.  The dog clearly discriminated his own odiferous messages from those of others. 

Read the study: 
Bekoff, Marc, Observations of scent-marking and discriminating self from others by a domestic dog (Canis familiaris): Tales of displaced yellow snow, Behavioral Processes, 55 (2001) 75-79.
Scratch and sniff
A new study, published November 11, 2013 indicates that bacteria in the scent gland may be the key to information in the message.