Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Coffee and Provocation

Training Dogs to Find Ancient Loot
Canine may soon be deployed in the fight against terrorists and criminals looting precious artifacts from war zones.

They May Need a Terrier to Find that Gold
In June 1863, a Union shipment of 52 bars of gold now worth $54 million was said to be lost near Dents Run, Pennsylvania. Now the FBI and state conservation officers are digging for it near the Quehanna Wild Area. Sadly, they are not using all the tools at their disposal. A special breed of dog, the Bactrian Terrier, specializes in finding gold deposits.

Rickshaws Were Invented in New Jersey
General Tso's Chicken was invented in New York and Rickshaws were invented in New Jersey.

Chinese Communists to Write U.S. Laws?
Alibaba, which operates as an arm of the communist Chinese state, has joined the American Legislative Exchange Council, a private right-wing group set up by corporations to ghostwrite legislation sponsored by legislators in state capitols around the country.  If Russia can control the President and the NRA, the Chinese figure they will write state law.
Leeches as Wildlife DNA Blood Bank
Scientists have identified mammals present at sites in Asia by examining the DNA in the blood sucked by leeches.

Japan Invents a Raccoon Trap
Non-native American raccoons in Japan have become a nuisance, and the Japanese have invented a live cage trap that is species-specific.

National Geographic Self-Examines Its Own Racism
National Geographic asked a preeminent historian to investigate our coverage of people of color in the U.S. and abroad, and what he found was not pretty. "What Mason found in short was that until the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers. Meanwhile it pictured “natives” elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages—every type of cliché. Unlike magazines such as Life, Mason said, National Geographic did little to push its readers beyond the stereotypes ingrained in white American culture."

Why Do Some White Men Stockpile Guns and Ammo?
From Scientific American: "Since the 2008 election of President Obama, the number of firearms manufactured in the U.S. has tripled, while imports have doubled. This doesn’t mean more households have guns than ever before—that percentage has stayed fairly steady for decades. Rather, more guns are being stockpiled by a small number of individuals. Three percent of the population now owns half of the country’s firearms, says a recent, definitive study from the Injury Control Research Center at Harvard University."  What's going on?  Basically these folks are terrified,  weak, and insecure individuals beset by racial and economic fear who are undergoing a crisis in meaning and purpose in their lives.

Drones to Count Birds and Other Wildlife 
It turns out that a drone in the sky is better than two PhDs in the bush.

Funding American Wildlife Management

A new survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that only about 5 percent of Americans, age 16 years and older, hunt, which is about half of the 10 percent of Americans in the same age bracket that hunted 50 years ago.

The actual number of hunters has declined somewhat less thanks to a nearly 60 percent increase in population since 1970.

Image result for graph US hunting license sales

For wildlife a decline in hunting matters, as wildlife conservation system are heavily dependent on sportsmen for funding. Money generated from license fees and excise taxes on guns, ammunition and angling equipment provide about 60 percent of the funding for state wildlife agencies.

So what's the answer? It's pretty simple: add dedicated Pittman-Robertson taxes to equipment used by Americans that enjoy other wildlife-centered activities such as birdwatching, hiking, camping, mountain biking, and photography.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

In the Ground

Dog in the hole, and waiting for the baying to settle down to a location.

The Evolution of Animal Genitalia

Genitals are the fastest-evolving organs in the animal kingdom, and something we have reported on before here and here and here and here and here and here.


IMAGINE that the children and grandchildren of bulldog breeders were all born with the human equivalent of what they inflict on dogs -- brachycephalia and achondroplastic dwarfism.

IMAGINE that the children and grandchildren of hairless Chinese Crested breeders were born with ectodermal dysplasia and the dental, skin and eye problems that come with that genetic load.

IMAGINE that the children and grandchildren of German Shepherd breeders were born with twisted and dysplastic hips.

IMAGINE that the male children and grandchildren of the Dalmatian breeders who reject back-cross dogs were born with uric acid stones so severe they have to suffer a urethrostemy, in which their scrotum is removed, and their urinary tract is permanently relocated to the base of their penis so they can urinate like a female.

IMAGINE that if it was deemed good enough for the dog, it would be good enough for their owners and their families.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Live Bald Eagle Cam Over DC Police Academy

The pair of Bald Eagles nesting 110 feet over the DC Police Academy are named "Liberty" and "Justice" and their second chick hatched on Sunday, so I suspect "my" Bald Eagles will see pipping soon too.

Liberty and Justice had one hatchling that survived last year -- a bird that was named "Spirit' by the folks on the Interwebs.

Bert Gripton in America

Jack Batzer sent me this picture of Bert Gripton in the U.S. judging a 1985 JRTCA trial in Maryland.  Thanks Jack!

Digging on the Dogs: Two Reds in the Forest

Nice day out today. Bolted two red fox out of a forest den. Moxie weighs just 9 pounds and busted the first one out of a 30-foot pipe running straight under a tree.

Stephanie L’s woolly dog Hunter “saw the elephant” today, spending a couple of hours “staying and baying” a second red fox. He’s pretty tired now. Hunter’s a rescue, and represented well.

This was the shallow dig to Hunter, who sounded like he was in the kettle under the tree (a big space) but he was actually in a small tight pipe under my left leg. The box said he was there, but it was Misto who confirmed it. Hunter had shoved dirt behind himself while digging on, and I think he had boxed himself  in.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Spanning the Big Boy

Spanning my big boy. Complete finger overlap.

Misto is 12 pounds and built like a truck (only 10 inches tall), while Moxie is 9 pounds and 10.5 inches tall, and is built more like a bird.

You don't want to be on the teeth side of Misto when he's biting, while few things are small enough that Moxie cannot reach them.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Saint Patrick Was a Dog Whisperer

Saint Patrick is not a saint
, and he did not drive the snakes out of Ireland, because there were no snakes.

But was he a dog man?

Absolutely.  Read all about it over on Cesar Millan's new web site.

Cheese and Choke Chains

If you do less sooner, you don't have to do more later.

Their Vote is Equal to Yours

The one on the right is my psychiatrist. The one on the left is my financial planner.

Bald Eagle Nests on the Potomac

I took this picture of a Bald Eagle nest
about a half mile from my house yesterday. 

As you can see from the pictures, below, the nest is actually between a split highway (George Washington Parkway) next to the Potomac River, and directly across from Georgetown University.  I used to row crew and fish this stretch of the river when I was in high school, and now I live a short walk to it.  The shad will be running thick up the river just these fish eagle chicks begin to pip out of the shell.

We now have about 1,200 nesting bald eagles in Virginia, a sum that is not likely to have been seen since early colonial days.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Naturalist Terrierman Bert Gripton

Bert Gripton is one of the few legendary terriermen who was not principally known for breeding dogs, but for working them. He had a small pack of working terriers and whippets, and was terrierman to the Albrighton Foxhounds. His father was a gamekeeper on the Aqualate estate in Staffordshire near the Shropshire border.

Gripton was a die-hard digger who specialized in badger, but he also hunted otter (he took the last legal otter in the UK), and fox. Phil Drabble, author Of Pedigree Unknown, said that Gripton "could, and did, catch Fox with greater certainty than the hounds."

Bert Gripton kept a pack of small dogs. This is not surprising -- the more people dig, the more they seem to value a small dog able to get up to the quarry and to maneuver around and with it. Brian Nuttal notes of Gripton's terriers: "No one called them Jack Russells in those days, just white hunt terriers."

Phil Drabble explained Gripton's technique for removing a fox:

"Quite often it was the fox's grinning mask which came into view, in which case there is an effective trick that requires supreme confidence and dexterity approaching sleight of hand. Hold a bit of stick, as thick as your thumb, and about a foot long, and wave it rapidly across the fox's mask, within reach of his jaws. The reaction is reflex and certain. He bites the stick in a vice-like grip. That is the exact split second when it is safe to shoot out the other hand to grab him by the scruff of the neck. It takes more cool nerve that I possess, but it was one of Bert Gripton's star performances."

This post recycled from November 2004, with video addition.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Joar Leifseth Ulsom Wins Iditarod

I was wrong. Nic Petit got nailed by a massive snow storm on Monday, and Norwegian musher Joar Leifseth Ulsom pulled ahead to win the 2018 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Wednesday.

What Lesson Was Learned?

An Idaho middle school science teacher fed a puppy to snapping turtle in front of three of his students.

Science teacher Robert Crosland, who teaches at Preston Junior High School some 300 miles east of Boise, is now under police investigation. The incident occurred 45 minutes after school was dismissed. Some local parents told the station that the puppy was deformed and going to die soon anyway, with one adding that Crosland's actions were “very much circle of life.” Crosland and the three students who were present claim the puppy was drowned just before it was fed to the turtle, and was not alive as some early accounts reported.

Stewardess Forces Dog Into Overhead Bin

A family's French bulldog suffocated to death in the overhead compartment on a United Airlines flight after a flight attendant forced the dog's owner to place the dog there for the entire three-hour-long flight from Houston to New York. The dog was in a standard soft sided pet carrier, and the family had paid an airline fee to carry the dog with them in the cabin.

Ms. Catalina Castano was traveling with her 11-year-old daughter and 2-month-old son along with her 10-month-old French bulldog. Ms Castano repeatedly asked the flight attendant to let her keep the dog by her feet, but the flight attendant insisted she stow the dog in the overhead bin. United Airlines has apologized and accepted full responsibility, whatever that means.

A reminder that United Airlines was the airline whose guards came on an airplane and beat a man unconscious and knocked out his teeth in order to get him off the flight after they had over booked it.  The airline's motto: "Fly the friendly skies".

Kentucky's Thomas Walker: Right on the Money

Dr. Thomas Walker and Cumberland Gap, Kentucky were commemorated on  a 2016 U.S. quarter that was released into general circulation on April 4, 2016. 

A ceremony to unveil the coin was held by the U.S. Mint at the C.V. Whitney Convention Center at  Pine Mountain State Park in Pineville, Kentucky.

My father, who was from Pineville, wrote a book on Thomas Walker who is a descendant of ours. It was Thomas Walker who brought the second fox hound pack to the United States.

As for Pineville, it is the poorest town in the poorest section of the nation -- Eastern Kentucky.

For comparison, the infamously poor town of Harlan, Kentucky has a median household income of $17,270, while the median household income of Pineville is just $12,435.

In Pineville, my father was the son of the town drunk, and no family was poorer.

My father ran away from home at 14, never graduated from high school, enrolled in the Air Force, got his GED, attended Princeton University, married my mom (and stayed married!), joined the U.S. foreign service, taught himself two languages (French and Arabic) and several instruments (trombone, piano, and bass), and traveled the world, living at various times in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Mali, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. He built a custom house and several apartments on Dupont Circle, taught himself to sail, and owned and drove a 1937 Bentley through Europe and North Africa. He ran the American Association for the Advancement of Science's climate project back when no one was talking about global warming.

My father and mother also bought and gave a square mile of Pine Mountain to the state to help preserve Blanton Forest  one of the largest old growth forests on the East Coast.

The Penis Museum is Hard to Find

Did you know there is an Icelandic penis museum?

'Tis true. It's called the Icelandic Phallological Museum.

The museum has over 261
other non-playing organs in its collection, from whale to elephant, and from hamster to fox.

That's an elephant penis in the picture with the gentleman from the museum. Various pickled members are displayed below.

It's That Time of Year

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Everything Is Connected to Everything

I once got stoked up on way too much coffee and explained to someone, with a sharpie and four place mats from the coffee shop, that everyone in rock was only three degrees or less separated from John Mayall.  Now I realize I could have just shown him this picture. From left to right: Eric Burdon (The Animals), John Mayall (Bluesbreakers), Jimi Hendrix, Steve Winwood (Traffic), and Carl Wayne (The Move).

America Hates Bullies

High Crimes in Texas

A true story from Texas.

A guard dog at a Fort Worth tire shop did little to deter overnight thieves; they simply stole the dog, too.

Owner Nayer Younis said thieves have hit his shop five times, despite his security measures, which included adding barbed wire.

The dog was taken two weeks ago.

“It makes me sick, but life goes on," Younis said. "I have two dogs now, so I hope they do [help]."

This Dog Has Found His Thing

Monday, March 12, 2018

They Haven't a Clue

This is a performance event at Crufts, the top Kennel Club show in the UK.

This is where the world is supposed to see the “best of the best” of what the British can do with dogs.

This year Crufts was celebrating the 40th anniversary of agility at the show.

Right.  Some performance!

To be clear, this is the same Kennel Club that wants to take away dog training tools like e-collars.

In that quest, they are joined in those effort by clueless pet people who cannot teach their own dogs to sit, and who depend on “campaigns” for direct mail income and to sell magazine subscriptions.

After watching this shambles at Crufts, Channel 4 commentator Peter Purvis, said
"He hasn't a clue what he's doing, does he?"
Nope. Not at all.

And that includes quite a lot of people selling dependency model dog training, magazine subscriptions, direct mail outrage, and diseased dogs. 

The good news is that there actually are competent dog trainers in the world. Not all of them use e-collars, but no competent dog trainer demonizes any tool that is provably working for millions, whether that is a flat collar, a slip collar, a prong collar, food treats, a clicker, an e-collar, a head harness, or a flexi-lead.

Stevia to Fight Lyme Disease?

A reputable scientific journal suggests that a common, natural, no-calorie coffee sweetener may be a potential cure for Lyme disease:

In this study, we evaluated the effectiveness of whole leaf Stevia extract against B. burgdorferi spirochetes, persisters, and biofilm forms in vitro. The susceptibility of the different forms was evaluated by various quantitative techniques in addition to different microscopy methods. The effectiveness of Stevia was compared to doxycycline, cefoperazone, daptomycin, and their combinations. Our results demonstrated that Stevia had significant effect in eliminating B. burgdorferi spirochetes and persisters. Subculture experiments with Stevia and antibiotics treated cells were established for 7 and 14 days yielding, no and 10% viable cells, respectively compared to the above-mentioned antibiotics and antibiotic combination. When Stevia and the three antibiotics were tested against attached biofilms, Stevia significantly reduced B. burgdorferi forms. Results from this study suggest that a natural product such as Stevia leaf extract could be considered as an effective agent against B. burgdorfer.

But wait. Before you start dumping Stevia packets you have lifted from Starbucks into your dog's food, be aware that Stevia does NOT cure Lyme.

For one thing, those Starbucks Stevia packets are a highly refined product, and what you will be wanting is whole leaf Stevia, preferably stalks from plants you have grown in your own garden and not stuff imported from China.

Even then it will not work. 

Read the indented paragraph above very carefully.  Do you see the words IN VITRO?  That means this stuff only works in a test tube or petri dish. 

Why won't it work in your dog (or you)?

Simple: to treat Lyme disease, the chemical compounds in Stevia must be absorbed through the intestines, but Stevia is mostly NOT absorbed in the intestines, which is why it works so well as a sweetener.

In short, the Stevia story is interesting and may yield a new product in time, but for now the best way to treat a dog with Lyme is with antibiotics.

For more information on that, see here and here and here and here.  These links advise using doxycline to treat Lyme, but the same results can be achieved with amoxicillin at 10 mg per pound of dog, dosed twice a day.

Your Expired Antibiotics are Still Good

Expiration dates on antibiotic pills, capsules and caplets are, essentially, a scam.

All you have to do is Google "expiration dates antibiotics" and the first citation given is from a Harvard heath letter entitled "Drug Expiration Dates - Do They Mean Anything?"

That post summarizes a 20-year study done by the FDA for the U.S. military:

"It turns out that the expiration date on a drug does stand for something, but probably not what you think it does. Since a law was passed in 1979, drug manufacturers are required to stamp an expiration date on their products. This is the date at which the manufacturer can still guarantee the full potency and safety of the drug.

"Most of what is known about drug expiration dates comes from a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration at the request of the military. With a large and expensive stockpile of drugs, the military faced tossing out and replacing its drugs every few years. What they found from the study is 90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date.... So the expiration date doesn't really indicate a point at which the medication is no longer effective or has become unsafe to use.... Is the expiration date a marketing ploy by drug manufacturers, to keep you restocking your medicine cabinet and their pockets regularly? You can look at it that way."

The Wall Street Journal put this story on their front page a few years back.

But don't take my word for it: You can read the article, in its entirety, right here.

"Do drugs really stop working after the date stamped on the bottle? Fifteen years ago, the U.S. military decided to find out. Sitting on a $1 billion stockpile of drugs and facing the daunting process of destroying and replacing its supply every two to three years, the military began a testing program to see if it could extend the life of its inventory. The testing, conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ultimately covered more than 100 drugs, prescription and over-the-counter. The results, never before reported, show that about 90% of them were safe and effective far past their original expiration date, at least one for 15 years past it.

"In light of these results, a former director of the testing program, Francis Flaherty, says he has concluded that expiration dates put on by manufacturers typically have no bearing on whether a drug is usable for longer. Mr. Flaherty notes that a drug maker is required to prove only that a drug is still good on whatever expiration date the company chooses to set. The expiration date doesn't mean, or even suggest, that the drug will stop being effective after that, nor that it will become harmful."

How can your doctor or vet not know this?

Well, to start with, on some important issues, veterinarians are often taught very little. The entire "course" given on canine nutrition, for example, may be a single lecture from a dog food salesman. The lecture on flea and tick remedies may be a lecture from a Merial salesperson who will detail "the spread" to be made from selling non-prescription Frontline as if it were a prescription drug (hint: it's not).

As for antibiotics, vets will learn by heart the branded and generic names of variouus drugs, and what they treat, but they may not learn other essential information.

And, as alarming as it may sound, that's true for many human doctors too.

Pharmacist and U.S. Army Colonel George Crawford, who used to be in charge of the Department of Defense's pharmaceutical Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP) notes :

"Nobody tells you in pharmacy school that shelf life is about marketing, turnover and profits."

You might think veterinarians and doctors would learn about this stuff in a Continuing Medical Education (CME) course, right?

Except there is a little joker in the deck.

You see, those CME courses are heavily subsidized by drug and vaccine makers, who help pay the speaker fees and travel costs for many of the lecturers.

Drug and vaccine makers make money when people throw good medicine down the drain, and they make money when dogs are over-vaccinated.

The business of canine health care is business, and good health and integrity often take the hind post.

Everyone in the system -- vets, pharmacies, and manufacturers -- profit when dogs are over-vaccinated and non-expired medicines are thrown down the drain.

Billions of dollars are wasted every year as a consequence.  But do you have to be part of that? 

No, you do not.

Meanwhile, at the Crufts Dog Show

Sunday, March 11, 2018

On This Day We Began to Save the World... Again

On this day in 1941, FDR signed the Lend-Lease Act, the first overt step to save Britain and the rest of Europe from the Nazis.

Look for Nicholas Petit to Win Iditarod

Anything can happen
(and it frequently does), but it looks like Nicholas Petit, 39, has a good chance of winning the Iditorod. This is Petit's eighth Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

When Ya Gotta Go, Ya Gotta Go

I Made a Bumper Sticker

Fear-based Aggression in Small Dogs

Fear-based aggression in small dogs is pretty common and this is how you deal with it -- by facing it head on, not letting the dog push you away, and normalizing gentle touch with rewards for calm behavior. This is RJ Hebner at Zenergy Dog Training saving a life. Nice job!

Use Urban Leopards to Stop Rabies in India?

The rest of the world vaccinates, spay-neuters, and rounds up and kills stray dogs, but some folks in India are arguing that that nation's solution to rabies is... wait for it... urban leopards.

A little background: It's estimated that 30 million stray dogs live in India, where about 20,000 people a year die of rabies, almost all of it contracted from stray dogs.

That's where the leopards come in.

About 40 percent of the average Indian leopard’s diet consists of feral or stray dogs.

A population of 35 urban leopards in Mumbai, researchers estimate, "may consume about 1,500 dogs per year, saving around 1,000 bite incidents and 90 potential rabies cases.” The presence of leopards was also estimated to save $18,000 in dog management costs.

Of course, leopards are not without their costs.

 In 2017, there were seven leopard attacks in the Mumbai area.  Even if all of those leopard attacks were fatal, however, urban leopards would still represent a net gain in human life.

Of course, the case can be made that the simply catching, drowning, poisoning, and shooting as many feral dogs as possible, while providing free vaccination to as many pet dogs as possible, is the most obvious way forward. 

Which it is.  

That said, every leopard attack around Mumbai gets a tremendous amount of fear-driven media coverage.  Perhaps it's time for a little more attention to be given to the upside of urban big cats? 

After all the data suggests that, taken as a whole, they are doing more good than harm.

Fighting the Flightless... and Losing

In 1930s Australia, it was decided that there were too many Emus out in the western bush, and so Australia's military armed itself with Lewis machine guns, and went out to war with the birds .... and promptly lost.

The Great Emu War of 1932, was waged to address public concern that there were a large number of emus "running amok" in the Campion district of Western Australia. In truth, the Emus (as many as 20,000) had invaded because farmers had made stock tanks and ponds for water and planted an abundance of wheat.

Despite having machine guns and vehicles, the Australian military only managed to kill fewer than 1,000.

Part of the problem was that the birds were so fast that, no matter how many were gathered in one spot, after the first few shots they’d all scatter faster than any man could run.

At one point, Meredith ordered a Lewis gun to be mounted on the back of a truck to try to keep up with the running birds. It still didn’t work — it turns out that a truck that can do 65 mph on a paved road struggles to make 20 mph over rough land, and you can’t stabilize a machine gun on a static mount or shoot with any accuracy. Worse, a single truck can only chase one emu at a time, and the hundreds of others will invariably run away from the vehicle, making a clean getaway almost every time.
Australian Army machine gunners were drafted in to take on the big new threat — emus. Picture: The Advertiser/Krischock.

Years later, The Sunday Herald reported that Major Meredith had found the emus almost impossible to defeat.

“If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world,” he was quoted as saying. “They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus whom even dumdum bullets could not stop.”

The paper also quoted another emu-hunter as saying: “There’s only one way to kill an emu — shoot him through the back of the head when his mouth is closed, or through the front of his mouth when his mouth is open. That’s how hard it is.”

Following their battle field defeat to the emus, the Australian government decided to incentivize local farmers to engage in self-help using a bounty system.

Instead of brute-forcing the culling of emus, the government set aside money for bounties and let the farmers themselves do the hard work of tracking and shooting the emu menace. This was much more effective. In 1934 alone, nearly 58,000 bounties were claimed.

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Inbred Village Dogs of Crufts

This piece is from the July 2010 issue of Dogs Today.

Have you noticed that in the world of dogs, names and places never quite line up?

Look at Welsh Terriers.

I know digging men in Wales, but none that use a Kennel Club Welsh Terrier to hunt fox to ground.

I know digging men in Scotland, but none that use a Scottish terrier.


There are no Kennel Club Afghan dogs coursing in South Central Asia.

Show line German Shepherds?

Not too many of those herding sheep in Germany!

And in central Africa, the locals are not using "Congo Terriers" that have Kennel Club papers.

A Congo terrier?

What on earth is that?

The Kennel Club's Pariah Dog

The “Congo terrier” was discovered by explorer Georg Schweinfurth on an expedition to Africa in 1869.

He called the dogs "Niam-niam dogs," which described the tribal region where they were found, and he noted they were often quite fat, as the Niam-niam people loved dogs so much they thought nothing of tossing them into the stew pot for dinner!

The dogs themselves were spitz-like and barkless, with erect ears and curled tails, as is often the case with primitive dogs. Where the Niam-niam dogs were different was in their relatively small size, their short coat, and the fact that they often featured a white band of fur around their neck.

Though Schweinfurth called them Niam-niam dogs, similar animals were found across a wide belt of central Africa, stretching from Liberia in the West, to Sudan in the East.

Like many other primitive landrace pariah dogs, the Niam-niam dog had only one estrus a year and rarely barked, but instead vocalized with howls, yodels, and whines similar to those of the wolf, coyote, dingo, or jackal.

Of course, a largely silent dog in thick cover is not necessarily an asset. No matter; this deficit was corrected by African hunters who attached a wooden "bell" or clapper to the necks of their dogs so they could more easily drive small game out of thick cover.

In 1895, the Niam-niam dog was displayed at the Crufts dog show as the "Congo terrier."

The name did not last too long.

In the late 1930s, the Congo Terrier was formally brought into the Kennel Club and renamed the "Basenji" -- a Bantu name that meant "village dog."

The first order of Kennel Club business was to craft a narrow appearance-based "standard" for the Basenji. This was not hard to do, as only seven dogs were initially admitted.

Clearly these seven dogs were perfect specimens of their type!

Inbreeding to Failure

Seven dogs, of course, is not much of a gene pool. In fact, the gene pool of the Basenji never grew much bigger than this. Over the course of the next 60 years, no more than 30 dogs comprised the entire founding stock of the breed in the U.K., the U.S., and Europe.

Inbreeding within this small stock of foundation dogs quickly led to a crushing genetic load and a rise in disease.

The first issue to raise its head was Hemolytic Anemia. When testing was started, twenty percent of all Basenjis carried this recessive gene. What to do?

The answer: Cull.

And cull they did, with about 18 percent of Basenjis weeded out of the American Kennel Club gene pool over the course of a decade.

Of course, this deep reduction in an already narrow gene pool sped up the inbreeding merry-go-round.

Within a decade, another health problem had popped up: Fanconi syndrome, a type of kidney failure. A health survey found 10 percent of all American Basenjis had Fanconi syndrome, and of these dogs, 76 percent were being bred.

What to do?

The Outcross Solution

The solution, of course, was an outcross.

The good news was that there were was no shortage of excellent dogs in Africa. After a 1988 visit to the Congo, AKC judge Damara Bolte reported that:

"In five days and 800 kilometers of driving, we saw at least 200 dogs of which only three were not Basenjis."

Could anyone driving down the road see the same number of Welsh Terriers in Wales, or Scottish Terriers in Scotland? Impossible!

In 1990 the Basenji Club of America successfully petitioned the American Kennel Club to open the AKC registry to African dogs, and 12 were admitted.

The addition of 12 African imports helped, but it was not enough. With popular sire selection, inbreeding within the Basenji gene pool continued. And how could it not, with less than a dozen dogs comprising over 95% of the Y chromosomes in Kennel Club dogs across the U.S., Europe and the U.K.?

Form, Function and Fantasy

As noted earlier, Basenjis have always been found across a wide swath of central Africa. The early dogs came from the Sudan, Sierra Leon, Liberia, the Cameroon, and the Congo.

In 1998, an American Peace Corps worker in Benin reported the country was awash in Basenjis, and that they could be acquired for as little as a dollar.

In 2004, an American imported six of these dogs, and they were shown at the 2004 Basenji Club of America Nationals. By then, however, the AKC registry had once again closed.

The Basenji Club petitioned the AKC to reopen the registry. This was done in January 2007, with a new closing scheduled for 2013.

Will opening the AKC Basenji registry a second time really matter?

Yes and no.

It will not matter to the Basenjis in Africa, which have never needed saving.

The hunting dogs of Africa are protected by those who hunt them. In this regard, they are no different from the working terriers of Wales and Scotland, the coursing dogs of South Central Asia, or bird dogs the world over.

But the Basenji community will not be dissuaded. They insist they are "saving" a breed.

But what is it that they saving, and who are they saving it from?

One thing is clear: Basenji enthusiasts are not trying to save hunting dogs in Africa.

You cannot save dogs in Africa by removing them from the continent, and you cannot save a hunting breed by not hunting them at all.

So what are the Kennel Club enthusiasts really trying to save?

Mostly, they are working to preserve a romantic notion of their own making.

For their breed to be special, a Basenji has to be more than another village dog, even if the word "Basenji" means just that in the Lingala language of the Congo.

And so, Basenji owners tighten down on what they see as the “special essentials” of their breed.

They insist no Basenji should ever bark, and never mind if some always have, and that a barkless dog is such a liability that the Africans themselves bell their dogs when they hunt.

And, of course, all Basenjis must have a tightly curled tail, and no matter that a tightly curled tail serves no function in the field.

Function? The American and European Basenji is not about function! This dog is about form and fantasy.

Hunting? What does hunting have to do with the Basenji? Nothing!

Why should Basenjis be held to a working standard when the Kennel Club Welsh Terrier and Scotty are not? This is the Kennel Club, not the African bush. Form trumps function; everyone knows that. And form is maintained by inbreeding right up to the edge of genetic failure. Why should the Basenji be any different in this regard?

And so Kennel Club Basenji enthusiasts hold tightly to a breed standard invented in England based on seven dogs. And when shown pictures of small hunting dogs in central Africa that do not quite conform to every aspect of "the standard,” they sniff disdainfully.

“Those aren’t Basenjis. Those are nothing more than village hunting dogs."

Right. No irony there!

Just ask any Welshman with mud on his boots, calluses on his hands, and a terrier at his heels. What does he know of Welsh terriers? Not a thing!

And so we come to the ultimate irony: What are Basenji enthusiasts trying to protect their American and European dog from?

Why inbreeding within the closed registry system of the Kennel Club, of course!

The Not So Great Danes at Crufts

What a wonderful thing it would be if the dog show announcers told the whole truth!

When the Great Danes are paraded around the ring, the voice over would tell the audience that the Kennel Club's own breed health survey says these dogs are dead, on average, by age 7, with over 30 percent dying of inheritable heart issues, 15 percent from bloat (gastric torsion), and 5 percent being put down for temperament.

And what about costs? 

Embrace Pet Insurance puts the cost for diagnosis and treatment for bloat at $1,500-$7,500, the cost for diagnosing and treating heart issues at $500-$1,500, and the cost of treating hip dysplasia at $1,500-$6,000. As Embrace Pet Insurance notes:

Pet insurance for Great Danes costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Great Danes are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Crufts and the Dead Dogs in the Freezer

About one in four Harlequin Great Danes are born deaf, and most of these dogs are put to sleep -- something a professional breeder might "take care of" on their own (and on the cheap) by simply slipping a puppy into the freezer or "bucketing" in a tank of water.

Buy a Harlequin Great Dane and you become complicit in the routine and predictable euthanasia of puppies born with preventable problems.

Who wants to be part of that?

The Soon to be Dead Dogues of Crufts

A parade of Dogues de Bordeaux arrive at Crufts. They are not likely to live too much longer.

Some numbers from the UK Kennel Club Breed Health survey of (N = 71 dogs) gives a glimpse of the extent of the health problems associated with this breed:

  • The average Dogue de Bordeaux is dead from disease or veterinary intervention at the age of 3 years 10 months.
  • The median age at diagnosis for all Dogue de Bordeaux disease occurrences was just 1 year and 10 months.

Time to Show Ryan Zinke the Door

Over at Hatch magazine, Ted Williams writes "With friends like Ryan Zinke, who needs enemies?":
“I’m a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist,” declares Zinke.

Well, no; he’s not. TR, the first president to designate national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, used that authority widely and wisely. Zinke is doing his best to prevent new national monuments and vandalize existing ones. For example, he held listening sessions on a draft bill that would impede future designations by requiring approval from state governors, counties and property owners. And he has made recommendations that would shrink Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and degrade current management. As a congressman Zinke stridently opposed and voted against designation of national monuments....

...Hunters and anglers are too easily seduced by candidates who bloviate about the Second Amendment or flounce around at photo ops with borrowed fly rods and shotguns. Sportsmen need to pay more attention to what those candidates do and less attention to what they say. And when politicians and appointed officials work against fish and wildlife, sportsmen need to get loudly on their cases, then vote the right way.

Was James Watt really worse than Ryan Zinke, as claims? We’ll have to wait and see. But if Zinke stays his current course, it can be argued that Watt was better in that he was sufficiently stupid to get fired for bragging that he’d hired “a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple.”

Stupid, Zinke is not.

Read the whole thing.

Close Encounters of the Feline Kind

On March 1, 2018, Adam Bartsch was out on a walk looking for shed antlers and setting trail cameras along the Campbell River in British Columbia, Canada, when he looked up to see he was being watched by a very large male Mountain Lion who was no more than 20 meters away. Bartsch attempted to scare the cougar away 3 times and, after the third attempt, the big cat left and Bartsch was able to walk out out of the area without incident. "No Mountain Lions were harmed in the making of this movie."

Charles Crufts Never Owned a Dog

An owner prepares her Chihuahua for the Crufts judges.

Charles Cruft, pictured below, was born in 1852 into a family of jewelers. Charles had no interest in his family's business, and upon graduation from college in 1876, took a job with American James Spratt, who had set up a new venture in Holborn, London selling "dog cakes".

Charles Cruft did not own a dog, but he was an ambitious dog food salesman, and traveled around England and Scotland drumming up business for Spratt. Cruft's travels brought him in contact with large estates, sporting kennels and the first commercial dog breeders in the U.K.

While traveling to Europe in 1878 hawking Spratt's dog biscuits, a group of French dog breeders invited the young Cruft (just two years out of college!) to organize and promote the canine section of the Paris Exhibition, which he did.

Upon returning to England in 1886, Crufts took up the management of the Allied Terrier Club Show at the Royal Aquarium at Westminster, with an eye towards making money.

The first formal "Cruft's Show" was booked into the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington in 1891. This was the first in a long series of dog shows that Crufts held there, each of them making an appealing profit for Cruft who still did not own a dog himself.

In 1938 Charles Cruft died, still having never owned a dog, and his widow ran the 1939 Crufts Dog Show. Three years later Mrs Cruft felt the responsibility for running the show too demanding and, in order to perpetuate the name of the show her husband had made world famous, she asked the Kennel Club to take it over and it was sold to them.

The 1948 Crufts Dog Show was the first under the Kennel Club auspices.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Everyone Party!

Today is the 65th anniversary of Stalin’s death. Here is how an Ukrainian immigrant celebrated the occasion. 1953