16 January 2014

Questionable "improvement" of dog breeds

A post at Science of Dogs bemoans a century of dog breeding for its production of too many dogs with genetic defects.  Excerpts:
The dogs on the left are from  the 1915 book, ‘Breeds of All Nations by W.E. Mason. The examples on the right are modern examples from multiple sources...

[top photo] It seems incredible that at one time the Bull Terrier was a handsome, athletic dog. Somewhere along its journey to a mutated skull and thick abdomen the bull terrier also picked up a number of other maladies like supernumerary teeth and compulsive tail-chasing.

A shorter face means a host of problems. The modern Boxer not only has a shorter face but the muzzle is slightly upturned. The boxer – like all brachycephalic dogs – has difficulty controlling its temperature in hot weather, the inability to shed heat places limits on physical performance. It also has one of the highest cancer rates.

The Dachshund used to have functional legs and necks that made sense for their size. Backs and necks have gotten longer, chest jutted forward and legs have shrunk to such proportions that there is barely any clearance between the chest and floor. The dachschund has the highest risk of any breed for intervertebral disc disease which can result in paralysis; they are also prone to achondroplastic related pathologies, PRA and problems with their legs...
Other examples at the source include the Basset Hound, the English bulldog, the German Shepherd, the Pug, and the St. Bernard.


  1. They didn't even mention the issues with Dalmations - by the early 70s, the closed gene pool no longer included genes necessary for healthy kidney function. It's taken until 2010 for the AKC and UKC to allow new genes into the 'purebred' pool to correct the problem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalmatian_%28dog%29#Dalmatian-Pointer_Backcross_Project

    It's a shame on the human race that we'll put our best friends in unhealthy bodies.

  2. This is really eye-opening! I can't help but wonder if this article is the start of more fervent discussion and debate in the coming decades. It seems as though current purebreeding practices are not sustainable.

  3. Breeding dogs out of health and longevity just for aesthetic 'improvements', which to my mind are all of questionable taste anyway. Absolutely idiotic.

  4. Normally, I would agree with everything said here concerning this issue. No question that purebreds are usually 'unhealthier' and uhhh... a tad more daft- not to mention that many breeders behave like wannabe Nazis in training.

    But, but... as a former English Bull Terrier owner, I must admit a very real soft spot for that particular breed (dim and excessive tail chaser that he was). That said, they are also amazingly athletic, and very loving...

  5. I think it's just evil to distort dogs to someone's idea of "perfection", in the process giving them terrible problems. And then people compound this by cropping ears and tails.


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