Understanding Real Breed Histories

Mullock, James Flewitt, 1818-1892; Charles Randell with Greyhounds at Stonehenge

One common trope that exists in old breed histories is an attempt to connect extant dog breeds with ancient ones.  These stories were fanciful, and with the advent of the molecular revolution in biology, almost none of these stories can be taken seriously.

Among these stories are those that connect “greyhounds” with the Middle East. Often cited are the texts in the Bible, which you may have noticed, were not originally written in English.  English Bible translations were done long before we had established breed or a firm understanding of dogs in other countries, so when one reads about greyhounds in the Middle East in the Bible, it is important to understand that “greyhound” was a translated term. The dogs in the original source are not the same as the greyhound known in England and Northern Europe at the time. They are most likely referring to salukis.

Salukis and greyhounds are often thought of as being similar dogs, but having lived with both, I can tell you they are quite different dogs. Salukis are distance dogs. They don’t have lots of round muscle over their body. Greyhounds are sprinters.

Further, if I were going to pick one to train as a pet, I would go with the greyhound. They are far more biddable. Indeed, I find myself losing my temper far less with the greyhounds than I ever did with the salukis.

The reason for this difference is that the two breeds are out of entirely different stock. We know this from study of their genomes. We know that greyhounds–and whippets, Italian greyhounds, and borzoi– are from a root-stock that is most closely related to herding dogs of the general collie-type. This discovery came about through study of genetic markers.

This same study found that salukis and Afghan hounds are in a whole other clade with several livestock guardian breeds. The prick-eared sighthounds of the Mediterranean– the so-called Pharaoh hound of Malta, the Ibizan hound, and Cirneco dell’Etna– are in a different part of this same clade. They, too, are related to livestock guardians. Their closest relative is the Great Pyrenees.

In Edmund Russell’s work on the history of the greyhound in England, there is careful attention paid to the real history of these animals.

Russell contends that there is no real history of the greyhound in England until 1200, when they become common place in Medieval hunting art and literature.  The archaeology of British dogs shows that there was not much morphological variation in them until the Romans arrived. Indeed, the only main morphological variation observed in dogs in Britain before the Romans is that one specimen from the Iron Age had a shortened muzzle.

So Russell spends more time on the “greyhound” as a term that means the ancestors of these various British sighthounds, which we know from genetic data are most closely related to various herding dogs that originated in Britain.

He follows the evolution of these hounds from Medieval hunts, where there were many regional and quarry-specific strains, to the beginnings of club coursing to the modern racing and coursing greyhound. He clearly understands that some of these regional dogs become distinct breeds through political and cultural memes. The dog we call “the greyhound” today is a very specific animal that evolved through club coursing into modern racing and dog showing. The whippet is a subset that evolved from working class racing and rabbit coursing. The Scottish deerhound is a subset the was used to hunt red deer in Scotland on those large estates.

These three breeds have intertwined histories, and their evolution as breeds need to be understood within the cultural and political ideas of the societies that produced them.

Russell’s work is an environmental history, which means that he attempts to understand dog breeds and human tasks within the concept of a niche. “Niche” in this case means exactly what it does in ecology– a particular place or task within an ecosystem.

Hunting cultures will create niches. The gun dog breeds of Britain are all divided into three niches:  pointer/setter, flushing spaniel, or retriever.  We could try to understand their evolution in much the same way as Russell attempted with “the greyhound.”  The spaniel started out as the original dog, but some were good at stopping before the flush. These dogs became the setters and pointers. Later, with the advent of firearms, there was a desire to produce dogs from spaniel and setter stock that were good at picking up shot game. Having large numbers of dogs on a shoot that did different tasks was a symbol of patrician largess, and because British hunting cultures were patrician-based, these breeds evolved in this way.

This basic dog became something different in Germany, where hunting became much more egalitarian following the failed revolutions of 1848.  Commoners were given access to the forests in the various German states, as a way of alleviating class antagonisms. Because commoners could not keep vast hordes of specialized dogs, German hunters bred all-rounders. Even dachshunds have been used to pick up shot game and flush birds and rabbits. The various Vorstehhund of Germany not only did the gun dog’s task, but they were bred to flush and bay wild boar, dispatch badgers and foxes, and to retrieve any manner of game.

Russell might have made his work stronger if he had looked at other Northern European sighthounds. Dogs of this type were widespread across the North European Plain into Russia and Ukraine. Some societies lost their traditional sighthound. France, Germany, and the Benelux are without their traditional sighthounds, but Hungary and Poland have their hounds. Russia has several breeds of these type, including the widespread borzoi.  Of course, Russell’s main area of focus is the British Isles, specifically England, where the coursing greyhound was developed.

So the real histories of breeds are often a lot less fanciful than what we read in old dog books. The truth of the matter is that it is complex, and we should try to avoid putting the cart before the horse when trying to figure out the truth.

Assuming that we can piece together a breed history based upon folklore or what was written in one of those all-breed books from fifty years ago is an act of folly. We need to understand that the molecular revolution is changing how we understand how dogs evolved, and right now, it is tearing away much of our understanding of how dog breeds themselves came to be.

 

 

Natural History

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Easy DIY Hot Chocolate Bar

Easy DIY Hot Chocolate Bar

Snowy winter weekends get pretty boring for my kids (I mean you can only play outside in the freaking cold for so long, man), and I’m always trying to come up with projects they can do inside. My daughter’s favorite is a DIY hot chocolate bar. (Okay, maybe it’s my favorite too.)

I’ll be honest with you guys: you can find a million variations of this on Pinterest, so this isn’t some original idea I was brilliant enough to concoct. But there’s no harm in sharing our ideas, right?

Here is a list of our go-to items. (And when we’re out of them, we use whatever we have on hand.)

  • hot chocolate of your choice  
  • whipped cream
  • marshmallows
  • mini cookies
  • sprinkles
  • chocolate chips (butterscotch or caramel work too)
  • peppermint sticks
  • chocolate syrup
  • paper straws 

My kids love putting together their own hot chocolates. It’s like a drinkable art project that tastes really delicious, and they are here for it.

Is it cold where you are? What are your favorite hot cocoa toppings?

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads?

We have to admit that there’s nothing quite as cute and heartwarming as the head tilt of a dog. If you’ve ever wondered why dog tilt their heads, the answer isn’t just too be cute,…



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Why do coyote females have larger litters in heavily hunted areas?

coyote pupps.jpg

I have a lot of quibbles with Dan Flores’s book, Coyote America. Among them is a contention that coyotes howl because it allows them to “take a census.”  If no other coyotes howl back, the females wind up releasing more ova and having larger litters. This description, which Flores calls an “autogenic trait,” cannot be found anywhere in the coyote literature. His account is not described in the book, but it is mentioned in his interview with National Geographic and on The Joe Rogan Experience.

I have no idea where Flores got this idea, but it’s not really what happens. The literature on why coyotes have larger litters in areas where they have been heavily hunted says that the larger litter sizes are associated with better access to food resources. The best-known paper on this issue comes from Eric Gese, a researcher with the USDA, who studied coyote population dynamics in an area of Colorado.

Gese contends that what happens with coyotes in pressured areas is that the surviving females are healthier, simply because they have access to more food resources. This greater health causes them to release more ova during the estrus cycle, and this increase in ova results in greater litter sizes.

It is not because the coyotes are taking census and can somehow magically figure out that they should produce more young.  It is simply that the coyote females’ own bodies respond to greater food resources by becoming more fertile.

What has possibly evolved in coyotes is that they have a tendency to become significantly more fertile when the females are at their most healthy. This is a great trait for a mesopredator to have.

After all, coyotes evolved in North America with dire wolves and a host of large cats breathing down their necks. Natural selection favored those that could reproduce quickly if populations were dropped dramatically.

But it’s not because of some “autogenic trait.” It is simply how coyote populations expand as mesopredators with increased or decreased access to prey.

So yeah, my take on Coyote America is that it is mostly a science fiction book. Not only does he mess up the exact genetic difference between a wolf and a coyote, which is not equivalent to the genetic difference between a human and an orangutan (as he claims),  he also messes up that coyotes really do hunt down and kill cats and eat them. They are not just killing a competitor. They are using cats as a food resource.

This was a book I was so looking forward to reading. It got good press, but the actual science in it was so lacking.

 

Natural History

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6 Easy Ways to Refresh School Lunches in the New Year

This post is sponsored by Sun-Maid®, but all opinions are my own.

I have a love-hate relationship with school lunches.

As far as the ‘hate’ part goes, it’s somehow the one thing I forget to do during our hectic night time routine, and without fail, just as I’m finally ready to go to bed I remember I haven’t made lunches yet. Then there is the monotony. By December, I’m so fried from a combination of work overload, the holidays, and the kids’ activities that I’m on auto pilot with their lunches. I take the easiest route, throw in whatever we have, and pack the same thing everyday. And trust me, I hear about it from the kids. Sometimes I don’t even need to hear about it, because their lunch boxes come home barely touched.

There is, despite all of this, part of me that finds putting together school lunches really fun. I enjoy the creative aspect of it. And after a couple of weeks off from making them over winter break, I’m feeling refreshed enough in general that my motivation to create fun lunches has returned. I’ve also  recently discovered a few simple things that make putting together inspired lunches easy, and if all goes well, I’ll be able to carry this momentum through this second half of the school year. (Fingers crossed). Here is what works for me!

1. Create fun shapes.
My little ones are still young, but even if your kids are on the older side, it’s amazing what a cookie cutter can do. I bought several different shapes to use on sandwiches, cheese slices, and meats. I’m telling you, my daughter will scarf down a star shaped PB&J yet bring home an uneaten regular square sandwich. It’s amazing. (Bonus: you get to eat the pieces left over from the cookie cutters!) If you don’t have a cookie cutter, it’s easy to create a heart shaped sandwich with a knife.

2. Give lunch box raisins a sour punch.
Sun-Maid Raisins are a staple in most lunch boxes (since way back when I was a kid!), but when I discovered Sun-Maid® Sour Raisin Snacks at Target a few weeks ago and realized I could take the regular school lunch raisin up a notch (just like the lunches themselves!), I was stoked. As soon as my kids tasted them, they were stoked too! Made with whole fruits, Sun-Maid® Sour Raisin Snacks contain no added sugar, no synthetic colors, and are non-GMO and gluten-free. They’re also genuinely delicious and have become a go-to, better-for-you snack for everyone in our house. My daughter and I love the Strawberry variety, and my husband and son are mildly obsessed with Watermelon. The flavor is natural tasting and perfectly subtle, but with a fun sour punch. And they’re available now in the dried fruit section (and online!) at both Target and Walmart.

3. Kabob it.
Just like the star shaped sandwiches and cheese slices, if I give my daughter pieces of fruit on skewers rather than in a regular cup or bag, they’re devoured. And kabobs can be made from endless types of food. They’re actually quite fun to put together too. One of my son’s favorite after school snacks is mini kabobs we made from O type cereals and Sun-Maid® Sour Raisin Snacks on toothpicks.

4. Make food smile.
In addition to creating fun shapes out of my kids’ sandwiches, I like to give them an added bit of fun by making a simple face. Two Sun-Maid® Sour Raisin Snacks for eyes and a clementine orange slice mouth make a boring sandwich come to life. I also draw a happy face on a banana or orange with a marker and I’m telling you, it makes my kids so much more enthusiastic about eating their fruits and veggies.

5. Get the kids involved.
This is a win-win for me, because it solves the problem of me forgetting to make their lunches until right before my head hits the pillow, and because my kids tend to be more enthusiastic about choosing healthy foods and actually eating their lunches when they’ve helped prepare them. Essley gets a huge kick of cutting out her sandwiches with cookie cutters, and also loves choosing things like which flavor of Sun-Maid® Sour Raisin Snacks and what crunchy snack to include.

6. Switch it up.
I know what my kids like, and I know what foods are easiest for my to prepare, which makes it easy to fall into a school lunch rut. This ends up backfiring for all of us, because my kids get sick of eating the same thing everything, and I get sick of putting together cloned lunches. For the second half of the school year, I’ve been making sure to switch up their lunches everyday. This doesn’t mean I change everything I include from day to day (star sandwiches and Sun-Maid® Sour Raisin Snacks  are everyday staples), but I change out at least half of the items and try to include as much variety as possible in a given week.

I hope these tips for refreshing your school lunches prove as helpful for you as they have for me! And if you have any other tips or ideas, I’d love to hear them.

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Writing for 2020

trout

You cast a line into a trout stream. The water runs black and then spumy white around the riffles and rocks. The bait disappears below the surface. You know nothing about the bait. The stream-bed gravel or the submerged limbs can more easily catch the bait than a fish’s lips can. And that is often what happens, but you keep casting and casting. Maybe the bait will pass in just such a way as to draw the fish in for a little taste. And then you’ll catch him.

So goes the theory anyway.

The truth about writing a blog is that is so much like fishing a black-water trout stream. My prose goes out into the ether, passing through the search engines and Facebook shares, and usually no one clicks. No one nabs my bait. But sometimes they do bite, and they keep coming in for more.

In 2012, this blog was its height of popularity.  I had not monetized it yet, and I had time, back in those days, to throw out more writing than I ever could now. I honestly don’t know how I did it.

But maybe I do. In 2012, I was more cocksure, and I was so woefully ignorant that I thought I could be brave and speculate about things I didn’t understand.

I was 29 that year. It is amazing how much you think you know when you’re not yet 30, when you’re still wet behind the ears but still know enough to be interesting.

And I suppose that is the dilemma I now face.  I have changed my mind. I have grown. I am less sure of myself, not because i am more ignorant but because I know my limitations.

Writing in a forum such as this for as long as I have means that I can see the transformation. I can see the young idiot whose only real skill was in playing around with prose. Now, I sometimes feel that this is my only skill, and knowing what damage a clever phrase or cultivated meme can produce means that I take it way more easy than I used to.

Since I have matured, the readership has dwindled a bit. I don’t throw out my speculations as much as I used to, and much of my invective is toned down.

In the end, I know that my true muse will always be nature, and the animals will be my truest characters. I know that whatever I will write must have those features looming in it somewhere.

My writing for 2020 will better than it was eight years ago. It might not get as many hits, but it will be more mature and more reasoned.

New adventures lie before me. I can feel their pull in this oddly instinctual way, but they are coming. New chapters in my life are about to be written. What’s past is prologue. The rest is still unwritten but coming into view. Through the haze of existence, I can see what lies ahead.

Maybe the reader will like it. Who knows?

But I cast my line into to the stream. Maybe I’ll get a nibble or two.

 

 

Natural History

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Back to Retrievers

Yesterday, I picked up a young golden retriever puppy from European show bloodlines.  Her name is Aspen.

aspen

She is a natural retriever. She will already put that toy in my hand!

aspen cocky fetch

Yes. I said I’d never own one of these. I said the same thing about German shepherds.

And cats.

And here we are.

 

 

 

Natural History

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Dog Dangers on Winter Dog Walks

This post is sponsored by GROOM Bathing Tablets. Let’s face it: winter weather is tough. Whether you’re simply facing colder temperatures or battling with snow and ice, winter is…



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DogTipper

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Peppermint Hot Cocoa

Peppermint Hot Cocoa

Happy December, friends. I know things have been quiet around here lately, especially for this time of year. It seems that most of my content lately has been on Instagram, but don’t be fooled; the blog is still the Bubby and Bean mothership, and if I have anything to do with it, always will be. We’ve also been very busy in real life, with our daughter performing in her first ever professional dance show, as a baby mouse in the Nutcracker. That combined with lots of work (mostly over on IG) and guests over Thanksgiving and the same chaotic holiday season the rest of you are likely experiencing as well, and my beloved Bubby and Bean blog as sort of fallen to the wayside. Thankfully I have lots to share here over the upcoming weeks, so keep checking back!

In the meantime, I wanted to share this ridiculously delicious peppermint hot chocolate recipe. You may remember this was last year, but we’ve given it some updates and just had to share the new and improved version.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
4 cups 2% milk (soy or almond milk is also delicious in this recipe!)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup sugar
4 candy canes, crushed
pinch of salt
marshmallows for garnish
candy canes for garnish

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk until hot. Stir in the cocoa powder and sugar, and mix until dissolved. Add chocolate chips and crushed candy canes, reduce heat to low, and mix until dissolved. Simmer for 3-4 minutes until hot chocolate slightly thickens. Pour into mugs, and top each one with marshmallows and a candy cane. 

Peppermint Hot Cocoa
Peppermint Hot Cocoa
Peppermint Hot Cocoa

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do. (It’s really good with a splash of brandy or rum too, FYI.) Happy holiday sipping!

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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7 Ways to Help Victims of Australia’s Wildfires

10 Ways to Help Victims of Australia's Wildfires
Powerful, stunning illustration by Melina Illustrates.

Australia hold a special place in my heart. I have been incredibly fortunate to have traveled to 14 different countries over the years, and I can genuinely say each one has touched me on some level. But in 2010, after spending a few weeks in Sydney, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Cairns, and Palm Cove on a trip to Australia I took with the band for whom my husband works, I’d found my place. From snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef to riding high over the canopy of the rain forest to hanging out at a koala rescue sanctuary to visiting a tea tree oil plantation to chilling at one of the best music festivals I’ve ever attended, our visit to Australia was hands down the best trip of my life. Whenever someone asks where I’d choose to live if it could be anywhere in the world, Byron Bay is my immediate answer. I love Australia. So, so much.

But even if I’d never had the chance to step foot there, it would be impossible not to feel heartache for the victims of the devastating fires going on. I haven’t been able stop thinking about it (and there have been several episodes of me bursting into tears because I’ve felt so helpless). I know most of you can relate. I felt like it would be wrong to post anything else on here until I addressed what was happening and did some research on ways to help. Here are 7 ways I’ve found that we can all do something to make a difference.

1. The Australian Red Cross is accepting donations to its Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund. This fund has helped send volunteers and staff communities affected by the fires, and has also helped give support to displaced people, along with emergency grants to help people with immediate needs.

2. WIRES (New South Wales Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc.), which is Australia’s largest wildlife rescue organization, is accepting emergency donations to increase its capacity to help animals affected by the bushfires.

3. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is also accepting donations toward their relief efforts in New South Wales. When the bushfires clear, the WWF will work to restore homes and care for injured wildlife.

4. The Australian organization GIVIT matches donated goods with items that specifically requested by victims of the fires. Learn more and give right here.

5. Save the Children is accepting donations to build special spaces where kids affected by the bushfires can play and discuss their experiences in a supportive environment while their parents work on rebuilding and recovering from their losses.

6. NSW Rural Fire Service is accepting donations to emergency efforts and nonemergency community work.

7. The nonprofit Koalas in Care Inc. normally helps approximately 65 koalas every year, but is taking in many more koalas as a result of the bushfires. Donate here.

One final thing before I go… I don’t discuss politics much here, but guys, climate change is real. The end. The fires happening in Australia are just one of countless incredibly serious consequences of damage that humans have done. Please, for the future of our planet, vow in 2020 to make changes – whether big or small – in your daily life that keep the earth in mind. And most importantly, vote with the planet in mind. We’re talking about our home, which is in desperate need of repair before it’s too late.

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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