We had a pretty big snow storm last night, about 6 or 7 inches or hock-deep on an azawakh. The dogs are a little ambivalent about the stuff. They have fun with it until they start to get really cold. For Tawzalt, this is her first experience with proper fluffy snow that hasn’t been adulterated by a nasty skin of ice caused by freezing rain.

They were very helpful at un-shoveling the snow as I cleared it.

Tawzalt is starting to feel the cold after some crazed digging

Tawzalt is starting to feel the cold after some crazed digging

What is this crazy stuff?

What is this crazy stuff?

Azelouan going after that snow.

Snow Digger

Azeloan with his snow ball

Azeloan with his snow ball

Un-shovelling completed and havoc wreaked -- its quittin time.

Havoc wreaked, it's quittin' time.

Advertisements

West African Working Bush Dog

February 26, 2009

These are photographs of photographs I took in 1997 in The Gambia. The dog is one of three that serve as guardians for a beautiful herd of Fulani cattle. The structural conformation is very much like an Azawakh but many of the “bush dogs” in that area tend to be quite rustic and unrefined. Specimens with one or both ears erect were not uncommon, tails tendto be thick-ish and the hair was usually somewhat longer than is typical of Azawakh. The temperament is the same as typical of Azawakh. I believe these dogs and Azawakh are very closely related.

It was common practice for male working dogs to have cropped ears. I’m not sure if the primary purpose was to proactively prevent torn ears or to identify the dog as owned by someone (and therefore not to be killed).

West African bush dog protecting his cows

West African bush dog protecting his cows

After thieves, the biggest risk to cattle might have been hyenas. The bush dogs that guard herds were expected to keep hyenas at bay.

West African Hyenas, the enemy of the bush dog

West African Hyenas, the enemy of the bush dog

The Warm Spot

February 5, 2009

Today it is 15 F outside and a wicked wind is blowing. Azelouan found himself a nice warm spot in the sun to warm his bones.

Azelouan in his warm, sunny spot

Azelouan in his warm, sunny spot

Today we have sunshine

February 2, 2009

It seems like forever since we have had anything but grey skies and below-normal temperatures. The dogs definitely noticed the improvement. Tawzalt came into my office to bask herself.

Tawzalt basking in the warm sunlight

Enjoying the sun, but still sassy.

Enjoying the sun, but still still watchful.

Snuggle

January 21, 2009

Cassandra in jams snuggles Tawzalt

Cassandra in jams snuggles Tawzalt


My wife insisted that Tawzalt needed an inaugural bath. If I say that Tawzalt detests being bathed it is not true only because detest is not a sufficiently negative verb. She does quite enjoy being snuggled and comforted by my daughters afteward, though.

Remain Dignified

January 20, 2009

Remain Dignified

Azelouan is working hard to retain his dignity while Theodora giggles with Tawzalt poking her ear.

Last summer I saw a DVD from the PBS show Nature called “Dogs that Changed the World” and also read the book of one of the contributing scientists. One of the really interesting parts of the miniseries was a discussion of the breeding program of a Russian scientist named Dmitri Belyaev which began in 1948.

Belyaev’s breeding program was designed to create a tame breed of silver foxes. As an aside, this was thought to have commercial implications because the raising of silver foxes in captivity for the Russian fur industry is difficult because the foxes are vicious.

What Belyaev did was select for a single behavior. The foxes that were least aggressive and avoidant were bred together. The result of this breeding program was that in just a few generations. Within a relatively small number of generations, by selecting only for temperament, Belyaev had created a very different stain of fox:

  • They became dog-like and friendly with people
  • Some of the tame foxes developed drop-ears
  • The musky “fox smell” dissapeared
  • They became white and black like border collies
  • The pups begin responding to sounds 2 days earlier than wild type pups
  • The pups open their eyes a day earlier than wild type pups
  • Delayed onset of adult corticosteriod hormones levels (~8 months of age instead of 2-4 months of age)
  • Their social behavior changed
  • They wagged their tails when happy
  • They began to bark and vocalize like dogs
  • The tame foxes tended to have shorter tails and shorter legs
  • Curled and double-curled tails developed
  • Overbite and underbite developed
  • The tame females came into estrus (heat) more frequently

The amazing takeaway point is that selecting for behavior and nothing else yielded dramatic cascade of apparently unrelated physical changes in the animals.

Incidentally, the physical changes make the fur of the tame foxes commercially useless. My understanding is that Belyaev has not been able to breed a tame fox that has the correct pelt for the fur industry and so the tame fox is not commercially viable.