For millions of years �Mother Nature� has been in charge of the breeding of all animals and indeed all species on this small blue planet. It has only been in the last few hundred years that mankind has tried to take over with varied success and many failures. Mankind has created nearly 500 different breeds of dogs to fulfil his needs, many are now extinct and many more are under threat of extinction because modern dog show exhibitors have bred for more and more unbalanced exaggeration and flash and glamour. This is when Mother Nature steps in as exaggerated unbalance and ill health (lack of thrift) go hand in hand. History will show you that even the most popular breeds are not immune from this effect, as with the American Cocker Spaniel that was the number ONE most popular breed in America in the 1950s and now stands at number 23 and going down. What far too many dog show exhibitors fail to understand is that the popularity of a breed is in the hands of the public. For every top show dog that is born, there are many pet puppies that need homes and the average pet owner does not want to cope with the problems associated with the exaggerations of many breeds, especially massive coats and health problems. When a member of the public has any bad experience with a breed, they will look elsewhere next time! When breeders can�t sell the pet puppies the breed slowly starts to die. Geneticists will tell you that it only takes seven generations to create a new breed, but extinction takes much longer with very rare exemptions like a natural disaster befalling an already small and isolated population. Popularity can also be a curse on a breed as then many inferior specimens are bred and Mother Nature plays her trump card �Mediocrity�!
Mutations both good and bad have always been, and always will be, Mother Nature�s tools and her driving force of the evolution of all species. By this I do not mean deformities for these are only the worst of mutations. Reading and studying �Darwin�s Theory of Evolution� will teach you that Mother Nature�s mutations are often very subtle and varied. This is how species have adapted to their own niche in their environment wherever in the world that may be. They continue to this day and always will, so it always surprises me that dog breeders are so horrified and look to blame some �person� when any bad mutation appears. The fact is that we are living in the dark ages of mutations and it is NOT Mother Nature, but mankind�s own greed for the almighty dollar that is causing far more mutations than Mother Nature would ever use. The last century has seen a huge increase in the use of man made chemicals including herbicides, insecticides, food colourings, artificial flavours and preservatives, even perfumes. Our crops are sprayed, preserved and flavoured many times before they are ever seen by the consumer. Many of these chemicals have been proven to be carcinogenic, and some have also been proven to be mutagenic, yet they are now part of the food chain! Although Mother Nature may have produced some of the modern diseases of man and his animals, the majority have been caused by mankind�s own chemical warfare.
But when a litter is planned by a breeder what usually still happens is a nice healthy litter of pups, especially in a mediocre litter.
Make no mistake that breeding is like playing multi-level chess with Mother Nature and it is indeed �War�. Any good breeder wants to breed that perfect Dog, but Mother Nature�s �agenda� is always to breed to mediocrity! She is my lifelong friend and has given me many beautiful dogs, but I NEVER forget that she can be�extremely devious�and hide nasty genes for many generations, even in the loveliest of dogs. Modern day genetic testing has revealed some of Mother Nature�s (or mankind�s chemicals) �hidden pieces� so that at least those diseases can now be eliminated, but she has many more �tricks up her sleeves�.
One of Mother Nature�s favourite �tricks of illusion� is to put the highly specialized �Fox Terrier� front on breeds that simply should NOT have that type of front. This front is designed for digging down in burrows so the Fox Terrier can dig without getting stuck, because down in the burrow a dog with a normal front would not be able to arch the upper arm through the front to get its legs into the digging position. But the Fox Terrier front is also a very easy front to �stack� in the show ring which is why it has become so popular with exhibitors. These dogs stand and move �in front of themselves� giving the illusion of reach but it is NOT the �true through reach� of the normal endurance front. This can easily be seen if you teach yourself to have a geometric eye for the structure of a dog.
Take any old dog magazine, a ruler and a pencil and look for dogs stacked in profile show stance. Draw a line from the front feet to back feet to give you the ground line. This also shows which photos are taken from angles to create illusions. The front leg should be 90 degrees to the ground line, if not the dog is either leaning forward or leaning back (both will distort the topline of the dog), by drawing and following the line up the front leg, through the elbow and up through the body, the type of front the dog has will become clear.
With the Fox Terrier front this line comes out up the neck and even at the back of the head because the upper arm stands upright in line with the front legs and the well laid back shoulder blade is behind the line.
With the endurance front this line comes out as it should at the top of the shoulder blade, creating a triangle with the shoulder blade and upper arm in front of the line which cannot be made with the Fox Terrier front as that front has no �return� of upper arm.
Even though all dogs have the same number of ribs, the proportionate size and shape of the rib cage varies greatly in all breeds which is another of Mother Natures tricks of illusion because to shorten the length of the rib cage and/or the pelvis by reducing their proportionate size gives the illusion of a shorter back. When the rib cage is reduced in size, lung and heart room is also diminished, and with it goes stamina especially when it is combined with the Fox Terrier front and a slab sided rib cage! The �heart and lungs� are indeed the engines of the body! Imagine putting a little 4 cylinder motor into a big car or even a truck. This motor would simply have to work too hard and would soon wear out. The shortening of the rib cage also usually causes a lengthening of the loin (last rib to pelvis), creating weakness in the back at that point leading to disk injuries.
As for the pelvis, it is a scientific fact of life that ALL normally proportioned quadruped mammals have a pelvis that is longer than it is wide. The variations within these proportions is great, but it is only bipeds such as man and possibly extremely short legged species such as the badger that have a pelvis that is wider than high. The wider pelvis increases the ability to walk upright. You can not build a 14 square house on a 10 square frame, so reducing the size of the pelvis weakens the whole of the hindquarters and can also lead to birthing problems as seen in breeds like the British Bulldog. A short croup (loin to set on of tail) is a sure sign of a shorter pelvis which will always mean a narrowing of the pelvis and indeed the whole of the hindquarter. The long narrow sweeping hindquarters seen on breeds such as the Afghan are designed for short bursts of speed over open plains, but breeds such as the Clumber and Cocker Spaniels that should be designed to work in heavy cover ALL day, need to have the �width of quarters� to give them the power and endurance to do their work.
These are but a few of Mother Nature�s tricks of illusion but she has many more. Putting things �out of balance� and making a breed no longer �fit for that breed�s original purpose� are some of her more subtle tricks.
No matter how much you love a particular dog or how much winning it has done in the show ring that dog is NOT perfect! There has never been and never will be any such thing as the perfect dog or, for that matter, a perfect specimen of any species, because Mother Nature simply will NOT allow it! All good breeders can do is try and breed away from the worst of the faults she throws at us and always put the future health of the breed first. If we are breeding in the wrong direction especially towards exaggeration which leads to ill health in our breeding stock, Mother Nature will say no, and when she says NO, she means NO! Mother Nature does indeed �Know Best�, so listen to her and she will become your best friend as she is mine. =