Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dogs in Medieval Illuminations and Manuscripts

Having written a post on dogs in medieval tapestries, my mind naturally wandered to dogs in manuscripts and illuminations. Here is a short list of favorites:

 Four dogs before a doghouse in a book of fables, 
German, late 1400s. J. Paul Getty Museum
Note the chapel attached to the dog house.  The dogs must have
been Protestants since Catholics didn't believe dogs went to heaven.
(See my post on which religions believe dogs go to heaven.)

A manuscript that illustrate the four types of dogs: 
Shepherd's Dog, Stag Hound (sighthound), Hare Hound (scent hound) and Guard Dog

Dogs chasing prey were frequently used to illustrate the margins of manuscripts.
Dog chasing a hare

I like this one from about 1400, because the dogs are playing. One has a ball.
 Reader's correction: Oops. Apparently that's not a ball at all.  Nor is the animal on the right a dog.  It's a beaver (did the artist ever even see a real beaver)  with it's own testicles in its mouth.  Ouch.
Long story.  But a good one. Read about it in Wired.

Boar Hunting, French, 14th century

Dogs were helpful in agricultural chores. Here is a giant hound enjoying the making of cheese, 14th century from the tacuinum sanitatis medieval handbook on wellness. It's based on an 11th century Arab medical treatise describing the beneficial and harmful properties of foods and plants.

Written in the late 1590s by renowned hunting authority Gaston Phebus who owned 1600 dogs, the illustrated book below is a hunting treatise devoted to the training and care of dogs.

Neither a manuscript nor illumination, but too cute to exclude. 
Leaded Glass Window, Cologne, about 1520

This is a good book about dogs in the middle ages - Medieval Dogs
 By Kathleen Walker-Meikle
Also, check out the on-line Getty Museum exhibit - Mans best friend? Dogs in Medieval Art

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dog Lovers Born in January

Happy Birthday to January dog lovers

Rocker Elvis Presley, January 8, 1935
Not a "hound-dog"

Actor Cary Grant, January 18, 1904
Discussing a re-write no doubt.

Publicity photo, though the hand holding looks completely unscripted.

Pulitzer prize winning American novelist Edith Wharton, January 24, 1862
I wouldn't have guessed she'd have Chihuahuas.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, January 30, 1882
President Roosevelt with his constant companion Fala.
The Scotty was a gift from a cousin.
 Sculpted by Neil Estern, the
statue resides at the  FDR Memorial in Washington D. C.
Fala died 7 years after the President and is buried alongside him at Hyde Park.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dogs in Medieval Tapestries

Post civil war photos reveal a lot about what breeds looked like in the past, and paintings going back to the 1600s tell a story, too.  But information about breed shapes and sizes is sketchy prior to the 16th century.  So historians look to tapestries, embroidered wall hanging that warmed and colored otherwise drab grey walls.  The hunt was a common tale, so hunting breeds are often featured.

This Devonshire Hunting Tapestry, made in the Netherlands about 1440,  illustrates a deer hunt.
The dogs look like sighthounds, maybe Greyhounds?

From a piece commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, the scene below features the young emperor deer hunting.  The German piece dates to 1515.
Three breeds are involved - two sighthounds, and maybe a spaniel, along with a scenthound.

The scenthound looks like a baying dog,
perhaps the predecessor to the Bloodhound.

Woven as early as 1370,  this Italian silk brocade tapestry features a stylized dog interacting with a raptor.  Before the invention of the firearm,  hunters used dogs and falcon to hunt game.

From a set of five prints representing the five senses, the etching below was probably used as a draft for a tapestry at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, England.  The figure is engaged in an activity relating to the sense she portrays.  She is smelling a rose, and the dog is sniffing the ground.

Maybe a Foxhound or Beagle?
A dozen tapestries featuring the king in some seasonal activity representing each month were hung in twelve of Louis XIV's sixteen royal residences.  In this one, Louis is hunting in the background and his pets are featured in the foreground.

The dog looks like a miniature spaniel.

The Unicorn Tapestries are considered the best surviving set of medieval tapestries in the world. Seven pieces tell the story of a unicorn hunt.

This is a detail.  Read a good post about the Stirling Tapestries
These must be Unicorn Hounds, apparently now extinct.
Embroidered by Mary, Queen of Scots around 1570 while under house arrest by order of Queen Elizabeth I, the panel below bears Mary's monogram and an image of her dog, Jupiter.  Mary surrounded herself with dogs and when she was beheaded in 1587,  a Skye Terrier had been hiding in her petticoats, shocking spectators.  Following the execution, the dog refused to leave her mistress's body.
Panel from the Oxburg Hangings,  around 1570
The tapestries in this post are from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dogs in Motion

 When dogs run, is the pattern of motion the same in a  Great Dane and a Chihuahua?

I'd have guessed no, but apparently I'd have been wrong.  No matter what shape or size, the canine body moves the same. Scientists figured this out recently.

Researchers used high definition x-rays and video cameras to record thousands of hours and multiple angles of hundreds of running dogs, representing 32 breeds.  Their findings were a surprise.

Eight pounds to eighty, every canine body moves the same way no matter what shape it is. Part of the reason is math:  Shoulder blade size varies from one breed to the next as does lower leg length, but in all dogs, the upper portion of the front leg is always 27% of the total limb length (from shoulder blade top to end of paw).

This is what else they discovered:
1. In all dogs,  the shoulder blade and thigh grow in relation to one another.

2. The upper front leg and lower back leg grow in synchrony.

3. The lower front leg and middle portion of the paw are proportioned to each other.

You'd have thought researchers would have figured this out sooner, since the first film of a running dog was shot in 1885 by Eadweard Muybridge.

If you want to see Muybridge's motion picture of a running dog, see it at The Bark magazine.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

18th Century Small Dog Breeds

The French naturalist, George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon had a lot to say about animal taxonomy in the 1700s, including where dog breeds came from, both geographically and genetically. He concluded, incorrectly, that stray dogs in foreign places such as the New World and Africa were originally of purebred lineage that devolved due to bad living conditions- "loosing their hair and ability to bark"- when in fact they were the ancient dogs from which purebred dogs evolved.
Missing Link Dog
He deserves more respect.
But that's not a criticism.  Geneticists still can't figure out where dogs evolved or exactly which wolf is their direct ancestor, proving just how strange and complex our little buddies really are. To be fair,  much of what the naturalists said about European breeds is in fact historically accurate, telling us an awful lot about what people were like, too.  This is what Buffon had to say about three popular 18th century dog breeds.

"The bastard pug dog is a double mongrel from a mixture of the pug dog with the little Danish dog."[At that time the word mongrel meant a hybrid - a mix with two purebred parents.]

"The Alicant dog [Alicante is an ancient  Spanish city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea] is also a double mongrel, proceeding from the pug-dog and small spaniel." [This would be the brachyacephalic type of what today we call the King Charles Spaniel.]

The Lion Dog
Today it's called a Pekingese
The Naked or Turkish Dog
Probably what today we call the Chinese Crested.

Buffon added, "Lately there are dogs which may be called triple mongrels, because they are produced by two mixed races. Of this kind are the Artois [a scent hound] ...which is produced by  the pug-dog and the bastard pug-dog; to which may be added the dogs called street dogs, which resemble no particular kind because they proceed from races which have previously been several times mixed."

A triple mongrel meant the grandparents were purebred; the parents hybrid and their offspring were double hybrids.  Until the late 19th century when kennel clubs required "purity" in registered breeds, this type of mixing was done intentionally to maintain health and vigor in dogs.

(Illustrations in this post are from a 1750 print by Alexander Bell, published in the Encyclopedia Perthensis or Universal Dictionary of Knowledge, 1816. The photograph of the village dog is courtesy of Ray Coppinger.)

This is a good piece on Buffon and Dogs in The Bark magazine.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Mousing in the Snow - Facing North Works Best

Field biologists studying mousing behavior of red foxes hunting in snow observed that if they are positioned in a northerly direction, they are successful about 72% if the time. In other positions they are mostly unsuccessful.

This suggests that foxes somehow use magnetic alignment to estimate distance in targeting prey under snow.

Watch this elegant footage of a fox mousing in the snow.

Scientists suspect foxes use information from earth's magnetic field as a range finder, somehow sensing magnetic northerly direction as a patch of dark or light.


Read the scientific publication in the January 12, 2011 issue of Biology Letters.