Follow Us:
Monday, July 16, 2018

Breeding Will Tell The Importance Of Pedigrees

Ask a street dog to herd a flock of sheep,or sniff out a bomb or lead the blind,and it might have a problem. Ask a sheepdog,or a beagle or a Labrador to do those things respectively and they’ll come out tops. The whole idea behind developing different breeds of dogs was to specialise them for a particular function

Written by Ranjit Lal | New Delhi | Published: September 8, 2013 12:11:50 am

Ask a street dog to herd a flock of sheep,or sniff out a bomb or lead the blind,and it might have a problem. Ask a sheepdog,or a beagle or a Labrador to do those things respectively and they’ll come out tops. The whole idea behind developing different breeds of dogs was to specialise them for a particular function

Of late,it’s become something of a fetish among dog lovers to bash pedigree pooches. Their eyebrows shoot up,their upper lips curl,they sneer and sniff rather in the manner a Parisian poodle would at a ragamuffin mongrel — “Hideously inbred,genetically defective,grossly overpriced,always falling ill,fastidious about food,need air-conditioned environs. Look at the pariah street dog: local,sturdy,can eat and live on rubbish,needs very little care,a good guard,is as loving (or not),and best of all,free,free,free — just pick up a pup from the roadside or one of the animal shelters,what the heck is your problem?”Valid,noble points,all of them. Street dogs are fighters and survivors. No pansy pedigree pooch can even cross a road on its own,for god’s sake! Street dogs are the sturdiest of the lot — the canine epitome of “survival of the fittest”,the top dogs.

Top dogs for their environment,yes,because um,that’s what they’ve bred themselves for,so to speak. That’s what their breed standard is. That’s their pedigree. Ask a street dog to herd a flock of sheep,or sniff out a bomb,or win the first prize at a dog show,or lead the blind,and it might have a problem. Ask a sheepdog,or a beagle or a poodle or Labrador to do those things respectively and they’ll come out tops. The whole idea behind developing different breeds of dogs was to specialise them for a particular function. Some of those “functions”,alas,are deplorable: like breeding poodles so small they can fit into coffee cups or breeding pit-bulls,period. But many are not. Alsatians,Dobermans and Rottweilers have made a name for themselves as guards; the hounds will track your child down when it’s lost,the spaniels will make soulful eyes at you,the Labradors and retrievers will help you cross the road if you’re blind,and the Boxers will make you laugh.

The problem with pedigree pooches lies not with the breed,but with the breeders. When one particular breed gets popular,these noble souls set up fast-breeder reactor kennels,permit rampant inbreeding and ignore the cobra-like rise of recessive genes. Responsible breeders will guarantee you that the pup they’re selling you is healthy and suffers from no inherent breeding “defects” and will give you a “third degree” interrogation to satisfy themselves that you’re good enough for it. (We received postcards from the breeders of our first pup,scheduling the shots she required,the diet she ought to be on and hoping that “the pup was happy.”) If a problem is seen in a particular breed — like say,the propensity to bite children — it is gradually bred out.

All this “breeding in” and “breeding out” business sounds quite gross and macabre,like we’re playing god with the world’s most faithful (and foolish?) species. But just how different are we? I counted more than 50 categories of brides and bridegrooms wanted and available in the matrimonial column of a leading paper recently. I mean,even “cosmopolitan” has become a category,or should I say,pedigree.

Of course,if the person your son or daughter brought home came from a “royal” family,the reaction would be very different. I mean,we’re hopping around with excitement because the British royal baby may have nano-drops of Indian blood. We’re as bothered about our own “pedigree” and lineage as dog breeders are of the dogs they breed. We want to trace our ancestors to the back of beyond in the faint hope that one of them might turn out to be the champion masterpiece of Joniwin Von Prinzstadt.

And I’m not about to tell you who that was!

Ranjit Lal is an author,environmentalist and bird watcher. In this column,he reflects on the eccentricities and absurdities of nature

For all the latest News Archive News, download Indian Express App

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement