Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Saturday, January 13, 2018
In 1899, Thorstein Veblen published a book entitled The Theory of the Leisure Class, in which he coined the term "conspicuous consumption."
Veblen's thesis was that America was aping feudal Europe (and England in particular) by separating itself into low-caste people who did the manual labor and trade work, and the "leisure class" who owned the land, preached the sermons, ruled the military, owned the factories, and never got their hands dirty.
In this country, for instance, leisure-class tastes are to some extent shaped on usages and habits which prevail, or which are apprehended to prevail, among the leisure class of Great Britain.
“Conspicuous consumption" was important because flaunting spending without any sensible purpose, was how you demonstrated that you were not a member of the working or "productive class" but were in fact part of the "leisure class" or "predator class."
When casting about for perfect examples of conspicuous consumption, Veblen cites yachts, racing horses, country estates, and pedigree dogs ruined by show ring pretenders.
The dog has advantages in the way of uselessness as well as in special gifts of temperament. He is often spoken of, in an eminent sense, as the friend of man, and his intelligence and fidelity are praised. The meaning of this is that the dog is man's servant and that he has the gift of an unquestioning subservience and a slave's quickness in guessing his master's mood. Coupled with these traits, which fit him well for the relation of status — and which must for the present purpose be set down as serviceable traits —the dog has some characteristics which are of a more equivocal aesthetic value. He is the filthiest of the domestic animals in his person and the nastiest in his habits. For this he makes up is a servile, fawning attitude towards his master, and a readiness to inflict damage and discomfort on all else. The dog, then, commends himself to our favor by affording play to our propensity for mastery, and as he is also an item of expense, and commonly serves no industrial purpose, he holds a well-assured place in men's regard as a thing of good repute.
The dog is at the same time associated in our imagination with the chase — a meritorious employment and an expression of the honorable predatory impulse. Standing on this vantage ground, whatever beauty of form and motion and whatever commendable mental traits he may possess are conventionally acknowledged and magnified.
And even those varieties of the dog which have been bred into grotesque deformity by the dog-fancier are in good faith accounted beautiful by many.
These varieties of dogs — and the like is true of other fancy-bred animals — are rated and graded in aesthetic value somewhat in proportion to the degree of grotesqueness and instability of the particular fashion which the deformity takes in the given case.
For the purpose in hand, this differential utility on the ground of grotesqueness and instability of structure is reducible to terms of a greater scarcity and consequent expense.
The commercial value of canine monstrosities, such as the prevailing styles of pet dogs both for men's and women's use, rests on their high cost of production, and their value to their owners lies chiefly in their utility as items of conspicuous consumption.
Indirectly, through reflection upon their honorific expensiveness, a social worth is imputed to them; and so, by an easy substitution of words and ideas, they come to be admired and reputed beautiful.
Since any attention bestowed upon these animals is in no sense gainful or useful, it is also reputable; and since the habit of giving them attention is consequently not deprecated, it may grow into an habitual attachment of great tenacity and of a most benevolent character. So that in the affection bestowed on pet animals the canon of expensiveness is present more or less remotely as a norm which guides and shapes the sentiment and the selection of its object.
Of course, one does not actually have to be rich to insinuate yourself into the upper class.
If you are an elementary school teacher from Peoria, or an accountant from Westchester, you can simply buy a pedigree dog and spend your weekends campaigning the animal at shows.
As I noted in post written over a decade ago,
In short, the attraction of dog shows was that people who themselves were as common as a turnip top could now fancy that they were among the social elite. They did not have to have real knowledge of animals, or have an important job or title or large estate -- they just had to purchase a dog from a "reputable" show breeder and put on airs.
Or as one character in Best in Show put it, "make Fern City proud!"
Friday, January 12, 2018
Over at Outside magazine, Wes Siler writes that:
If you don’t have a positive opinion of hunting it’s because you don’t know enough about it. Nowhere does that ring more true than in the case of ducks. These animals thrive in North America today for one reason: Hunters.
Siler goes on to note that American hunters have been a powerful voice protecting habitat and that hunters put up the money, through Duck Stamps, that makes our national wildlife refuge system possible.
Today, the federal duck stamp costs $25, and its design is chosen from an annual art contest that receives hundreds of entries. 98 percent of revenue from duck stamps goes to protecting duck habitat, of which it’s purchased and protected 6.5 million acres to-date. Duck stamps are largely responsible for financing our nation’s Wildlife Refuge system, and purchase of one grants you access to those protected lands for the year. Many people buy two stamps—one to sign up for hunting, and one to keep as an appreciating collectible.
If you care about waterfowl conservation, there is no better way to help than by purchasing a duck stamp. You don’t need to be a hunter to buy one, but 1.1 million of the 1.6 million people who do get one each year are.
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Some years back, Tim Bonner, of the Countryside Alliance in the UK, wrote in Countryman’s Weekly magazine that "the ban" on hunting with dogs was going to transform fox from a valued quarry species into vermin.
The relationship between hunting and shooting has always been a delicate one with obvious clashes around both access and the status of the fox. Historically in lowland countries the huntsman and the keeper’s attitudes towards the fox were fundamentally different. The huntsman sought a sustainable fox population at a level acceptable to local farmers and land managers; the keeper to minimise predation by eliminating as far as possible foxes in the locality. In most areas the relationship between hunts and shoots meant that a balance just about prevailed and, whilst the hunt never had enough foxes and the keeper always too many, both were able to prosper. The exception is those areas where there is a strong tradition of grouse and wild partridge shooting. Keepers on moors and manors have never been able to live with the fox in any numbers because of the massive damage he does to ground nesting birds and in such areas the fox is a rare species.
Since 2005, of course, the status of the fox has changed. He no longer has the value of a quarry species and, whilst most hunts have continued to manage the habitat in woodland they control, the fox no longer has their protection. There is no reason for the keeper to ‘leave one for the hounds’ and, ironically, all that hunts can now offer in terms of fox control is the use of terriers below ground specifically to protect game birds from predation. This change in attitudes towards the fox has undoubtedly had an impact on its management and population. In one Leicestershire hunt country, which was part of a major population study in the nineties, it is suggested anecdotally that numbers are a fraction of what they were then.
So, in some areas at least, it is clear that more foxes have been killed as a result of the Hunting Act and the anti-hunt movement wriggles like a worm on this particular hook. It raises false arguments suggesting we claimed hunting was just about pest control, when actually we always argued for hunting as part of the proper management of the fox population. It says the point of the Hunting Act was to stop foxes being subjected to the ‘cruelty’ of hunting, but we heard them talking about ‘saving foxes’ and we also heard Lord Burns state there was no evidence that hunting is any less humane than other methods of control. As ex-LACS Director Jim Barrington has pointed out the last thing the anti-hunt movement, or their political friends, want is any proper assessment of the impact of the Hunting Act, because they know it has failed in terms of animal welfare and wildlife management just as clearly as in every other way. The impact of the Hunting Act on the fox, and the other quarry species, is yet another unanswerable argument for repeal.
Bonner was not speaking out of his hat; he knows the true history of fox and fox hunting in the U.K. As I noted a few years back:
It should be remembered that [the Victorian era of John Russell] was an era of free-range poultry. Fox were seen as a threat to sustenance and treated accordingly by farmers. It did not take much effort — or expense — to bait rabbit entrails and chicken heads with strychnine, or set a few foothold traps around a chicken coop, rabbit hutch, or pheasant pen.
In the early 19th Century and through the Victorian Era, traps and poison were so brutally efficient and common that the Reverend Russell spent much of his early years trying to get people to stop killing fox so their populations would increase and he could find a little sport.
Russell was not alone in this endeavor.
In fact, fox protection was so deeply entrenched in the culture of the mounted hunts of the 19th Century that the concept made its way into the English language. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "vulpicide" as "One that kills a fox other than by hunting it with hounds."
The crime of vulpicide was seen as a crime against the aristocracy. God forbid that individual farmers, for the sole purpose of putting food on the table, threaten the weekend pastime of hundreds of wealthy aristocrats!
If hunting with hounds is curtailed and this economic engine is disengaged, then land owners will find reasons and means to reduce fox numbers if they become a problem.
While the mounted hunts once lead the campaigns to ban leghold traps and poison, shooting and snares are still legal in the U.K. With the mounted hunts unable to promise fox control, farmers seem to be taking matters in their own hands, with fox numbers declining 39% in the last 20 years as the old prohibitions against "vulpicide" have fallen away.
Aldo Leopold, who was born on this day in 1887, was one of the most important people in the history of U.S. conservation. A 1909 graduate of the Yale Forestry School, Leopold wrote the first book on Game Management (it is still in print and it is still used at a text book), and was the first person to predict that the widespread extirpation of wolves through poison and trapping would result in an explosion in the deer population that, in turn, would wipe out much of the understory of American forests. Most famous for his eco-philosophical journal A Sand County Almanac, about his Wisconsin farm, Leopold also explored the role of wilderness and hunting in American culture.
In an early essay entitled Wildlife in American Culture, Leopold noted that even in the era before World War II, "the gadgeter, otherwise known as the sporting-goods dealer," was dominating the sporting press and warping America's understanding of the outdoors.
The phenomenon is very easy to see today, with hunting and fishing magazines centered less on wildlife and wild places than on the Quad Bikes, scent sprays, lures, bait, and expensive guns, rods, and reels that we are told we will need before we even think about going into the woods.
This ethos has now expanded into the world of camping and hiking, where everything has to be rip-stop, multi-fuel, Goretex, and composite construction. Not only must everything be lighter weight, there must be more luxury and options than ever before. As Leopold noted in this 1940-era essay, describing the beginning of the modern ethos:
"Then came the gadgeteer, otherwise known as the sporting-goods dealer. He has draped the American outdoorsman with an infinity of contraptions, all offered as aids to self-reliance, hardihood, woodcraft, or marksmanship, but too often functioning as substitutes for them. Gadgets fill the pockets, they dangle from neck and belt. The overflow fills the auto trunk, and also the trailer. Each item of outdoor equipment grows lighter and often better, but the aggregate poundage becomes tonnage. The traffic in gadgets adds up to astronomical sums, which are soberly published as representing 'the economic value of wildlife.' But what of cultural values?"
The great thing about fox hunting and terrier work is that, with the exception of the locator collar, the equipment we use to today would need no explanation to Jaques Du Fouilloux (1560) or Sir Walter Scott (1810). Nothing much has changed, and very little has gone "high tech," in large part because the intervening variable -- the dog -- is immune to mechanical intervention.
At its core, the fox hunter is a primitive hunter and the dog is a primitive animal. As Leopold noted about mounted American fox hunting (which has never included killing the animal being chased):
"Fox-hunting with hounds, backwoods style, presents a dramatic instance of partial and perhaps harmless mechanized invasion. This is one of the purest of sports; it has real split-rail flavor; it has man-earth drama of the first water. The fox is deliberately left unshot, hence ethical restraint is also present. But we now follow the chase in Fords! The voice of Bugle-Anne mingles with the honk of the flivver! However, no one is likely to invent a mechanical foxhound, nor to screw a polychoke on the hound's nose. No one is likely to teach dog-training by phonograph, or by other painless shortcuts. I think the gadgeteer has reached the end of his tether in dogdom."
Yet humans have killed wolves wholesale, using poison, traps, clubs, rifles, and even laying out mackerel hooks inside lumps of meat and fat. Nothing was too brutal in the quest to exterminate the wolf, and by 1880 a large part of America was wolf-free.
The wolf hung on into the 20th Century, however, in large part because the bounty system did not pay enough for people to spend months tracking down the last western wolves which were smarter and more trap-shy than most. When the Government began paying a professional cadre of wolfers to exterminate the last of their kind, however, the fate of the wolf was sealed.
Ironically, one of the last Government wolfers was Aldo Leopold, whose birthday it is today. Aldo was a wolfer when he was a young man working for the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico. Leopold went on to write the first book on Game Management in the U.S., and became, posthumously, an icon of the modern environmental movement with his memoir, A Sand County Almanac.
Buried in that little book is an essay called "Thinking Like a Mountain," and within it a section in which Leopold observes the dying of a "fierce green fire" within a wolf as it bleeds out on on rock after being shot.
Up until that hunt, Leopold had thought what he had been doing was good for deer and the mountain, but after seeing the wolf die he suspected neither the deer nor the mountain agreed with that view.
In time, as deer overgrazed sections of the West and East, Leopold began to fully understand the importance of keeping top predators in the eco-system. "A thing is right," he wrote "when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of a biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
But Leopold came to this conclusion many decades after shooting out the last wolves of New Mexico, and in his youth he was among the cadres of Government wolfers who told stories about wolf hunts in order to help raise cash to support the public extermination effort.
Government-sponsored wolfers created traveling displays of wolf pelts and wolf skulls. These displays and stories memorialized the last of the western wolves and gave them names: The Custer Wolf, Old Three Toes, Old Lefty, and Old Rags the Digger, among them.
By giving individual wolves names and personalities, Government trappers helped break down the wall between wolf myth and wolf reality. The wolf, which had once seemed threatening, dangerous and mysterious, now became the outlaw hero of the story, and an emblem of the last days of the romantic (and dying) American frontier.
This is the essential plot structure of Jon T. Coleman's book "Vicious: Wolves and Men in America."
The book is not a text on wolf biology, but a history book that analyzes the gaps and nexus between wolf myth and wolf reality. Though well-written, it is more than a little burdened by the weight of being overly-academic and spending perhaps too much time on folklore and not enough on basic wolf biology. No matter -- if you have ever wondered how the wolf went from pariah to paragon in the space of 50 years, this book tells the tale.
Coleman suggests that the wolf reintroduction efforts of the 1990s (which have been quite successful) occurred because America is now mostly urban and has little contact with farm animals which now come from protected feed lots rather than the free-range forests and fields where wolf, ranchers, farmers and livestock once battled.
"Human predation has become so technical and abstract [in the lat 20th Century] that the consumers of animal protein no longer feel emotionally connected to the beasts they ingest...
Reintroduced wolves have thrived in a cultural environment that accepts the scientific extermination of millions of domestic animals but rejects violence towards a handful of wild creatures."
Would the wolf have been reintroduced if Americans still lived on grass-fed beef?
Did cows have to fatten in feed lots in order for America to returns its large predators to their spot on the ecological ladder?
It is an uncomfortable kind of tradeoff.
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
I live in a state (Virginia) where the majority of the land is in forest. In fact, you could walk for over 500 straight miles in Virginia and never come out of the forest, and I have done that.
The U.S. Forest Service defines forestland as being one acre or greater in size, with at least 10 percent tree cover. By that definition, the United States has about 766 million acres of forestland covering about 33 percent of the nation’s total land area.
America's Forests are split almost evenly between the Eastern forests (55 percent) and Western forests (45 percent). About 58 percent of U.S. forestland is privately owned — by individuals, families, Native American tribes, timber corporations, nonprofit organizations, and other groups. The other 42 percent is under the control of federal, state, and local governments.
We, in America, are a forest people. In his book Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battleground, Jim Sterba writes:
Where do most people in the United States live? The answer is... counterintuitive: They live in the woods. We are essentially forest dwellers.
....[I]f you draw a line around the largest forested region in the contiguous United States — the one that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Plains — you will have drawn a line around nearly two-thirds of America’s forests (excluding Alaska’s) and two-thirds of the U.S. population...
If you got in an airplane and flew from Albany to Boston during the day... you could look down and see almost nothing but trees from one downtown to the other. Fly the same route at night, and you see lots of lights — lights of people living in a huge forest.
In the eastern United States over two and a half centuries, European settlers cleared away more than 250 million acres of forest. By the 1950s, depending on the region, nearly half to more than two-thirds of the landscape was reforested, and in the last half century, states in the Northeast and Midwest have added more than 11 million acres of forest.
In the most heavily populated region of the United States, the urban corridor that runs from Norfolk, Virginia, to Portland, Maine, with eight of the ten most densely populated states, forest cover varied from a low of 30.6 percent in Delaware to a high of 63.2 percent in Massachusetts. The corridor runs straight through Connecticut, the fourth most densely populated state, and one that is more than 60 percent forested. Three out of four residents live in or near land under enough trees to be called forestland if they weren’t there.
John C. Gordon, the former dean of the Yale School of Forestry in New Haven, made a similar observation in speeches. “If you looked down at Connecticut from on high in the summer, what you’d see was mostly unbroken forest,” he said. “If you did the same thing in late fall after the leaves have fallen from those trees, what you’d see was stockbrokers."
Field biologists are a little like hunters -- they spend inordinate amounts of time crouched in the weeds, or jungled up in thickets, plagued by gnats and mosquitoes, pounded by the sun, burned by the wind and wet to the bone. And all because of some critter.
David MacDonald is a hunter at heart, albeit a hunter equipped with a Yagi directional-antenna in one hand, and a pair of infra-red binoculars in the other. After more than 25 years of tracking red foxes through farm, fell, forest, suburb, desert and inner city, he is also the preeminent fox biologist in the world.
Running With the Fox is his masterpiece
MacDonald writes as someone who has spent decades studying foxes -- indeed, one wonders if he ever sleeps, as he seems to be out most nights searching for any of a dozen or more animals he has radio-collared.
MacDonald is a population biologist and his goal is to understand the dynamics of fox life, from food and mating to migration and mortality. Over the course of almost 30 years of study, he has raised many fox litters from whelps and has seen many of those same animals crushed by cars, snared by keepers, shot by farmers, accidentally butchered by combines, or perish from disease or abuse inflicted by other fox or feral dogs.
In the wild, few things ever die of old age or in their sleep.
Despite all, the fox not only persists but thrives.
How is that possible?
The simple answer is that fox are very secretive and very adaptable. Not only can they thrive on a hundred different food sources, but what foods they eat are rarely missed by man.
Combine that with a nocturnal lifestyle, a natural (and well deserved!) fear of humans and dogs, and an almost supernatural sense of hearing, smell and sight, and it turns out that fox are rarely seen, whether they are cruising the edges of farms, suburban yards, or small woods.
Sprinkled throughout Running with the Foxes are amazing tidbits of information gleaned from examining scores of thousands of fox scats and observing vulpines in every kind of habitat, from Iceland to Israel, and from downtown Oxford to the woods of Canada's national parks. A few summary points:
1. Foxes eat a lot of earthworms. To hear some folks talk, you would think a fox was the size of a wolf and largely dined on sheep and chickens. In fact, the average fox is just 12 to 14 pounds and lives on a diet composed mostly of mice, voles, insects, fruit, young rabbits, diseased birds, and scavenged food ranging from fried chicken found at parks to roadkill gleaned from medians, to bird seed spilled from garden bird feeders. Earthworms, it turns out, comprise 20 to 35 percent of fox diet in many pasture-rich areas where worms come up in high densities on moist nights with little wind. Previous studies of fox diet have missed earthworms as a key component because observers did not have night-visions goggles and did not do microscopic analysis of fox scat to find the thousands of tiny chatae which are the scale-like growths worms use to move through the soil.
2. Hunting foxes has increased their global numbers. As paradoxical as it sounds, no human action has been as beneficial to the red fox as the mounted hunt. The reason for this is simple: fox hunting has bestowed on fox an economic and cultural value, and mounted hunts are so terribly inefficient that they do not do much to suppress fox populations. Not only did the mounted hunts import red fox to North America and Australia -- where they have thrived in spectacular numbers -- but they also led the charge to ban efficient traps and poisons in the UK. Indeed, the highly pejorative term "vulpicide" specifically means the killing of fox by means other than with hounds and terriers. As mounted hunts gained in popularity, fox coverts were planted and maintained on UK farms and estates, artificial breeding earths were constructed, and fox were live-trapped and moved into areas where they had been depleted. The result is that across the UK -- and across the world -- there are now far more red fox running about than there were just 150 years ago.
3. Foxhunting is not the most cruel way to die. MacDonald notes that most kinds of "natural" death are cruel, and that immortality is not an option for the fox. Is "natural" starvation, disease or predation more cruel, or less cruel, than an "unnatural" death by hunting, which is likely to be swift and sure? MacDonald notes that "If hunting stopped, the same number of foxes, or even more, would be killed by people using other methods such as traps, poison, snares or night-shooting," as most fox that are purposely terminated in the UK are on bird-shoot estates where the fox is in direct competition with the "excess" birds released into the wild. As MacDonald notes, hunters are willing to pay £10 a bird -- fox are not.
4. Foxes do almost no damage to sheep populations. After spending countless hours observing fox in sheep country, often at night and through infra-red goggles, MacDonald concludes that fox are not very fond of mutton and that they do very little predation on live lambs. Given almost any kind of alternative food source -- rabbits, bird seed, worms, baby birds, fruit or roadkill -- a fox will give sheep a pass. When fox do eat sheep, they tend to focus on already-dead detritus -- sheep testicles that drop off into the field after castrating bands are applied (MacDonald notes that he often finds fox feces containing these same undigested rubber bands), after birth, and even sheep dung from young lambs -- the latter loaded with still-undigested milk products. MacDonald does not deny that fox may kill a few very young (and perhaps already fatally weak) sheep, but such attacks are so rare they have never been filmed and are statistically negligible. MacDonald notes that in the fell and upland regions, where fear of fox predation is highest, sheep mortality is often 25% with many lambs born starving due to over-grazing abetted by a government policy that subsidizes overly-dense sheep production. With ewes in poor feed, and lambs borne wet on cold and windy slopes without shelter, lamb mortality is very high without any fox participation at all. The fact that fox, on occasion, scavenge the already-dead does little harm to the living.
5. Fox control has very little impact on total fox population numbers. Fox hunting with hounds and terriers is not very efficient, and MacDonald believes it does no real harm to overall fox populations. While some very heavily 'keepered shooting estates may be able to knock down fox populations over a small area, so many young fox migrate outward to find new ground every year that, absent constant trapping, shooting and digging (which is done on some shooting estates) the population balance is quickly restored. In the UK, fox hunting of all kinds removes about 1 fox per 6.7 square kilometers a year -- enough to encourage more breeding, but too low a number to actually reduce the fox population. Notes MacDonald, "foxhunting is of minor significance to foxes in particular, or amongst wildlife issues generally." In short, almost any other environmental issue or impact is more important to fox welfare than foxhunting.
6. Fox hunting may benefit the environment. MacDonald notes that with the rise of mounted hunts, more fox coverts were planted and farmers began to be paid to not poison or trap them. The result has been an increase in the number of fox in the UK over the course of the last 150 years. In a survey of 800 farmers, MacDonald also discovered that those who were enthusiastic foxhunters had removed 35% less hedgerows than the average farmer during the 1970s -- apparently because of their desire to produce good fox habitat.
7. There is very little moral distinction between fox hunting and eating fish or owning a cat. MacDonald does not recoil at the idea of fox hunting, and finds it morally indistinguishable from such common activities as eating fish or owning a cat. He notes that "people's gastronomic enjoyment outweighs their concern for the consequences of harvesting billions of fish annually, as their enjoyment of their cat's companionship outweighs regret at the deaths of millions of hedgerow birds annually."
8. While fox predation on farm stock may do very little economic harm, hunting of foxes may present some economic benefits. While fox do very little damage to sheep, they do cut in to the number of "surplus" birds on lands where they are stocked for hunting. MacDonald is impressed by the economics of the shoots. He notes that "the game shooting industry is probably largely responsible for the frequently unpleasant deaths of 100,000 fox annually in Britain, but against these must be weighed the fact that this industry provides the major incentive for habitat conservation on farmland. In Britain, in 1982, it was estimated to generate more than £200 million worth of consumer expenditure and a game 'bag' valued at £17 million. There is an argument that game shooting is the greatest hope for conservation on modern farms, but that predators of game are the sacrifice required to secure the land." Against the economics of bird hunting, MacDonald weighs the economics of mounted fox hunting (which seek to protect fox in order to chase them), a pastime which, in the UK, is enjoyed by over 200,000 people and which results in over 2,600 full-time jobs, and many more thousands of part-time or associated jobs, ranging from farriers to vets. In actuality, it appears both bird-shoots and mounted fox hunts preserve land, and that the large estates can be managed for fox or birds without having much impact on overall fox or bird numbers -- a win/win for the environment, and therefore a win for fox and birds as well.
Running with the Fox is available (used) from Abebooks.
Dogecoin, a Joke Cryptocurrency, Is Now Worth $2 Billion
Dogecoin, a joke cryptocurrencey set up in 2013 by Jackson Palmer and Billy Markus, and inspired by the then-popular Shiba Inu “Doge” internet meme, has skyrocketed in value.
Real Fire Birds
Some Australian birds of prey pick up burning twigs and branches to start fires in other areas in order to drive out prey species. Black Kites (Milvus migrans), Whistling Kites (Haliastur sphenurus) and Brown Falcons (Falco berigora) have been observed engaging in the behavior.
That Cardboard Coffee Sleeve
The cardboard sleeve that your hot drink slides into is called a zarf.
Norway is Better Than We Are
In Norway, the government buys 1,000 copies of any new book, as long as it passes quality control, and distributes them to libraries. This keeps small publishers in business, and gives writers generous royalties. All public universities are free to attend in Norway, and the literacy rate is 100 percent.
An Island Larger Than the Lake It Sits In
René-Levasseur Island in Canada is larger in area than the lake in which it is situated. The odd geological feature was created by the impact of a meteorite 214 million years ago combined with man-made flooding.
The Jug Life of Tap Water
Tap water in a jug has a shelf-life of 6 months, after which chlorine dissipates and bacteria starts to grow.
Training the Trainers
Dolphins at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi are rewarded with food for cleaning litter out of their tanks, including the occasional dead seagull. In order to get more treats, the dolphins have taken to tearing up paper and other trash in order to get more rewards. Carrying the idea one step farther, they have also taken to hiding some of the fish they are given, using it to lure seagulls into the water, and then catching the seagulls for an even bigger fish reward.
Salmon Making Mountains
Scientists calculate that salmon nest-making during spawning may have moved enough gravel and silt down stream to have caused some riverbeds in the Pacific Nortwest to be 30 percent lower than if no spawning had taken place.
How Do Alligators Survive a Freak Freeze?
It turns out they stick just their noses above the freeze line and ice forms around their snout, with their body in torpor under water. The result: their nose alone sticks out of the ice.
Time to End Welfare for Wildlife?
A new regulation requires all protected species to be actively looking for new habitat in order to receive funding.
Robert Smalls, American Hero
Robert Smalls escaped slavery by stealing a confederate ship and then sold the ship to buy his master's house. Smalls later served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Zoey, a 7-year old, 8-pound Bichon Frise, was picked up by a Bald Eagle and later found on a road 4 miles away near Bowmanstown, Pennsylvania. Talk about flying the unfriendly skies!
Monday, January 08, 2018
From page 100 of Fire and Fury, the excellent and well-written book by Michael Wolff about the first 10 months inside the Trump White House:
[White House Deputy Chief of Staff Katie] Walsh, sitting within sight of the Oval Office, was located at something like the ground zero of the information flow between the president and his staff. As Trump’s primary scheduler, her job was to ration the president’s time and organize the flow of information to him around the priorities that the White House had set. In this, Walsh became the effective middle person among the three men working hardest to maneuver the president — Bannon, Kushner, and Priebus.Read the whole thing. Kindle and print editions available here.
Each man saw the president as something of a blank page — or a scrambled one. And each, Walsh came to appreciate with increasing incredulity, had a radically different idea of how to fill or remake that page. Bannon was the alt-right militant. Kushner was the New York Democrat. And Priebus was the establishment Republican. “Steve wants to force a million people out of the country and repeal the nation’s health law and lay on a bunch of tariffs that will completely decimate how we trade, and Jared wants to deal with human trafficking and protecting Planned Parenthood.” And Priebus wanted Donald Trump to be another kind of Republican altogether.
As Walsh saw it, Steve Bannon was running the Steve Bannon White House, Jared Kushner was running the Michael Bloomberg White House, and Reince Priebus was
running the Paul Ryan White House. It was a 1970s video game, the white ball pinging back and forth in the black triangle.
Priebus — who was supposed to be the weak link, thus allowing both Bannon and Kushner, variously, to be the effective chief of staff — was actually turning out to be quite a barking dog, even if a small one. In the Bannon world and in the Kushner world, Trumpism represented politics with no connection to the Republican mainstream, with Bannon reviling that mainstream and Kushner operating as a Democrat. Priebus, meanwhile, was the designated mainstream terrier.
This is not a pipe. It's a painting.
President Lincoln was not much for hiding behind language or engaging in obfuscation, and he would sometime pose a riddle to new staffers to underscore the point.
"If you call a tail a leg," he would ask, "how many legs does a dog have?
"No, four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."
I tell this tale, because it is more than a little germane when it comes to the taxonomy of dogs.
If I point to a cross between a Dachshund and a Corgi, and proclaim it to be a "Shenandoah Mountain Setter," does that make it a bird dog?
If I pick up a Border Collie at the shelter and insist on calling it a "Black and White Swan," does that make it a bird?
And yet, there seems to be confusion among some people in the dog world, who think words mean nothing. Words do mean something. Take, for example, the word terrier.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary and Etymology Online, this is the origin and meaning of the term:
c.1440, from O.Fr. chien terrier "terrier dog," lit. "earth dog," from M.L. terrarius "of earth," from L. terra "earth" (see terrain). So called because the dogs pursue their quarry (foxes, badgers, etc.) into their burrows.
A terrier is a small dog that goes to earth and which pursues its quarry -- foxes, badger, etc. -- into their burrows.
I could not have said it better, though I might have given a bit more history.
For example, I might have detailed the fact that Dame Juliana Berners, writing in the Boke of St. Albans (1496) noted that there were 14 basic types of dogs:
"Thyse ben the names of houndes," she wrote, "fyrste there is a Grehoun, a Bastard, aMengrell, a Mastiff, a Lemor, a Spanyel, Raches, Kenettys, Teroures, Butchers' Houndes, Myddyng dogges, Tryndel-taylles, and Prikheridcurrys, and smalle ladyes' poppees that bere awaye the flees."
Later, in 1576, John Keys (who wrote under the Latinized name Johannes Caius) divided the world of dogs into five broad categories. Under the first group type, the Venatici, or dogs used to hunt beasts, could be found:
Leverarws or Harriers; Terrarius or Terrars; Sanguinarius or Bloodhounds; Agaseus or Gazehounds; Leporanus or Grehounds; Loranus or Lyemmer; Vertigus or Tumbler; and Cams furax or Stealer.
In an entirely different group (his fourth category), Caius noted that were various kinds of herding and guard dogs.
Canis pastoralis, or the Shepherd's Dogge; The Mastive, or Bandogge, called Canis Villaticus Or Carbenarius, which hath sundry names derived from sundry circumstances.
Prior to the 19th Century, there were very few "breeds" of dogs; most were just types.
This seems to be a point of confusion for some people who are a bit shaky as to what constitutes a "breed" versus a "type."
The Oxford English Dictionary says a breed is "a line of descendants perpetuating particular hereditary qualities."
In the modern world, it is generally deemed to be an animal that "breeds true" for at least seven generations.
But what does it mean to "breed true?"
Good people can, and do disagree. The American Kennel Club, for example, splits breeds that other registries and countries lump together, and vice versa.
The good news is that the real experts -- the people who actually work their dogs on a regular basis rather than merely parade them around at the end of a string leash, are not too often confused.
A genuine terrierman knows what a true terrier is, just as a running dog man knows what a true sighthound is. And as for the houndsman, he will tell you a good dog is never the wrong color, and the same can be said of those who herd sheep for a living, or depend on dogs to carry them over 200 miles of open arctic snow and ice.
But, of course, these people are in the minority today, aren't they?
Instead of people who engage in honest work with types of dogs, we now have show ring theoreticians who are obsessed with breeds of dogs.
For them, a dog is not what it does, it is whatever the piece of paper says, and that piece of paper is all wrapped up in a romantic history cocked up years ago by an all-breed book writer penning paragraphs about a dog he never owned and never worked.
As a result, we have complete and total nonsense in the world of canine taxonomy.
Take the issue of terriers, for example.
Despite what some folks would have you believe, a "terrier" is not a universal catch-phrase that can be properly tagged to any type of scruffy-looking or game-bred dog. It is a dog that goes to ground.
So then, is a dachshund a terrier? Yes! It is included in all books about working terriers. A true terrier is defined by the work it does, same as a true collie or a true bird dog is defined by the work it does.
A 60-pound hound is not a terrier.
That would seem to be simple and obvious enough, but for some folks it is not. And so, in the topsy-turvy world of the early dog show world, a few odd-looking Otterhounds were once crossed with a working terrier and then called the "Bingley" or "Waterside" terrier, and then later renamed the "Aierdale" terrier.
But can a dog that is almost entirely hound, and which weighs 60 pounds be called a true terrier? Only if you would call a transvestite a woman!
An Aierdale is a hound in form, and it does a hound's work in the field when it is worked. A houndsman knows it is a hound, for it is found in his kennels, and not that of the terrierman.
Aierdales, in turn, were crossed with a herding breed (the Giant Schnauzer) and a molosser breed (the Rottweiler) and a few herding and guard dogs (Caucasian Ovcharkas and Eastern European Shepherds). The resulting cross was called a "Black Russian Terrier," despite the fact that there is no terrier in the breed at all.
Once again, you can call the dog whatever you want, but calling it so does not make it true. A Black Russian Terrier is not a terrier in any way, shape or form.
Going down the list, we have the Tibetan Terrier which is not a terrier (it is a spaniel), and we have the Schnauzer (it is a miniature version of its larger herding-dog relative), and we have the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Pit Bull Terrier, which are molosser (guard dog) breeds.
And then, of course, we have the Bull Terrier which is neither true terrier nor true molosser. It is, instead, the most common type of dog on earth today: the dog dealer's dog. This is an animal cocked up for the pet trade, and for no other purpose than to trot around the ring and lie next to the chair.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with a dog being created solely for the purpose of being a pet. That is the work of most dogs, and it is the purpose to which most terrier breeds have devolved. But let's not kid ourselves that these dogs were ever bred for any other purpose, eh? A pet is an honorable enough occupation; let us not gild the lily with nonsense histories or contrived work.
And as for ratting, let me say this clear: any dog can rat. A whippet is a fine ratter. But it is not a terrier. If a dog is too large to go to ground, and has never gone to ground, it is not a true terrier, because it is not a dog of the dirt.
Sunday, January 07, 2018
The first commercial dog food was introduced in England about 1860. James Spratt, an electrician from Ohio, was in London selling lightning rods when he saw miserable street dogs ganged up along the piers waiting to being tossed mouldy hardtack biscuits and scraps of rotten food.
This was a very old type of feeding called "trencher feeding" that had existed in the U.K. since before there were dinner plates. A "trencher" was a flat piece of bread once commonly used as a plate or underneath a rough wooden plate. Food was served on this bread and the bread and the table scraps (along with spoiled food and boiled knuckle bones) were then "tossed to the dogs."
Spratt decided he could do better than bread and hard-tack biscuits, and he came up with a biscuit, shaped like a bone, made of wheat, vegetables, beetroot and beef blood. Spratt's dog food company thrived, and around 1890 he took it to the U.S. where it became "Spratt's Patent Limited" which eventually diversified into other feed stocks (such as fish food) as well as veterinary medicines.
In the 1950s Spratt's became part of General Mills, and in 1960 it was bought by "Spillers" dog food company (a UK subsidiary of Purina which is owned by General Mills). Today Spillers makes "Bonio" bone-shaped biscuits which are very similar to those once manufactured by James Spratt.
Other dog food companies sprang up, many with paid endorsements from veterinarians who shilled for them just as veterinarians shill for Hill's "Science Diet" today. Right from the beginning pet food manufacturers discouraged their clients from supplementing with anything but food out of the box. A culture of dependence was being forged.
In 1907, F.H. Bennett introduced Milkbone dog biscuits as a complete dog food and a direct competitor to Spratt. Milkbone and Spratt's Dogs Food and Cake dominated pet food manufacturing until the 1920's when canned dog food was first introduced by Ken-L-Ration.
Canned horsemeat was cheap after World War I as huge numbers of horses and mules were being replaced by cars and tractors. The growth in canned dog food really shot up in the 1930s, and by 1941, canned dog food represented 91% of the dog food market in the U.S.
Canned dog food fell out of favor (and supply) during World War II when a shortage of tin made canning difficult and expensive, and as the horse surplus dried up. By 1946, dry dog food was king once again, and it has remained so to this day.
The production of enormous bags of "kibbled" dog foods began in earnest in 1957 when the Purina company began marketing extruded dry dog "chow" through grocery store chains. Purina followed on with cat chow in 1962. Today most grocery stores in the U.S. devote more shelf space to canned and kibbled dog food than they do to breakfast cereal or baby food.
Ralston Purina created the soft-moist pet food category in 1971, and this category now includes such foods as Purina ONE and Pro Plan.
The rise in kibbled dog food in the U.S. seems to coincide with a rise in canine skin problems arising from canine allergies to corn, wheat and perhaps other additives to dry dog food such as preservatives, coloring, and stabilizers.
Perception is not necessarily reality, of course. In fact, not all canine allergies are due to food. At the same that pet owners were switching to bagged dog food, they were also washing their dogs more (causing dry skin) and bringing them indoors where they came in contact with carpet cleaners, laundry soaps, room fresheners, and a host of other chemicals.
In addition, the aggressive line-breeding of dogs to create new types (almost all of which were created between 1850 and 1930), served to concentrate genetic defects in certain lines of dogs -- including genetic predispositions to skin allergies.
If you think your dog may have a food allergy, the only true test is to switch foods. This is a process, however, not an event. It may take several weeks on a new diet for a dog's skin condition to improve, so it's best to start an "elimination diet" right at the beginning. This can be as simple as feeding your dog table scraps for a few weeks (no salt, no bread) which will increase variety in the diet. Once your dog's skins problems have abated, introduce a new type of food and watch for any recurrence of skin problems.
Price, quality of food and skin allergies are not closely related. Dogs can be allergic to very high-quality ingredients. In fact, the most common food allergy in dogs is an allergy to beef! Whatever food you use, I recommend that all bagged foods be bought from supermarkets or other venues with high-volume sales so that they remain fresh as long as possible.
Above all, be wary of food fads, which are always more about the human than the dog. Your goal should be a balanced diet, a dog that has healthy stools, no allergies, sound teeth, and is on the thin side.
A great deal of what you read on bulletin boards and list-servs about dog food is nonsense. Today's pet food companies and executives are not going to risk their brands, reputations and personal credibility by knowingly putting horrific ingredients in dog food.
Remember, we are talking about companies that are producing 12 million pounds of food an hour (a real number). This food has to look and taste the same every time that it is produced, which requires a great deal of regimentation, paperwork, inspection and quality control. Dog food companies are not using road kill for ingredients (as some hysterics have claimed), but entire train loads of cheap and readily available corn, wheat, rice, potatoes, soy and beef parts, as well as breathtaking amounts of lamb, chicken and "meal" made from ground up beef, chicken, lamb and turkey (including bones). To this mixture are added vitamins and various additives for color (to please you) and preservatives (because people prefer to buy dog food in big bags that will last several weeks).
For most dogs, bagged kibble supplemented with vegetables and a few special scraps from the kitchen (a few scrambled eggs, a bit of sausage, a few carrots) works fine. Most dogs do not have skin problems of any kind, and most canine skin problems are not food related. I prefer kibbled dog food over semi-soft because I think it is better for the dog's teeth, and because the high heat of the extruding process sterilizes the ingredients, while the dryness of the product discourages spoilage.
Friday, January 05, 2018
Before they were called dog crates, they were called terrier boxes or kennel cages, as seen at top, and were frequently used to ship dogs by rail.
Somewhere around the turn of the century, a gentile version was made and sold as a "snuggery" for lap dogs -- the first "sherpa bag".
In the 1940s and 50's, production wooden boxes were produced for airline travel using a new material -- plywood.
Then in the 1970s, the airlines began selling fiberglass (not plastic) "Sky Kennels" produced by Doskocil (now called Petmate) which could only be bought directly from the airlines (they were not sold in stores or by mail). Sky kennels were produced through the 1980s until they were replaced by injection-molded plastic crates.
|The local Petco shelves.|
Today's injected-molded crates made by Sky Kennel or Vari Kennel are now lighter, sturdier, and more secure than previous models, and have become the backbone of not only pet travel, but night time pet containment.
How is this institutional blindness from the No Kill movement any different from that practiced by HSUS, PeTA, and the ASPCA?
I doubt anyone gave Nathan Winograd a more positive -- or longer -- review of his first book, Redemption, the battle-cry that launched the No Kill movement, than I did. Read that review here.
That said, you will notice that I do not mention, in my review, Nathan Winograd's take on feral cats.
There's a reason for that: Winograd's position on feral cars makes no sense and, in fact, it makes the opposite of sense.
You see, Nathan Winograd stands full square for pointless mass killing.
No, not the mass killing of cats -- the mass killing of birds.
Billions and billions of birds.
Travis Longcore puts a point on it over at the Urban Wildlands Project in an article entitled No-Kill Movement Means Death for Birds:
The no-kill movement represents a radical agenda that prioritizes unowned cats and the rights of cat feeders over the welfare of birds and other wildlife and the rights of people who enjoy and care about them. When confronted with the staggering number of individual mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds killed by free-roaming cats, the response by no-kill advocates is often that this does not matter, unless wildlife populations as a whole are affected. To quote one such advocate from a social networking site: “Even if it were true that cats kill 500 million birds a year, that "figure still does not tell me anything. I also need to know how many birds in total die annually, and how many get born.” Scientists have documented that high predation levels can affect wildlife populations, but the more troubling issue is that feral cat advocates appear unable to feel compassion for the unnecessary suffering of hundreds of millions of individual birds and other animals, even while they insist that euthanasia of a single feral cat is immoral and reprehensible.
Longcore misses a larger point, however, which is that Nathan Winograd and the No Kill movement have fallen into exactly the same kind of intellectual morass they accuse the Humane Society of the U.S., PeTA and the ASPCA of falling into.
What do I mean?
Let me be clear, but in order to be clear, I need to go back a bit.
In going back, I want to note that the No Kill movement did not start out with evil in their hearts anymore than HSUS or the ASPCA did.
Nor was the No Kill Movement completely cut free from the mooring of reality anymore than the HSUS or the ASPCA was back in 1970.
And yes, all three did have a theory, and that theory worked -- up to a point.
Let's start where the No Kill movement got it right, which is that when it comes to feral cats, adoption is not an option.
Feral cats are wild animals, and they cannot be brought back inside and turned into a pet anymore than a pickle can be turned back into a cucumber again.
Because the No Kill movement clearly understands this, they have proposed a Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) paradigm as a way of handling feral cats.
The theory here is that neutered and spayed cats will establish "territories" in order to keep out other cats, and that these neutered-or-spayed cats will eventually die off, meaning that cat colonies will disappear due to "natural" attrition.
Sounds like a plan, but there are three fundamental problems:
- Feral cats do not have territories. If they did, there would not be large feral cat colonies to begin with.
- Feral cats kill birds, and not just a few of them, but dozens a week, hundreds a year. Rather than a "no kill" situation, a cat colony is a planned, systematic, institutionalized, "mass kill" situation.
- TNR has not eliminated a single feral cat colony. Not one. Ever. Because cats do not have territories, and because people continue to abandon cats, cats that die from disease, vehicle impact, and predation (and how can any of that be called humane?) are simply replaced, and the killing of birds and the spread of disease continues apace.
The bottom line is that there is no such thing as a feral cat policy that is "no kill."
Instead, a feral cat colony is a "kill dozens every day" sink hole for birds.
The argument that feral cats are no different than any other kind of wild animal is an interesting one.
You see, if we have a rat colony we do not feed the rats, we poison them or trap them. We fine people who feed them, whether they are feeding them intentionally or unintentionally.
We also hunt and trap a heck of a lot of wildlife in this country, don't we?
Nationally, we trap and shoot over 500,000 coyotes a year, and in my little state of Virginia alone we trapped over 80,000 raccoon and 30,000 fox (red and gray), and shot about a quarter million white tail deer last year.
Treat feral cats like wildlife?
Yes, that is exactly the idea.
We manage a lot of wildlife with traps, bullets and poison.
Is it completely crazy to say we should be doing the same with feral cat colonies that are killing billions of birds a year and spreading disease?
Of course not.
If the No Kill movement was honest, it would simply admit this.
The problem is that the No Kill movement is now in exactly the same place the Humane Society of the U.S. and the ASPCA were when No Kill showed up -- painted into a corner by its own rhetoric and the recruitment of people to the cause who have embraced a flawed public policy frame.
No Kill was never no kill, was it? Sick and aged and seriously injured animals were always put down.
So, right from the start, the No Kill movement tripped at the starting line. No Kill was actually "low kill".
So what is No Kill movement really about if it is not about never, ever killing (which it is not)?
No Kill was, and is, about getting local pounds and shelters to aggressively market their dogs and cats to prospective pet owners rather than simply allow lazy local pounds to kill healthy dogs and cats that could otherwise make someone a fine pet.
A grand idea. Full standing applause.
But truly feral cats do not make fine pets, do they?
Nor are there enough barns in America to turn every feral cat into a "barn cat," no matter how nice an idea that sounds like. Most barns are full up with barn cats right now, thank you.
And so, the No Kill movement embraced a Trap-Neuter-Release policy based around maintaining feral cat colonies.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
But Trap-Neuter-Release is fatally flawed.
It simply does not work because it assumes things about cats that we now know are simply NOT TRUE.
So what to do?
That's the question for people like Nathan Winograd.
Will he simply double down on failure while demonizing anyone who questions his paradigm -- same as HSUS and the ASPCA and PeTA did to him when he showed up?
Or will he fess up and admit that T-N-R was an experiment that has failed, and that Trap and Euthanize (T&E) is the way forward (to the end) for feral cat colonies?
This is puppy peddler's dog invented in the late 1960s, at about the same time that the Bichon was being trotted out as distinct from the Maltese.
Note that the breed history here follows the basic structure of most nonsense canine histories:
- A specific location of creation, preferably exotic (Madagascar!);
- An ancient "possible" provenance (somewhere back there in a 200-year span of time);
- A big dollop of romance (Pirates!)
- A weak claim for work (any dog can rat and rabbit);
- A very recent date of Kennel Club registration (early-1970s);
- A named person or two who "discovered" the dog (and who put together all of this nonsense "history");
- A bit of ancillary garbage to give the illusion of granular detail;
- A putative claim that the dog is descended from some other dog lost in the mists of time (in this case a "Tenerife Terrier").
The Wikipedia entry (no, I am not making this up):
The Coton de Tulear developed on the island of Madagascar and is still the island's national dog. It is believed that the tenerife dog was brought to Madagascar, and mated with a dog of the island, and created unexpected twist. The Coton's ancestors were possibly brought to Madagascar in the 16th and 17th centuries aboard pirate ships. Madagascar was a haven for pirates, and pirate graveyards can still be seen there. Pirates established a base on St. Mary's Island, Madagascar and some of them took Malagasy wives. Whether the dogs were brought along to control rats on the ships, as companions for long voyages, or were confiscated from other ships as booty no one knows. Tulear is a port now also known as "Toliara". The Coton is of the Bichon dog type, linked most closely to the "Bichon Tenerife", and Tenerife Terrier. There have been many stories circulating about the history of the Coton in recent years. Most of them are untrue. The Coton de Tulear was never feral on Madagascar. It did not hunt wild boar or alligators, as its size, strength, and demeanor can disprove easily. It was a companion dog of the Merina (the ruling tribe) in Madagascar. It has very little prey drive, and is not a hunting dog.
The cottony coat may be the result of a single gene mutation. This small, friendly dog caught the fancy of the Malagasy royalty and they were the only people allowed to keep Cotons. When Dr. Robert Jay Russell discovered the breed in Madagascar in 1973 and brought the first ones to America, he coined the phrase the Royal Dog of Madagascar and the name stuck. They were also imported occasionally into France by returning French colonists but were not officially imported to Europe until the 1970s.
The Coton de Tulear was first formally recognised as a breed by the Societe Centrale Canine (the French national kennel club) in 1970, and was accepted by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, which published the breed standard in 1972.
Of course, this is the "straight" version.
If you want your nonsense and blarney ladled thick with special sauce head over to to "The American Cotton Club" (The Cotton Club, get it??) where they have also added in a shipwreck that has the little dogs swimming through surf to shore!
Right. Marvelous! Full applause!
The American Cotton Club jumps the moon when they go on to write:
The original Cotons on Madagascar were feral surviving by hunting and scavenging. One of their favorite meals was small wild boar native to Madagascar. They were able to adapt to the natural diverse and rugged conditions on the island. They lived in the rain forests and scrub of southern Madagascar near the sea and the port of Tulear. They had to survive arid conditions on the island as well as the Monsoons. The Cotons led a much different life than their pampered Bichon cousins in Europe. This brought about a strong constitution for survival, a keen intelligence, vigilance, adaptability, alertness. They also learned to live in packs increasing their odds of survival. It is possible the tropical climate of Madagascar influenced the coat developing into a light and airy cotton which was a natural air conditioning.
Wonderful! Fantastic. Tell us more.
And, of course, there is more. The dog was adopted by the Merina tribe (was that on Survivor, season two?) and became a pampered dog that could only be owned by royalty. To back this all up, an ancient book is quoted, and never mind if that ancient book (it has not yet been scanned by Google!) describes a completely different dog from the one detailed here here.
History! Fact! Romance!
What a marvelous dog!
Can I put you down for two?
Why yes, but I would like to get one straight from the island so I know it is the real deal.
On straight from the island? Right. Small problem there.
You see due to their huge popularity in France and the extreme poverty of Madagascar, there are now virtually no "true" Coton's in their homeland of Madagascar! Any dog you get from there is likely to be a fake. And there is lots of that going around...
Oh dear! What a tragedy.
Just imagine going to the Genesee Valley and finding no Genessee Valley Beaver dog, or the Outer Banks and finding no Kill Devil Terrier. This is a tragedy every bit as epic as that!
A "very pretty example of the race" circa 1970.
Of course, this "modern" dog is not exactly the same as that brought to Madagascar by pirates. It is not exactly the same dog that survived the shipwreck, that swap to shore, that was owned by royalty, and that hunted wild boar in large feral packs.
No, it has been improved!
In fact, it has been improved so many times it looks completely different now.
Even the "breed standard," written in 1969, has been "improved," first in 1987, and then again in 1995, and then again in 1999.
And, of course, that's just the European standard.
There's also an American standard.
So the "standard," as you can see, is as solid as a rock. These are dedicated lap dog breeders, and form follows function like a fish follows a water buffalo.
My favorite breed history of the Coton de Tulear, however, is not written by the French, or the British, or the Americans. It appears on a Dutch site where, according to Google Translator:
As a result of the colonization in the 16th and 17th century, the dodo, a large sort of turkey-like bird that lived on the islands of the Indian Ocean, went extinct.
As a result of that colonization, in its place another brave Dodo species in the Indian Ocean formed in the shape of the Coton de Tulear.
Fantastic! And, of course, absolutely true. Now, how many can I put you down for?
|Descended from packs of wild toy poodles that killed wild boar in Madagascar!|
- Related Links: ** The Scarlett Point Terrier
** The Genessee Valley Beaver Dog
** You Can Blame Garrison Keillors' Grandfather
** The Kill Devil Terrier
** What the Hell is a Congo Terrier?
** The Shiro Mimi: Japan's Early Answer to Radar
** When Fairy Tales Meet Hairy Tails
** A Breed History: the Short-Horned Terrier
** The Italian Job
** The Darwin Retriever
** True Terriers
** Basketcase: The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel