I’m often asked to explain my personal breeding project (Backcountry Companions). Sometimes it’s people who are against crossing dog breeds asking, and other times it’s people who are open minded and interested in what I’m doing.
Recently there has been some misinformation floating around the interwebz about it, so I figured it was time to write down what I’m working to create. This blog post will act as a temporary place to share my thoughts on my program until I have completed my website.
My name is Brad Anderson, I am a dog lover and breeder. I have worked with many different breeds, but the breeds I have focused the most attention on is the Kai Ken (Yamabushi Kennel), Kishu Ken (Hakuzan Kennel), Central Asian Ovcharka, Caucasian Ovcharka, and the West Siberian Laika. My efforts in these breeds has always been focused on increasing diversity in the North American populations via introgression with dogs from their country of origin.
About The Project
First, I want to be clear about something – I’m not working to create a new dog breed. I never plan to give a name to this cross or work to get it registered in any type of club. This project is a personal project – I’m working to create the type of dog I want.
Also, I am not trying to “fix” things I don’t like in other dog breeds. I am not trying to improve on any of the dog breeds I use in the cross. That’s not the point of this project.
What I’m working to create is a weather tolerant spitz-type backcountry companion, with natural predator aggression, that’s biddable and easy to hike off-leash, quiet, and clean. Size is not very important to me, however I would like the dog to be large enough to pack, but small enough to be carried out of the backcountry if injured. It’s my goal to minimize dog aggression and reactivity, and breed for solid nerves and health.
I want this cross to be efficient (not requiring large amounts of food or water) and able to spend weeks in the bush with their companion without the need for much gear – comfortable in hot and cold, rain or snow.
While some of the pups produced will likely make good hunting dogs, I am not actually trying to create a hunting dog cross.
I’ve owned and loved many dogs of many breeds, some of which, on paper, one would think would fulfill the role I am looking to fill with this cross. However, in my experience that is not the case. Dog aggression, quarrelsome behavior, weak nerves (fearful behavior) and hypervigilance, poor health, no “off” switch, and obsessive barking are just a few of the things I have seen in dog breeds I’ve owned in hopes of fulfilling this role. Sure, one could find a dog that could fill this role, but I would like to be able to produce dogs where the majority consistently fit this role.
Dog aggression is a particularly difficult thing to deal with in a dog meant to be a backcountry companion and/or a hunting dog. Hiking along a trail, or even off trail, there’s always a chance you’ll run into a fellow hiker/camper/hunter with a dog. Often this happens when you are least expecting it and not prepared for the encounter. Having a companion dog who acts indifferent toward the random dogs you run into is a huge advantage.
People in dogdom tend to obsess over what breed is used in a cross. I’m not one of those people. The dogs I have selected to be used in my project have less to do with their breed and more to do with the individual dog. If I have a dog that I feel will add some traits I am looking for, without compromising other traits, then I will use it in my program – breed doesn’t matter that much to me.
With that said, because I know people still want to know the breeds used in the cross, here is a list of the breedings I have done so far. Please keep in mind I am in the very early stages of creating the foundation for my project so all the crosses so far have been using Smokey as a base for the foundation. I’m looking forward to reaching the point where I can start crossing my foundation dogs while adding some new dogs to the cross. My hope is to keep a COI of below 5% – so I will be working to minimize inbreeding.
Tentative future litters… Riki (Yushoku Kishu Ken) x Smokey Flash (Juko x Smokey) x Vega (Dogo x Kangal x Dane x Tosa) Picasso (Ibizan Hound) x Aurora (Kaiju x Smokey)
It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write a blog post. I guess it’s because I’m a little burnt out on all the topics I’d typically write about: tech stuff, programming stuff, photography, and dogs.
With that said, I still get asked a lot about these topics, especially dog related topics. One topic I get asked about frequently is guard dogs and guardian breeds. So, I thought I’d take a few minutes and put my thoughts on owning guard dogs down in a blog post in case others might find this info helpful.
First, let’s summarize what exactly “Guard Dog” means. A guard dog is a dog that guards your property, possessions, and/or livestock. He/she, at the very least, should be expected to scare off a potential threat or “bad guy”. Guard dogs differ from “Watch Dogs” and “Personal Protection Dogs” in many ways, and if you’d like to read more on this subject check out my post “Guard Dog vs. Watchdog”.
Before I dive into what I’m about to write, I want to make it clear that these are my opinions. I’m not an expert on anything. What I am is a guy with an above average understanding of canine behavior & training who’s owned and worked with many different types of dogs – most of which have been those in the “Guardian Breed” and “Hunting Breed” categories.
The harsh reality of owning a Guard Dog
When deciding to get a Guard Dog I feel it’s important to answer these questions first before you select a breed or a breeder:
Do you want this dog to be social with guests at your home?
Do you expect this dog to engage (bite) an intruder? And by “bite” I mean a real damaging bite, not a nip or fear bite – one that sends the person to the hospital with potentially life threatening injuries. Most dogs will fearbite if pushed; few will actually give a real bite.
Are you really willing to accept the liability associated with owning a dog who might bite an intruder (like the fact it will likely mean the dog will be PTS once he/she performs his/her role IRL)?
If you answered yes to 1 and 2, then, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but you’re shit out of luck. There is simply no such thing as a dog who is 100% safe around guests who can also be trusted 100% to bite an intruder. That’s the simple reality of a guard dog. A dog who will bite a potential threat will need to be put away when you have company over. Takes the romance out of it a bit, huh?
Maybe reconsider your options?
Before you get upset and stop reading my thoughts here, maybe stop and consider the fact you may actually be interested in a watch dog and not a guard dog? Let me give you some statistics that might help you reconsider getting a dog that will bite an intruder.
Based on findings from a small sample of burglars in a study in Kirkholt (Forrester et al., 1988xviii; n=76), over half of the offenders felt deterred by occupancy, visible burglary alarms or high visibility at the point of entry. Findings from a small group of active burglars (Cromwell et al., 1991xix; n=30) indicated that for a sample of 30 active offenders, 90 percent stated that they avoided selecting houses that appeared to be occupied and 70 percent were deterred by the presence of a dog.
A. Ask the experts about home security. Jack MacLean (Secrets of a Superthief) reports the results of a survey of over 300 prison inmates who’d been convicted of burglary or other residential crimes. Three of the questions were about dogs and home security:
Would dogs scare you away?
65% said that dogs of good size and unfriendly persuasion would scare them away
35% said no dog would scare them away.
Based on reassessment of responses, MacLean concludes that over 95% would indeed be scared away.
Houses without dogs. A dog’s presence is a close substitute for human occupancy, and most burglars avoid houses with dogs. Small dogs may bark and attract attention, and large dogs may pose a physical threat, as well.31 On average, burglarized houses are less likely to have dogs than are non-burglarized houses, suggesting that dog ownership is a substantial deterrent.32 (Security alarms, discussed below, are also a substitute for occupancy.)
Based on my research, it seems that 90% of criminal activity directed at your home and occupants would be eliminated by having ANY dog. But the effectiveness of the dog increases based on color and size of the dog. A large black dog, of any breed, is considered a better deterrent than, say, a small white dog.
With that, perhaps an English Mastiff, Leonberger, Tosa Inu, or Newfoundland would suit the needs of someone who answered “yes” to questions 1 & 2 but “no” to question 3 above.
Don’t buy into the hype
Most of the guardian dog breed descriptions are filled with hype and historical bias written by breed purists and enthusiasts hoping to “sell” the breed. This is really no more than mental masturbation. I think it’s important to connect with honest and down-to-earth owners of the various breeds to get a real understanding of owning a breed before you base your decision on what info you can gleam from the interwebs and breed purists. Even better – go meet a few breed representatives yourself.
I’ve come to realize that most breeders have a biased view of the breed. The breed for them is what they want the breed to be, or what they produce in the breed. This is why it’s important to find a breeder who shares your views on the breed you’re interested in. If a breeder gives you any reason to doubt that their views are in line with yours, then I’d pass on that breeder – or breed.
Don’t set a dog up for failure!
In the guardian dog world – especially the large molosser-types – it’s become a trend to try and “sell” the breeds as “all purpose” guardian dogs. Many go as far as to test their dogs in activities that are alien to the original function of the breed. For example: testing a Livestock Guard Dog (LGD) in Personal Protection Work (like biting a sleeve) or herding work. These breeds were not “designed” to take the human-pressure associated with PPD work or to have the energy and drive to do herding work. In this situation, the dog (breed) is being set up to fail, and that’s a shame. I’d stay away from any breeder who tries to sell their dogs for work in something they were not originally meant to do.
I would avoid breeders who claim their breed will excel in work it wasn’t meant to do – unless they have solid proof. A great example of this can be found in the Ovcharka breeds, where they’re regularly tested in a man work scenario. Sure Ovcharka are human aggressive dogs, but they are not dogs selected to have the temperament needed to take real human physical pressure, and therefore shouldn’t be worked (or expected to work) in a man work type of scenario. Put them behind a fence and let them give a big scary display – this is something they excel at like no other breed. Set these dogs up for success and to display their best qualities!
So you want a “maneater”?
Now let’s say you answered “no” to question 1 (being friendly with guests), and “yes” to question 2 (biting an intruder). Assuming you’ve done the research to understand the liability associated with owning a dog who WILL bite an intruder and are ok with it, you’ll also need a safe and secure place to put your Guard Dog. You’ll need to be diligent in how you manage a dog like this – always thinking ahead of potential situations that might trigger them to act aggressively so you can set them up for success.
It’s also important to understand that a true guard dog – a dog who will engage an intruder – will likely not be a dog you want to treat as a “normal pet”. This is a dog who will have certain natural instincts and fixed behavior patterns (FAPs) that could trigger their aggression in situations where it’s not appropriate – especially with young dogs. So you will need to use your judgment when doing things like playing rough and introducing the dog to high stimuli environments and situations.
A dog expected to perform a function like this needs to come from a breeder who tests and selects for a stable working dog – focused on this specific type of work. Many breeders will go to extremes to convince you that their dogs will perform well in this role, but if they’re not testing their dogs to engage human threats then you cannot trust them to produce a dog that will work for your needs/wants. And, unfortunately, most breeders do not test their dogs in a way that will give you any hope of a guarantee the dog will perform the role you’re interested in him/her performing.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Protection Sports is NOT the same as Personal Protection work or guarding work. Protection sports is built around training the dog to bite under very specific and obvious conditions. A dog trained like this knows it’ll be biting a thing (usually a sleeve or bite suit) the second it’s taken out into that specific environment or under those obvious conditions. This is useless for someone looking for a PPD or Guard Dog. Be wary of breeders who work their dogs in Protection Sports (ringsports and Schutzhund) and claim they will protect – one does not equal the other – a dog trained in protection sports, or a pup from dogs tested in protection sports, will give you NO guarantee that the dog will actually protect in a real world scenario.
I write this info from personal experience, having purchased dogs from breeders who “worked” their dogs (in protection sports) only to end up with a dog who’s a great sporting dog, but not a guard or protection dog. There are very few breeders left in the world working and selecting their dogs in roles that are suitable for a guard dog. If you think you’ve found a breeder who produces dogs who will suit your need, be sure to get a second opinion as it’s very easy to be caught up in the idea of getting a new pup – hell, feel free to contact and ask me my opinion. At the very least you’ll be pointed to someone who knows a thing or two about real aggression and not just simply a person doing sport work with their “protection dogs” or trying to sell you a false promise.
LIVING AND DYING WITH BLACK BEARS
By William J. Carpenter
Written in memory of Casey-JoI (Border Collie circa 1988 – August 25th, 2003)
August 25th, 2003 was a tragic day at Moraine Point, NWT (61° 36.2′ N & 115° 38.00′ W) on the west shore of Great Slave Lake where my ex-wife and I resided at the time. During her 6th attempt to chase black bears off our property since August 20th, and although assisted by 4 of our Canadian Eskimo DogsII, Casey was killed by a bear. I was also attacked and bitten on the right upper arm by the same bear, with my life likely saved by the aggressive and fierce reaction of my dogs that immediately attacked the bear while he was upon me, thus giving me a chance to escape. Before I go into the details let me provide a little background.
I have been involved with Moraine Point and area for nearly 23 years as it is the location of my lodge and I have always fully recognized that it was in the heart of black bear country. The near by Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation (FFMC) fish packing plant that had operated every summer was a prime attraction for bears. Not only was it a constant source of fish scent as an attraction for bears, but it was in the past a summer food source for my dogs. Also on a regular basis culled (unmarketable) fish were taken from the FFMC plant to the far side of Moraine Bay and dumped just offshore. The food source had fed many of the resident bears for several generations and even several wolves for all the 23 summers that I have spent at Moraine Point Lodge located only 2 km from the plant. I have always taken the approach that as we are in their territory we need to keep a tidy clean camp so that we do not attract the bears. However if we did see a bear, I have focused on deterring the bears or chasing the bears off by way of all acceptable means including bear banger guns, various noise makers, throwing rocks and the use of dogs that have been at our lodge. I have never viewed the bears as a serious problem at Moraine Point although our former business partners John and Cristine Bayly may disagree as a bear during one summer back in the early 1980’s did swipe or bite at Cristine while she was in a tent.
Over the many summers that I had spent at Moraine Point the bears were more of a problem to the FFMC and fishermen or perhaps their level of tolerance for the bears had been lower than mine. I personally did not agreed with the solutions at the fish plant as often the fishermen or the FFMC plant employees seem to have focused entirely on killing all bears. In fact one summer approximately 12 bears were shot including 2 cubs that were left hanging in the trees after they were killed. Over the years I have personally deterred numerous bears from remaining in the proximity of our lodge and until last year I never had to destroy a problem bear. Casey and at least one Eskimo Dog were always with us in recent years and in 1996 Casey was fitted with a set of bells she wore around her neck so we would know her whereabouts. To the amusement of many, she even wore them in Yellowknife. On September 1st, 2002 my wife (at the time) and I moved permanently to Moraine Point and shortly after our arrival we did encounter one bear that persisted in try to acquire food from our dogs and in spite of numerous attempts over several days at chasing him off, he finally crossed the magic line and attacked and slightly injured a tied up dog. It this point I took corrective measures and killed the bear and reported the kill to the Hay River office of Resources Wildlife and Economic Development (RWED). Upon examination the dead bear was found to be middle aged; but had a recent bullet wound to the abdomen resulting in a herniated and infected area under the skin. It was likely the same bear that was shot at the FFMC plant some weeks earlier with a 30-30 caliber rifle.
In general I have personally taken the approach that it was still quite fine to occasionally see bears or any other wildlife for that matter provided that they were not of danger to me or any of my guests or friends. After all we have been pleased to see moose, caribou, bison, wolverine, wolves, foxes, martin so why not bears.
The summer, 2003 was different, as for a start the FFMC plant due to economic reasons did not open. Yet amazingly we saw no bears until August 20th. We had expected to see bears much earlier but concluded perhaps falsely that they were successful in acquiring food on their own after the closure of the fish plant.
Bear 1-2003 as I numbered our first sighting, showed up on the shoreline in front of the lodge early in the morning of August 20th and it was headed for the dogs that were tied on the beach. None of the dogs were loose and Casey was in the house. The bear was approaching the dogs just as I opened the front door to yell at him. Before I yelled he had reacted to the noisy dogs, which by then were causing quite a fuss and he turned to go back in the direction he came from. I ran down and released 4 of the dogs that were buddies to Casey and called her to have them all chase after the bear as has been our routine to deter any intruding bear. True to form, the task was undertaken with the same eagerness and excitement and led by Casey off they went in full pursuitIII of the bear.
Bear sighting 2-2003 occurred on the morning of August 21st just prior to our planned departure to Yellowknife. This bear (whether it was the same bear as 1-2003 I do not know) was at our compost barrels but also chased off by Casey and her 4 Eskimo Dog companions. While away for 2 days the dogs (a total of 14 Eskimo Dogs and Casey) were all tied along the beach on a chain that had movement on end cables to allow each dog to have access to the lake water). Casey was happily and safely located between Kurugrook and Whiskers two of her favorite dogs.
Bear sighting 3-2003 occurred upon our return to Moraine Point late on Saturday afternoon August 23rd but it was over at the old FFMC plant where the pilot had to land the airplane due to rough water in front of our home. This bear appeared as a tall, long legged thin bear that was up on the wooden dock pacing back and forth as if wanting to reach out to us as he stretched his neck out over the water. The pilot taxied the plane back and forth waiting for the bear to leave, then after several minutes the bear then went down to our docking site on the shore and came out into the water a couple of feetIV The pilot shut off the engine and we shouted loudly at the bear and banged the side of the aircraft to make additional noise. In short order the bear moved off allowing us to dock the plane. He was last seen going into the bush right on the trail that led to our place. After unloading we left our gear and supplies in a building at the plant and noisily walked home being sure to watch for the bear. Although we did not see any bears, we saw 7 piles of bear droppings on the 2 km trail home. Upon arrival at the house we saw very fresh bear droppings right adjacent to the house and the garbage burning barrel was knocked over with all the burned cans spread out.
Without incident we returned to the fish plant with our Honda Trike and wagon for our supplies taking with us Casey and the 4 dogs plus we carried a bear banger. These 5 dogs remained loose around our house after we returned.
That evening just after supper, we heard the other dogs on the beach raising a fuss and noted a bear on the shore just beyond the furthest tied dogs. This being bear sighting 4-2003 was dealt with in the same usual manner in that I carried a bear banger, took Casey and the 4 loose dogs down and within moments they too saw the bear and gave chase sending the bear into the bush and uphill away from the lodge.
The next day Sunday August 24th, bear sighting 5-2003 occurred just outside of the small cabin about 100 ft from the main lodge. With out any need for assistance or encouragement the dogs, being Casey, Kurugrook, Spirit, Whiskers and Edéhzhíe again chased off the bear with no further sightings that day.
All the dogs except Casey spend the night loose outside. In the morning August 25th at approximately 8 AM Casey was eager to go out and I let her out but noticed that the other dogs were not present. I observed that Casey roamed around the yard with her hackles up and was keenly interested in something. Shortly after I saw that the others dogs were all returning very excited having just come in from the forest. Casey immediately joined her companions and within minutes they ran off with Casey at the lead and we heard her loud barkingV off in the forest as she does when she encounters an animal of any kind.
I was about to put on boots to follow them when something very noticeable occurred. Casey’s barking ended and suddenly from off in the forest I heard the long drawn out stress call of the 4 Eskimo Dogs all giving off their low deep pitched “woof – woof – woof”. A few minutes later just as I got outside all 4 Eskimo Dogs eagerly greeted me but no Casey, which at first appeared normal as she is often first after a bear and last to return. However after a few minutes and with no Casey in sight and with no distant barking or sounds of her bells at all, I thought perhaps something was wrong. I also saw that Kurugrook has a sizeable bleeding gash across his forehead just above his eyes. I did not know exactly quite what direction or route to take to look for her but as I entered the lower land behind one of the old buildings it was clear that the dogs wanted to go in one particular direction and not any other. I kept saying lets find Casey. Foolishly, as hindsight now tells me, I was on my way without a rifle but was carrying only the bear banger with 6 shots and one projectile unit that serves as an option to send off a unit that explodes at a distance with a very loud bang.
Unusual about this trip with the dogs was also that Spirit (who is subordinate to his father Kurugrook) was eagerly leading the way (something Kurugrook never allowed him to do) and he was most definite about his route which was with a pronounced right turn off the main path going up Cranberry Hill as we call the trail I was on. The other dogs followed him as I did and he then stopped and waited not just for them, but as soon as I was near he turned this time to the right and went uphill striking off on a new but definite route and stopped and waited again. By this time the dogs were all with hackles up and acting very alert stopping and smelling ahead and looking up the hill. Spirit led us on a bit further through a small clearing and then into denser forest and suddenly there it was bear sighting 6-2003. Some 45 feet ahead of me in the forest and far too close was a black bear. The dogs were immediately giving their stress “woof – woof- woof” and were running at the bear that was standing over dear Casey who was obviously dead and being eaten.
Hind sight again is wonderful and I now know that I should have quickly retreated and gone home for my rifle, but I did not. Instead, almost in anger at seeing the bear eating my daughter’s dog, I raised the bear banger, inserted the one projectile unit and fired the gun wanting to scare off the bear from Casey. I saw the projectile land in front of the bear exactly where I aimed but to my amazement and shock the projectile was a dud and went off with a low “poof” and a bit of smoke instead of the extremely loud bang or boom that was suppose to occur. Within a split second the bear charged me running full speed the 45 feet and it was not a bluff. With full knowledge from all I have readVI and heard that we are not suppose to run from a bear attack, I don’t think I would have had time to run far (prosthetic knee and all) even if I wanted to, for in less than a heartbeat the bear was at me, up on his hind legs and had his jaws clenched onto my right upper arm at the triceps area. This was not a bluff but certainly was a provoked bear protecting a food cache. I knew I was in big trouble and with the bear’s head within a foot of mine as he held onto my arm I think I quickly punched him in the nose with my left fist (left handed punches were always my best defense since a kid), and I yelled at him as loud as I could. Or maybe I yelled first and then punched, but in either case the entire scene caused a reaction from the dogs too, and the next thing I realized was that 2 of the four dogs were fiercely attacking the bear from below and suddenly I was free. With the dogs now between me and the bear I immediately looked for a retreat route and I recall the odd decision I was making and that was to select a route with thick bush and trees for protection in case he attacked again, or to go for the easiest but unprotected route. With the bear having moved back over Casey again, I quickly retreated by the easier route. I called the dogs and headed back home realizing I had a sore upper arm from the bear bite. In a few minutes I was at the house and met by my ex-wife who was very concerned as she heard the story of Casey’s death and my brush with the bear.
I checked my arm and saw that it was not a serious wound. The top of the triceps had two upper canine teeth marks and on the underside there was a single but deeper abrasion from a lower canine tooth. We applied a topical antibiotic ointment to the area. The oddity was that there was only one lower canine mark and having dealt with carnivore bites at my veterinary clinic over the years I was expecting to see 4 canine tooth marks. We next proceeded with plans to return to the site with our guns to kill the bear. I first phoned the RWED office in Hay River and reported the incident to Al Helmer the Resource Management Officer and advised that I was going to shoot the bear.
My ex-wife had our 20 gauge shotgun loaded with 3 shells that were the lead slugs instead of birdshot and I was with the 300 Winchester Magnum rifle and we headed back to the area accompanied by the 4 Eskimo Dogs. The plan was to each be in position to see the bear when we approached the area and to have one of us take the easiest shot while the other acted as a backup. As we carefully worked our way back, following the retreat route that I had earlier used, we carefully noted where we were in proximity to the kill site and the dogs grew more excited as we approached. However as they were well in front of us I knew we would have some warning, but it may call for quick action if the bear came out to meet us.
As expected the bear was found at the site and in fact briefly rushed out a few feet to challenge one of the dogs. All 4 dogs had actually formed a bit of a semi circle around the bear but as all were between us and the bear it was a matter of taking careful aim at the bear without risking a dog as all were constantly moving but occasionally stopping. The moment came and I aimed at the shoulder area and fired my rifle. The bear was hit, ran about 10 feet and fell whereupon I shot it again. The dogs immediately let out their woofing sound and each ran in and out from the downed bear. We discovered that the bear had already buried Casey with moss and other vegetation. The dogs came over to sniff her showing great interest with Kurugrook even pawing at her foot as he often did to get her to react to his playing. Whiskers showed the most reaction and repeatedly came and smelled Casey and then would go to directly back to the bear letting out a long and unusual scolding type noise as a cross between her distress “woof’ and an angry short “howl”. She repeated this behavior often with her brother Edéhzhíe joining in too. We briefly looked around the area and left to get the Honda Trike and wagon to take back Casey’s remains.
When back at the house I phoned to the RWED Hay River number and was immediately asked by the woman on the phone if we got the bear. I replied yes and she expressed her concern that we had so much trouble and had lost a dog during the incident. After taking a short break we made plans to retrieve Casey and again returned to the site with the dogs and carrying our firearms. Upon arrival at the site, Whiskers was very vocal again, so I took the bells of Casey’s neck and called over Whiskers as the dog that perhaps would be as courageous and eager to deter bears as Casey had been and put the collar with bells on her neck.
We arrived back with Casey’s remains and decided to bury her in front of the house at an area that she often lay in the sun. It was a sad afternoon and although I am not a person who personifies my dogs, and while I do treat them as “work” animals, there did seem to be some sort of awareness by the 4 Eskimo Dogs that something was not right. We dug a grave in the glacial till that made up the under burden beneath a thin layer of black humus. As if to watch and supervise the digging event Casey’s head hung slightly out of the box, and the other dogs simply lay about on the grass as we completed the task. Before closing the grave, I clipped a snip of hair from the 4 dogs and from their heads and I placed all of it with Casey. What occurred for the rest of the day was a great deal of mourning and a re-examination of the entire event. The dogs seldom left the grave area and as we went into evening, over 5 hours later, Spirit (the dog, which in such a pronounced manner led me back to where the bear had killed Casey) was the only dog remaining. He was still sleeping next to the area when morning came, and was ignoring the other dogs.
August 26th, 2003, the day went well and we partially returned to doing normal work. After supper I decided to pump water and with two dogs. Whiskers and Edéhzhíe accompanying me I went to the pump located at the shore of the lake in front of the house. When I saw that the tank was full, I shut off the pump and returned to the house. Five minutes late I was looking out the parlor window having a coffee when suddenly I heard the bells of Whiskers and saw her and Edéhzhíe running down to the lake shore by the water pump all excited. It was bear sighting 7-2003, and I knew that there was more than one bear in the vicinity of my camp. The bear was heading towards the beach where the other dogs were tied up. I ran and got my rifle and as I fired a quick shot over the bear the 2 dogs quickly moved in close to the bear and turned it back in the direction it had come from. As it was retreating and being chased by the dogs I fired another warning shot which proved to be a real stimulus for the dogs and they chased him even harder for a few more dozen yards. With the dogs and carrying the gun I made my way down the shoreline for a very short distance to see if the bear was still around. However as it was near dark I did not linger long and returned back to the house, with the two dogs very excited and worked up over the chase.
August 28th, 2003, after a full day of no bears I decided to retrieve the bear carcass out of the bush as it was near our trail and likely would attract other hungry bears or predators. With the Edéhzhíe, Whiskers and Spirit as the dogs, I took the Honda Trike and wagon plus chains and cables to haul the bear out of the dense forest. I carried a gun for protection. Without incident I hauled the bear out and placed it out in the open at the end of the gravel point just opposite our house and visible across our own cove. The bear served as fall dining for the insects, ravens, gulls and later eagles. Throughout the coming winter it may feed the occasional weasel, wolverine or wolf and by spring it will have played its role in fertilizing the shore or nearby water.
From August 20th to August 26th, 2003 there were 7 bear sightings at Moraine Point which proved to be more than one bear. Using dogs as the main focus of a bear deterrent program did cost the life of one dog. She was “Casey” a very active 14 year old Border Collie who with several of our Canadian Eskimo dogs was always there to lead the chase and attack any intruding black bear. The same bear (# 6- 2003) also bit me on the right upper arm and I attribute the lack of no additional injuries to the fierce response of some of my dogs who attacked the bear while it was biting me.
With the closure of the Moraine Bay FFMC plant in the summer of 2003, there was a potential black bear problem as several generations of bears have grown up, effectively being well fed bears from the regular disposal of culled fish that were dumped on or near the shoreline on the opposite side of the bay from the plant. These bears may not have learned to be active hunters or predators and with this food source ending, they may pose a danger for the next few years until they disperse or are eliminated by natural or other means. In spite of the loss of one of my dogs, I still conclude that having several loose Inuit dogs around the yard is likely the most workable bear deterrent program for our location.
Happy hunting in doggy heaven Casey, Lara and I will miss you.
I Casey-Jo was originally my daughter’s dog but as with many parents I inherited the family dog for my keeping when Lara headed off to university in 1990. She was known to many who visited my Bowspringer Kennels & Veterinary Clinic in Yellowknife as the yard dog who greeted all in a friendly manner. Casey was also well known for her natural herding instincts as she would help round up any Eskimo Dog puppies that I let loose in our Yellowknife yard and it was during one of those times in 1999 that she first met a little pup who was strong and bold. My Inuit friends who saw him told me to name him Kurugrook which means “strong little man”
II The oldest of these 4 dogs was Kurugrook born in 1999 in Yellowknife but much of his life has been at Moraine Point. His son “Spirit” was born in Yellowknife in 2002 but raised since the age of 3 months at Moraine Point. The other 2 dogs were sister and brother “Whiskers” and “Edéhzhíe” born on the first day of fall 2002 at Moraine Point.
III The eager pursuit was all part of a game that Casey played as the old matriarch dog who had directed the behavior of all our recently raised 7 dogs over the last few summers. Her game was to chase squirrels with the assistance of the then puppies that as they grew older continued to have a subordinate yet protective behavior to this dear old girl and were eager to give chase in support of her interests. This often was with any small mammal such as foxes and squirrels but occasionally with Boreal Bison who ventured into our side of the point and the same behavior occurred fortunately with black bears. It all served as good warning to us that some animal was in the vicinity and we therefore were alerted. In the spring of 2001 Casey and Kurugrook chased off one spring bear freshly out of hibernation 3 or 4 times before it learned to stay away.
IV This was fairly typical behavior for Moraine Bay bears who often ventured out into the water on the far side of the bay to meet the boat dumping culled fish.
V The Eskimo Dogs do not bark as do other domestic breeds of dogs, but rather are very vocal with a high pitched whine or howl,. When under extreme stress, or danger however they do sound a pronounced alarm in the way of a slow drawn out “woof – woof – woof” all in a low deep pitch.
VI It was only the night before that I was reading out the bear section in “Survival Secrets” (Brian Emdin, 2002, Spotted Cow Press Ltd), which said “In bear country you are more likely to be struck by lightning than attached by a bear.”
“On the problem of the origin of the domesticated dog and the incipient (aboriginal) formation of breeds”
By Alexander Vlasenko (Moscow, Russia)
Translation By Vladimir Beregovoy [ www.laikabreeds.com ]
In search for an answer to the question about the ancestors of the domesticated dog and where and when it originated, it is not enough to use an approach from the standpoint of one branch of biological science, such as genetics, morphology, comparative anatomy or ethology. Controversial results of genetic investigations and paleontological findings require the use of a complex analysis of obtained data.
Manwell and Baker (1983) wrote that the investigation of the origin of the dog is hampered by “disciplinary dogmatism” and that the origin of the dog out of the wolf is still a hypothesis. Coler-Matznick (2002) thinks that dogs originated from small Pleistocene wolf similar to the Dingo. Not sharing completely the traditional or the innovative point of view, I will try to explain and substantiate my position. To start with, I will discuss aspects of the biology of the wolf (Canis lupus) as a primary candidate to be an ancestor of the domesticated dog, which is supported by phenotypical (including behavior) similarities, the results of investigations of DNA and the fact that easy interbreeding between dog and wolf results in fertile offspring.
The contemporary species of wolf is subdivided into 25 subspecies, one of which, the Indian wolf, is separated by some researchers as a different species, based on DNA studies. All subspecies of wolf are capable of breeding with dogs and, moreover, different data indicated that from 5% to 40% of wolves of European populations actually are wolf/dog hybrids. There are breeds of dogs obtained by deliberate interbreeding with wolves: Czech Vlach, Saarloss Wolf-dog, Italian Lupo and currently developing in Russia the Volkosob. Certain wolf subspecies of North America have certainly resulted from interbreeding with dogs. Besides, based on DNA analysis, it is well known that the American Red Wolf (Canis rufus) is a result of the natural interbreeding of gray wolf with coyote, which took place during the last 12,500 years (most likely during the last 2,500 years). In captivity, jackal/wolf, jackal/dog and even coyote/jackal hybrids were obtained, although the natural ranges of jackal and coyote do not overlap. Thus, the fertility of mixed offspring alone cannot be considered as evidence of the origin of dog from wolf.
Furthermore, we should take into account that the contemporary gray wolf evolved under powerful anthropogenic pressure. The wolf became a permanent foe of humans and was subject to extermination since the emergence of livestock. This pressure influenced the wolf’s behavior. We know from publications by I. A. Arshavsky (1982) and G. Kh. Shaposhnikov (1966) that the environment with intensive functional stress results in changes of both phenotype and genotype. In other words, environmental stress is a driving force of evolution. Another side of the environmental pressure is the systematic extermination not only of the most bold and trusting wolves in the population, but also whole subspecies and, possibly, species. Besides, a considerable decline of wolf populations often results in the appearance of feral wolf/dog mixes, which become absorbed by the rebounding wolf population. Therefore, it is highly probable that the contemporary wolf is different in many qualities from that wolf, which existed at the time of the origin of the domesticated dog and the results of DNA analysis of their affinity should be treated with caution.
During recent years, international group of researchers led by P. Savolainen has shown that all dogs originated during a short time period between 5,400 and 16,300 years ago in the southern part of eastern Asia (south of the Yangtze River) out of small group of a few hundreds of individuals of small Chinese wolves. Based on archeological data this time range is between 11,500 and 16, 300 years. The idea of the east Asian origin of the dog out of an extinct Asian subspecies of wolf, Canis lupus variabilis Pei, 1934, is shared by other researchers (Olsen and Olsen, 1977) based on studies of morphology of skulls of wolves and dogs of different populations. However, Tsuda and co-authors (1997) came to conclusion that the dog was domesticated multiple times in different geographic regions.
This point of view is corroborated by the fact that mt- DNA extracted out of skeletal remains of pre-Columbian dogs revealed sequences not detected in samples taken from more then 350 contemporary dogs (Leonard et al. 2002).
Parker et al. (2004) distinguished four groups of dog breeds with definitely different fragments of mt-DNA. They described the process of the evolution of dogs of east Asian origin like the sequential divergence from a primordial wolflike ancestor, first, the Australian Dingo, then the Basenji and, finally, Laika-like northern dogs. They consider Asian sighthounds the last group diverged from the dog’s ancestral species.
Lindblad-Toh with co-authors (2005) determines the age of the domesticated dog within range of 15,000 to 100, 000 years and proposed multiple domestications. Finally, the group of researchers of R. Wain (2010) published their results suggesting that the haplotypes of dogs are the closest to haplotypes of the Middle Eastern wolf and that wolves of the Middle East were the source of the genetic diversity of the domesticated dog. How can we understand these controversial results, if it is well known that the radiocarbon method determined the age of the oldest fossil skulls of domesticated dogs as 26,000 years (Cauvet Cave, France), 33,000 years (Razboinichya Cave, Altay) and Predmosti (Czech Republic) and even 36,000 years (Goye Cave, Belgium)?
There is no clear answer to this question so far. One possible and most likely cause of the discrepancy in the data is the extinction of several ancient populations of dogs caused by epidemics, such as distemper. In the past century, in the vast territories of the Russian north and in the Far East distemper almost wiped out nearly all dogs. If dogs originated in southern Asia and then they were first to pass selection for resistance to a virus caused disease, then these dogs migrated to other countries, where their chances of survival would be considerably higher than those of local dogs. It is also possible that the mechanism of “the molecular clock” works not quite as well as modern geneticists believe and the process of domestication and evolution of the dog in different regions of the Earth might be accompanied by a parallel channeled process of recombination of DNA, and likewise the recombination of DNA might take place in the wolf. As a result, the comparative analysis of DNA produced an error.
The results of the Russian-Vietnamese Tropical Center expedition, 2006-2009, the purpose of which was to run a survey of the variation of the aboriginal dogs of Vietnam, allowed the analysis of the origins and evolution of the domesticated dog from a different perspective.
In 2008, in the Ma River Valley (Khanh Hoa Province) I discovered a very small population of wolf-like dogs, extremely similar to Indian and Arabian subspecies of wolves. The distribution of this variety of dog is limited in a small territory populated by Man people, one of the tribes of Miao (Hmong). According to available data, these people are one of the first ethnic groups to have settled in contemporary Vietnam, which took place about 1000 years ago, near the once large principality of Champa. A high percentage of the people of this principality originally came from India. If 150 years ago Ch. Darwin had reliable information, one of his sources reported that in the upper Gung River the local people had similar dogs. We can believe that this was one hypothetical way of populating Indochina with wolf-like dogs. According to paleontological data, the gray wolf never existed here. However, Dinesh K. Sharma, Jesus E. Maldonado, Yadrendradev V. Jhala and Robert C. Fleischner (2003) are sure that the Indian wolf (from India and Pakistan), which they consider a separate species and part of Himalayan wolves, did not leave a trace in the mt-DNA of the dogs of Vietnam and, therefore, could not originate from their populations. This does not matter. The fact of the survival of an aboriginal population of dogs with considerably greater similarity to wolves than to the breeds of wolf hybrids created by breeders, who were trying to maximize their similarity to wolf by selection, is most interesting. This indicates that the presence of morphological characteristics of domestication is not a necessary feature of domesticated dogs. The very fact of the existence of relic wolflike dogs tells us that at the first stages of the domestication of the wolf morphological (phenotypical) changes did not exist. It was simply a socialization of wolf to life with humans. This is done by Australian aborigines with the Dingo until present time. Probably in the past, the behavioral makeup of the wolf allowed this to be done without many difficulties. Thus, a wolf could become a dog and at the same time remain a wolf and even continue interbreeding with free feral wolves.
Based on the description above, I can say that some variety of wolf was one of ancestors of dog, but it was not enough to claim that only one wolf subspecies was the dog’s ancestor. Fossil remains of wolves cannot be considered a priori as belonging to the same species, because identical skeletons could belong to animals with different soft parts, systems and behavior, including way of life in general.
The development of morphological characteristics typical of domesticated dogs could appear at a considerably later time, after the wolf became domesticated. Perhaps, the traits of domestication in skeleton appeared last. Comparative morphology shows that in domesticated dogs of different breeds the same muscles can be attached not only to bone, but also with an expanding area of attachment, involving other muscles, tendons and skin and differ in the degree of differentiation and integration without changes in the shape of the bone.
Analyzing incipient breed formation (performed by the methods of primitive peoples’ selection), general trends in changes of dogs’ phenotype should be taken into account. Such markers of domestication as piebald color, lop ears, changes in shape of tail and structure of coat, etc. appear spontaneously as a result of systematic selection for behavior. These changes cause a shift in the chain reactions of regulatory mechanisms of homeostasis (D. K. Belyaev and L. N. Trut, 1989). The emergence of these characters in the offspring is not necessarily accompanied by their fixation in the subsequent generations, unless they are deliberately selected for breeding. The direction of selection depends primarily on the practical needs of life and economic activity of a particular ethnic group. Therefore, I see two basic types of selection for visible phenotype, deliberately or not, used in the process of breed formation, depending on the purpose of keeping dogs.
The first type includes cases, when dogs were needed for guarding or hunting. These dogs should retain a body size for optimal performance and have new conspicuous characteristics of the appearance, allowing them to be quickly distinguished from other animals. In this instance, the choice of traits for selection is determined by the benefits for working qualities and survival.
The second type of selection includes cases, when dogs are considered as food. Then, the best result is achieved by selecting for juvenile traits. Infantile behavior is displayed as dependence on a higher ranking individual in a social group, in this case on the human owner, and a reduction in the size of the territory in which it roams. In physiology this selection favors neoteny, the acceleration of development and the ability to breed at a younger age. In the body structure, preferential traits are a shorter head with a dish face, a stronger pronounced stop, a domed skull and a smaller body size. A smaller dog requires a smaller amount of valuable protein rich food and it shortens the period of susceptibility to diseases caused by malnutrition. Besides, a small dog can be eaten by the family at one meal time, which is also important in an environment with a hot climate and without refrigerators. Such dogs become better adapted to survive on poor quality food, refuse and even coprophagy (Coppinger, R, and L. Coppinger, 2001).
Because the ancestor of domesticated dogs with its characteristic “wild type” met the requirements of humans, it means that at that time there was no need to distinguish domesticated dog from its wild relatives. This is because they did not present any danger and did not cause any harm to humans. Therefore, the most likely reason for breeding dogs with a different appearance emerged with the appearance of livestock and poultry, subjects to depredation by wild Canidae. At the same time, there was an additional reason for selecting in favor of different dogs. Under conditions of a shortage of hunting grounds and conflicts between adjacent tribes, it was important that hunters could tell apart their own dogs from dogs of neighbors and conspicuous variation in dogs became beneficial. However, in either case, the cause-effect link is traced between population increase, transition to a settled way of life, deficit of food resources obtained by hunting and gathering and the establishment of certain complexes of domestication traits in local populations of dogs.
This is well illustrated by comparing the pattern of the distribution of dogs of certain aboriginal breeds with the dispersion of different peoples in North Vietnam. The aboriginal dogs of Vietnam represent a unique model for study of microevolution, the mechanisms of domestication and the primitive formation of breeds.
In general, the dogs of North Vietnam are represented by a population with very diverse composition, in which all morphological markers of domestication are present. Persistently inherited morphological types are characterized by their own peculiar and limited complexes of characters. Many of Vietnamese breeds are absolutely identical to some old well known breeds, or their original types, of the world in their appearance and body structure. The regions of the world, where these breeds are traditionally bred, are separated by thousands of kilometers from the region of our study. The majority of the breeds we found in North Vietnam can be united in groups of close origin, in which transitional types and ancestral forms can be clearly observed, and they are represented by a series of forming variation.
The dogs I named “Viet Dingo” are smallish dogs with infantile traits. These dogs are associated with the culture of rice paddies and typological traits of local populations allowing the tracing of directions of development of land for this form of agriculture. Thus, the maximal number of typological variants of Viet-Dingo is found in the eastern provinces of Lang Son and Tainguen, where Tai people live. Dogs of Viet-Dingo type are most numerous in North Vietnam, but their share in the local population declines from east to west and to north-west. The frequency of Viet-Dingo is highest mainly in the fertile valleys cultivated for rice production, but also in other regions with conditions unfavorable for agriculture, where people are poor and do not keep big dogs, because of food shortages. Moving along the river valleys to the west and north-west, the typological diversity of Viet-Dingo dogs declines and local populations are represented only by one-two types instead of the six types found in the eastern provinces. Judging by the variation series, this group of dogs originated as a result of the interbreeding of small Dingo-like dogs with Laika-like dogs either in north-eastern Vietnam or in the border territories with China.
A large type of aboriginal dog is bred mainly by the Hmong, who until recently made a living by hunting, and the distribution of these dogs is clearly associated with the distribution of the Hmong people.
It is possible to say that most probably the bobtail dogs of the Hmong, which are very similar to the now lost bobtail type of Karelian Bear Dog, called Shong were distributed from the Northern Province of Ha Gyang along the Shonglo River and further to the south into the province of Son La. Dogs that are phenotypicaly similar to Siberian Laikas and Arctic sled dogs (Figs. 1-5) are distributed in the form of a semicircle from the northern part of Lao Cai province, along the Shongda River, across northern part of Yen Bai, Tuyen Quang and Bac Can provinces to the center of Cao Bang province, in other words, from northwest to southeast and further to the east. These dogs are most typical in Lao Cai province and are rather common, but they decline numerically to the east. In Lao Cai, we found the best looking representatives of this breed, very similar to big Japanese Laika-like dogs, and populations of ancestral Chau-Chau (Bakha Dog) are concentrated here. Smallish Laika-like dogs similar to Karelo-Finnish Laikas and Spitzes are most likely the product of mixing with small Dingo-like dogs (Fig. 6).
The series of variation is best represented in the group of hound-like dogs, starting from a primitive type identical to the hounds of Tibet, West China, known in Russian literature as Mahugou (Fig. 7), to a primitive sighthound type (Fig. 8) and to various variants of analogs of ancient Russian scent hounds (Fig. 9) and dogs similar to the modern Foxhound (Fig. 10), Labrador Retriever ( Fig. 11) and to dogs very similar to herding dogs of Scotland (Fig. 12) and also to types of livestock guarding dogs of Tajikistan and Tibet (Figs. 13), Caucasian and Karakachan Dogs, but relatively smaller in size (Figs. 14-16).
Different forms of dogs I included in the scent hound type dogs group are distributed mainly in provinces of Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Tuyen Quang. They were most diverse in Lao Cai province. The uniqueness of this series of variation is in the fact that there is nowhere else in the world a continual transition between types of dogs considered by cynologists as breeds of absolutely different origin and purpose. The theoretical projection of the series of variation in both groups in the direction of diminishing specialization of the appearance brings us to a prototype (archetype) common to both Laika-like and hound-like dogs. I was lucky to find a type of dog that combined in its appearance basic traits of both groups. I think that the pictures alone show that this prototype is one step different from the wolf. However, if we consider the variation series of the scent hound group, selecting only light and medium built dogs, their hypothetical ancestor would be very different. In this case, the variation series will be ascending to dogs that I tentatively named the Big Chinese Dingo.
The North Vietnamese type of Big Dingo (Figs. 17-18) has differences from the South Vietnamese Dingo, which were probably caused by interbreeding with Laika-like and scent hound-like dogs. I can say that this type is closer to the wolf, especially to the Tibetan wolf. The big Indochinese Dingo is not numerous in Vietnam, although it occurs in most of the regions surveyed by the expedition.
Its southern morphological type (Fig. 20) is very similar in the appearance to the basic, not mixed, type of Australian Dingo. However, the Australian Dingo often has domestication markers and pedomorphic traits characteristic of the North Vietnamese “Viet-Dingo”. According to the results of molecular genetic studies, the time of divergence of the Australian Dingo from Dingo-like dogs of Southern China, Taiwan and Polynesia, belonging to the same form as the “Viet- Dingo”, was determined as 5,000 years (Savolainen, 2002). The Big Indo-Chinese Dingo is probably considerably older than the age of populations in the regions surveyed.
The Australian Dingo had been secondarily changed to running wild during several thousands of years until recent times, when a considerable part of its population became mixed with stray dogs of European and American breeds. Nevertheless, it retained and possibly even obtained new, stabile morphological traits identical to the Big Indo-Chinese Dingo. Under conditions of genetic isolation and feral life, the Australian Dingo did not develop traits similar to the wolf or jackal, surpassing those in variation of the Big Indo-Chinese Dingo.
On the other hand, it is even more surprising that in the territory of Indochina a form of the Big Indochina Dingo survived. In the best representatives of it, “wild” traits are even more pronounced than in the Australian Dingo. While being selected for behavior under conditions of domesticated life, the Big Indochinese Dingo should be subject to destabilizing selection and, living among Dingo-like, Laika-like and houndlike dogs, it should be genetically influenced by interbreeding with them. However, for some reason, some of the Big Dingos, living in different corners of Indochina, remain absolutely identical to type and have the same measurements, body structure and appearance. Such stability of morpho-type most likely tells us that other morpho-types, occurring around these dogs, are its descendants.
Based on these observations and considering the origin of dogs diligently, it would be reasonable to suppose that the Big Indochinese Dingo retains an unchanged complex of morphological characters of its ancestor, just as the wolf-like dog of the province of Thanh Hoa retains the traits of the wolf.
Unfortunately, the program of studies of the aboriginal dogs of Indochina was cut short at half way and we did not have enough time to the complete survey of dogs of Southern Vietnam. Now, using fragmentary and scarce data we can restore the general pattern of typological diversity of the dogs of the southern center of formation of breeds in Vietnam. Probably, its center was near the shores of the Siam Gulf or Andaman Sea. If the Australian Dingo carries intermediate traits of southern and northern Vietnamese dogs, then New Guinea Singing Dogs belong to the southern center of breed formation, to which dogs of Southern and Western Indochina also belong, as well as the dogs of the eastern shores of India (Figs. 21).
The result of the comparison of morpho-typical traits of dogs of the southern center of breed formation compels us to accept that the northern morpho-type of Big Indochinese Dingo was primary in relation to the southern one. The northern morpho-type was almost certainly ancestral to the variation series of big Dingo-like dogs. However, with small Dingo-like dogs of the southern center, the picture is not that simple. Among small southern Dingoes, there is one type, which represents the regular result of the reduction of body size, but it is relatively rare. The majority of small dingoes are represented by the variation with too big a hiatus, separating them from the Big Dingo, and, according to known regularities of changes in body structure caused by diminishing size; they cannot be drawn directly out of the Big Dingo.
In the example of the longhaired variation of small Dingo-like dogs of the southern center of breed formation , it seems that the ancestral form of this group had much in common with the morpho-type of red wolf.
The southern morpho-type of Big Indochinese Dingo could be the result of interbreeding the northern morpho-type with an ancestral form of small southern dingoe. Because nothing is known about the existence of hybrids of the Dhole with dogs and nobody ever checked the possibility of such crossing, we can propose that at some time in the past either a sibling species of Dhole was domesticated or the evolution of big and small Dingo-like dogs of the southern center of breed formation was going on independently at a different time and in different regions.
The origin of small Dingo-like dogs out of wild ancestors is corroborated by the unusual physical peculiarities of the New Guinea Singing Dog that are poorly specialized in running but are well adapted to climbing and agility. Dissection of a small Dingo-like dog killed by an accident, purchased during the work of the expedition, showed that the amplitude of rotation movement of the forearm was about 1.5 times that of an ordinary dog. This dog was very similar to the New Guinea Singing Dog. Study of the proximal radius-ulna joint allowed us to discover the presence of a sesamoid bone, which protects the joint on the lateral side. Unfortunately, I could not confirm the presence of this trait in other representatives of this morpho-type, because of the premature closure of the research program. A similar and not constantly present structure in about the same part of body, the sesamoid bone in the tendon of musculus supinator, is found in the coydog (coyote and wolf hybrid, “Miller’s Anatomy of Dog”).
While discussing topics of comparative anatomy, I will make clear the following: we are interested in the possible inheritance of anatomical peculiarities from wolf to dogs of different breeds, because we have chosen the wolf as the “gold standard” of a healthy anatomy. The goals of my work are rather practical, they are usually considered as topics of veterinary medicine. First, until now, I had in my possession corpses of wolves sampled from populations of Tver, Rostov and Voronezh provinces, all territories known as places where in recent times wolves and dogs have interbred. In two cases I found characteristics of possible crossing with dogs. Second, these territories are very close geographically, and, therefore, I cannot extend the obtained results to all subspecies of wolf across its vast geographic range.
Evaluating the direction of morphological changes, I assume that specialization to running (both wolf and dog are specialized runners) always results in the reduction of the complexity of the locomotion apparatus numerically, for example, the structural consolidation of originally separate muscles with the enhancement of their integration.
Anatomically, dogs of different breeds conspicuously differ from each other. It is not quite a joke, when we say that the anatomy of dog does not exist; there is only morphology, because the range of variation is too big for one species. When we compare dog with wolf, supposedly dog’s ancestor, sometimes we find a mismatch. Some of the traits may be inherited and some may be lost. There are known cases of the loss of muscles as a result of dwarfism or specialization and some muscles can become hypertrophic. Finally, a new trait can emerge, not existing in the ancestral form. However, if we find an archaic trait in some breed of dog, which is absent in the supposedly ancestral form, but is typical of a higher taxonomical rank, then there is reason to doubt whether the modern wolf was ancestor of the dog.
Speaking of hereditary succession, not all found discrepancies can be easily explained. Thus, in sighthounds, whose locomotion apparatus is more similar to that of the wolf than that of other dogs, peculiarities of the integration and differentiation of the muscle-tendon system could be inherited from the wolf or obtained independently in the process of specialization. Therefore, comparing wolf and dog anatomically, I offer only one example, which in my opinion is vulnerable to criticism.
As I mentioned above, some scientists draw a line between wolf and dog based on craniological indexes. I paid more attention to the structure of the frontal bone. As a result of research of skeletal material in our collection, I found the following:
– The posterior chamber of the frontal cavity of the wolf (Figs. 22-23) has a complex architecture, which is relatively low at the medial margin, curved and higher positioned at the entrance and opening into the anterior chamber, which is connected with the dorsal nasal passage.
– In dogs (except the Hortaya, German Shepherd Dog and East European Shepherd Dog, which are similar in these features to the wolf) the posterior chamber of the frontal cavity (Figs. 24-26) is large and high, with a simpler architecture and has a wide, straight and low positioned entrance opening immediately into the nasal passage.-In the wolf, the area of the perforated plate is approximately 1.5-2 times as large as that in the dog, proportionally to body size.
The differences described above are easy to explain by functional anatomy. Frontal cavities, besides their function of a protective cushioning of the frontal bone, serve as an important part of the thermo-regulation of the body. One major problem of marathon runners is the disposal of excess heat generated in the muscles (Coppinger, L&R. Coppinger, 2002). In the process, maintaining the optimal temperature of the brain is most important (Schmidt-Nielsen, 1972). The main way of cooling the body of the dog and the wolf is by evaporation from the surfaces of the tongue, mouth and nose. However, the perforated plate, bordering the hard wall of the brain and with the rostral epidural net, serves as an effective radiator of heat as well. This way of cooling the brain is important to such an extent that in puppies, from birth to about one month, when heat loss is dangerously high, the perforated plate is separated from the brain wall with pads of fat (Fig. 27). Under conditions when the air temperature is significantly lower than body temperature, the role of the frontal cavities is to protect the brain from hypothermia.
A thin layer of warm air with its low circulation becomes beneficial and this is what we observe in the wolf. However, in the tropics, when high air temperature is combined with high humidity, conditioning the body temperature with this mechanism does not work. In the thermo-regulation of the aboriginal dogs of Vietnam, compared with breeds of European origin, perspiration from the abdominal skin and the reduction of heat generation in the body become very important. In the tropical environment, there is a high danger of overheating shock caused by strong insulation even when weather is cloudy and foggy. Short hair on the forehead of the dog cannot protect the brain from overheating. The surface of the body exposed to the sun can heat up to 10-20° C higher than the ambient air temperature. In such a case, to prevent the transmission of heat from the surface of the forehead to the brain, the frontal large cavities with fast air circulation coming from the nasal passages through a wide entrance opening is very helpful. Thus, the analysis of the structure of the frontal cavities in dogs and wolves shows their original adaptation to different environments, which required different mechanisms of thermoregulation. In my view, this is a strong argument in favor of J. Koler-Matznik’s view that Dingo-like dogs did not originate from the wolf.
Summarizing the results of our work, I think that most likely the domesticated dog originated from several subspecies of wolf and a now extinct wild form of Dingo, not excluding other ancestral forms.
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Evidence from inter- and intraspecies polymorphisms in the Dloop
region of mitochondrial DNA between dogs and wolves.
Genes, Genetics and Systematics 72: 229 – 238.
Z-L. Ding, M Oskarsson, A Ardalan, H. Angleby, L-G.
Dahlgren, C. Tepeli, E. Kirkness, P. Savolainen, Y-P. Zhang.
Origins of the domestic dog in Southern East Asia are
supported by analysis of Y-chromosome DNA. Heredity, 2012,
The trail dog forum is meant to be a place where people who enjoy spending time out on the trails with their dogs can connect and share. It’s a place to discuss your favorite hiking spots, training issues, the best hiking gear for you and your dog, or to just share your latest adventures.
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There was a time, when aboriginal dogs were the only dogs available. All of today’s popular dog breeds have been derived, at one time or another, from ancient aboriginal dogs. Then, they have been improved by deliberate selection and crossbreeding to achieve the desired combination of characters of appearance and behavior. Through long histories of life in confinement, good care, and trainability for obedience, they became more or less helpless, if left on their own. They are sometimes called man made breeds or cultured breeds. Many other animal breeds were also obtained by selective breeding and keeping under conditions of good care in a strictly controlled environment and they also declined in fitness and became more dependent on food and protection provided by people. The modern concept of a breed is based mainly on knowledge accumulated during work with this kind of breeds. Dogs, which do not fit any known breed listed in the catalogs of cynological clubs, remain “invisible” to the public and most often are not considered as breeds at all. On the other hand, if the major kennel clubs adopt an aboriginal breed, it also becomes changed and converted into another cultured pedigree breed. Thus, each of such transactions does not help the preservation of most of the remaining ancient unchanged breeds in the world, which aboriginal breeds are.
The aboriginal breed and subspecies in zoology
Aboriginal dogs are natural breeds, which have never been developed by any planned genetic manipulation, deliberate selective breeding and intentional crossing of one breed with another. Old travelers, when they found them with people in far away countries, commented about the benefits, intelligence and serviceability of the local dogs to native people. At the same time, they used unflattering epithets calling them “mongrels”, “poorly bred Collies”, “mangy beasts”, “ugly dogs”, etc. Generally, travelers, whose eye was trained on European purebreds, considered aboriginal dogs just local mongrels and it was not too far from the truth. However, those were peculiar mongrels, which now we prefer to call aboriginal breeds, though some dog lovers and experts are reluctant to apply the term “breed”, when discussing aboriginal dogs.
Aboriginal have drawn the interest of professional biologists only recently, because of raised public concern about the preservation of nature and national heritage. There are surprisingly few serious scientific studies on aboriginal dogs per se. In fact, they are very much like wild animals, because nobody can claim authorship over any particular type of aboriginal dog. The most that we could do is to discover and describe them like we discover and describe wild species and races. Geographers and ethnographers discovered aboriginal dogs and left a few more or less sketchy descriptions, from which we now are trying to collect knowledge about their origins and historical past. Now, many of the aboriginal dogs are extinct or have become seriously threatened with extinction and an increasing number of enthusiasts are eager to get involved in their rescue by importing them from their native countries and taking good care of them, popularizing and keeping pedigree records with the hope of the AKC, FCI, national kennel clubs, etc recognizing them. Usually, there is no lacking of interest to try a new “unspoiled” breed. The question is: to what end? Do we need to spoil aboriginal dogs, too? Before getting seriously involved in projects of rescue and preservation of aboriginal breeds it is necessary to understand how and why they are different from cultured breeds and take a closer look at the very concept of aboriginal breed. The real preservation of aboriginal breeds can be only the preservation of them as aboriginal breeds together with their environment and work for people.
One of the most striking traits of all aboriginal dogs is their naturalness. Actually, they are more similar to subspecies of wild animals, described by zoologists, than to classic breeds (cultured breeds) of domesticated animals. Indeed, each population of a peculiar type of aboriginal dog has its own unique geographic range of distribution and it is always associated with a certain ethnic group. Because they are domesticated animals and associated with people, they may be safely called, therefore, ethno-geographic breeds. At the same time, like wild animals, each of such ethno-geographic breeds is a product of slow evolution under conditions of life and work for people. It has been subject to natural selection and selection by people in favor of better working qualities. Selection by people has been very subtle, sometimes; it is called “unconscious” selection, which may be considered rather like another form of natural selection, than what we call selection based on modern knowledge of animal husbandry, animal science and genetics. This is because aboriginal dogs live and work for people under conditions of nearly unlimited freedom, are never, or rarely, confined, are irregularly fed (sometimes not fed for weeks), mate freely and sometimes raise their puppies without the assistance of people. They live with humans rather like symbiotic animals than like animals captured, forced, “enslaved” or spoiled by domestication. Of course, the aboriginal dogs obtain their own benefits from sharing their lives with people, such as protection from wild predators, sometimes from the weather and food shortage. The latter is particularly obvious, where people and dogs live in extremely harsh climates, such as in the polar north or in deserts, where both people and dogs became literally interdependent for survival. However, everyone, people and dogs, had to work to obtain their daily bread. For example, a bad working dog would most likely not be treated very well, would possibly left unfed and most likely not bred; and it would be left to die in time of famine or it would be killed for its pelt to make mittens. Although dogs never or rarely lived confined and mated freely, puppies of favorite bitches or puppies sired by the best working males, if the sire was known, were spared more often to be raised as a replacement for adult dogs growing older. This kind of selective mortality worked rather by eliminating the least fit, than by preserving a few of the best dogs. Cyclic fluctuations of productivity in nature, game density and all kind of natural calamities affected both dogs and their owners. Natural selection never stopped.
Another similarity of aboriginal dogs to subspecies of wild animals is in the fact that aboriginal breeds are the oldest unchanged breeds in the world. Indeed, according to fossil and archeological evidence dogs of the Laika or sled dog type have been around people since Neolithic times. Excavated saluki type skeletons were dated to 2,500 years BC and so was the Australian Dingo. Powerful livestock guarding dogs are very old as well.
Similarity between aboriginal dogs and wild animals extends even further, if we take a closer look at their behavior, when they are working for people. Among dog trainers, aboriginal dogs are well known by their independent character. They often call them hard heads, stubborn and even stupid. This is because aboriginal dogs easily get bored, when taught to do circus type tricks or other behavior unnatural to them and so are tame wolves. This is what happens when wolves are trained to do similar unnatural things. Nobody calls a wolf stupid… However, in their native environment, aboriginal dogs show great intelligence, performing amazingly complex tasks and they do it all by themselves. They quickly learn what and how something should be done without much teaching, training and directing by people. They all work naturally. To start working, the aboriginal dog does not need a “stick and carrot” training system. The very work is the reward to them. To start working, an aboriginal dog puppy needs to be raised in the right environment. At a certain age, every puppy easily picks up the idea what to do and how to do it. Thus, aboriginal sight hounds, called Tazy, Saluki, Afghan, Bakhmul and Taigan learn to hunt by themselves, when they are taken into an environment where fast running animals occur. In fact they are born, live and grow up in such an environment near their owner’s tent or yurta. A hunting Laika puppy starts finding squirrels and barking under a tree with squirrel or grouse from the age of several months, if allowed to run free in the woods and the same puppy will switch to higher value game, when it matures without much encouragement. A good Laika knows what should be hunted and how. Sled dogs start pulling from the age of four months, being harnessed with older dogs or helping women or children to pull small sleds with firewood; aboriginal sled dogs are excellent hunting dogs and are used to hunt big marine mammals. Livestock guarding dog puppies start working in concert with older dogs, taking part in the protection of the herd by running free with older dogs and under conditions of being raised with the herd. To all these dogs, their work is a natural part of their everyday life. This behavior is very different from the behavior of “willing to please”, quickly learning how to sit, come up, and roll over and other similar things by cultured breeds. The aboriginal dog is doing work beneficial to people, but it acts like a wild animal, because it is preprogrammed genetically. The whole chain of action at work of an aboriginal dog is strikingly similar to the chain of action of wolves, which are also preprogrammed to live and hunt in a pack. However, with dogs, human masters and other domesticated animals became either a part of their pack or a vital element in their life and environment. To them, livestock is no longer game, but a part of their protected territory. To a hunting dog, the game shot or caught also belongs to the master. He will feed the dog in later on. Now, I will illustrate conceptual difference between an aboriginal breed and a cultured breed based on the observations of people with experience of dog behavior.
This is the Basenji, one of wildest aboriginal breeds and the Cocker Spaniel, one of most admired cultured breeds. Coren (1994), a dog trainer, compared the behavior of 79 breeds and evaluated their intelligence by comparing a dog’s capability to learn and obey the commands of the trainer. In his book, “The Intelligence of Dogs: Canine Consciousness and Capabilities” he wrote that the Cocker Spaniel was among the most intelligent of dogs, but on his list the Bsenji was 78th among 79 breeds he tested. This book was among the best sellers of that time and it was even discussed in morning TV program in the USA. The poor Basenji was publicly humiliated! However, by coincidence, there was a serious scientific study done almost 30 years before Coren’s book was published, in which Scott and Fuller (1965) compared the behavior of the Basenji and the Cocker Spaniel in experiments designed for obedience and problem solving. The authors also used the Sheltie, the Fox Terrier and the Beagle in their research project on the genetics and the social behavior of dogs. Among these five breeds, only the Basenji was a truly primitive aboriginal breed. In experiments, involving voice, such as to stay quiet on the scales, restraining the dog’s activity by being put on the leash, obedience, being inactive and remaining on a platform at a distance from the trainer, the Cocker Spaniel was the easiest to train. Basenjis were the hardest to train. The other three breeds tested fell in between the two. In goal orientation tests nine-week-old puppies were trained to run and solve problems to reach the goal. In this and other problem solving experiments of different difficulty, the Basenji turned out to be the most intelligent of all five breeds and the Cocker Spaniel was the last. This became particularly obvious in experiments, where flexibility of feet and toes and the dog’s inventiveness were required. Thus, the aboriginal “wild type” breed showed its merit, where independent thinking, motivation and initiative were needed. Remarkably, the man-made breed, the Cocker Spaniel, was most successful in passive obedience tests. In fact, here we deal with two different concepts of breed. Both the cultured breed and the natural breed (wild type) are very good dogs, but they had been made by different forces and for different purposes. The Basenji is more like a wild subspecies of Canis familiaris and the Cocker Spaniel is a cultured breed of Canis familiaris.
Here is my favorite definition of subspecies offered by Mayr (1963): A subspecies is an aggregate of local populations of a species, inhabiting a geographic subdivision of the range of the species, and differing taxonomically from other populations of the species. The word taxonomically means that a population is uniquely different enough to be recognized by scientists as a subspecies and given a unique scientific name in Latin. Add to this definition a human comparison, belonging to an ethnic group, and you will get a good definition of an aboriginal breed. In fact, attempts at describing aboriginal breeds as subspecies of Canis familiaris were done repeatedly, but this did not get much support among zoologists simply because Canis familiaris is a domesticated animal and its varieties do not belong to traditional subject of interest to taxonomists. Actually, each aboriginal breed is best characterized by its capability to do specific work, its appearance and by its unique geographic range together with its place in the culture of a certain ethnic group (or closely related groups), with which it lives. Its coat color is quite variable individually, including one particularly striking phenotype with white spots, a trait developed under domestication and living under human protection. Both ideas of subspecies and aboriginal breed are applied to real populations with a real geographic range and their recognition as entities with a name are supported by conventional wisdom and practicality. This makes them an important and very conspicuous part of biological diversity. The conventional definition of breed is weakly supported by hard science, because the idea of a breed (here again comes the similarity to the subspecies of wild animals) is always something vague and usually it is nothing more than what we agree upon collectively. Definition of breed by Merriam Webster Dictionary: “Breed is a group of animals or plants presumably related by descent from common ancestors and visibly similar in most characters”, also emphasizes the appearance, although traits of productivity and function are not less important.
Here is a definition of ‘breed’ put together by a well noted American geneticist Jay L. Lush, (1994): “Animals that, through selection and breeding, have come to resemble one another and pass those traits uniformly to their offspring. Aboriginal dogs, living in a certain region and used for the same purpose are quite well covered by this definition, because they have came to resemble one another through the process of selection and they pass their traits to their offspring. Calling aboriginal dogs of a certain ethnic group and geographic region breeds is very common in scientific and popular literature. The arguments sometimes are going on about which principle to choose, geographic or ethnic (national). Separation of them would always be artificial. This is what was done in the former Soviet Union, where four known today hunting Laika breeds had been designated. Although the words “to resemble one another” mean chiefly the appearance, in agricultural species the productivity traits of animals may be not less or even more important than traits of their appearance and it is equally true for aboriginal breeds.
Creative breeders of agricultural animals may develop and keep their own unique breeds. Therefore, here is a more liberal definition of breed: “A breed is a group of domestic animals, termed as such by the common consent of the breeders, … a term which arose among breeders of livestock, created one might say, for their own use, and no one is warranted in assigning to this word a scientific definition and in calling the breeders wrong when they deviate from the formulated definition. It is their word and the breeder’s common usage is what we must accept as the correct definition” Lush, 1994)
In the free world, any breeder or group of breeders of dogs, or other animals, can try their hand at the art of breeding and the future of any of their newly developed breeds would depend on their acceptance and usefulness to their users. However, aboriginal breeds are very different. Essentially, they are naturally occurring geographical variants of the domesticated dog (Canis familiaris), equivalent to a subspecies in zoology. Each of them is unique and came into existence by evolutionary process. Aboriginal breeds are natural monuments of nature and culture, because they have proven their usefulness and passed the test of time. Their most important conceptual difference from the constantly changing and newly emerging man made, or cultured breeds, is in the fact that they have been developed by the ability to perform a specific function. Their appearance is of secondary importance and it is always expressive of the function.
Aboriginal breeds are the predecessors of all man-made breeds. The ability to hunt certain game and in a certain way was very important to hunters of past centuries. Those dogs still resembled very much their ancestral aboriginal breeds; they were hardy and tough dogs, because they were bred by hunters for other hunters. Although dogs of different breeds had different names and purposes, crossing different breeds was common and mixes resulted from interbreeding were still named rather by their purpose and performance than by their appearance, such as scent hounds, sight hounds or bird pointing dogs, regardless of admixtures of other breeds in them. Every dog was valued for its ability to hunt the right way and this kind of genetic “alchemy” continued in dog breeding as long as dogs were bred for performance in field. However, radical changes took place in late 19th century, when dogs were bred pure with pedigree records and used for show contests. Dog shows renewed the popularity of hunting breeds, which had declined in numbers during the previous period, due to the loss of land available for hunting and the growth of urban populations in Europe. Now, more city dwellers became breeders of dogs, including hunting dogs, which became ornamental rather than hunting breeds. They sold puppies for profit to dog show enthusiasts and as pets. Because the breeders were most often not hunters, the appearance of the dog became more important and the original purpose of the breed. To the show fancy, all those hunting or guarding instincts became atavistic traits of the past and not taken seriously any more. It is interesting that even now some show fans and even some judges seriously believe that as long as the conformation is good, the functional qualities are also automatically present in the dog. Therefore, it is believed that show winning lines would be very good field performers, if given the chance. This is unlikely, because first, many traits highly valued at shows actually do not have any functional meaning for hunting and second, there are anatomical traits, which are misinterpreted by show judges, if they are not hunters themselves. This is why many hunting breeds became split into two groups, one for show and one for hunting.
However, the problem with show breeds does not end here. Using a few show winning males as sires and breeding dogs with maximal similarity to the ideal described in a breed standard leads to a loss of genetic heterozygosis in the population. Persistant inbreeding sooner or later results in the fixation of deleterious alleles and the appearance of genetic anomalies in the offspring with increasing frequency, such as missing teeth, wrong bite, and obsessive compulsive disorder and other nervous disorders, reproductive anomalies, hereditary blindness, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, etc. Interestingly enough, we already have several breeds that were derived from aboriginal stock during relatively recent times and transformed into popular pedigree show dogs. Each of them suffers hereditary ailments and the older the breed’s history as a show dog, the more it genetically deteriorated. Here is a list of such breeds: the Finnish Spitz, the Samoyed, the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute, the Karelian Bear and the Basenji. Each of them has a list of hereditary health problems. Several other breeds with only aboriginal ancestors, but bred to a standard, such as the West Siberian Laika, the East Siberian Laika, the Central Asian Ovcharka, and the Caucasian Ovcharka, remain in a better shape, because they were all meant to be used for field work, not just for show. Nevertheless, they too underwent various changes away from the ancestral aboriginal type dogs. All kennel bred aboriginal breed dogs follow the same pattern of changes: they become bigger and heavier, voracious eaters, prone to obesity and slower at work. These changes become particularly noticeable after the age of about 5 years. Their aboriginal ancestral populations still survive and comparisons permit us to observe and investigate the differences. The differences between kennel bred show lines and their ancestral aboriginal populations can become quite noticeable very soon even without clear knowledge by their breeders.
There is a book based on investigations into hereditary health problems of purebred dogs: “Medical and Genetic Aspects of Purebred Dogs”, Ross.D. Clark, J. D. Steiner and H. David. Haynes, editors, 1983. This is a book of 576 pages about hereditary problems of AKC and FCI recognized breeds. Can you imagine how much the authors of this book would write on this subject, if they were to study aboriginal dogs uncontaminated by interbreeding with cultured breeds? Perhaps, they would find not very much, because among aboriginal dogs, mutations like these are wiped out by natural selection. Probably recessive alleles with deleterious effect on the phenotype occur among them at frequencies similar to those found in wild species. I remind readers that in not so remote past up to 90% of the Collie population were carriers of hereditary blindness. Discussion and bibliography on this subject can be found in Beregovoy and Moore Porter (2001) and Derr (1997).
Degenerative selection The very life style of dog owners and the reasons why they breed or keep dogs are major parts of that environment, which is reshaping every dog breed in the long run, even contrary to the good intentions of dog owners to breed better dogs. This is a result of unconscious selection under conditions of passive life in kennels, inside homes or restricted physically by other means. The life of dogs in commercial kennels is particularly detrimental to an aboriginal dog breed, which is a discriminating, faithful, energetic, independent and capable field performer – all qualities not needed in a commercial style kennel. Indeed, the favorite dog of a show breeder, especially of a mass breeder, is a dog convenient for feeding, breeding, petting and, of course, for showing. Such a dog should be content with being locked up in the kennel for many long days without freedom to run and interact with the outside world. Kennel training became a routine requirement even for many family dogs. The dogs have to learn all kinds of things not to do: not to express craving for personal attention or for freedom by barking or trying to escape. In short, good kennel dogs should be dogs that are the least demanding for physical and mental activity and less responsive to all kinds of environmental stimuli. Their character should be closer to a pig or a rabbit than to a dog, “man’s best friend’. Moreover, the most convenient potential show winner, regardless of the original purpose of the breed, should allow an unfamiliar person to lead it away and to inspect it by touching without protest. The dog should stay calm for many hours of boring time when being transported and waiting at the show event. All these qualities are conducive to a natural indifference and sluggishness in the dog. Under these conditions, the high energy, full-of-fire dog is a disadvantage. Inventive ‘escape masters’ are the most likely category that a commercial breeder or an average backyard breeder, living in a friendly neighborhood, would want to get rid off first. Dogs with a long history of selection to be “good kennel dogs” do not need any innate desire or skill to find their home, because they would never be tested on the matter, being condemned to stay in kennels and never meant to be field performing dogs. They live life and are bred like rabbits and they are change accordingly. Some may argue that they take their dogs to different organized activity events specifically designed to keep the dogs and their owners busy, such as agility, weight pulling, lure coursing or water retrieving, schutzhund and obedience contests. All these are better then nothing, but with an aboriginal breed, this cannot replace real hunting, pulling sleds or protecting livestock one day after another. All these city dog activities are like a drop in the bucket and they are moreover different activities, which require a different dog. To an aboriginal breed, work is a part of life; to a cultured breed, work is a periodic active entertainment.
Another degenerative form of selection contrary to the traits of most biologically perfect dogs is linked with the basic biological function of reproduction, from mating to giving birth to puppies. Some breeders treat their dogs as if they were agricultural productive animals or even ornamental plants. Females with more then one estrus per year and producing larger litters have a natural selective advantage and this is good for making a profit from selling puppies. Females that do not accept males without prolonged courting and foreplay are at a disadvantage, especially if they had been flown or given a ride far away for mating with a choice sire. All naturally designed forms of behavior, such as courting, fighting, sometimes exhausting chasing have an adaptive purpose of preventing the unfit males from reproduction. Breeders prefer females readily mating with any male. Males, selected among show winners are “precious” potential sires and are usually being helped to mate by constraining the female, which otherwise would reject it, sensing its biological inferiority. The dogs must mate, especially, if one of them was shipped away just for mating with a choice dog.
When puppies are about to be born, all product oriented junk literature about dogs tells you: “Call your vet!” A good aboriginal dog female is a good mother and it does not need any assistance, except a place protected from bad weather, timely provided food and a bowl with water. Mother knows best and it is better to allows nature to take its course. Do not call your vet, but if the dog cannot breed the natural way, do not breed it at all. Even feeding kibble dry dog food, if continued for generations, will change our dogs genetically. Commercially produced dog food, does not exercise jaws and muscles, makes teeth dirty and overloads dog’s digestive system with all kind of ballast. It makes eating, digesting and defecating almost like in a herbivore, with plenty of excrement. In the long run, it may trigger certain adaptive changes in the dogs. Feed it natural foods!
Commercial dog breeders prefer younger females for breeding. Many hereditary health problems start showing up with age, especially, when the dog is over three – four years old. Commercial breeders do not like taking chances with breeding older dogs. Thus, deleterious mutations with effect on phenotype at an older age are avoided. This is why we have so many show dog breeds, which are not very smart, spontaneous unprovoked biters, not developing a bond with the master or a natural attachment to the place where they live, and get lost once allowed off leash, especially if left for some time unsupervised, etc. We have armies of dog behavior therapists, dog trainers, animal psychologists and veterinarians. Our cultured breed dogs keep them busy. With aboriginal dogs, these specialists would loose their earnings simply because they are all healthy physically and mentally. Natïve breeders of aboriginal dogs simply kill all abnormal individuals.
Preservation of heterozygosis of aboriginal breeds Finally, there is another important feature of aboriginal breeds, which is still poorly investigated. Every aboriginal breed in its own environment should have a high level of heterozygosis, similar to wild animal species. Much of the variation is of a polygenic nature. The high heterozygosis in aboriginal population can be expected a priori, because of the known wide range of phenotypical variation in their populations and because stabilizing natural selection favors heterozygous organisms. This is how balanced polymorphism is maintained in populations of wild animals. This is how a natural population absorbs, like a sponge, alleles from other aboriginal populations. This happens when dogs come in a direct contact as a result of transhumance. Hybrid vigor has a selective advantage, especially if newly obtained alleles are beneficial ones, and this is why aboriginal populations are always somewhat mongrelized. Despite the fact that certain types of aboriginal dogs prevail locally, under conditions of uncontrolled breeding or frequent genetic exchange between populations of adjacent and even far away regions, they are open to new possibilities, occurring naturally. Variation caused by contacts between dogs during seasonal migration (transhumance) is very old and well described by Cruz (2007) in livestock and herding dogs of Portugal. This kind of variation existed long before the recent influx of imported dogs and should not worry anyone. Trading caravans, regional fairs, hunting parties far away from home, war parties and the very nomadic way of life of aboriginal dog owners with their livestock have helped to maintain the general similarity of dogs of the same purpose over large territories, despite some local differences among dogs that have survived over long periods of time. Variation caused by mixing aboriginal dogs of similar purpose is not a problem, because they all can do the same job and their ability to survive does not diminish. Examples of this kind of mixing are in Kyrgyzstan between Taigan and Tazy, in Afghanistan between Afghan Hounds and Saluki, in Azerbaijan between shorthair and longhair Caucasian Mountain Dogs, in Siberia between hunting Laika types belonging to neighboring ethnic groups, between different types of contiguous populations of northern sled dogs, etc. It would be entirely different, if aboriginal breeds were mixed with imported cultural breeds. Even a small admixture of cultured breeds would be wiped out by natural selection. However, mass interbreeding, when imported breed dogs even outnumber aboriginal ones, is a death sentence for the aboriginal breed. Although aboriginal breeds came into existence at the hands of native dog breeders, purging alien genes from it would be difficult without some knowledge of animal science, genetics and good understanding of the breed. Because preservation of an aboriginal breed means preservation of a population, not just a few appealing looking dogs picked up by tourists, it should always be a collective effort by truly concerned breeders.
Saving aboriginal breeds from extinction
The avoidance of unconscious negative selection is very important for a long-term breeding program of any aboriginal breed and it is a challenging task. For example, if a well-informed dog lover imports a pair of aboriginal dogs from their native land, he would certainly take good care of them. He would do his best to find a good home for the puppies. However, the natural selection stops here. Now, it is up to the diligence of the breeder how not to destroy the dog’s fitness and its working ability, which fascinated him in the first place. This work ought to be well organized and the breeding must be selectively aimed primarily at working performance, traits of endurance and physical vigor. The dogs must be kept and evaluated under conditions as natural as possible. Keep them busy, hunting, pulling sleds, herding or guarding, according to the respective breed’s profession, and ensure diverse interactions with other dogs and the rest of the environment. This helps to know the dogs and find out the best dogs for breeding. Indeed, how will you find out if your dog is smart and capable of work, if you keep it locked up all the time? Many of us would give up the idea of having such a dog, because not everyone has the time and conditions to keep it the right way. To succeed, the breeder of aboriginal dogs should focus on their better performance.
At present, there are a few enthusiasts, who are trying to breed better dogs by using performance in the field as the sole criterion of the breed. This means selecting for a certain function, instead of a certain appearance.
In the USA, coyote hunters in central and western prairie states are developing the Coyote Hound for at least 100 years (Eliason, 2007). One may ask why develop another kind of a sight hound, when we already have several excellent sight hound breeds for hunting all kinds of game? The problem is none of them satisfies a coyote hunter. Under existing conditions in American prairie and western states, Greyhounds do not endure hot weather and can even die of overheating, if sent on a hot day after some quarry. Besides, they can break their legs on the rugged terrain. Scottish Deer Hounds have enough guts to fight a coyote, but they are not fast enough to catch it. Borzois can run fast, but they are not maneuverable enough, when the coyote starts weaving under barbed wire fence and shrubs; besides, they do too not like hot weather. A good Coyote Hound must be fast, maneuverable, bold and aggressive, strong and skillful for catching such a strong and fast predator as the coyote is. Coyote hunting enthusiasts are crossing all kinds of sighthounds and even non-sighthound dogs to add the necessary qualities to their major mixed breed origin stock. Trial and error continues, anything goes, which helps further to improve the breed functionally. Is it a breed? Yes, this is the breed, which is the best at catching and killing coyotes. Its appearance does not matter much, but in the functional part, they all are very good and similar anatomically. Their appearance is variable; but this is unimportant for their function; some dogs have a wiry coat and have a beard, like the Scottish Deer Hound, and some are smooth; some have one ear upright and the other hanging and any coat color is accepted. Their functional anatomy and vigor are perfected to the limit, but some less important traits of the appearance, such as ears or coat color, are allowed to vary. Owners and users of the Coyote Hound think that their dogs are beautiful, but to the traditional “purist» dog breeder, this is hard to accept. The coyote hunters see beauty in their dogs’ performance. The Coyote Sight Hound is truly a unique dog breed with one single and most important trait, they can catch and kill coyote better then any other existing purebred.
Another example is the Alaskan Husky. What kind of a breed is it? The Alaskan Husky is a dog breed, which can pull sleds very fast and very far. Function comes first. What do the dogs look like? Very much like the northern Spitz (or Siberian sled dog). Any coat color is acceptable; some dogs have not perfectly prick ears or asymmetric ears, but because of the function and the northern environment, the classic sled dog appearance prevails. Genetically, this breed is in a constant flux, because its enthusiasts cross again and again, trying to improve function. All kinds of breeds have been added to the breeding stock: aboriginal North American sled dogs similar to the Canadian Eskimo Dog, the Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky. Since the Gold Rush era sighthounds were added for speed, scenthounds for endurance, Irish Setters for hyper temperament, and more recently the German Shorthaired Pointer, the German Shepherd Dog and, sometimes, wolf. All this was recombined and reselected to improve one function, which is always the same, running very fast and for very long. The appearance is subordinate to the function. Perhaps under pressure of natural selection and life in the north, at a glance the Alaskan Husky is a northern sled dog. Alaskan Huskies may not look beautiful enough to some, but they win races.
These two examples deserve the serious attention of zoologists and geneticists. Some dog experts decisively refuse to recognize these two breeds, but in fact, these dogs are as much breeds as any other pedigreed breed, but they are based on a different concept of breed. In these two cases, appearance is subordinate to working ability and dogs of each of the two breeds are quite uniform anatomically and behaviorally. Perhaps, this is how all aboriginal breeds started in prehistoric time, when their ancestors initially looked like the Dingo or other generalist aboriginal dogs?
Selection for performing a certain job began from the time when the wolf was first domesticated. Perhaps the job of the first dogs was just being a pet and occasionally food. This is that ecological niche, which was occupied by the Australian Dingo before it became discovered by Europeans. Being selected over millennia for different functions and adapting to different geographic environments, they diverged, producing Laika, Saluki, livestock guarding dogs and other types of aboriginal breeds. Their further fate would depend on the fate of entire ecological systems, from where they came to us. Breeding for preservation is not the same as breeding for improvement. Even if we know what any particular aboriginal bred should be able to do and how it should look, breeding it in “captivity” can help only as a temporary measure; if continued for many generations; it will change the breed for the worse, because of degenerative selection.
Some aboriginal breeds are highly variable morphologically and are even polytypical, which means they have more then one type in one population or several close sub-breeds. Understandably, their natural diversity cannot be preserved by breeding to a traditional breed standard that reduces variation as much as possible. The standard of an aboriginal breed must be more liberal, descriptive and include more than one type found in the home country of the breed. A. Sedefchev and S. Sedefchev (2007) already put it to work with the Karakachan Dog. The best dogs suitable for breeding should not be show champions, but rather best rated dogs. Entire dog show and trials of aboriginal breeds should be redesigned to emphasize field behavior and physical performance.
The preservation of maximal heterozygosis within breeding stock could be achieved beneficially by running several parallel lines with periodic subsequent crossbreeding. Breeders of productive agricultural animals commonly use this method.
Using and breeding aboriginal dogs for performing a different job that is new to them would change them, especially if they were selected for greater trainability. This would change them by making them more responsive to trainer’s commands, but this may come at the expense of their ability to work independently in their native countries.
Owners of cultured breeds will continue breeding and taking their dogs to shows and many do not mind to picking up some of the aboriginal breeds to keep and breed them for the same purpose. Some strains derived out of aboriginal breeds, after a number of generations, will be selectively modified for a different use, or even transformed into a different breed under a different name. Adding a healthy and vigorous genes of aboriginal “wild type” breeds to ailing genetically cultured breeds can be a benefit. However, this activity is irrelevant to our goal of preserving indigenous ancient aboriginal breeds.
Preserving aboriginal breeds should be a part of a broader nature conservation project, involving landscapes, vegetation and wild animals, such as hares, antelopes, jackals, foxes, wolves, coyotes, bears, etc. Of course, people with their traditional ways of land use with their livestock and dogs would be a vital part of such projects. Effective conservation cannot be achieved unless the people who live and rely on these lands are an integral part of the conservation process. Nature Conservancy and various charitable funds and associations should support such projects and aboriginal dog lovers would benefit by saving the truly “wild type” core populations of aboriginal breeds. At this conference, we had an opportunity to hear about interesting studies and developments in the history, variation and preservation of the Tazy in Central Asia and in Kazakhstan. The breed is certainly on the way to recovery (K. N. Plakhov and A. S. Plakhova, 2005). The authors have done tremendous work to save the breed in the country and have accumulated very interesting knowledge of the breed’s history and existing variation. However, their recent idea of developing a separate breed, the Kazakh Tazy, is potentially dangerous to the very idea of preserving this breed as an aboriginal one. It would simply be transformed into another cultured breed with all the subsequent changes, such as a reduction of variability and isolation from its still surviving really aboriginal populations. Very interesting results from scientific in-depth studies on the aboriginal breeds of Portugal were presented by Cruz (2007). An example of progress in the preservation of the Karakachan Dog was made by A. Sedefchev and S. Sedefchev (2007) in Bulgaria. The Sedefchevs, did not fly to Almaty, as they planned, but they sent their article recently. They conduct an exciting project for preserving three of the oldest animal breeds still surviving in Europe: the Karakachan Dog, the Karakachan sheep and the indigenous breed of horse; and this work is a part of an integral project of nature preservation, including wolves and bears. Such efforts can serve as an example to others how to obtain financial support and tackle such difficult and complex problems.
Breeders, actively using aboriginal dogs for work and for sports are exactly those people, who must seriously contribute in their preservation for future generations. Nevertheless, saving aboriginal dogs in their countries of origin is the most reliable way of securing the survival of these unique remarkable dogs. Strains of aboriginal breeds in possession of dog owners far away from countries of their origin would need periodic genetic exchange with core populations of the “wild type”, just as the ancient Greek giant Antaeus needed to touch mother Earth to regain his strength.
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Cruz, C. 2007. Livestock guarding dogs from Portugal. A review of current knowledge. In this pubicaton.
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