Showsight Presents The German Shepherd Dog

BREED KNOWLEDGE THE SECOND BREEDER SKILL

by DR. CARMEN L. BATTAGLIA

PART I: INTRODUCTION C anines were considered the earliest domesticated animal (Ratliff, 2012) and today, there are more than 400 dog breeds in the world. The pro- cess is thought to have begun between 15,000 and 20,000 years ago with the transition of the grey wolf to the dog in Europe or Asia. Experts agree that it all started with wolves that became vil- lage dogs that eked out an existence on the “human fringe of millennia”. Those least frightened by the presence of humans fed on the garbage left behind. Eventually, a mutual need developed that made the process work. Early humans lived in dangerous times with large animals that saw them as poten- tial prey. Wolves that lived near a village probably looked at the settlement as their territory (Coren, 2008). Whenev- er a stranger or wild beast approached they would bark sending a message of potential danger. This is thought to have been the beginning of the human- animal bond and the first step in man’s use of the “watch dog” function. Once domesticated, dogs were selectively

bred. The earliest hunting dogs were thought to be the Hounds, which fall into two groups based on their hunt- ing behavior. One group is the Scent Hounds that track their quarry (Blood Hounds, Fox Hounds, Black and Tan Coonhound, Bassets and Beagles). The second group is the Sight Hounds that keen eyesight and great speed set them apart (Grey Hound, Salukis, Irish Wolfhound, Scottish Deerhound and Afghan Hounds). By the 1400s, the period of artificial selection and inbreeding had begun as a way to produce dogs for specific functions and purposes. Breeders had learned that through the careful selection of breeding stock they could change body sizes, shapes, coats and colors. They realized that the more they learned about the fourteen ancestors of the sire and dam (three generations) the more traits and characteristics they could change. As science became involved, the differences between breeds followed. For example, the flop- py and erect ear was found to be deter- mined by a single gene on chromosome 10. Breed knowledge includes a breed’s

history and origin, health and uses. For example, the Borzoi’s (Hound Group) original purpose was to hunt wolves, foxes and hares. AKC recognized the breed in 1891 and today it is used in many Western states to control coyote populations. The earliest gun dogs were Pointers that were bred to move slowly and silently to find a bird. They marked their location by staring directly at the bird while holding a pointing position. Setters were the next to be developed based on another purpose and function. Setters were expected to wag their tails faster as they approached the game. The Spaniels, the undisciplined hunters that quartered the ground and flushed them out, followed them. Last were the Retrievers that were developed because the open lands were being cultivated and cities and towns began to limit the free use of dogs for hunting. With the popularity of hunting breeds, came the limited uses of land hunters began to set up their blinds near a body of water where hunters could sit and wait for ducks. These new hunting conditions required dogs to sit and patiently wait for long periods. Thus, the Retriever

“EXPERTS AGREE THAT IT ALL STARTED WITH WOLVES THAT BECAME VILLAGE DOGS THAT EKED OUT AN EXISTENCE ON THE ‘HUMAN FRINGE OF MILLENNIA’.”

S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J ULY 2017 • 253

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