Friday, October 20, 2017

Dogs: A Breeder’s Sales Video

Breeding matters, but for most pet puppies it does not matter nearly as much as some folks think. What matters more is the training and commitment that you, the human, bring to the table.

Eagle Eats Cat on Downtown Virginia Sidewalk

A bald eagle was spotted eating a black cat on a downtown Norfolk, Virginia sidewalk. Video here.

Coffee and Provocation

Fake Service Dogs
19 states are cracking down on fake service dogs. I have written about the problem before, and the people who promote them who are now engaged in other scams.

Dog Fail: They're Not as Cooperative as Wolves
Humans and dogs are both social pack predators with a long history of working together, so you would think they would be better at cooperation than wolves, but you would be wrong. It turns out wolves are much better at cooperation than dogs, at least when it comes to cooperating with each another.

Professional Sport Dogs on Dope
Iditarod race dogs have test positive for opioids race officials say. The still as yet unnamed musher denies he gave his dogs Tramadol. His dogs finished in the top 20.

New Wings
Helen Macdonald is training a new bird, and BBC is there to film it.

Big Bird
Audubon magazine has a nice profile on Mother of Dragons Big Bird, Lauren McGough.  Nice job Audubon!

Broken Risk Assessment
The US spends more than $500 million per victim on anti-terrorism efforts. However, cancer research spending is only $10,000 per victim.

Ikea for Pets?
Ikea is now making dog and cat furniture.

Dirty Birds
Soot preserved on the feathers of museum birds is providing a window into the levels and types of urban air pollution that existed over the last 135 years.

Sweden Subsidizes Electric Bicycles
Sweden is offering a 25% subsidy for electric bike purchases. France already has a €200 electric bike subsidy, and Oslo, Norway has a $1,200 subsidy for electric cargo bike purchases. Genius!

We'll Always Have Detroit?
Paris plans to eliminate all gas-powered vehicle sales by 2030, and France aims to ban all gas and diesel gas-powered cars by 2040.  Meanwhile 59,000 plug-in cars were sold in China last month.

The End of Insects?
In Germany, insect populations have declined by 75% over the last 30 years.

Lorem Ipsum Is So 20th Century
Lorem Ipsum is the not-really-meaningless dummy text used by designers when they need to "greek" some type into a template as a place-holder.  Now we have other options:  randomly generated Bob Ross catchphrases, William Gibson cutups, Commander Riker dialogue, and Khaled Ipsum which strips in the soothing nonsensical utterances of DJ Khaled.

Buy a cup, save a pup.

Fish On Friday

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Wolf in the Living Room

The Internet Meme, at top, is a joke, but there's an interesting story behind it.

It seems back in 2014, an 8-year old girl in Wisconsin had a wild-caught coyote as a pet.

The coyote, acquired as a very small pup after a hunter shot its mother, lives in a pen on the farm and it dens underground, but it is in and out of the house frequently enough that has adapted to life as a kind of dog, sitting by the fire in the winter, going for walks on a leash, sitting on the couch, and even playing fetch with a tennis ball.

Winter Is Coming

I live in Virginia, in an area where snows last a week or two at most, and December, January and February highs are typically in the mid 40s.

My dogs sleep inside at night, wear good coats when outside on bitter cold days, and have three kennel boxes in two separate areas inside a relatively warm stone garage that is part of the house. Though the garage does not have its own radiators, heat seeps in from the house, and it does not leave too quickly.

A fourth dog house is made of stone, is foam-insulated inside, and also has a deep bed of hay inside. This dog house is large enough that three terriers could easily "nest up" inside the mound of hay, and the door is quite small and off to the side to keep out drafts. This dog house is now covered in ivy, and on its top is where I photograph a lot of red foxes who come to the yard at night (see above).  No, the fox do not den inside -- they are there for the food alone.

One kennel area inside the garage has free access to the outside yard (forested with stone paths and small pond) but does not allow unrestricted access to the inside of the garage where the dogs might get into mischief with paint and solvents and other stored items. The insulated kennel box in this location is large, and can easily fit three or four terriers.

The other kennel area inside the garage is a large pen with two doubled-walled dog houses inside individual wire crates. Between the double walls of the dog houses is thick insulated foam, and the box interiors themselves are deeply lined with a bed of clean hay. The door to each of the houses is small to keep in heat and keep out drafts.

This pen works well for when a dog comes into heat, when work men come to the house, or when company is being entertained and a dog leaping at the back door is an unnecessary distraction.  When it gets really cold out, and the snow is too deep for wee terriers to traverse, it's also a place where they can tuck into keep warm and wait for better weather.

I have dog heater pads as well, but with the double insulated boxes, these external heat sources appear to be too much. Nonetheless, they are there to plug in if it looks like they are ever needed.

I feed a little more in the winter, topping off their regular kibble with a little olive oil, a hard boiled egg, or a raw chicken wing.

When I come home after work, the dogs get TV time with me in the living room -- a good time to check them over for weight, to practice their down-stays, and to have them tongue-clean the top of my bald head.

Risk Analysis: You're Doing It Wrong

Dear Terrierman:

I have been looking for places to live and fell in love with Sudan after reading about the dashing exploits of Chinese Gordon.  It turns out that land in Sudan is cheap, and the pictures I found in a 1960 copy of National Geographic are quite lovely!

So the stone is cast and my lovely 16-year old blond daughter and I are going to Sudan for the next 7 years. We are fundamentalist Christians who wear giant Jesus crosses around our neck all the time, and we do not believe in antibiotics, but I do not see how that could be a problem.

I have looked into the health risks of contraception for 16-year old girls and have noticed that estrogen birth control increases the chance of cancer after age 50, IUDs may cause increased menstrual bleeding or even result in infection, and condoms break routinely, so we will not be taking any form of contraception with us at all in order to minimize the health dangers. My daughter is a Good Girl, so I am sure everything will be fine because I trust in the Lord.

Here's my question:  do they use insecticides on vegetables in the Sudan? Because if they do, I will have to eat only American-made canned food in order to stay healthy.
Please advise.

If this letter sounds daft to you, please be advised that this is exactly how most pet dog owners sound to me.

Wanting a dog for nothing but companionship, they select it out of an all-breed book that features a colorful story and leaves off any real information about temperament and health.

Then, having acquired the dog, they expect the dog to adapt to their concerns rather than adapt their life to the concerns and needs of the dog. If the dog has "an attitude" about that, it will be entirely the dog's fault! The dog may have to be put down. 

People who never took a chemistry or biology course in high school or college, and who have math skills so weak they cannot figure out a 15% tip at the Waffle House, deem themselves capable of making good decisions based on a short article they read in Redbook magazine or a study they skimmed that someone linked to in a Facebook post.

Antibiotics are over-used you say? Well then, let's use less of them or none of them!

Contraception is not 100-perfect or entirely risk-free? Then let's jettison that too!

And if something is not labeled natural, holistic, or homeopathic then we really must clang the alarm bells and go ape-shit hysterical!  Please God, don't tell me you are vaccinating your children too?!  Do you know how dangerous that is?

This kind of thinking comes to a head in the arena of canine spay-neuter, where people rush out to buy cancer-bomb breeds with famous track records for hip dysplasia, and then -- presto change-o -- these same people are now instant experts evincing deep concern that early spay or neutering might increase health risks.

It's hysterical. 

It's like a fat girl eating fried chicken and smoking a cigarette while she explains the dangers of coffee consumption. 

It's like a guy with a facial tattoo explaining how to dress for success. 

It's like bringing your blond daughter to the Sudan without antibiotics or birth control and then worrying about DDT on the iceberg lettuce.

If you are doing any of this, you might have missed the plot!

Ditto, if you have bought a Kennel Club dog and are worried about early spay-neuter. 

I am sorry, but you proved your ignorance about dogs the day you bought a lap dog puppy which had an 85 percent chance of having heart disease and a 30 percent chance of having a brain disorder.

When it comes to canine health, now and into the future, please drink a big hot cup of shut-the-fuck up unless you are warning people away from Kennel club dogs.

And yes, this same point goes for the person who buys a purebred pet puppy that has a 55% chance of dying of cancer and a 30% chance of getting hip dysplasia. 

It goes for the people that buy English bulldogs, Dogues, Deerhounds, Golden Retrievers, Scotties, and... well, just about any Kennel Club breed. 

Listen up people; the evidence is in:  Kennel Club dogs are not as healthy as the dogs to be found down at the pound.  If you do not know this by now, then I have a Yugo sports car to sell you.  Very rare!

Back to spay-neuter.

The plot with spay-neuter is pretty simple: every month that goes by after the age of 6 months without a spay-neuter being done increases the lifetime chance that it will never be done.  It also increases the chance of accidental pregnancy or insemination and another litter of "whoops-how-did-that-happen" puppies tossed into the world without planning, and without a ready market looking to care for them after they are no longer cute puppies.  The results are millions of dead dogs every year down at the pound.

Of course, every pet owner claims they will watch their dog like a hawk and it will never get out of the yard or be off-leash anywhere at any time. 


Statistics prove that routine promise to be a routine failure, at least in the U.S.

And how many dogs get mated straight through the kennel wire?  The number is not zero!

Yes,  I know you want to think of yourself as a wonderful and infallible owner 100% of the time, same as every parent who thinks they will always be 100% attentive to their 16-year daughter who would never have sex before marriage at age 28 to a young man, age 30, of whom they have previously voiced approval after perusing his mental, dental, and banking records.

And, NO, of course alcohol, hormones and rape do not exist.  You will watch her like a hawk! Good thinking there!  Hope that works out for you... in the Sudan!

No doubt you can see the stupid when it comes to a 16-year old girl.

But now think of this:  the known, predictable and quantifiable result of delayed spay-neuter for dogs is the same known, predictable and quantifiable result of not making contraception choices available to very young teenage girls:  unintended pregnancies.

Biology is biology and people are people. 

You may intend to spay your bitch just before her first cycle at 6 months, but then she "cycled early," so you had to wait until that was over.... and then there was no rush until the next heat, and then you lost your job and did not have the money, and then ... whoops ... puppies to sell!  All quiet accidental, and all as common as a road-side hawk.

Today, young girls tend to get abortions, but puppies tend to get born and they also tend to end up either dead in pounds or living miserable lives chained in yards, hammered into crates all day long while their owners are at work, or else living anxious lives with people unprepared for the responsibilities and obligations that come from dog ownership.


Of course, you will never see mention of this on the silly and poorly documented studies about very early spay-neuter that are tossed around on the Internet.

Dead puppies at the pound? No mention of them at all!

Yes, that's right; they have used the one number they (and everyone else) knows is wrong.

They have left off the most OBVIOUS outcome of delayed spay-neuter.

What else?

Well they have also left out the fact that cancer and dysplasia are very breed-specific problems.

Anyone who wants to avoid these problems might start by staying away from Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and about two dozen other breeds.

Any mention at all about that in these papers?  Nope.  Dead silence.

Also, no mention of the many breeds that rarely get cancer or dysplasia.  You want a healthy dog? 

What else?

Well, did you notice how low the counts are in these studies and did you notice that there is no mention of how many kennels were actually used when assembling the breed pool?

This is not a small thing, as dog researchers often gather breed data seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are skewing their data wildly by having multiple dogs from the same litter, the same kennel, and the same line. When canine researchers gather data, they tend to get it from volunteer owners or vets who volunteer all their dogs going back a generation or two. But since so many of those dogs share a common gene pool, the result is a very strong genetic bias that makes false causality a norm rather than the exception.

The bottom line:  do whatever the hell you want.  If you want to play Russian Roulette with your daughter, go right ahead. If you want to buy a Kennel Club dog, go right ahead.  If you want so spay-neuter or not, that choice is yours.

That said, for those who who are not idiots, might I suggest a few rules of thumb:

  • Do not take tax advice from a bankrupt
  • Do not take take relationship advice from someone on their fourth marriage
  • Do not take human health advice from a fat, alcoholic, smoker.
  • Do not take canine health advice from anyone who owns a Kennel Club dog.

As for "studies," before you start saluting them, be sure to look for the missing data and the obvious bias.

And if I might be so bold to note that you are likely to have a long life in an increasingly complex world, might I suggest reading a very basic book on statistics so that you understand the difference between rates and ratios, correlation and causality, and true multi-variant analysis versus its look-alike, GiGo (garbage in - garbage out)?  A day's worth of study may give you a lifetime of insight.  That's a pretty great return on investment!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Darwin on Paired Genes

Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, Chapter I:

Some instances of correlation are quite whimsical; thus cats with blue eyes are invariably deaf; colour and constitutional peculiarities go together, of which many remarkable cases could be given amongst animals and plants. From the facts collected by Heusinger, it appears that white sheep and pigs are differently affected from coloured individuals by certain vegetable poisons. Hairless dogs have imperfect teeth; long-haired and coarse-haired animals are apt to have, as is asserted, long or many horns; pigeons with feathered feet have skin between their outer toes; pigeons with short beaks have small feet, and those with long beaks large feet. Hence, if man goes on selecting, and thus augmenting, any peculiarity, he will almost certainly unconsciously modify other parts of the structure, owing to the mysterious laws of the correlation of growth.

Gorring's Raccoons

A repost from January 2006

The Monterey Herald reports on Germany's "Unwanted Raccoon Harvest":

California has had its revenge on Germany, the source of wild boars that were stocked to provide game for hunters and have since overrun the state, plowing up fields, gobbling plants and animals, and endangering endangered species.

Germany has raccoons. Lots of them, according to the Times of London. Some studies put the estimate at a million.

Times reporter Roger Boyes reported last week that "Vineyard owners across Germany are hiring bounty hunters to kill furry animals with a taste for grapes.

"Hunters are being hired to prevent a plague of raccoons with Nazi-era ancestry from munching their way through the German wine harvest."

The German wine-growing region of Kassel has become "the raccoon capital of Europe ever since Baron Sittich Von Berlerpsch released two of the animals into the wild in February 1934.

"The move was encouraged by Hermann Goering," he wrote, "the Nazi leader who, apart from being the head of Hitler's air force, was the chief forester of the Third Reich."

The first raccoons were brought from North America in the 19th century, Boyes reported, and their population grew by leaps and bounds when an Allied bomb hit a raccoon farm in 1945, scattering the animals.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Spread of Tanukis (Raccoon Dogs)

The Tanuki or Raccoon Dog is an interesting animal that is hunted with terriers in Finland and, increasingly, in other European countries as well.

Originally from Japan and China, this 13-22-pound animal has migrated through Russia and into Finland (where it was imported for fur and sport), and is now found as far west as France. While some sources claim this animal was once hunted to near extinction in Japan, numbers there seem to have rebounded with a vengeance (if in fact they were ever low), as road impacts now are estimated to be in the range of 110,000 - 370,000 a year.

The secret to the Tanuki's success seems to be that it occupies an ecological niche that was heretofore unoccupied in Europe. The red fox specializes on small mammals (mice and voles), the raccoon dog on plant material (berries and seeds) and the badger on invertebrates (worms, snails and beetle grubs).

Though primarily a plant eater, the Tanuki is an opportunistic omnivore that will eat just about anything if given a chance, and is willing to live in a wide variety of homes, including old fox, badger and rabbit dens -- as well as under sheds, and in locations very near human residences.

Unlike the Raccoon, the Tanuki is a true canid ( Canus Nyctereutes procyonoides). The "procyonoides" species name is a tip of the hat to the genus name of the North American Raccoon, Procyon.

Where the Tanuki differs from other canids. is that it is fairly slow, and has a jaw structure that is too weak to take down larger prey. Like the raccoon, Tanuki will scavenge baby birds from nests and might catch an occasional mouse, but their weak carnassials and well developed molars mean they have a diet heavy in plant matter supplanted by eggs, lizards, roadkill, frogs, mice, insects and human refuse.

Like Fox, Raccoon, Possum, and Groundhog, the average Tanuki has a short life span, rarely living past three years in the wild.

Of course, as with any successful species with a short life span, reproduction rates are high. The average Tanuki litter is 5 to 9 pups born in a ground burrow after a gestation period of about 60 days.

The raccoon dog carries the highest average litter weight of any canid, with the mean weight of a litter being 24% of the weight of the female. Males stick around and help raise the young -- a good thing since the female Tanuki is no doubt exhausted from carrying her load!

Home ranges for a Tanuki are quite large (10-20 sq kilometres) and overlap, reflecting the seasonal nature of food sources. As food in one area declines, the Tanuki waddles off to another area where the berries, insects or seeds are in greater supply.

Monday, October 16, 2017

John's Lennon's Patterdale

John Lennon, Cynthia Lennon, Julian Lennon, and Nigel. No breeding information on Nigel, but clearly a Patterdale-type.

Burt Ward, the Boy Wonder, Makes Dog Food?

Burt Ward, who played Robin the Boy Wonder in the Batman TV show of the 1960s, and who authored Boy Wonder: My Life in Tights, makes dog food and does canine rescue.

This is "lick and stick" dog food manufacturing, with the stuff being cobbled up at the Sioux City, Iowa plant run by the Consumers Supply Distributing company which makes 36 other brands of pet food.

Burt Ward's dog food is called "Gentle Giants" and it is touted as an "all-natural" dog food "created to prolong the lifespan of the four-legged creatures it’s fed to."

Of course, if you are truly interested in prolonging the lifespan of dogs, the best advice is to be an advocate for cross-breeding, to stay away from giant breeds altogether, and to feed your dog less of any dog food in order to avoid obesity.

Ward has made his dog food at the Sioux City, Iowa Consumers Supply Distributing company for a dozen years, but he never visited the facility until this month.

To Ward's credit, all profits from the dog food company are supposedly directed to rescue work for giant breeds.

To Ward’s detriment, there is a lot of evidence that Burt Ward is actually running a dog flipping and puppy mill operation. The reviews and site visit stories are alarming, the web site screams puppy mill and liar, and it seems to be only one step up from a hoarding operation.  Truly sad and alarming if that’s the case.

Burt Ward, gives a thumbs up to his kibble.

Maladaptive Pigeons at the Hand of Man

The Rock Dove or Rock Pigeon, from which all domestic pigeons derive.

Dogs are not the only animals that have been selected for function and dysfunction at the hand of man.

For more than a thousand years, pigeons have been bred to express an amazing amount of genetic variation, from beautiful to grotesque, and from whimsical to functional.

The litany of pigeon breeds is truly jaw-dropping and reflects a global fraternity of breeders.

There are Aachen Lacquer Shield Owl pigeons, Aachen Pouter pigeons, and Aargau Peak Crested pigeons.

There is the Absy Egyptian Swift, the Afghan Sherazi, African Owl pigeon, Agaran Boinije, Ahmar Gohzar, Alpine Swift, Altenburger Trumpeter, American Bohemian Pouter, American Flying Baldhead, American Flying Flight, American Flying Tumbler, American Giant Homer, American Giant Rumbler, and the American Giant Runt (love that name!).

We have the Anatolian Ringbeater, the American Strasser, Anbary Asmar Egyptian Swift, Ancient Tumbler, Antwerp Pigeon, Antwerp Smerle, Arabian Trumpeter, Arad Barred Highflier, Archangel, Armenian Tumbler, and Asiatic Crack Tumbler.

We have Australian Saddleback Tumbler, the Barb, Bavarian Pouter, Beak-Crested Jacobin, Belgian Ringbeater, and the Berlin Medium Face Tumbler (which also comes in Long Face and Short Face varieties).

We have the Bernburg pigeon, the Berne Half Beak, Berne Peak Crested, Bernhardin Magpie, Birmingham Roller, and the Blondinette.

We have the Blue Tumbler of Cluj, Bohemian Pouter, the Bohmentaub, the Bokhara Trumpeter, the Bolk Egyptian Swift, Boston Blue Tumbler, Bremen Tumbler, British Show Racer, and Brunner Pouter.

We have the Bucharest Ciung Highflier, the Bucharest Show Tumbler, the Buda Grizzle, Budapest Short Face Tumbler, and the Budapest Highflier (to say nothing of the Budapest Muffed Tumbler and Budapest Muffled Stork).

We have the Cassel Tumbler, the Catalonian Head and Neck Tumbler, the Central Asiatic Roller, Chinese Nasal Tuft, Chinese Owl, Clean Legged Fullhead, Clean Legged Spot Swallow, Coburg Lark, Colillano Pouter and Cologne Tumbler.

We have the Czech Ice Pouter, Czech Muffed Tumbler, Czech Trumpeter, the Dragoon, and the Damascene.

We have the Danish Suabian, Danish Tumbler, the Danzig Highflyer, the Escompadissa Tumbler, the Dewlap, the Donek, the Double Crested Priest, the Duchess, the Egyptian Swift, the Eichbuhl, the Elster Pouter, and the Elster Purzler, to say nothing of the English Carrier, English Fantail, English Longface Muff Tumbler, English Magpie, and English Owl.

We have the Exhibition Flying Tippler, the Fat Shan Blue, Felegyhazer Tumbler, and the Fish Eye Roller.

We have the Florentine pigeon, Flying Oriental Roller, Flying Saddle Homer, Flying Tippler, Fork-Tailed pigeon, Franconian Heart Magpie, Franconian Toy Self, and the Franconian Velvet Shield, to say nothing of the French Bagdad, French Mondain, Frillback, Gaditano Pouter, Galaţi roller, German Beak-Crested, the German Modena, German Nun, and German Shield Owl.

We have the Ghent Cropper, Giant American Crest, Giant Mallorquina Runt, Giant Show Runt, the Gier pigeon, the Gorguero Pouter, Groninger Slenke, the Hamburg Sticken, Hana Pouter, Hanover Tumbler, Helmet pigeon, Hindi Fantail, Hollander pigeon, Hungarian Buga Pigeon, the Hungarian Giant House Pigeon, Hungarian Giant Pouter, and the Hungarian Short.

We have the Huppé Picard, the Hyacinth pigeon, Ice pigeon, Indian Fantail, Indian Gola, Indian Mondain, Iran Roller, Italian Owl Jacobin, and the Jiennense Pouterm as well as the Indian Fantasy pigeon (love that name!),

There is the Kaluga Turmani pigeon, the Karakand Fantail, Karakandy Egyptian Swift, Kazan Tumbler, Kelebek, Kiev Tumbler, King pigeon, Kiskunfelegyhaza Tumbler, Kojook Egyptian Swift, Konigsberg Moorhead, Lucerne Gold Collar, and the Lebanon pigeon.

There is the Lucerne Gold Collar, the black Magpie, Macedonian Turbit, Majorcan Bort Runt, Maltese pigeon, Mariola pigeon, Martham pigeon, and the Memel Highflier.

We have the Mesawed Egyptian Swift, Micholaiyvski Shield Tumbler, Miniature American Crested, Mookee, Montauben, Moravian White Head, Moscat, Moscovite Tumbler, Moulter, New York Danish Flying Tumbler, Norwegian Tumbler, Norwich Cropper, and the Novi Sad Short Face Tumbler (what a name!).

We have the Nun pigeon, Nuremberg Lark, Old Dutch Capuchine, Old Fashioned Oriental Frill, Old German Cropper, Old German Owl, Ostrava Bagdad, Pakistani Highflier, Parlor Roller, Pheasant Pigeon, and the Ukrainian Skycutter (love that name!).

We have the Pomeranian Show Crest, Posen Colored Head Tumbler, Poster pigeon, Prague Medium Face Tumbler, Oriental Frill, Quet Roller, Racing Homer, Rhine Ringbeater, Roller Pigeon, Romanian Argintiu Tumbler, Romanian Blind Tumbler, Romanian Blue Barred Whitetail, Romanian Naked-Neck Tumbler, Russian Martini, Saddle Homer, Saint Louis Arch Crested Fantail, Saxon Breast pigeon, Saxon Monk, Saxon Stork, and Silky Fantail.

We have the Single Crested Priest, South German Charcoal Lark, Spaniard pigeon, Spanish Flamenca Runt, Spanish Frillback Bagadette, Spanish Owl Pouter, and Spanish Thief Pouter.

We have the Sverdlovsk blue-gray mottle-headed pigeon, Swiss Crescent, Swiss Mondain, Syrian Bagdad, Syrian Coop Tumbler, Syrian Swift pigeon, Syrian Turbiteen, Texan Pioneer, Thai Fantail, Thai Laugher, Thuringian Breast Pigeon, Thuringian Spot, Thuringian Wingpigeon, Tiger Swallow, Tippler, and the Transylvanian Double-Crested Tumbler (love that name!).

We have the Ural Striped Maned pigeon, the Tung Koon Paak, Valencian Giant Tenant pigeon, Valencian Magany Homer, Vogtland pigeon, Volga Russian Tumbler, Warsaw Schmetterling, the West of England Tumbler and the Zurich White Tail.

And yes, this is just a partial list!

As I noted some years back
, there is a breed of pigeon called a "roller" where flocks go into a kind of synchronized neurological fit causing them to roll over and tumble in mid-air -- the kind of activity that tends to attract hawks. Talk about maladaptive!

In addition to rollers, there are racing or homing pigeons which look very much like natural rock doves (i.e. wild pigeons), but which may have a little more speed and slightly better orienteering skills.

Of course, as with dogs, many of these breeds are only slighty different variations from others of a very similar type, while others look suspiciously like odd-looking versions of the common feral form you might see in any city park, while still others look like diseased mutants.

But isn't that true of dog breeds as well?!

Some of the pigeons that have been crafted
by the hand of man are truely beautiful and fly very well, while others are bizarre looking and fly less successfully.

In the bizarre catagory is the Blue Pouter, pictured below, which is an ornamental breed with long legs, an extruded body, and an amazing inflatable crop.

There are quite a few types of Pouters, and the function of one type, the "Horseman" Pouter is to serve as a "thief" bird. It turns out that a swollen crop is a bit of a turn on to female pigeons, and so female pigeons can sometimes be seduced to follow the Horseman Pouter back to his coop.

Charles Darwin was quick to notice the amazing varieties of livestock being produced by breeders in his day, and he was especially attentive to chicken and pigeon breeders as he himself had first noticed wide variation from an intermediate type when observing finches on the Galapagos Islands.

When Darwin came back to Britain in 1836, he began to correspond with dog, chicken, sheep, cattle and pigeon breeders from around the world as he worked out his theories of speciation through natural selection.

In 1855, he built his own pigeon loft and began raising a wide variety of pigeons himself.

For the rest of that story I recommend a lengthy tour through the excellent web site, Darwin's Pigeons.

A final note: the beautiful pigeon illustrations shown here are the work of Gary Romig, and are for sale at his web site.

They are redone versions of illustrations which first appeared in Robert Fulton's The Illustrated Book of Pigeons, published in 1878. A companion volume, by Lewis Wright, was called The Illustrated Book of Poultry.

Straight Down the Pie Hole

Both are made in Vermont. For those who don't know, "whistlepig" is a colloquial term for a groundhog aka a woodchuck.

Cartoon Horses, and No One is Laughing

The Telegraph:

Extreme breeding practices have already left animals like French bulldogs and pugs struggling to breathe as their faces have become squashed over time to suit human demands.

But vets believe that the worrying practice is now happening in horses after a US stud farm offered an Arabian Colt for sale with an strange concave, or ‘dished’ profile.

Check out the shit show at Orrion Farms in Washington state.

Is it time to end Torture Breeding?  Would this qualify?

Dog Needs to Get Wormed

Might need a little more animal fat in its diet too.

Looking for a Way In

Robbie and the other dogs really wanted what was in the bunker of roots under this hollow tree. Not going to happen, but not for want of trying.

Game On

Moxie on a groundhog yesterday.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

JRTCA Nationals

Jack Russell Terrier Club of America nationals is the only show I go to. I attend one day, for a few hours, and then go hunting on Sunday. As always, I traveled incognito with bald cap, plastic nose, and novelty glasses.

The JRTCA works hard to threat the needle between work (first pole position, at least in theory) and show. I am not a fan of dog shows or most dog organizations, but I am a fan of the JRTCA; they try very hard to get it right with a lot of competing and conflicting agendas. Hats off to the no-doubt large and dedicated team that put this together and pull it off year after year. Not easy, and a thankless job for the most part.

The JRTCA national show has been held near Sharpsburg and Antietam Creek for the last few years -- a location where over 22,700 Americans died in a single day trying to put an end to slavery. I dig my own dogs not far from here on battle fields once drenched in human blood.

You can't have just one. This is a pretty normal stack of dogs peering out from a wagon at JRTCA Nationals.

Greg Mousley making three people happy. A lot of dogs on a long day and he still has a smile!

One of the several go to ground setups at JRTCA Nationals yesterday.

Lots of pretty dogs Enough working people and working dogs to make me keep coming back every year, at least for a few hours.

Those are two fine-looking working dogs owned by Ted Ely and bred by Char Smith. Not a great picture of either dog -- Ted was off somewhere and the dogs were talking smack to me. I have long admired Mac (Sumac) the dog on the left who is small with a lot of bone. His mother, Torch, is on the left and has always been a small solid dog with great looks, bone, and a small frame.

This is me spanning Torch a few years back. Note the complete finger overlap. Span means different things to different folks. This is what I am looking for if I can find it! I think shortly after this picture was taken, Torch was made the JRTCA's 30th Anniversary cover dog.