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The Human Alpha Figure - Truth or Fallacy? - Written by Dogman Mike McConnery

Development Of The Brachycephalic Dogs - Written by Dr. Carl Semencic

A New Look At The Contribution Of The Eastern Brachycephalic Breeds To "Bull Breed" History - Written by Dr. Carl Semencic

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The Danes of Send Manor:
The Life, Loves and Mystery of Gordon Stewart
by Robert Heal

The Danes of Send Manor: The Life, Loves and Mystery of Gordon Stewart

by Robert Heal

In The Company of Newfies:
A Shared Life
by Rhoda Lerman

In The Company of Newfies: A shared life by Rhoda Lerman

Positive Reinforcement:
Training Dogs in the Real World
by Brenda Aloff

Positive Reinforcement: Training Dogs in the Real World by Brenda Aloff

Bones Would Rain From the Sky:
Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs
by Suzanne Clothier

Bones Would Rain From the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs

by Suzanne Clothier

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.

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