Friday, February 23, 2018

The Monster Thomas Alva Edison

Thomas Edison used to electrocute dogs as part of a sales campaign. From Executed This Day:

On this date in 1888, a 76-pound Newfoundland was electrocuted before a crowd in a lecture hall at the Columbia College School of Mines (now the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University) in New York City. The pooch was an innocent bystander who’d fallen victim to the War of Currents between Thomas Edison and his electrical adversary, George Westinghouse.

Edison was a proponent of direct current (DC), where the electricity flows in one direction from source to receiver. Westinghouse, one the other hand, favored AC, alternating current, where the electrical current will reverse direction from time to time and electricity doesn’t flow from the source to the receiver so much as in between them.

In the late 1800s, as electrical systems were spreading all over America, Westinghouse’s company and Edison’s company were duking it out as to which system would prevail over the other. Westinghouse’s AC, being far more efficient, was usually the system of choice for providing electricity to houses, businesses and streetlights, which was where most of the profits lay. (DC was better for things like batteries.)

Desperate to hold onto eroding market share, Edison saw an opportunity to do Westinghouse dirty when New York State adopted the electric chair as their means of execution. Some notable botches had rendered hanging unpalatable, but industrial electrification was still such a newfangled concept that at the time the law was passed, the chair had yet to be built. Edison figured that a propaganda blitz to make sure the device used AC would help convince the public that the rival current was too deadly to be used in private homes and city streets.

Edison hired Harold P. Brown to help him demonstrate the danger of alternating current.  It was Brown who scheduled a demonstration at Columbia in which he placed a muzzled 76-pound Newfoundland dog in a metal cage. Electrodes were then attached to one foreleg and one hind leg. Brown connected the dog to the DC generator Edison had loaned him, and started with 300 volts, gradually increased to 1,000 volts as the dog yelped and howled in pain, but remained alive.

Having proven the "safety" of direct current, Brown disconnected the dog from the DC generator and connected it to the AC generator, noting “We shall make him feel better.”

Brown then turned the voltage to 330, and killed the dog.

Edison and his henchmen electrocuted dogs, horses, sheep, pigs, and cows before large crowds.

One of the most grisly public electrocutions was the killing of Topsy the circus elephant, which was captured by Edison's film crew in one of the very first film clips of the era.  Oddly, the killing of Topsy appears not to have been orchestrated by Edison, as it is commonly portrayed.


Topsy had belonged to the Forepaugh Circus but spent the last years of her life at Coney Island's Luna Park. She was deemed to be dangerous because she had killed one trainer who had burned her trunk with a lit cigar, and was aggressive towards two others who had struck her with a pitchfork,

Topsy was killed by electrocution on January 4, 1903 at the age of 36.  Her electrocution was witnessed by an estimated 1,500 people.

Armed Teachers?

FACT: Most bullets fired by trained police officers miss their target.

What that means is when Mrs. Nelson gets jumpy and pulls out her Glock because Jerome told her to “fuck off,” it’s Cindy, Mike, and Tiffany who are going to get hit.

And maybe your kids too.

Jeepers Creepers, Listen to Those Peepers

The Spring Peeper frogs (Pseudacris crucifer) that mysteriously show up around my backyard pond every year are back and peeping. They lay their masses of eggs, which hatch out into thousands of tadpoles, which produce many hundreds of little frogs, which disappear into the leaf litter of the forest floor. You can always tell a small frog is a Peeper, as it will have an X on it back as seen in the photo, above.

Spring Peeper frogs hibernate under logs or behind loose bark on trees, and they can survive the freezing of their internal body fluids. Pretty amazing animals, really.

But Is It Art?

Apparently, 25,000 years ago, about the time man was first hanging out with dogs, folks were eating pretty well.

Hmmmm... Maybe it wasn't the the horrible struggle for survival so commonly imagined?

Oh sure, there was disease, child and maternal mortality, infection, predators, and parasites.  Sure there was no electricity, refrigeration, or metal tools.  Sure you had to hunt for all your food and there was no wheat, potatoes, soy, or cotton.  But aside from that....

Meanwhile, The New York Times informs us that "Neanderthals painted on cave walls in Spain 65,000 years ago – tens of thousands of years before modern humans arrived."

Oh sure, it's Neanderthal-made.

But is it ART?

 How can it be ART if it’s not hung in a gallery with 50 percent of the price going to the gallery owner?

How can it be art if there is no fake bidding within in a contrived and artificial market based on familiarity, fashion, and conspicuous consumption?

Let me be clear: THIS is ART and it costs over $32 million.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Coffee and Provocation

Walking stick with terrier going to ground in the pedical of a red stag antler.

Lobster Rights?
Come March 1, it will be illegal in Switzerland to throw a lobster into a pot of boiling water.

Bottle Water Is Mostly for Idiots
64% of bottled water comes from a tap. I have often joked that I wanted to start a business selling tap water as "ethnic water" in which one actor (me) would knock of half a dozen accents extolling the virtues of global rivers: "Zambezi, the pulsing heart of Africa".... "Shannon, a little bit of Ireland in every drop"... "Danube where vodka finds its strength." Ethic water would be sold in six packs with amzing story verbiage on every bottle which would be clearly labeled NEW YORK CITY TAP WATER.

Will My Adventurous Daughter Try This?
My smart, tough, kind, and beautiful daughter, who has been all around the world on her own dime and is now doing very well in a in New York City, is traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico. I just sent her the coordinates to a place there that sells corn tortillas with deep-fried grasshoppers called chapulines. Seasoned with chile and lime they are said to taste like “salt and vinegar potato chips, but a bit wetter."  I may have to double-dog dare her to try one.

Saint Ollie of Eire
Oliver Plunkett, a 17th-century Irish martyr, became Ireland’s first new saint in nearly 700 years after being canonized in 1975. In 1997, he was made Ireland patron saint of peace and reconciliation. As befits his title, his pickled head is kept in a glass jar in a shrine inside St Peters church in Drogheda.

Another Reason to Put the Plug in the Jug
Alcohol is the biggest risk factor for early dementia.

Not Forgotten
Peter Wang, the JROTC member who was shot multiple times while holding the door so others could escape the AR-15 shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, was awarded the JROTC Heroism medal at his funeral and was also posthumously admitted to West Point, which was his dream. He was 15 and in uniform while holding the door so others could escape. The Army Cadet Command also approved Junior ROTC Heroism Medals for 14-year-old cadets Alaina Petty and Martin Duque who were also killed by the gunman.

Do We Need Re-Wilding?
 Lucy Purdy writes: "We don’t often think of ourselves as being domesticated. The word falls easily from our human lips when we talk of animals and plants, but are we ourselves also tame? As the natural world has been eternally altered by mankind’s intervention, have we curtailed human nature in the same way?" Read the whole thing. I explore a similar theme here. Meanwhile, in London, the city council is considering fining kids £500 for climbing trees.

This Hedge is Dead

The hedges I dig on in the eastern U.S. are full of life, unlike the dense suburban variation that can be seen above.

In the eastern U.S., farm hedges often start with farmers stringing barbed wire from one tree to another, or perhaps the hedge starts as a regular post and barbed wire fence line that is not trimmed or maintained.  Either way, as soon as wire is strung, trees and brush grow up underneath in a loose thicket of black walnut, black cherry, multiflora rose, and sumac is pruned and shaped by grazing deer, winter weather, and perhaps the occasional chain saw.

And what happens next?  Soon enough groundhogs are likely to show up, and with them fox, raccoon, and possum who find make their dens in their all-too convenient burrows. 

In short, it's not an accident that in the eastern U.S. terrier work is so often done next to rotten fence posts and rusted barbed and pig wire fences.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Death Chamber for Dogs Is Built Into Truck

This "death chamber for dogs" was featured in the November 1937 edition of Modern Mechanix magazine. The truck was operated by the "Animal Protective Association of Washington, D. C." 

Some protection!

Toward Breed Ruin: A Warning From 1929

Wolf vs,. Show German Shepherd
Max von Stephanitzthe “father” of the German Shepherd, feared for the future, and he warned breeders to eschew show ring points and focus instead on putting work and health front and center. Writing in 1929 he said:
My main “warning-cry” concerns itself with the direction of the breed, which many breeders – many novices – still subscribe to, a direction that would lead us off the beaten path, far off of our breed goal; toward breed ruin.

In all my articles, lectures, and judges reports of the last few years, I have desperately tried to point out that we must cling to the breed standard of the working dog, and I gave reasons why we must do so – as it was once laid down, as a model of the breed’s design. I have emphasized over and over again that we should not get overly engrossed in details of outward characteristics, even if they are ever so attractive, when, for the breeding value of the dog, he must be based entirely and decisively upon the totality of hard constitution, good health, endurance, authentic working structure and stable temperament.

The vision, the understanding of this standard, is thus sometimes lost. Many young fanciers have unfortunately hardly ever seen correct conformation in respect to these dogs. They become intoxicated with appearance which so often has so little in common with the working dog as he is supposed to be. In this case, the only thing that helps is trusted faith in the system, until one’s pondering leads to eventual understanding. The belief in what is well meant – the thoughtful suggestions and guiding principles – are for the welfare of the breed’s future.

As with so many breeds, sport and fad breeding led to more severe evidence of natural traits, and therefore to bad breeding situations that had nothing more in common with working ability. This may seem nice to the faddist, however, for the true lover of Nature, who doesn’t engage in matters based on eye appeal, it appears as a strange caricature.

Over-sized, massiveness, height, racing ability, straight front or tucked up racing dog body would be for the shepherd an adverse perception leading to the death of the breed. And actually, some of our dogs and especially those who receive applause among the novices resemble the racing dog type in his over-sized, narrowness, tucked up appearance and effemination. The Borzoi, who hunts the wolf on the Russian prairies does not look like this; he is still a correct, rugged fellow. He who looks around at dog shows, pages through dog magazines, will find often enough that there are still a few other breed’s destinies which are threatened, that is, they are about to step out of their breed type because they are not bred upon a breed goal, but rather upon an imaginary “beauty concept”.

The Most Important Part of Dog Training

This triangle shows the three players in all dog training schemes: the dog, the dog owner, and the dog training technique or trainer. 

A lot of people think the DOG is the most important part of this triangle.

It’s not. 

A lot of folks think the TRAINING TECHNIQUE or TRAINER is the most important part of this triangle.

It’s not. 

The most important part of this triangle is the OWNER.

It’s the owner or client that has to reinforce and repeat the training over a lifetime.

And here's a little secret that most dog trainers will not mention: they probably cannot change you.

People are who they are, and they do not change much absent a major traumatic life event.

If you are hazy, lazy, or crazy coming through the front door, that's probably how you are going to leave.

A good dog trainer can almost always get a client's dog to settle down, to focus on looking for cues and commands, and to learn a few basic and useful commands.

But if the dog's owner will not follow up and repeat, repeat, repeat, then things will tend to drift back towards what they were.

The good news is that if a dog owner is willing to work with a dog, in a systematic and directed way, for only 10 minutes a day every day, both the dog and the owner will have their life changed forever.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Bottom of the AKC Barrel

More than half of all AKC dogs are in the top 10 breeds, with the bottom 50 breeds summing to 1.2 percent of all AKC-registered dogs (which is only about 5 percent of all dogs) . 

To put it another way, the rarest 50 AKC Breeds total just 3 out of every 2,000 U.S. dogs. 

So what are those bottom AKC 50 breeds as of 2016?

1. Beaucerons

2. Berger Picards

3. Setters (Irish Red and White)

4. Redbone Coonhounds

5. Spaniels (Clumber)

6. Lakeland Terriers

7. German Pinschers

8. Spaniels (Field)

9. Petits Bassets Griffons Vendeens

10. Affenpinschers

11. Spaniels (Irish Water)

12. Greyhounds

13. Ibizan Hounds

14. Icelandic Sheepdogs

15. Scottish Deerhounds

16. Sealyham Terriers

17. Spaniels (American Water)

18. Wirehaired Vizslas

19. Plotts

20. Pulik

21. Portuguese Podengo Pequenos

22. Entlebucher Mountain Dogs

23. Spanish Water Dogs

24. Swedish Vallhunds

25. Retrievers (Curly-Coated)

26. Kuvaszok

27. Otterhounds

28. Dandie Dinmont Terriers

29. Pharaoh Hounds

30. Polish Lowland Sheepdogs

31. American English Coonhounds

32. Lowchen

33. Spaniels (Sussex)

34. Finnish Lapphunds

35. Norwegian Buhunds

36. Chinooks

37. Pyrenean Shepherds

38. Komondorok

39. Skye Terriers

40. Finnish Spitz

41. Glen of Imaal Terriers

42. Canaan Dogs

43. Cesky Terriers

44. Cirnechi dell'Etna

45. Bergamasco

46. Sloughis

47. Harriers

48. English Foxhounds

49. Norwegian Lundehunds

50. American Foxhounds

Keen observers will note
that some AKC breeds and types are actually common in the REAL world of dogs, if not in the American Kennel Club.

For example, the rarest breed in the U.S. is the American Foxhound, with the English Foxhound only slightly more popular.

Yet Foxhounds are the state dog of Virginia and we have mounted hunts from one end of the state to the other and all across the U.S. But AKC Foxhounds? Who wants a dog chosen for color rather than work? No one who actually uses Foxhounds.

And so it it with Greyhounds and three kinds of Coonhounds. Working dogs from these breeds are pretty common all over. But show dogs? Who want those?

The Retractable Leash as Dog Training Tool

From the January 1941 edition of Popular Mechanix:

Dog Leash on Spring Reel Plays Fido Like a Fish

A leash attached to a spring-operated reel is a new wrinkle for dog owners. Encased in a light but sturdy aluminum housing, the reel carries twelve feet of waterproofed leash strong enough to hold a great Dane yet light enough for use with a Pekinese. A hook forming part of the housing allows the owner to hold the device securely, while the dog is free to run for a distance of twelve feet. As he returns nearer to his owner, the spring reel winds up the leash cord to prevent it from becoming tangled. A button-con-trolled lock makes it easy to stop the dog at any time as he is running out the leash, and to keep him in hand.


As a dog walking tool, I consider the retractable leash a nightmare in the hands of most pet owners, but as a dog training tool, the retractable leash is a very good long line, as it's easy to get it out of the way as you teach recall and work with distractors.

Jay Jack has a $10, 15 page e-booklet on how to use a retractable leash that covers how to hold it for control, how to make sure the reel never leaves you even if the dog jerks very hard, why a web retractable is better than a string retractable, and how to use rewards and a retractable leash to teach heel and a few basic commands, etc. 

Bottom line:  Retractable leashes have a place in dog training.

Science Remakes the Dog

An article, from the November 1936 issue of Popular Science magazine is a good representative of the kind of congratulatory back-patting that went on during this period, as show ring and hobby breeders worked overtime to draw more and more working dogs into the Kennel Club.

Not the tone of the article: "Science" is improving dogs so they will be better suited to the modern world of cars, apartments, and limited time for their care and feeding.

In fact, these market forces continue to this day, as I have noted in an earlier post entitled "Robert Bakewell's Apartment."

This Popular Science article was written when the Kennel Club was just 65 years old, but problems already seem to be cropping up.

Notice that the Cocker Spaniel seems to have been "improved" to the point that it no longer hunts.

The Scottish terrier's morphology has been transformed with the "improved" dog having a shorter back, a larger head, and a longer coat -- improvements that made the dog incapable of going down a hole after quarry, ruining it as a true working terrier.

Then you have the various types of setters where bench and field animals had already diverged to the point that they appeared to be different breeds.

Finally, the Afghan is mentioned as a new and exotic breed brought to America. How long before the show-ring variant was wrecked as a coursing dog? Not long!

It should also be noted that some of the "history" given here is Kennel Club bunk. The Airedale, for example, is a modern creation derived from the Otter hound, and bred specifically for the show ring. It was never a "night poacher's dog," being too slow and heavy for rabbit, fox, or deer. Hunting otter is not done at night; it is tough enough to see the things in the daylight!

Similarly, the English Bulldog has very little of the old bull-baiting dog in it, and quite a lot of the monstrous pug to which it is much more closely-related!

As for fox terriers, by the time this article was written, almost no one was using a Kennel Club dog for anything other than a companion dog, as a close reading of Jocelyn Lucas's book Hunt and Working Terriers (published in 1931) will reveal.

Fox-working dogs have not been "improved" by science or show ring breeders; they have only been ruined by the rosette chasers.

The original art for this article can be seen here >> Page 1, Page 2, Page 3

Science Remakes the Dog
How Breeders Are Changing The Appearance and Nature Of Our Canine Population To Bring Out the Qualities That Are Made Desirable By Modern Living Conditions

By Jesse F. Gelders

DOGS are getting smaller. Subject to style trends, the same as clothing, automobiles, and houses, they are adapting themselves— or, rather, being adapted—to the changed conditions of modern life.

People today are demanding dogs that can live in small homes or apartments, and ride in automobiles, without crowding out their human companions; dogs that can keep fit with a minimum of exercise; smart, good-natured dogs, and—an important consideration, sometimes—dogs that will not eat their masters out of house and home.To meet these new requirements, breeders are applying scientific principles of heredity in bringing out the desired qualities.

Already, the appearance and character of the nation’s dog population show the effects of their work—a modern version of the unceasing process which, in the past, has had such amazing consequences as the refinement of the popular Airedale terrier from a mongrel, the conversion of the strain of wolflike spitz into the little toy Pomeranian, and the development of the bulldog into an animal vastly unlike his bulldog ancestors of a century ago.

Largely as a result of the demand for smaller dogs, the Boston terrier, one of the only three breeds actually originated in the United States, today leads all others in American Kennel Club registrations. Next come three other small breeds, the cocker spaniel, the wire-haired fox terrier, and the Scotish terrier. As recently as 1926, the German shepherd, often loosely called a “police dog,” ranked first; but it is now in twentieth place, possibly because the depression made owners more conscious of the cost of dog food.

Through selective breeding, experts have been meeting the demands for smaller dogs, dogs which eat less and can be kept more economically; dogs which need less exercise, and therefore retain better health in cramped quarters. The motor age has restricted the exercise of dogs even more than that of men. It has created a need for breeds which remain in good physical condition when they are walked only on a leash, or at best in close company of their owners, instead of being allowed to run free. Thousands of motorists want dogs adapted to riding in cars instead of to loping for miles alongside horse-drawn coaches.

These changes, occurring now among pedigreed dogs, are by no means limited to that select group. Within a few years they will be reflected by the general dog population of the country. It is estimated that there are in the United States between 500,000 and 1,000,000 purebred dogs, and 15,000,000 or more mongrels; and nearly all their owners are affected by similar conditions.

The mongrels themselves gradually show effects of crossing with whatever pure breeds happen to be most numerous. Look around, and you will see that the “average” dogs today exhibit definite marks of the German shepherd or the Airedale, whose popularity swept the country in recent years. There are numerous inheritances too, from the collie and the bull terrier, while the bird-dog influence is especially strong in the smaller communities. Early in the century, there were widespread traces of the fawn-colored, looptailed pug, but most of them have been lost in the engulfing tide of other blood.

Being no snob in the matter of dogs myself, and having an equal fondness for pure-breds and others, I inquired of Kennel Club officials why every cross-bred is termed a mongrel. The distinction, I learned, is based not on snobbery, but on scientific fact.

When pure-bred dogs of the same breed are mated, the puppies are like the parents. But when two different breeds are crossed, even though both dogs are of the purest strains, the characteristics of the puppies cannot accurately be foretold.

A breeder told me of the chance mating of a Scottish terrier and a hound, from which five pups were born, with ears like hounds and bodies like Scotties. What their puppies would be like, nobody could guess. For when mongrels are mated, even two mongrels of exactly the same appearance, their pups may be entirely different, taking a new combination of characteristics from their ancestors. Once there is a mixture, only long, careful breeding can sift out and stabilize any definite type.

Heredity is so certain to play pranks, that kennel clubs refuse to register any dog as a pure-bred unless its ancestors are known for three generations. On the rare occasions when a new breed is to be recognized, proof is required that there has been no variation from the proper type, either in three generations of direct ancestors, or in any pup born in the same litter with any of them.

Breeders seeking dogs of new types for definite new purposes usually have a choice of two procedures. They may cross breeds, as a chemist compounds elements to obtain a new material, but this is a long and uncertain task. On the other hand, they may “refine” an already existing breed, taking dogs which are a little closer than the average to the type they want, and continuing the selection until the entire strain takes on the new, desired qualities.

By such processes, the Scottie has changed his appearance in the last twenty years, developing a more profuse coat, a squarer head, and a shorter body.

The cocker spaniel, originally a hunting dog and one of the first breeds in the American colonies, has since been bred smaller as a pet, and is now being guided back to greater size again, to be used for hunting.

The bench-show setters, bred for their looks, have changed so greatly that they almost have the appearance of a different breed from the field-trial setters, developed for speed and good noses.

Even before the principles of heredity were studied scientifically, breeders unconsciously made use of them, by patiently selecting dogs with the traits they desired to reproduce. There was the case of Polaris, the North Greenland Eskimo dog, whose sled-pulling ancestry gave him such an aptitude for the work that on his first introduction to the harness he pulled a heavy sled three miles through deep snow. The breeder of sheep-herding collies developed such intelligence in the animals that a dog could go alone and select his master’s sheep from the others grazing in the hills, bring them home, and separate the rams from the ewes and lambs before driving them to their quarters.

The short-legged Welsh corgi was bred to do a job of a different sort. He scattered his master’s cattle on the public grazing ground by nipping at their hocks, and when they kicked he had to dodge. In this risky work, his low stature often saved his life. With intelligence specially cultivated for his task, he knew when to go into action and when to stop, by the tone of his master’s whistle.

Among the strangest characteristics cultivated for particular jobs, are those of the Afghan hound, brought to America a few years ago, but used for many centuries as a hunting dog in the mountains of Afghanistan. While he is not so fast as many other hounds on level ground, he has developed high, wide-set hips which fit him especially for running on hills, and for leaping over obstacles. And because he frequently hunted in dense thickets, he has been bred to carry his tail high, like a flag, which his master could see above the concealing brush.

Even more fascinating than the shaping of traits in individual breeds of dogs, has been the creation of new breeds by crossing, for special purposes. Tremendous care was required, to select offspring with just the right inheritances from each stock.

BREEDERS of Chesapeake Bay retrievers, desiring to improve their scent, crossed them with hounds, but were able to preserve the chief characteristics which they had inherited from their other ancestors, supposedly curly-coated retrievers which had been mated with two New Foundland dogs taken from a wrecked ship. Their stamina and their rough, almost waterproof coats enable them to withstand severe storms and work in water chilled by floating ice.

The Chesapeakes share with American foxhounds and Boston terriers the distinction of being the only breeds originated in the United States. The foxhounds were said to have been developed by George Washington, who, to obtain a faster breed, crossed English foxhounds with French hounds given him by General Lafayette.

Boston terriers represent another success of breeders in obtaining just the desired characteristics from a parent stock, this time the English bulldog. Crossing it with the white English terrier, they obtained the bulldog type of head on a dog smaller and more agile than the bulldog. By that time the bulldog had been cultivated into a good-natured though still courageous animal, and those qualities were preserved.

Strangely, a somewhat similar set of ancestors produced the bull terrier, a very different dog. This time, the breeders wanted a fighter, so they chose the bulldog. They crossed him first with large black-and-tan terriers and white English terriers, producing a heavy-set, short-legged, fawn-colored dog. By careful selection they eliminated the short head and nearly all the other old bulldog qualities except the courage. Then the dog was crossed again with white terriers, and the white color, a recessive characteristic, was fixed, so that the dog became essentially the bull terrier we know today.

THE bulldog himself was the result of careful breeding of dogs for the barbarous sport of bull baiting. The bulls which were to be killed were roped to stakes, so the dog did not require real hunting ability, but only ferocity. The heavy, powerful mastiff was crossed with other breeds, among them probably the pug, for a peculiar reason. The bulldog’s chief requirement was to hang on, when he caught hold, and the pug’s short nose enabled him to breathe without letting go.

With the passing of bull baiting, the bulldog began to be cultivated with two oddly contrasting aims. The ferocity was bred out, until be became a really kindly beast, but at the same time, his ugliness of appearance was encouraged to such an exaggerated extent that it often interfered with his health. Breathing frequently was an effort for him, even in repose; and his lower jaw protruded so far that he often had trouble chewing his food, making him a prize example of unwisely directed heredity.

Like the bulldog, the Airedale terrier had his origin in a questionable pursuit.. Not only was he for a considerable time a mongrel, but he served as the helper of poachers on forbidden game preserves. The poachers worked at night, and wanted dark-colored dogs which would not be conspicuous, and which hunted without baying. They crossed old English terriers and otter hounds first, then Irish terriers and bull terriers, until finally the present type was evolved and stabilized.

CHANGES in the occupations of other dogs, as strange as the reformation of the Airedale and bulldog, have been effected by skillful crossing. The pointer, today’s widely used bird dog, was employed 300 years ago in England for finding rabbits to be chased by greyhounds, which hunt by sight.

Breeders crossed the English pointer with Spanish dogs, to get the superior “pointing” ability of the latter, but they bred out the foreign dog’s other characteristics, as inferior to the native’s. The original pointer stock is believed to have descended from “setting spaniels,” greyhounds, foxhounds, and bloodhounds. Later, to produce a kindlier disposition, the dogs were crossed with setters.

The English setter’s ancestry, quite curiously, includes the Spanish pointer, along with several types of spaniels. The setter himself had started work as a hunting dog long before the advent of firearms; he located birds and crouched while nets were drawn over them.

The English sportsmen’s desire for a dog to chase the fox out of his hole, resulted in the mingling of an amazing array of dog-talent, to produce the popular smooth-coated fox-terrier. Many experts believe the little animal carries the blood of black-and-tan terriers, beagles, greyhounds and bull terriers, with important heritages in alertness, scent, speed, or courage from each.

Another little dog, descended from different stock, became the wire-haired fox terrier. It was crossed with the smooth terrier, to get symmetry and white coloring, but the breeders were careful to retain the rough coat.

Almost as frequently as new breeds have been created, old ones have disappeared or suffered serious declines. The Irish wolfhound, one of the most famous breeds in history and perhaps the largest, degenerated and almost became extinct with the passing of conditions which had made it useful. But an English sportsman, wishing to restore it, crossed the remaining dogs with deerhounds, which he thought were of the same breed. Then he crossed them with Great Danes and Russian wolfhounds, until once again the Irish wolfhound became the tallest known dog, standing as high as thirty-six inches at the shoulder.

MANY other dogs which have become extinct, or almost so, are represented by new breeds in the making of which they had a part. The black-and-tan, or “rat terrier,” for example, whose unreliable temper cost him many friends, still flourishes today in a transformed and reformed state, as a part of the Boston, the bull terrier, the fox terrier, the striking and intelligent Dobermann Pinscher (first bred by a German dog catcher) and in many other popular breeds.

Changing tastes and living conditions which so often decree the end of a dog as a type, frequently make a new place for a part of him—and it is the job of the skillful breeder to see that the right part is saved.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Catch and Release Groundhog

Tailed this one out on this day in 2005.  It's too wet to dig at the moment.

The Oldest Dog Event in America

From Wikipedia:

The Fredericksburg Dog Mart is an annual dog show event currently held in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The event first took place in 1698 to facilitate trading between the Manahoac Tribe of King William County, Virginia and settlers in and around the area that would become the city of Fredericksburg.[4] At the Dog Mart, the Manahoac (and later, the Pamunkey and the Mattaponi) would trade furs and produce for prized English hunting dogs.[1] Though it has not been held continuously since that year, it is the oldest event of its kind in the United States.


In the early 17th century, American colonists raising tobacco in Virginia were concerned that the Native Americans were overhunting game. Gentlemen farmers were having trouble finding game to hunt near their plantations for sport. Until that time, settlers in Virginia had traded and given dogs brought from England to the Native Americans who used them in hunting. In 1619, the Virginia Assembly passed a law forbidding the sale of, "...any English dogs of quality as a mastiff, greyhound, bloodhounde, land or water spaniel, or any other dog...". The penalty for breaking this law was a fine of 5 shillings.

The ban on selling or giving away dogs ended in the late 17th century. The House of Burgesses passed an act in 1677 that provided for the trade of dogs and other items with Native Americans. The act established a "marte" or "faire" where, during a truce of several days each year, the settlers and Native Americans traded dogs, livestock, and other goods in the settled areas of Virginia.

The first "Fredericksburg" mart (Fredericksburg was not established as a town until 1728) was likely held within the protection of a fort known as Smith's Fort established below the falls on the Rappahannock in what is now Spotsylvania County. A trading agreement was concluded between the Manahoac tribe and the settlers. As a result of this agreement, and to promote peace, an annual fair was held in Fredericksburg where settlers could trade English hunting dogs for the Native Americans' produce and furs. This annual fair continued until the start of the Revolutionary War when it was stopped because of the settlers mistrust of the Native Americans during the fight for independence.

Present Day

The Dog Mart was not held again until 1927 when the traditional event was known as Dog Curb Market. At that time the event was held at City Park in Fredericksburg. The mart was scheduled for October each year to coincide with the beginning of hunting season in the area. This provided hunters with the opportunity to purchase hunting dogs. At that time the event began to gain nationwide attention. It was the subject of a Pathe Newsreel feature in 1928 and Time magazine featured the Dog Mart in an article in October 1937. In 1938, 7,000 people and 641 dogs attended the event.

After a suspension of the Dog Mart during World War II, the event was once again revived in 1948 by the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce under the auspices of the local chapter of the Izaak Walton League, a conservation oriented organization. The Dog Mart was held at the Maury School stadium in Fredericksburg. A delegation of 100 Pamunkey Indians from their reservation in nearby King William County and led by Chief T.D. Cook, attended the 1949 Dog Mart. At the event in October 1949, the event drew an estimated 15,000 spectators and participants from 30 states, Canada, Mexico, and England. In 1951, National Geographic Magazine published a 16-page article about the dog mart in the June issue.

The event was moved outside the town to a park owned by the Izaak Walton League in the 1970s. In 1980, the Dog Mart was held for the only time without any dogs. The sponsors of the event made the decision to follow the state veterinarian's advice to exclude the dogs due to a canine epidemic. Modern day Dog Marts have featured crafts, Indian events, rides, fiddling and fox-horn blowing contests, as well as a dog parade, show, auctions, and a reenactment of the first Dog Mart. The 2015 Dog Mart featured a Police canine demonstration, archery demonstration, fur trapping exhibition and demonstration by local trappers, children's fishing tournament, large firearm exhibition, barrel train ride, plus a dog show with judging. The Dog Mart celebrated its 317th anniversary in 2015 and continues to be held each year at the Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter of the Izaak Walton League in Spotsylvania, Virginia.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Shakespeare at the Xerox Machine

In King Lear, William Shakespeare makes a list of the hierarchy of dogs:

Mastiff, greyhound, mongrel grim
Hound or spaniel, brach or lym,
Or bobtail tike or trundle-tail

A near-identical list appears in Macbeth.

It turns out, however, that the source for this list may be a book by George North entitled A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels written in 1576.

The apparent plagiarism was discovered thanks to anti-plagiarism software commonly used to check up on college and high school student essays.

Related Links

** Shakespeare's Polar Bear
** Shakespeare in the Park

A Communist Disinformation Factory

I see 16 indictments against Russian election-hackers have come down

Are these part of the 17 that I pointed to back in November

I would not bet against it.

As for the idea that there was a factory out there somewhere cranking out right-wing disinformation, I saw that back in 2014, and suggested to a friend, retired from the intelligence community, that there was probably communist money behind it.


Dear D---:

As you know, I have repeatedly wondered where do all the right wing nonsense emails come from.

I truly wondered if the Chinese communists were cranking them out to make the country weaker. I have challenged you to consider that possibility.

Now, I am afraid to say, it turns out that I am almost right.

Read this piece on Jonathan Turley's blog, complete with ads.

Did I not ask, again and again, where these streams of crazy, fact-free emails were coming from?

I said there had to be a factory somewhere.

And there is.

In China.

And why not? The Koch Brothers don't actually believe in American workers paid an American wage in America.

Who you think is gonna run for your team in 2016?

Getting a bit thin on the other bench when Mittens Romney and Jeb Bush are the top tier.

Clowns on the Sofa at Crufts

A pair of know-nothings.

Twitter informs me that Clare Balding and Alan Carr will be doing color commentary at Crufts this year.


Neither one of them knows a single thing about dogs.

Once again it seems that the primary (only?) requirement of a dog show announcer is that they be gay and know nothing about dogs.

"Oh he’s a comedian and she did some sport 30 years ago? And both are gay stereotypes? Perfect!”

Gay and ignorant IS the requirement?  The only requirement?  Really?

As I wrote back in 2006, when reviewing the movie Best in Show:

The thread that holds the tapestry of characters together in Best in Show is not dogs, so much as the recognition that many of the people that attend dog shows seem to be "working out" their issues through the world of dogs. We laugh at the joke because it is so often true, and everyone in the audience knows it and "gets it."

A repeated theme in the movie is dysfunction -- sexual dysfunction, social dysfunction, and emotional dysfunction.

The fact that many dogs show obsessives are driven by a hole in their soul, and that that they seek to fill this hole through the surrogacy of dogs and dog shows is faced head on.

Many of the "normal" people that frequent dog shows are slightly odd, and more than a handful seem to be trying to compensate for the absence of children in their lives by dressing up their dogs, dancing with their dogs, or -- as in this case -- singing to them. Frustrated maternal instincts from both straight and gay couples are worn on the sleeve for anyone who takes the time to look for them.

A recurring theme in Best in Show is the large number of openly gay and closeted gay people that can be found at dog shows. In the clip below, a sad and powerful story is told in a single line: "I asked my ex-wife ... who's that?" The painful laughs that follow are triggered because almost everyone familiar with dog shows knows a character who fits the story. This is a story about lost lives.

Following the success of Best in Show, Bravo-TV did a "reality" show knock-off of the movie. It says quite a lot that they had no problem finding a ready cast of real people to populate their series: Showdog Moms & Dads.

In this series, a cast of "real dog show people" were followed around to canine events across the country including
a woman with no kids who freely admitted to displacing her maternal instincts on to her German Shepherds; a married man (and former AKC judge) who came off as a closeted version of Liberace; two screaming queens and their Toy Fox Terrier; a woman whose relationship with her Weimeraner appeared to be much stronger than her relationship with either her husband or reality, and; a "normal" person who was a single-mom and dog trainer trying to raise her son in a dog show world -- and with dog trainer commands.

One of the things you will NEVER hear at a dog show is the true history of any breed, or the list of genetic defects that have been exacerbated by closed registries.

And yet what a thing it would be to hear the truth!

What a breath of fresh air it would be to hear:

The German Shepherd was never much of a herding dog and is almost never found herding today. A herding German Shepherd with a commercial flock of sheep -- ha-ha -- what a notion! In fact this dog is a relatively new breed, created around 1900. Today the genetic stock of this dog is so racked by chronic hip dysplasia that many lines of German shepherds can barely walk. Anyone with an ounce of sense stays away from show lines today, and imports their dogs from working stock overseas.

The Bull Dog would be properly introduced as:

A game dog once used to catch stock for altering or slaughter, the bull dog was reduced in stature and mutated by intentionally breeding in achondroplastic dwarfism, which is why the legs on these dogs are so bent they can barely walk. The pressed-in-face means the dogs have chronic breathing problems, while the digestive tract is so wrecked that these dogs pass more gas than a Mexican restaurant. You will learn to light matches with a bull dog!

The heads on these dogs are so enormous that almost all the dogs are born caesarian, and in fact this dog would be extinct within 10 years if it were not for veterinarians helping these little mutants into the world.

Notice that nice little pig tail? That is a source of chronic skin infection, and most of the dogs in the ring today will have their tails completely cut off after they are retired from performance -- a way of making it easier to keep this breed after a show ring career.

Crufts, of course, is a sad joke.  If you want to be reminded of that just look at the dog they put up as a working dog last year.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Origins, Schisms, and the True Church of Work

For all practical purposes, the story of American terrier work begins in 1971 with Patricia Adams Lent, who founded the American Working Terrier Association to promote working terriers and dachshunds.

The American Working Terrier Association (AWTA) was, and is, a modest organization with about 100 members last I looked. It has no headquarters or paid staff, and produces a simple newsletter four times a year. Its web site has no information about actual hunting or wildlife, and is focused almost entirely on go-to-ground trials.

That said, AWTA is an important organization in the history of American working terriers, not only because it was the first "club" devoted to the sport, but also because Ms. Lent invented go-to-ground trials, and the basic set of rules governing them.

Since 1971, go-to-ground trials have served as a kind of "on ramp" for actual field work. The basic AWTA format has been widely copied, first by the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (1976) and then by the American Kennel Club (1994).

The origin of the American go-to-ground tunnel can be found in the artificial fox earths first constructed in the UK in the 1920s, but which came into their own in the 1950s and 60s with the collapse of so many ancient rabbit warrens under the onslaught of myxomatosis.

Artificial earths are generally constructed of two parallel rows of brick stacked three bricks high and topped by overlapping slates, or out of 9-inch clay or concrete drainage pipe laid end-to-end. The result is a very spacious and dry fox earth. If sited within 200 feet of a water source (it does not have to be large), far from residences, and on the edge of fields and small woods, the chance of a fox taking up residence is excellent.

The first artificial fox earths were constructed in order to guarantee that a fox could be found on hunt day, and to encourage fox to run along known courses away from roadways. That said, they also found favor because they proved easy locations for a terrier to bolt a fox from. Even an overlarge dog could negotiate the straight or gently curving unobstructed nine-inch pipes of an artificial earth.

The go-to-ground tunnels devised by Patricia Adams Lent were constructed of wood instead of stone, brick or clay pipe, but were equally commodious, measuring 9 inches on each side with a bare dirt floor for drainage and traction.

From the beginning, AWTA's goal was to be inclusive. Scottish Terriers with enormous chests were encouraged to join AWTA, as were owners of West Highland Whites, Cairns, Norfolks, Norwiches, Border Terriers, Fox Terriers, Lakelands, Welsh Terriers, and Bedlingtons. All were welcome, with the simple goal of having a little fun with the dogs, and perhaps giving American Kennel Club terrier owners some small idea of what actual terrier work was about.

In AWTA trials, wooden den "liners" are sunk into a trench in the ground. The tunnels are up to 35 feet long with a series of right-angle turns, false dens and exits. The “quarry” at the end of the tunnel is a pair of "feeder" lab rats safely protected behind wooden bars and wire mesh. The rats are not only not harmed, but after 100 years of breeding for docility, some lab rats have been know to go to sleep!

Without a doubt, go-to-ground trials have been a huge hit with American terrier owners. The interior dimensions of the den liners -- 81 inches square -- means even over-large terriers are able to negotiate them with ease. With nothing but a caged rat to face as "quarry," the safety of dogs is guaranteed, and since the dogs only have to bay or dig at the quarry for 90-seconds, most dogs end up qualifying for at least an entry-level certificate or ribbon.

Though the die-hard hunter may sneer, the increasing popularity of go-to-ground terrier trials is a welcome thing, for it has brought more people a little closer to real terrier work.

Owners of dogs that do well in go-to-ground trials should take pride in their dog’s achievements. Like all sports that emulate real work (lumber jack contests, bird dog trials, and sheep dog trials, to name a few), a go-to-ground trial is both harder and easier than its real-world cousin.

A dog that will exit a 30-foot tunnel backwards in just 90 seconds and on a single command (a requirement for earning an AKC Senior Earthdog certificate) is a dog that has been trained to a fairly high degree of proficiency.

Having said that, it should be stressed that a go-to-ground trial has little relationship to true hunting. In the field dogs are not rewarded for speed. In fact, if a hunt terrier were to charge down a real earth like it were a go-to-ground tunnel it would quickly run into quarry capable of inflicting real damage.

In addition, in a real hunting situation a dog must do a great deal more than “work” the quarry for 90 seconds! A good working dog will stick to the task for as long as it can hear people moving about overhead – whether that is 15 minutes or three hours.

And nose?  There is not much of a test for that at an AWTA trial!

The real division street between go-to-ground and earthwork, however, is size. And the real problem with a go-to-ground trial is not that it teaches a dog to go too fast down a tunnel (dogs generally understand the difference between fake liners and real earth), but that it suggests to terrier owners that any dog that can go down a cavernous go-to-ground tunnel is a dog “suitable for work.”

To its credit, the American Working Terrier Association recognizes the difference between a go-to-ground tunnel and real earth work, and implicitly underscores this difference in its rules for earning a Working Certificate.

AWTA rules note that a terrier or dachshund can earn a working certificate on woodchuck, fox, raccoon, badger, or an “aggressive possum” found in a natural earth, but that “this does not include work in a drain or otherwise man-made earth.”

In short, a drain is not a close proxy for a natural earth, and terriers that are too large to work a natural earth do not meet the requirements of a working terrier.

The American Working Terrier Association issues Certificates of Gameness to dogs qualifying at their artificial den trials. Working Certificates are awarded to dogs that work groundhog, fox, raccoon, possum, or badger in a natural den provided that at least one AWTA member is there as a witness. AWTA also issues a Hunting Certificate to a dog that hunts regularly over a period of a year.
Eddie Chapman and Ailsa Crawford

Six years after the American Working Terrier Association was created, Mrs. Ailsa Crawford, one of the first Jack Russell Terrier breeders in the U.S., founded the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA)

Ms. Crawford and the early founders of the Jack Russell Terrier Club put a lot of thought into structuring the JRTCA so that work remained front and center. Towards that end, the club decided that its highest award -- the "bronze medallion" -- would not go to show dogs, but to working dogs that had demonstrated their ability in the field by working at least three of six types of American quarry -- red fox, Gray fox, raccoon, groundhog, possum, and badger -- in front of a JRTCA-certified field judge.

In the show ring the JRTCA decided to ban professional handlers as it was thought this would keep the shows fun and less important than the essential element of work.

Instead of mandating the kind of narrow conformation ranges demanded by the Kennel Club for their terrier breeds, the JRTCA divided the diverse world of the Jack Russell Terrier into three coat types (smooth, broken and rough), and two sizes (10 inches tall to 12.5 inches tall, and 12.5 inches tall to 15 inches tall).

"Different horses for different courses" became a watch word, with overt recognition that the world of working terriers required dogs able to work different quarry in different earths, and in different climates.

Unlike the Kennel Club, the JRTCA also decided to keep their registry an "open" registry so that new blood might be infused at times. At the same time, the Club discouraged inbreeding and eventually restricted line breeding to a set percentage.

To balance off an open-registry with the desire to keep Jack Russell-type dogs looking like Jack Russells, the JRTCA decided not to allow dogs to be registered at birth or to register entire litters. Instead, each dog would be photographed from each side and the front, and admitted to the registry on their own merit, and as an adult. In addition, each dog had to be measured for height and chest span.

What this meant is that at the time of registration, the height and chest measurement of an adult dog could be recorded. Over time, both height and chest size could be tracked through pedigrees -- an essential element of breeding correctly-sized working terriers.

The JRTCA was not shy about their rationale for these rules: they openly and emphatically opposed Kennel Club registration, maintaining that time had show that dogs brought into the Kennel Club quickly grew too big and often lost other essential working attributes such as nose, voice, and prey drive.

Today the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America is the largest Jack Russell Terrier club and registry in the world, and its Annual National Trial attracts approximately 1,200 Jack Russell terriers from all over the U.S. and Canada.

The JRTCA's small professional staff cranks out a solid bi-monthly magazine that is 80-100 pages long, holds a regular schedule of dog shows, and sells deben locator collars, fox nets, and a host of other items ranging from hats and jackets to coffee cups.

The web site of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America is packed with well-presented information.

Perhaps the most important service work of the JRTCA are the ads that the Club routinely runs in all-breed publications warning people that Jack Russell Terriers are not a dog for everyone, are primarily a hunting dog, and are not like the cute dogs seen on TV.

Sometime in the last 1990s, following the appearance of Jack Russell Terriers in a host of TV and Hollywood productions ranging from "Wishbone" and "Frasier" to "My Dog Skip" and "The Mask," the American Kennel Club decided to add the Jack Russell Terrier to its roles.

As they had previously done with the Border Collie, the AKC ignored the strong opposition of the large existing breed club, and quietly assembled a new club of show-ring breeders to serve as their stalking horse.

The "Jack Russell Terrier Breeders Association" (later called the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America, and now called the "Parson Russell Terrier Association of America") petitioned for the admission of the Jack Russell Terrier into the Kennel Club and, despite the objections of the JRTCA, the breed was admitted in January of 2001.

The admission of the Jack Russell Terrier into the American Kennel Club was a contentious affair, with the JRTCA standing firm on its long-held rule that no dog could be dual-registered.

What this meant is that breeders had to chose whether to remain in the JRTCA or to "get in early" with the AKC before they closed their registry.

Some of the breeders that chose the AKC did so because they thought they could then sell their puppies for more money, others were eager to be the "big fish in a small pond" at the beginning of a new AKC breed registry. Still others were anxious to attend more dog shows,.

Whatever the reason, the Kennel Club required that the Jack Russell Terrier breed description be narrower than that of the JRTCA. The goal of a Kennel Club breed description is to craft a narrow "standard" -- the wide variance in size, coat, and look allowed and encouraged in the world of working terriers would not do.

The American Kennel Club breed standard stipulated that an AKC Jack Russell terrier could not be under 12 inches in height nor over 15 inches in height, and further stipulated that "ideal" dog was 14 inches tall and the ideal bitch was 13" tall.

Ironically, this breed description effectively eliminated about 40% of all the American dogs that had actually worked red fox in the U.S.

More importantly, this narrow standard eliminated the small dogs necessary to "size down" a breed -- something absolutely necessary in order to keep working terriers small enough to work.

Of course the American Kennel Club has never been interested in working terriers and the breed club they created has shown no interest in work either.

Under continuing pressure from the working Jack Russell Terrier community in England and the U.S., the British and American Kennel Clubs decided to jettison the "Jack Russell Terrier" name to more easily identify the non-working show ring dog they favored.

Now called the "Parson Russell Terrier," the AKC dog is quickly getting too big in the chest to work -- though not many dogs are actually taken out into the field to try.  For more on the convolunted and contrived history here, see: A Wrench That Doesn't Fit.

After just three years in the Kennel Club, the "Parson Russell Terrier Club" tried to modify the show ring standard so that the dog no longer had to be spanned. In fact, many Kennel Club judges do not know how to span a terrier and many do not do it as a consequence.

In 2001, the United Kennel Club started an "earth work" program modeled after that of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. The UKC working terrier program remained small, with relatively few judges, it did not grow rapidly, and it has now been consigned to the scrap heap of history since it did not turn a quick and ready profit (the UKC is for-profit and privately held by a single individual).

In 2005, The Kennel Club in the UK added a bit more confusion to the story by changing the standard for the dog they were now calling the Parson Russell Terrier, extending it to encompass dogs ranging from 10 to 15 inches tall at the shoulders.

The American Kennel Club did not follow the U.K Kennel Club in changing the standard, instead choosing, in 2012,  to create another breed of dog called the "Russell Terrier" which they said "originated" in the United Kingdom, but which was "developed" in Australia -- a country which John Russell never so much as visited, which had no Jack Russells at all until the very late 1960s, and where the dog in question remains a pet and show dog that never sees a moment's work. The AKC "Russell terrier" standard calls for a dog standing 10-12 inches tall at the shoulder. As with the AKC Parson Russell terrier, almost no dogs are ever found in the field.

How to sort it all out then?

I think simplicity is best. In my opinion, there are only two types of terriers in the world: those that work, and those that don't. The white ones that work are called Jack Russell Terriers, and they are called that out of respect for the working standard that the Reverend John Russell himself honored throughout his life. Many of these white-bodied working terriers are not registered, but neither were any of the Reverend's own dogs.

What are we to make of the Kennel Club dogs? Simple: None of them are Jack Russell terriers.

They are not Jack Russells in name, nor are they Jack Russell terriers in terms of performing regular honest work.

They are simply another white terrier being combed out, powdered, and fussed over by people chasing ribbons.

Westminster Wrecks the Fox Terrier

"No working terrier has ever been created
by the Kennel Club, but every working
terrier breed that has been drawn in,
has been destroyed there."

People who care about working terriers are generally dismissive of the Kennel Club, for the simple reason that they know what the Kennel Club has done, through either omission or commission, to the working terriers they care about.

The simple fact is that no working terrier has ever been created by the Kennel Club, but every working terrier breed that has been drawn in, has been destroyed there.

The Reverend John Russell noted the negative impact of dog shows on working terriers -- he judged only one show (when he was a very old man), and he swore he would never do it again!

Though the destruction of working terriers started with the Allied Terrier Shows run by Charles Crufts in the U.K. (Crufts was a dog food salesman who never even owned a dog himself!), the Americans quickly got into the game as well.

A quick historical tour of "Best in Show" winners at the Westminster Kennel Club Show in New York City suggests the intense attention given to terriers at the turn of the 20th Century.

  • The first "Best in Show" winner at Westminster in New York City was in 1907. This first "Best in Show" winner was a smooth fox terrier that looked a little bit like today's Jack Russell.

  • Fox terriers won again in 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1937 and 1942.

  • A Sealyham (another working breed ruined by the show ring) won in 1924, 1927 and 1936.

  • Airedales made Best in Show in 1912, 1919, 1920, 1933, and 1936.

  • A bull terrier went Best In Show in 1918, and a Welsh Terrier in 1944.

As you can see, almost all the early winners were terriers, and most of them were fox terriers.

It was during this period that the face of the fox terrier was elongated and the chest enlarged by show ring breeders.

Prior to World War II, if you were really intent on wining the top award at a dog show, you went into fox terriers.

Probably no breed could have survived such intense attention without being wrecked by fad, and the fox terrier certainly did not.

A popular line of rhetoric within the Kennel Club crowd is that individual breeders ruin the dogs, not the Kennel Club itself. This rhetoric is designed to absolve the Kennel Club of its responsibility for the genetic decline of working dogs.

In fact, the rules and selection bias of the Kennel Club are a very large part of the problem -- every much a part of the problem as individual breeders (who have no power to reform the Kennel Club itself).

The genetic destruction of working dogs begins with the fact that the Kennel Club mandates that each breed club "close" its registry after an initial influx of "pure bred" dogs.

In fact most breed clubs start with a very small base of dogs, and then move to close breed roles as quickly as possible in order to create economic value for the breeders that are "in" the club.

A closed genetic registry results in increasing levels of inbreeding and increased concentrations of genetic faults.

In fact, Kennel Club dogs are so deeply inbred and rich with genetic defects that mapping the genome of Kennel Club dogs was one of the first tasks undertaken by genetic scientists eager to crack the human genetic code in order to eradicate diseases.

If you are looking for the gene associated with genetic deafness, it is rather hard trait to find in a random-bred human, cat or chimpanzee, but thanks to Kennel Club inbreeding, there are entire lines of deaf dogs, with deafness common to 25% or more of all puppies from some breeds. Genetic defects associated with ataxia, cataracts, dysplasia, and dwarfism are similarly easy to find by simply comparing one breed, or line of dogs, with another.

Along with a requirement that breed registries be closed, the Kennel Club rejects the notion that there should be a morphological continuum within the world of dogs.

In fact, "speciation" of dogs based on looks alone is what the Kennel Club is all about.

Under Kennel Club rules and "standards," a Cairn terrier cannot look too much like a Norwich terrier, which cannot look too much like a Norfolk terrier, which cannot look too much like a Border terrier, which cannot look too much like a Fell terrier, which cannot look too much like a Welsh terrier, which cannot look too much like a Lakeland terrier, which cannot look too much like a Fox terrier, which cannot look too much like a "Parson Russell" terrier (the non-hunting, show-ring version of the Jack Russell Terrier).

The show ring is all about "breeds," and all about differentiating one breed from another.

In the world of the working terrier, of course, the fox or raccoon or groundhog does not care too much what breed the dog is! In fact, the fox or raccoon cannot even see the dog it faces underground, as there is no light inside a den pipe.

What the fox cares about is whether the dog can actually reach it at the back of the sette.

The good news (at least as far as the fox is concerned!) is that a Kennel Club dog often cannot get very close to the quarry . The reason for this? A Kennel Club dog is likely to have too big a chest.

The overlarge chests you find on so many Kennel Club terriers are a byproduct of putting too much emphasis on head shape and size. By requiring all the terriers to be morphologically distinct from each other, the Kennel Club puts tremendous emphasis on heads.

People who do not dig much (if at all) imagine that a big head is important to work. In fact, it really is not; most small cross-bred working terriers have heads big enough to do the job, and are well-enough shaped to boot.

An over-emphasis on terrier head size almost invariably leads to a larger chest size on the dog -- a bigger chest size is needed to counterbalance the larger head, since one is attached to the other.

A large chest size, in turn, results in a dog that cannot easily get to ground in a tight naturally-dug earth.

The end result is what we see in the Kennel Club show ring today -- transvestite terriers. These dogs may LOOK like they can do the part (and they are so eager!), but when push comes to shove, most of them lack the essential equipment to do the job, whether that is chest size, nose, voice, brain, or a game and gritty character.

A perfect example is the "Best in Show" winner at Westminster yesterday.

The winning wire fox terrier has a coat as puffy as a poodle, has a tail that looks like it was added after the fact with a hot glue gun, and has a chest as deep as the keel of a war ship.  The eye are small and better suited to a ferret, the head is narrow and long, leaving for a weak jaw and a nose buried in fur.  The dog's back is too short for it to turn around in most dirt dens.

And, of course, the dog has never worked at all, and never will. 

This is a dog judged by a woman in an evening gown who knows nothing at at all about terriers, and led on a string leash by a man as heavy and out of shape as Chris Christie.

Compare and contrast with the dogs at top, back before the show ring wrecked the fox terrier.

The fox terrier is a working dog?  Not in this country, and not for the last 100 years.

Skim milk is sold as cream and nowhere is that more true than at the AKC.