Ahh…the joys of being a dog! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!
Dog breed origins are often shrouded in a “creation myth.” If you ever read an all-breed dog book, the official breed origins come across as awfully fanciful. Virtually every breed is regarded as ancient or derived from some private stock belonging to some notable: Afghan hounds were the dogs Noah took on the Ark. Beagles appear on the Bayeux Tapestry. Pharaoh hounds were the hunting dogs of the Ancient Egyptian dynasties.
These stories posit the breed as being part of something deep in the past and maintaining the breeds is magnified as a way of paying homage to the past.
Some breeds are, however, pretty old, or at least genetically distinct from the rest of dogdom to be seen as something unique. Chow chows are a good example. They retain a lot of unique, primitive characters, and as East Asian primitive dogs, they may be among the oldest of strains still in existence.
Konrad Lorenz deeply admired the breed’s wolf-like attributes, believing they represented the best of the so-called “Lupus dogs.” Lorenz believed that most dogs were actually the descendants of golden jackals, and the dogs were friendly to most people and easily broken to fit the will of man. These were the “Aureus dogs.” But the dogs that were more aloof and more independent of the wishes of their masters were seen as the direct descendants of wolves. Lorenz preferred this type of dog, and he kept many chows and chow crosses in crosses as his own personal dogs and “study subjects.”
Lorenz later rejected the dichotomy between the jackal and wolf dogs, but the idea is still worth exploring. What Lorenz actually discovered was a profound division that exists in domestic dogs: the primitive versus the derived.
In terms of evolution, an organism is considered primitive if it retains characters and behavior that are very like the ancestral form. For example, lemurs are considered more primitive than other primates because they have the long muzzles and wet noses of the ancestral primates.
Primitive dogs are those that retain many features in common with the wolf. These features include erect ears, pointed muzzles, howling rather than barking, bitches having only one heat cycle per year, pair-bonding behavior, and general tendency not to be obedient. Many primitive dogs bond with only a single person, and in the most extreme cases, allow only that person to touch them.
Lots of “Nordic” breeds fall into this category, but this list also includes many of the drop-eared sighthounds from Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Indian Subcontinent. It also includes many of the village dogs from undeveloped countries, as well as the semi-domesticated pariah dogs and dingoes.
The chow chow sort of fit between both Nordic breed type and the village dog type. It has many of the features of the Nordic breeds– curled tail and prick ears– but it also has had a long history as a village dog in China, where it had periods in which it freely bred.
One would think that chow chow fanciers would be into celebrating their dogs as primitives, like owning something between wild and domestic.
But dog people being dog people are more than willing to add embellishments.
Westerners have done a lot to add to the bear-like features of the chow chow, which Konrad Lorenz actually castigated.
However, dog breeders will often go to great lengths to justify breeding decisions, including putting out absolute science fiction as scientific fact.
A few years ago, I heard an acquaintance mention that a well-educated chow owner she knew firmly believed that chow chow were derived from bears.
I laughed at it. I did not think there was a serious discussion that chow chows were derived from bears.
And then I received notice of this website, which purports to have the full history of the chow chow. The history begins as follows:
It´s assumed that during the Miocene period (between 28 to 12 million years back), the evolution of the Hemicyon, an intermediary between the Cynoelesmus [sic], “father” of all the canine ones, and the Daphoneus [sic] – from which the bears descend as we know them today, – originated the Simocyon, an animal that varied between a fox and a small bear that inhabited in the sub-Arctic regions Siberia and the Northwest of Mongolia and of which it is known had 44 teeth.
I don’t know where this actually comes from, but it is entirely in ignorance of what we now know about the evolution of bears and dogs. Dogs and bears are indeed closely related, but the division between the two is much deeper than the dates proposed here. Their most recent common ancestor was the ancestral stem-caniform miacid, which lived about 40 million years ago. Most of the “ancestors” mention here are actually evolutionary dead ends that have little to do with modern bears or dogs.
First of all Hemicyon was not an intermediary between dogs and bears. The Hemicyon family was actually a branch of the bear lineage. Unlike the true bears, it was digitigrade and was probably a cursorial predator like wolves are today. The Hemicyon family lived between 11 and 17 million years ago, and it has left no living descendants. That is, it is in no way an intermediary form between dogs and bears.
The author mentions “Cynoelesmus,” probably meaning Cynodesmus. My guess is this discrepancy comes from a poor cut-and-paste job, but although Cynodesmus was a primitive dog. It is not the ancestor of all living dogs. The ancestor of all living dogs was Leptocyon. Leptocyon was once considered part of Cynodesmus, but it is no longer.
The other two ancient creatures mentioned in the opening have nothing to do with bears or dogs.
“Daphoneus,” which refers to Daphoenus, a type of Amphicyonid. Amphicyonids were are really spectacular sister family to the canids, which had traits in common with both bears and dogs but really behaved more like big cats. This family has nothing to do with evolution of dogs, except that this is a sister lineage that went extinct.
Simocyon was actually something even a little bit cooler. It was not a dog. It was not a bear. It wasn’t even in the lineage of either family. Instead, it was a genus of leopard-sized animals much more closely related to the red panda. In case you were wondering, red pandas are not closely related to giant pandas. Giant pandas are actually a primitive form of bear. Red pandas are their own thing. Modern red pandas are the only species in their family known as Ailuridae. Millions of years ago, there were several species of red panda, and Simocyon was actually a large predatory red panda. Like the modern red panda, Simocyon had a thumb formed out of its sesamoid bone. Giant pandas have this thumb, and it was thought to connect both modern species of panda. Now, we know that the giant panda, which is a true bear, actually evolved its sesamoid thumb in parallel to the red panda. The red panda lineage evolved this trait so they could more easily climb in trees, while the giant panda evolved it to hold bamboo.
So that entire introduction to chow chow history is simply wrong. It may have been correct carnivoran paleontology at one point, but it also seems that the originators of this theory just went around looking for creatures that sounded like they might be fossil dogs that could be found in Asia. “Cyon” does mean dog, but it doesn’t always refer to dogs in scientific names. Remember that there is a primitive whale the unfortunate name of “Basilosaurus,” which is in no way related to any lizard or dinosaur, and the raccoon family is called “Procyonids,” even though they aren’t that closely related to dogs.
Again, I don’t know why this theory is so popular, except that it can be used as a defense for breeding more and more bear-like features into chow chows than they had when they first came into the West. It’s also a way of making chows so much more super-special than the were before.
But it really makes chow fanciers look silly to anyone who has ever looked closely at carnivoran evolution.
It’s a fun story, but it’s not based in reality.
And when you get the paleontology this wrong, then virtually nothing of value can be trusted until the error is corrected.
Chows are cool as primitive dogs. They don’t need all the malarkey.
This story turns my stomach, but I think it’s important to share it because of the statute under which the perpetrator may be punished if found guilty. Cleveland’s WKYC.com is reporting on an Alliance, Ohio man who was seen throwing a dog into a fire pit. Witnesses say the dog was later seen, on fire, […]
The word “dog” connotes familiarity. The domestic creature that we know so well is Canis lupus familiaris. We know it as well as family.
But the truth of the matter there is a whole world of dogs we don’t know at all. When we look beyond the domestic into wild, there is a world that so utterly alien to us that we rely upon scientists and nature documentaries to tell us about it.
And the scientists know wild dogs. That is not to say that they know everything about them, but if we look at what science knows about wolves, red foxes, and coyotes, then we see that many of the questions have already been answered.
Red foxes are known because of their ubiquity. North America and Eurasia are full of them, and they’ve been introduced to Australia, where they are a pretty nasty invasive species. Wolves are known because they have become avatars for the conservation movement. It was this species that came to symbolize the wild in both North America and Europe, and its restoration is seen as a sort of redemption for all the other massacres and mismanagement that have so stained our relationship with the wild creatures. And so long as coyotes live in the canyons, brush-thickets, and suburban lawns of most of North America, they will be studied as much as they are both reviled and revered in their new kingdom.
Wild dogs have their die-hard enthusiasts. Researchers follow the African wild dog throughout the lion ranges, trying to find out more about them, and other researchers go to Chiloe to find out the deepest secrets of the Darwin’s fox.
But the truth of the matter is there one wild dog that we will never get to know. It is one that haunts the jungles and never reveals to us what it truly is.
Atelocynus microtis is how the scientists know it. English-speakers call it a “short-eared dog, and it is truly a bizarre creature. Weighing roughly 20 pounds, it slinks through the rainforests of the Amazonian interior on webbed cat feet. It has a long, pointed muzzle, almost like a coyote’s, but its resemblance to the North American little wolf is instantly shatter when one looks at its ears. They are are short and rounded where the coyote’s are often freakishly large and sharply pointed.
Unlike the coyote, which can live in the urban world quite well, the short-eared dog lives by totally shunning mankind. If humans can easily live in an area, you won’t find a short-eared dog.
Many theories about its rarity near human settlements exist, but the most intriguing is that it really is deeply impacted by the presence of domestic dogs. Domestic dogs, which derive from Eurasian wolves, carry a whole host of diseases to which the short-eared dog has no immunity. Perhaps canine disease swept through the short-eared dog population, leaving behind only those individuals with a genetic tendency to avoid people.
They wander the jungles–lowland forest, Amazonian forest, and even cloud forest–but reveal their secrets to us only in glints and glares, in quick camera trap captures and occasion run-ins along forest trails.
They materialize as mysteriously as coyotes do in the white-tail woods, yet they reveal almost nothing as they pass. They appear and are gone like phantoms in the mist.
A few years ago, one was kept captive. He was found as an abandoned puppy in the Peruvian Amazon. A veterinarian named Renata Leite Pitman kept him, and her time of this creatures, which she named “Oso,” came to be the most intensive relationships anyone has ever had with a short-eared dog. She took Oso on long walks in the forest, and Oso revealed his secrets to her.
She used him to connect with the wild ones. The approached him while he was on leash, seeming to ignore that he was attached to a human. A female offer to mate with him. A male stalked him from a distance.
She came to know that Oso had an innate fear of jaguars. If she showed him jaguar scat or played jaguar sounds, he would run in terror. He was so young when captured that there is no way he could have learned this from his mother.
From Oso, we learned that the short-eared dog is a major seed disperser, but they still prefer meat to all other foods.
We also learned that male short-eared dogs aren’t sexually mature until they are three years old. Their testicles simply don’t descend until then. For a dog of that size, that is remarkably long time before sexual maturity.
Leite Pitman studied others of Oso’s kind. She set up camera traps and put radio collars them.
But we still know next to nothing about them.
Their exact range is still hotly debated. They have been spotted as far north as Panama’s Darien Province, and it is suggested that the mysterious mitla the Percy Fawcett encountered in Bolivia was likely a short-eared dog or something very much like one.
Compared with what L. David Mech and Doug Smith know about wolves or what Stanley Gehrt and Simon Gadbois know about coyotes or David MacDdnald knows about red foxes, Renata Leite Pitman has only scratch the tiniest layer of the surface when it comes the short-eared dog.
This will be the enigma dog, the one we simply cannot know. The jungle will hide it well, and it will live without us knowing.
There is nearly a pop culture following for the thylacine, that extinct marsupial carnivore from Tasmania that looked like a wild dog with a pouch. It’s probably extinct, but it is still an enigma. It was an enigma when it was alive, and it is an even more so now that it is gone. We want it to be alive so we can have it reveal its secrets, but these secrets have passed with the last of the striped false canine.
But the short-eared dog is still here. Its mysteries are still looming long in the mist. Maybe we can find out. Maybe we can know.
But this creature seeks to avoid our kind, enemies who bring not just violence of predations as the jaguar does but also the pestilences that waft from the lop-eared village wolves through the jungle air.
Atelocynus mictrotis is canis enigmaticus. The enigma protects it, shrouds it, veils it in mystery.
And without us, it moves long the jungle paths, sniffing the air for jaguars and rotting fruit. Free but harried. Unmastered but unknown.
This is the dog we will not know as it wanders the Lost World away from us into the densest thicket.
Imagine being the size of a chihuahua amongst all those legs… it must be like living in the Land of the Giants!
We are happy to announce that Kaida and Steven won the grand prize for their Halo mix ‘n mores video! They will choose a rescue or shelter of their choice to receive a donation of 5,000 bowls of Halo Pets food courtesy of Freekibble.com and GreaterGood.org. Plus, they will receive a year’s supply of mix ‘n mores.
Kaida’s a 2-year-old American Eskimo who loves chasing and being chased especially at the beach. She loves playing with all her dog friends at the park everyday and going on hikes with her mommy and daddy. She extremely intelligent and easily learns new tricks (e.g. she was potty trained two days after bringing her home). She’s really independent, knows how to communicate when she wants something and we love her to death.
Steven said, “I own my own video production company and photography business here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m an extreme animal lover, love creating and giving back. My wife told me about the contest and I leaped at the chance to create something with Kaida and be able to help a lot of other dogs!”
Thank you Steven for taking the time to make the video and helping shelter pets.
Watch the video below:
Made of only whole meats and absolutely no meat meals, mix ‘n mores are a minimally processed, premium protein supplement. They offer nutrition for finicky or aging pets, and is a great option when you want to lower the carbohydrate content of your pet’s diet.
Learn more at: halopets.com/mix-n-mores
6 Ways to Protect Your cats & Yourself from Cat Scratch Disease
You can forgive the new kitten in your life for the bright red tracks her little claws painted down your arm, but keep an eye on those scratches — they can lead to terribly serious health consequences. Cat scratch disease can actually put you in the hospital!
Veterinarian Bruce Kornreich is an associate director at the Cornell Feline Health Center, which conducts and sponsors research aimed at preventing and treating diseases in cats. You can learn more about it in my conversation with Dr. Kornreich on CAT CHAT.
What is Cat Scratch Disease?
Cat scratch disease is caused by a bacteria called Bartonela henselae, which is spread among cats—and more rarely among other mammals, including dogs—primarily by fleas. In rare cases, B henselae may be transmitted from infected cats to humans via scratches or bite wounds. “Children younger than five years of age and immunocompromised individuals are at greater risk for cat scratch disease.”
The Centers for Disease Control Have Cat Scratch Fever on Their Radar
A new study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that 12,500 people are diagnosed with cat scratch disease (CSD) every year, making it more common than previously thought. The CDC study estimates that about 500 CSD patients per year become so sick, they require hospitalization.
6 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Cat
Here are the practical easy ways to decrease the likelihood of cat scratch disease occurring in your family.
1. Flea control is the fundamental way to protect your whole household from this disease. The way to assure yourself there are no fleas on your cats (and therefore in your home or yard) is with the regular monthly use of a product like Bayer Animal Health’s Advantage II for Cats.
2. Keep cats indoors, since cats usually pick up fleas (and other diseases from roaming cats) outside.
3. Deter cats from biting and scratching
4. Don’t allow cats to lick wounds.
5. Monitor young children in their interactions with cats.
6. Always wash your hands after interacting with cats.
Tracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.
Tracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival™, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.
Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.
The book was excellent, and I was going to give high recommendations about seeing the movie, but now I am seeing horrible things about how the dogs were treated during filming. Apparently, they were forced to perform dangerous stunts such as jumping into a fast-moving river. The German Shepherd, in particular, was filmed flailing desperately […]