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Dog World Magazine, February, 1983

Development of the brachycephalic dogs

By Carl Semencic -

In the establishment of a written breed standard, it is necessary to be as specific as possible while remaining concise. The ultimate objective is to offer a description according to which complete preservation of the original type can be accomplished. Obviously, in order to construct such a written standard, both the appearance and the attitude of the original type must be clearly understood.

In my opinion there are many standards given credence by the AKC which desperately require immediate reconsideration if anything of the original type is to be preserved, but I have expressed this opinion elsewhere. In the meantime, my personal investigations into breed history have revealed to me that some AKC standards are very admirable, and I feel that these accomplishments deserve both recognition and consideration.

At the present time the AKC breed standards which most impress me as having been constructed with an understanding of breed history in mind are the standards for the Shih Tzu and especially the Pekingese. The standard of the Pug is a good one in the area of physical appearance, but makes no mention of breed character. We must always bear in mind that it was essentially character for which most breeds were originally developed, not appearance.

We will notice that the breeds mentioned are of the brachycephalic type, i.e. their skulls are short and broad, Also, they stand on short legs, appear muscular under their coats, have curled tails, are small in stature and the first two should express dignity in their character. The Pug should also express dignity as a definitive characteristic, but the breed standard has not seen fit to mention this.

All three breeds are closely related and are basically of Chinese origin. It is important to note that essentially the appearance of all three breeds should display an exaggerated dwarfism, while the character which is best described by the A.K.C. standard for the Pekingese “must suggest the Chinese origin of the Pekingese in its quaintness and individuality, resemblance to the lion in direction and independence and should imply courage, boldness, self-esteem and combativeness rather than prettiness, daintiness, or delicacy.” I will ask the reader to refer to this standard during the course of the reading of this article in order to fully appreciate its value.

Once again, in order to either criticize or appreciate the accuracy of any breed standard, we must understand the general history relevant to that breed. Although detailed data on the history of the eastern brachycephalic breeds are available, we will let it suffice here to say that although short-mouthed Chinese hounds were used for hunting as early as 600 BC, the literature is generally agreed that ancient breeds of the Pekingese type originated in China during the T’ang Dynasty (roughly 618 to 907 AD). With this in mind, it is interesting to note that prior to this period and well through the T’ang Dynasty, China was experiencing a constant state of war with the nomadic peoples of the steppes of Asia and Russia. Through the many years during which the native dogs were being developed into their current forms the political climate in China was one of constant warfare between the sedentary peoples who populated the cultivated areas and the nomadic raiders, the Turks and the Mongols. Of all of the nomadic groups which threatened the cultivated areas, the most adepts at horsemanship and therefore the most threatening were the Mongols.

In a socio-political climate such as the one just described is it any wonder that the attitude of the dogs being developed would be intended to be quaint and express individuality, or that the dogs should resemble the lion in direction and independence? Should this dog also not express courage, boldness, self-esteem and combativeness rather than prettiness, daintiness or delicacy?

But what of the appearance of the small, eastern, brachycephalic breeds? Why should the standards for these breeds insist that they be brachycephalic with heavy bodies which stand on short legs? What about China during the T’ang Dynasty would give rise to the idea of developing breeds of dogs which are as unusual as those being discussed here in appearance, and would require the investment of so many generations of selective breeding in order to produce, particularly in light of the fact that these dogs do not serve any particular purpose as do such dogs as the shepherds and the dogs of war?

Consider the personal reaction of these Chinese practicing sedentary life-styles to the Mongol threat. Though the Mongols were enemies to be despised, they must also have been awe inspiring as they rode on horseback across the Asian steppes. Would it not be more surprising to learn that the image of the Mongol had no effect upon the development of art in China at the time than to learn that the reverse was true? Grousset in his in depth work entitled “The Empire Of The Steppes” says of the nomadic horsemen that “The brachycephalic man of the steppe, whether Hun, Turk or Mongol – the man with the big head, powerful body and short legs…. Has scarcely changed over fifteen centuries.” “The Mongol is short, stocky, big-boned, heavy framed…”. And of the Mongol’s horse Grosset says “His horse too is small and stocky, without grace; it has a powerful neck, somewhat thick legs and a dense coat.” Does all of this sound familiar? Between the description of the physical type of the Mongol and that of his horse we can see where the guidelines for the breeding of Chinese dogs of this period came from.

It is possible to equate the development of eastern brachycephalic canine breeds with the development of Chinese art. Is this a fair comparison? If a dog is highly selectively bred for many generations with a standard in mind which is not functionally oriented, is it fair to refer to this activity as the development of an art form? Can the intentional modification of an aspect of nature for purely aesthetic purposes possibly have been purely an artistic endeavor in China during the T’ang Dynasty? In order to answer this question let us consider another closely related activity which no one will deny is purely an art form and which, to the best of my knowledge, has never been compared during modern times to the breeding of dogs. Bonsai Dogs?

The art of Bonsai (literally “tray trees”) is the well known art of keeping and training the shape of actual trees which have been stunted either by accident of nature or by the intentional pruning of the tap root by man. These trees are trained and kept as an art form, the object of which is to imitate nature in miniature. In the early days of the art it is probable that Bonsai were collected from nature and maintained in shallow Bonsai trays simply for the appreciation of their beauty. The most highly prized Bonsai are those which display not only imitation of nature in miniature but which also display great antiquity. The goal of the art is not achieved over night, but rather it takes years, in fact generations, to produce the most highly prized specimens. Although today the art of Bonsai is most often practiced by the Japanese and, as such, is normally though of as being a Japanese art form, this art had its origins in China where it originally flourished during the T’ang Dynasty. The name Bonsai arose as a Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese “P’en tsai” (literally a green plant grown in a pot.)

I feel that it is far from merely coincidental that the art of keeping living, miniature examples of grown trees and the art of creating an appearance of exaggerated dwarfism in the eastern brachycephalic breeds both had their origins in China during the T’ang Dynasty. Such a coincidence is more likely due to the impression left by the appearance of the Mongol warriors. Who can say what other expressions of this impression might have been produced and are now lost to time.

In any event I feel that the ancient Chinese artisans would be proud of the specimens of these dogs which are being produced by AKC breeders today. It is a credit to the written standards for these breeds that they have accomplished the preservation of true form. I would recommend, however, that Shih Tzu owners cease putting ribbons in the coats of their dogs as ribbons do not compliment the appearance of lions.

Dr. Carl Semencic's website...

Gladiator Gladiator Dogs by Carl Semencic Dr. Semencic wrote "Gladiator Dogs" as a follow-up to his first book, "World of Fighting Dogs", in which he introduced several breeds of gladiator dogs that had been virtually unknown here in the United States and elsewhere in the world. "Gladiator Dogs" contains an updated perspective of each of the fighting dogs, among them the American Bulldog. The book is not intended to be an "everything you always wanted to know about these breeds" kind of book. Each section is an acute overview of its subject, covering the time span between books and bringing the reader up to speed with newly discovered information and answers. The book contains a section of the questions most frequently asked, and Dr. Semencic's answers. The photographs and accompanying captions are very well suited to the book and give several different perspectives of each breed. The composition is Dr. Semencic's usual style of comprehensive and informative writing with a flair for the personal mien.

From the back cover: From the Back Cover

From the author of The World of Fighting Dogs and Pit Bulls and Tenacious Guard Dogs comes this third and most impressive book to date, Gladiator Dogs. Bringing to life thirteen breeds originally used as fighting dogs, Dr. Carl Semencic illustrates the history, characteristics and abilities of the world's toughest canines, and shares hundreds of great color photographs of top dogs sent by owners around the globe. The author does not fight dogs and does not condone dogfighting, but he is fascinated with the qualities and instincts of these fearless gladiator breeds. Gladiator Dogs is a valuable educational book that represents years of experience and research on these remarkable historical dogs. In addition to the author's favorite breed, the American Pit Bull Terrier, Dr. Semencic discusses other related breeds, such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier, covering the differences and similarities between these bully cousins. A respected rare-breed authority and an accomplished world traveler, Dr. Semencic shares his first hand experience with these dogs from his trips to the Canary Islands, South Africa, Europe, and more. Gladiator Dogs profiles many breeds that the author has introduced, mentoured and promoted, including the American Bulldog, Canary Dog, South African Boerboel and Korean Jindo.

Review: In my opinion, one can offer nothing but a five star review to any book that is based solely upon totally independent research and which offers valid information that has never been offered in writing anywhere before. This is especially true when the subject in question is one of the oldest and most commonly discussed subjects in the world. For the past two decades, Semencic has been this area of interest's greatest pioneer. If he has, in fact, made the decision to write no more books about dogs (as he suggests is the case in Gladiator Dogs), dog fanciers world-wide have certainly lost something important. It's a pity that any of us are so blind (read "jealous") as to be unable to see what he has contributed. "Gladiator Dogs" is written in typical Semencic-style, as if he were "talking dogs" with an old friend. Like his other books, information is offered about breeds that have never, ever been mentioned in print. All of the information is first hand. It is based upon what he has learned from his worldwide network of friends and acquaintances who are involved with these rare breeds and upon the extensive travel he has done in order to come to know these breeds himself. There are a few editorial errors in this book but it is plain to see that these errors are the fault of the publisher and not the author. All that I could find are restricted to photo captions. Maybe this author could have use another publisher? Also, I am a little bothered by the fact that I bought this book when it was first released at $60.00. Now it is available for much less. But this isn't Semencic's doing either. All in all, if you are seriously interested in the gladiator breeds of dogs, there is no question that you should own this book. If you own none of his books, buy them all and keep them in good shape because they will be collector's items one day, should they ever go out of print. His first book, "Fighting Dogs", in its original cover is a collectors item already. Congratulations "Doc". Thanks for the great contribution to the world of dogs and thanks for including us in your hobby.

Another review: Yes this is a simple book. Yes it reads like a grandpa telling you his wartime stories in the backyard. Yes the photos looks like those taken off of a traveler's album. No this is not a major academic work on the subject. BUT ... Yes, this is also the only book I've seen on rare breeds such as the Boerboel. Yes, this is the only book that I've seen to dare show pictures of fighting dogs in action. Yes, the author made an attempt on his free vacation time to visit places that no other have shown before as it relates to the subject of fighting dogs. No, the book is not a waste of money for those inclined to have a "bulldoggy" book on their shelf. After all, it's about supply and demand........and the supply on this subject is still few. Until more comprehensive books are published, Dr. Semencic is still the leading authority in terms of relaying this information to the public outside of cyberspace.

Another review: I have over 65 dog books and this is by far one of my best. This book is well written, full of information, and a joy to read. Get it!

Another review: Dr. Sememcic gives us a look into the world of canines that are unfortunately common place in todays headlines He is also able to deliver a breif overture of some obscure and rather unheard of breeds. Some of his references are one sided and opinionated. But to his credit he does do more research on the subject of fighting dogs than some of the other better known authors. I felt that the book was very informative and I did enjoy it despite the author's sometimes boring text book style of narative. The pictures in this book are some of the best that I have ever seen in any dog book. I would definately recommend this book.

Another review: I have an American Bulldog named Gator X. He has the potential to bring down a big man, and it was not hard to make this choice of dog with the help of the man, Dr. Carl. If you are in the market for a good mastiff doggue, please read this book. These dogs may be big and scary, but they have also been bred for 2 thousand years to stick to their humans. This book shows this in all honesty. Yes, there are fighting pics, but I see small dogs do the same thing owned by bad owners. Dr. Semencic is the penultimate expert on what a dog can do, and where they came from, and that THEY ARE GREAT DOGS TO LOVE, NOT ONLY FEAR. Please read this book if you are a big dog enthusiast. If you want a book that delivers great insight as to why so many of these breeds are misunderstood, buy it. If you want amazing pictures, buy it. I can not imagine taking anyone else's word as to the dog world considering the mastiff breeds than Dr. Semencic's. History should ensure mistakes are not made again. Here is a book that shows you why these dogs are here, and why you should respect them or go small. I have a military life, and my hubby may be gone, but because of this book, and his preceeding, and because of Laurakennels, I am safe, secure, and enriched. May you all read this and realize that dogs are big investments with great history and great rewards. This book is the decisive measure for those on the line. Go bullies go.

Another review: Excellent book packed with unbiased information on many of the worlds most exotic working breeds. Both pictures and information are top notch and hard to find else were. For those of you living in a closet, the Dr is THE authority on working dogs and he has done magnificent job on this book.
The The World Of Fighting Dogs by Carl Semencic

Review: A great book for anyone wishing to know more obout bulldog breeds, it also expells some of the myths surrounding fighting dog breeds. this book does not promote the fighting of dogs, but does explain the history of the barbarrick so called sport.

Another Review: This book by Carl Semencic is a good book for someone who would like a general overview of the fighting breeds. It describes and details that which is unique to each breed and how each breed has evolved. A good book to have in your library that describes those breeds which are overlooked by traditional dog books.

Another review: I was terribly distressed when I read that this book was availble at Amazon. This book describes dog fighting, details the rules of dog fighting, shows pictures of dog fighting, and glorifies famous fighting dogs. Dr. Semmencic states something about the thrill of watching two dogs square off to fight. (this is not a quote but a paraphrase) I will not longer so buisness with Amazon. I do not support buisnesses with no moral conscious.

Another review: This is one of the worst pieces of GARBAGE I have ever seen! I cannot believe it ever got published or that reputable book stores actually carry it! People - it glorifies dogfighting which is a FELONY!!!!!!! A direct quote from this piece of trash - "The American Pit Bull is indisputably the most effective fighting dog developed by man. ...I mean that contests between Pit Bulls and other breeds have been staged with the results consistently supporting the contention that a Pit Bull will defeat any other animal that has ever been called a dog and then some." GARBAGE! GARBAGE! GARBAGE! Do not buy this thing - instead demand that it be pulled from the shelves.

Another review: This book is easy to read, keeps you going and offers more information on fighting breeds than any other book I have found to date. Read it, you won't be sorry.

Another review: I bought my first copy of this book six months after it came out in 1984. Back then, Semencic's critics claimed he'd made up most of the breeds he had been writing about in his magazine articles and books. Well, to tell the truth, I did too and I was already a Bullmastiff breeder. I was sure there was no such breed as a Dogue de Bordeaux and that the chapter about this breed was a sham. Now I breed Bordeaux Dogues. Today Semencic's critics say that his books are no good because because what he writes is common knowledge. The truth is, it's common knowledge because he made it common knowledge. I know. I was there, watching. I often wonder how big a laugh he must get out of the newcomers who don't understand what his contributions are, if he's paying attention to them at all. Having watched this situation for the past 15 years, I can tell you it's a good lesson in how time distorts our view of efforts of the past. The fools become heros and the heros fools.

Pit Pit Bulls and Tenacious Guard Dogs by Carl Semencic

Review: I can say only one thing about Carl Semencic, and that is, "about time!" I have been a big dog lover ever since my American Bulldoggue, Gator X, came into my life. People say guard dogs are dangerous. I say, yes they are, to the intruder. Here is the reason why they are. Here, also, and most important, is why they are age old and still used. These dogs are bred to be with people.

Through research and finally pushing the envelope as to the stereotypes, the author has shown the truth behind these dogs. They are useful, loving, and intelligent animals who need the right owner to save them. He shows that the dogs need us like we need them. These dogs are not for show, nor our inadequacy problems, but for the purpose of loving us and being what we bred them to be, and that is the best of all dogs. They are smart and protective and loving.

This book is a catalog of breeds that will do right by you if you are able to utilize their talents and show them the right attention and love. If you are in the market for a good guard dog, most of the ones I would recommend, save for the bandog and the boerboel, are here. It is the best catalog of good guard dogs in print today. I suggest Gladiator Dogs as a follow up book.

Go big or stay home.

Another review: To start let me tell you I own two Pit bulls male and female and they are great natural guard dogs, don't believe the other people that tell you they are not because the dogs are people friendly, German Shephards are people friendly that this mean they are not good guard dogs of course not, they are one of the best. I agree with the author when he says Pit bulls only love their family and friends of its family and will oppose any enemy of its family with a ferocity that was unprecedented in the world of dogs. I dare anyone to break into my home or jump my back yard fence and that will prove my point. I also love all guard dog breeds and this book gives great information on them specially breeds that are rare. Since I purchased this book I can't put it down, it has good pictures of great dogs. This book is a great book to own, buy it!

Another review: Although the author seems fairly knowledgeable on quite a few breeds he writes about, it is impossible to be an expert on all of them. Just the same, in his review of Bullmastiffs, he reports that he bred his own male Bullmastiff at the tender age of 10 months when he knew that it had a genetic immune deficiency. Hips cannot be accurately X-ray'd for displasia until the age of two years, which any responsible breeder of a large dog knows. Then he goes on to complain about the poor health quality of these poor dogs (which, by the way, would have been created by similar unethical breeding practices.) The same kind of irresponsible breeding he practices is responsible for the problems he decries in the German Shepherd (although he does have some accurate criticisms). He seems a bit illogically biased towards the APBT. He states that a Bull Terrier's size is not sufficient for stopping power, yet never brings this up with the APBT. I love Pit Bulls too, but I really don't think it's accurate to judge them on different criteria than other breeds. Pit Bulls are, after all, a people lover, and in my opinion not of the guarding calibur of breeds that have been bred for centuries for guarding and protection. Altogether, "Pit Bulls and Tenacious Guard Dogs" lacks consistency and impartiality and raises some serious questions about the author's breeding ethics.

Another review: Although, most of the writing appears to be accurate, the pit bull terrier is not a natural guard dog if left to it's own devices.To consider the pit bull a natural guard dog and compare them to breeds of great size that have been bred as guardians /or protectors for years is a fallacy. Guard work comes naturally to many of the breeds mentioned, specifically the mollusus breeds. However, extensive training is required for the otherwise "people friendly" pit bull to be used in this area. The breed has a deep desire to learn and a yearning to please and this combined with their athletic ability, enables them to excel and in many cases surpass other breeds with regard to it's specific training. They are not natural guard dogs however, and the true American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier without this specific training, could bark or even growl when a stranger knocks at the door. However, they will greet that same stranger with their tail wagging unless unless otherwise provoked. They are not naturally wary of strangers as the other breeds, nor should they be. They are people friendly dogs who happen to have a bad reputation due to man's interference and selfish desires.

Another review: If you want a dog capable of being a protector as well as a buddy, but arent sure yet quite what you want, this book has chapters on most of the popular breeds as well as some not usually considered, such as the giant schnauzer. The author does a good job of giving an honest evaluation of each breed, the good points as well as the bad. He also did something I havent seen before in a breed anthology which is 'If you dont see it here, I dont consider it suitable for guard training' (paraphrased). If you can stomach the testosterone-flavored writing (ok, not that bad) it's a fascinating read, with tons of pictures of those breeds you'd love to see in the flesh, but know you never will. Definitely in the top 2 of my doggie book collection.

Another review: This book focuces on the dogs diffrent pros and cons it also gives info on the availibility in the U.S. it had an article on my personal fav breed tha dogo wich is surprising it is an all around source of info a great book for the rare breed keepers library.

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