November 24, 2011

Bulldogs

Here's a lengthy article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis on problems with the faddishly-popular English bulldogs (the #1 breed in L.A., a factoid that is cited in the article as a self-evidently alarming statistic). 

Back since bull-baiting was outlawed in 1835, English bulldogs have been bred to look like a cartoon of a human baby, with all sorts of unfortunate effects on their health. Back in the bull-baiting days, English bulldogs were vicious beasts, but Victorians quickly bred them for winning personalities. But modern Americans have taken that too far and turned English bulldogs into caricatures of Winston Churchill in senility. 

In general, the 19th Century British were just more effectual at dog breeding than are moderns. I strongly doubt that they had better techniques. They just had better goals. For example, the reporter goes to visit a man who has been breeding a healthier English bulldog for 40 years, but nobody much cares. 

That reminds me that you occasionally read, although less often now than a decade ago, of somebody claiming that genetic engineering of humans will, Real Soon Now, change everything. I pretty much asserted that back in the 1990s. 

Well, maybe, but leaving aside all the technical questions and consider this: humans have near-complete control over dog breeding today, and yet we are lousier at it than a century ago.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

humans have near-complete control over dog breeding today, and yet we are lousier at it than a century ago.

Not really shocking. Our human breeding policies, vis-a-vis immigration, are lousier than a century ago, as well - or 86 years ago, anyway.

Anonymous said...

> That reminds me that you occasionally read, although less often now than a decade ago, of somebody claiming that genetic engineering of humans will, Real Soon Now, change everything. I pretty much asserted that back in the 1990s. 

Sometimes the future sneaks up on us. Multiway realtime video chat was a fantasy in 1985 but has been routine now for many years.

People overestimate change in the short run, but underestimate it in the long run. Pretty much every crazy internet idea of the 1990s eventually came to pass, from "every movie and song anytime anywhere" to the convergence device (aka the iPhone).

Exponential curves like this...

http://www.genome.gov/sequencingcosts/

...are always followed by serious real world consequences. But it's going to take the collapse of America and its ideology of international egalitarianism to truly unleash the genome.

Kaz said...

It's because we're breeding primarily for aesthetics (the cute variety), and excessive docility.

Everything else became an after-thought.

Well that's what I think at least.

Anonymous said...

Steve, if you read your Darwin, you will see that in the pre-television days of 19th century England, animal breeding and showing was a very popular past-time amongst all social classes from the duke to the dustman.'Everyone is interested in pigeons' - wrote Darwin, who was in part inspired by the many and varied breeds of pigeon around in those days, and kept pigeons himself.
I presume in those days, animal breeding was taken very seriously as a competitive, male-oriented hobby, with its own journals, sub-culture and networks, rather like computer games or blogging is today.
Of course fanatical hobbyists (who are responsible for a surprising number of innovations and breakthroughs in science and technology), can never be let loose 'breeding humans'.

Eric said...

humans have near-complete control over dog breeding today, and yet we are lousier at it than a century ago.

No, we aren't "lousier at breeding". People want the dog a certain way and that's what breeders are giving them.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Kaz is right. Women and their homosexual friends dominate the AKC and are breeding for the aesthetics of the show ring rather than functionality of the discrete breeds.

Women and their homosexual friends are doing the same sort of wrecking in the Anglican Communion and the US military as well.

If you want to wreck an institution, allow women and gays into its leadership.

Anonymous said...

Of course fanatical hobbyists (who are responsible for a surprising number of innovations and breakthroughs in science and technology)

Im not sure there is anything surprising about it. In fact arent those exactly the people who one would expect to get stuff done?

If one looks backwards at older technology - trains, cars, planes etc Who are the nerdy hobbyists who keep the old ones preserved and operational? The same kind of nerdy, white obsessives who invented them in the first place.

Matthew Walker said...

If you want to know what people will do with genetic engineering, look at what they *are* doing with plastic surgery.

Rainforest Giant said...

When I was breeding bullmastiffs most breeders I knew discussed bulldogs. We didn't want our animals to go down that path.

Bulldogs size and physique are the result of deliberate breeding for a genetic flaw. Bulldog breeders vehemently deny that their dogs are genetically deformed. That's bad enough right there. Another problem is the short legs also seem linked to the personality.

I am glad that somebody found an olde english bulldogge to be cute and endearing because every breeder I spoke to found the same thing. The dogs grew more aggressive and unmanageable as you lengthened the legs.

That old saw about 'no bad dogs, only bad owners' is bullshit. Plenty of breeds are too aggressive and even dangerous to be around. Combine a breed that is too aggressive with a deliberately large size and strong bite and you are asking for trouble (Pit Bull I am looking at you).

Some breeds of dog are simply too aggressive. If the breed requires an 'experienced handler' you can imagine that it is probably too aggressive. If a dog simply requires that it be left alone by its owner to be aggressive and dangerous, it's too dangerous.

You rarely read stories like, "Feral Pack of Golden Retrievers Fatally Mauls Child"

Ray Sawhill said...

As far as I can tell, the dog blog to read is Terrierman. Dismayingly, he's been a big Obama supporter. But nearly everything he writes about dogs is really smart. He's appalled by how dysfunctional many dog breeds have become, and often wonders why people don't breed dogs for longevity, health and companionability instead, whatever the final look of the dog.

Anonymous said...

Wait a generation, when people like this can get designer eggs from mafia states like Kosova or Macao.

Designer people will appeal most strongly to those with the most deviant conceptions of what to do with it.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2065107/Woman-desperate-look-like-Jessica-Rabbit-gets-worlds-biggest-lips-4-000-worth-silicone-injections.html?ITO=1490

--Discordiax

Puppy Saga pt 25 said...

White people used to be bred to be aggressive and to win. But lately they've been bred to be defenseless and ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

(the #1 breed in L.A., a factoid that is cited in the article as a self-evidently alarming statistic).

Either it's a fact or it isn't. Until corrupted by misuse, "factoid" meant a datum that looks like a fact, walks like a fact, etc...but isn't one. You know, like a humanoid or asteroid are only an epigone of the real thing.

Prescriptive definitions and usage may be reactionary and all that, but no sense in contributing the general decline in meaning, e.g., "a myriad of."

Anonymous said...

(the #1 breed in L.A., a factoid that is cited in the article as a self-evidently alarming statistic).

Either it's a fact or it isn't. Until corrupted by misuse, "factoid" meant a datum that looks like a fact, walks like a fact, etc...but isn't one. You know, like a humanoid or asteroid are only an epigone of the real thing.

Prescriptive definitions and usage may be reactionary and all that, but no sense in contributing the general decline in meaning, e.g., "a myriad of."

Anonymous said...

(the #1 breed in L.A., a factoid that is cited in the article as a self-evidently alarming statistic).

Either it's a fact or it isn't. Until corrupted by misuse, "factoid" meant a datum that looks like a fact, walks like a fact, etc...but isn't one. You know, like a humanoid or asteroid are only an epigone of the real thing.

Prescriptive definitions and usage may be reactionary and all that, but no sense in contributing the general decline in meaning, e.g., "a myriad of," or, as in a previous post, "center around" (how does one center "around" rather than "on").

Anonymous said...

Is Anon 12:19 AM familiar with television, or other post-19th century inventions? The Kennel Club of Philly was on TV yesterday (some Irish wire fox terrier won the category, but there were plenty of new goofy fads to observe)

Anonymous said...

my impression is that breeding is done by the dog show crowd and is geared for weirdly exact morphometric specifications, etc... rather than for the tasks that the breeds were originally developed for (herding, working, hunting assistance, etc...) with predictable consequences for breed quality

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

In general there has been a decline of pragmatism of every kind since 1900. Pre-1900 we had pragmatic dog breeding, pragmatic civil rights policies, pragmatic immigration policies, and fought pragmatic wars.

America's wars pre-1900 were for independence or expansion. Conquering land that was very lightly settled, at best, was by no means evil, but it wasn't exactly idealistic, and oh-by-the-way it served our economic interests. The Civil War is often thought of as an exception to this rule, but that war was as much about the North retaining control of the South (and eliminating a cheaper labor alternative to its own preferred model) as it was about freeing the slaves.

But by about 1900 expansion into lightly settled land was complete (the land we "stole" from Mexico had fewer than 200,000 people living upon it), and then WW2 came along, with antagonists so perfectly evil that it made victory especially satisfying. For once it really was "the good guys" versus "the bad guys." And ever since we have felt the need to justify our military actions in some idealistic manner, by spreading democracy and freedom and, in general, making room for more rainbows and unicorn pastures.

Pre-1900 the country as a whole could decide it didn't like immigrants from Country X and simply bar them from coming. No high-falutin' legal justification was needed. We just did it, and few if any people felt the need to make excuses.

19th Century American pragmatism made the world safe for late-20th Century naive idealism. But 50+ years of naive idealism is going to require a return to pragmatism very soon.

Whiskey said...

Look at for example, the use of heads-up-display in Caddys with infrared Heads up displays. Just like Caddy had the first airbags, and then abandoned it, they were the first with that system.

Who cares about seeing Facebook in your car, I'd rather have USEFUL technology, like not hitting a deer, a pedestrian, a dog, at night or poor lighting or fog.

This bulldog breeding is indicative of excess wealth driving not innovation but status displays. The Victorians being poorer drove technology and breeding for useful things, not status-mongering. [Though it is useful to note that in particular men and women's dress often reflected idiot status obsessions then, while now both sexes tend to dress shabbily mostly and display status through objects like Iphones.]

Another County said...

The animal right people have really slowed progress down. If there were no-holds barred use and breeding of animals, they could be used to help the environment. By now we should have bred some really helpful and nonaggressive monkeys doing all kinds of tasks like cleaning up trash, dolphins serving as life guards, birds with cameras patrolling the traffic. Oh well.

OT, but right up Sailer alley: have you been paying attention to the Florida Marlins ethnic business model? Changing the name to Miami, going after Hispanic talent, this article sums it up
http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/20/v-fullstory/2510381/miami-marlins-expensive-experiment.html

Douglas Knight said...

You can explain anything by assuming it fits the goals. Do owners have worse goals, or are they falling prey to marketing? Do the owners have the wrong goals, or do the breeders?

What effect will the split between US and UK standards yield? Can the UK make the dogs healthier without losing popularity?

icr said...

Women and their homosexual friends dominate the AKC and are breeding for the aesthetics of the show ring rather than functionality of the discrete breeds.

It's interesting that the second largest dog registry (the UKC) is basically run by coonhound aficionados. I doubt that the gays and the neo-women hold much sway among that crowd, though I'm sure that they endorse PC as required.

icr said...

As far as I can tell, the dog blog to read is Terrierman.


No, no not Terrierman... Retrieverman.

Retrieverman is also a BHO supporter, but mild-mannered and reasonable instead of obnoxious and hostile like the other guy. The blog Border(Collie)Wars has pointed out that Terrierman is often sloppy with the facts.

Fenris said...

There is no reason to try to preserve the English Bulldog all the functional bulldog experiments are misguided. A functional bulldog similar in type and descended directly from the original English bulldog already exists and has continued to exist in the south for the last 300 years, the american bulldog is healthy, fit and quite capable of the jobs of the original bulldog.

bobn said...

Combine a breed that is too aggressive with a deliberately large size and strong bite and you are asking for trouble (Pit Bull I am looking at you).

The problems with pitbulls (at least w/ regards to problems between them and people) is probably a result of recent bad breeding and abuse.

In the bad old days of dog-fighting, there were 5 organisms in the ring: 2 dogs and 3 humans (1 handler per dog, plus the referee).

In those days, any dog that bit a human was (typically) immediately put down by the breeder - because nobody was going to want to be in the ring otherwise. Those dogs had to be able to go to the death and not bite a person.

The good remnants of those breeds can be amazing pets. But they will typically be much more dangerous to other people's pets than to other people.


The modern habit of breeding for form, rather than function, will produce many lousy dogs.

As somebody else said: Gays and woman. That's why female models often look like anorexic boys, too.

BorderWars said...

I followed the link to my blog back here, but I'm sure I've come across your excellent genetics articles while preparing posts.

This general topic (the genetics and ethics of dog breeding) is about half the content on my BorderWars blog.
Some posts you might find interesting:

The issue of the horrible and intentional current structure of the Bulldog (and other breeds) touches on a concept that I have dubbed “Sine Qua Non Disorders” in dog breeding, where the dysfunction is not strictly a deleterious genetic disease, but a biophysical trait that has actually been selected for and is often a trademark of the breed.

Sine Qua Non Disease

You can see that there is quite a list of breeds and associated disorders that are amazingly not considered deleterious by the fancy. The DACH countries have actually taken legal steps to outlaw many of these breeding fads and practices as “qualzucht:” literally ‘torture breeding.’

While there is a certain AR bent to this discussion that my Libertarian philosophy dislikes, there is a serious extant problem in purebred dogs and their twisted ethics on this issue that does need to be addressed (hopefully not with HSUS funded AR legislation).

The general level of genetic knowledge among dog breeders is horrible, so I have taken up the charge of trying to distill these concepts into posts that open minded breeders could understand.

I have spent a number of posts trying to rectify the intentionally twisted understanding of inbreeding that most breeders put out as fact:

Inbred Mistakes

Sadly, even the trained biologists PhDs who are also dog breeders have a tendency to drink the show ring koolaid versus the rationalism of science:

Academic Fraud in Toller Research

I’ve even called out one researcher for Academic Fraud given that her personal investment as a breeder of a rare (and highly inbred) breed, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, led her to manipulate population genetic data to suggest that the breed was not inbred (basically truncating all but 4 ancestor generations worth of pedigree data to lower COI calculations).

It’s a crazy little niche to be writing for, that’s for sure.

Rainforest Giant said...

The problems with pitbulls (at least w/ regards to problems between them and people) is probably a result of recent bad breeding and abuse.

Which is my point. Abuse a Gordon Setter and you're going to get a scared Gorden Setter. Give them bad breeding and you'll likely find something that can't be housebroken or humps legs.

Abuse a pit or pitbull mix and you get a mutilated or dead toddler. Give them 'bad breeding' and you'll get neighborhoods shut off from postal service because of dog attacks.

The point is that compared to a King Charles Spaniel or an Australian Cattle Dog or any other normal breed they are inherently dangerous. Look at them sideways and you might wind up with dead cats or dogs. Give them anything but specialized care and training and they are likely to injure or kill someone? Somebody needs a reality check.

Reg C├Žsar said...

I accompanied a friend on a visit to her sister's a few years ago. While the two women "caught up", I entertained myself with the dog, who was calm and friendly and clearly enjoyed my company. This was the most remarkably placid dog I'd ever met, so I asked the hostess which breed he was.

A pit bull!

And he was intact, too. She said he was in great demand with local (suburban) breeders for his sweet disposition. I'm assuming those breeders were all white.

The ghetto breeding plan is quite different. I can imagine two extreme strains of otherwise identical pits emerging from this.

Fenris said...

@ Rainforest Giant The reality is pit bulls still are among the highest scorers in temperment testing at animal shelters. There are large communities of people who own them and do not have problems with them I grew up in a community were every other dog was pit bull for some reasons the pit bulls raised by white hippies never ended up killing toddlers.

Any large dog is dangerous if it has an unstable temperment or is badly socialized. The problem with pit bulls Boils down to one major factor the primary communities(Blacks hispanics and poor whites) in which they are breed are not resonsible in their breeding practices. There are more pit bulls put down in animal shelter every year then all AKC breeds combined, this is despite the aforementioned temperament testing. This is due to the fact that pit bulls are less likely to be spayed or neutered by their owners, so there is an overpopulation problem.

Those same people are far more likely to neglect and beat their dogs. A golden retriever who is beaten and neglected can certainly become aggressive believe me I volunteered at animal shelters for 15 years http://www.understand-a-bull.com/Articles/OtherBreedBites/AllDogsBite.htm. Finally there is pit bull scare any dog attack is assumed to be a pit bull and any mutt with somewhat bigger head then normal who attacks someone will be assumed to be a pit bull.

Kanazawa once said all stereotypes are true and he was mostly right this one of the cases were the stereotype isn't true.

Kylie said...

"Combine a breed that is too aggressive with a deliberately large size and strong bite and you are asking for trouble (Pit Bull I am looking at you)."

You're looking at what? An Am Staff, an APBT, a Bull Terrier, an American Bulldog? Or something else altogether?

"Pit bull" is a catchall term for any one of a number of breeds in the Molosser group. I'm surprised and dismayed to see anyone who calls himself as a former Bullmastiff breeder using that term.

The Real American Pit Bull Terrier

Real APBT VS American bully

Full disclosure: I'm a huge fan of the bull breeds and have an EB and and OEB. I've also had a bullie mix and my husband had an English Mastiff.

Kylie said...

Here we go again:

More "pitbull" misinformation

It's not till near the end that the article specifies the dogs were "pit bull mixes". Mixes of what? Doesn't say.

Steve, when we moved here, the rumor went around the neighborhood that we had two "pitbulls". I will email you a pic of them and you can judge for yourself.