Monday, March 9, 2009
Pets and things
We went to Crufts yesterday and saw lots of very well turned out and very well behaved dogs. The BBC has not broadcast Crufts this year because of the problems with inbreeding and also some of the breed standards being cruel to the dogs. This is true, and we did have a qualm about going, but it wasn't a very big qualm, although I do really agree with the people protesting outside the NEC.
I have owned pedigree dogs and a pedigree cat, and I have owned muts and moggies. We have had rabbits, hamsters and goldfish, which were mostly identified as a particular breed. We have had horses with excellent breeding and horses with unidentified breeding, and it is sometimes hard to say which is better.
I definitely believe that the extremes of breeding to a standard which is unnatural is wrong. what has been done to bulldogs so that they can't breathe and can barely walk cannot be justified by anyone. Inbred diseases and weaknesses - hip dysplacia, skin disorders etc, should be bred out by not allowing the animals with those weaknesses to have progeny registered. My one pedigree cat was Burmese and the reason I got him was that he had a defect in his ribcage so he was given away as a pet cat on the agreement that he would be neutered and his pedigree said no progeny to be registered. As we had him as a pet this was fine, and it was a very responsible attitude on the part of the breeder I think.
My daughter works in a racing yard where breeding of thoroughbreds is clearly of critical importance. Thoroughbreds are all in the stud book and they can all be traced back to 3 Arab sires in the early 19th century. However you can get a mare who is fast and wins a few races when young, but basically is short of bone and would have leg problems if she was worked extensively, so she is put in foal because she is fast, but the lightness of bone, which is a defect, is being passed on.
It varies of course, you have responsible and irrisponsible breeders, but I got a cross bred dog because I wanted a pet and I wanted what is called cross bred vigour - ie fewer bred in defects. That said, even with a cross breed dog, you have to think what the dog was bred for. Terriers are bright, individual thinkers, and will chase anything that runs away from them, and if they catch something may kill it. Retrievers will retriever, collies will herd, guard dogs will guard, and even with a crossbreed you need to think what their origins might be when you get one.
Crufts will probably have representatives of all types. We were very taken with the corgis, especially the ones with tails, as they don't dock the tails any more, but the breeder we spoke to would clearly prefer the dogs to have their tails docked if he was still allowed to. However that is one instance where a change in the rules has meant a change to the breed standard and makes it better for the dogs. There needs to be more of this sort of thing. At the top is a corgi with a tail - and you can see how long it is when left fo grow.