saluki pride

This is a response to a scenario regarding color breeding, ‘'against the standard,’ on the badbreeding blog. For some reason Tumblr will not allow me to reblog it. 

This got very long. I’m not sorry.

I’m not going to address your hypothetical situations. Just the concept of ‘doing it right’ is, in itself, a broad and contentious subject and changes wildly according to who the arbiter of 'rightness’ is.

I will instead address the concept of standards, beginning with this:

The standard did not fall to earth straight from gods asshole.

Standards are also not just simple blueprints or descriptions. They are the products of fallible humans, compromises, fads, prejudices, behind the scenes wheeling and dealing, and that worst of human failings which embraces all of the aforementioned faults, the committee.

I have yet to find a breed that was developed to fit an existing standard. (The CKCS or Irish Wolfhound might fit the bill, as recreations of an earlier type.) Even modern breeds were developed as a breed first, with the standard coming later. The very word dates from the birth of the dog fancy, where dogs from landrace breeds, which typically have a lot of variation, were co-opted by wealthy people who had lots of leisure time and the sheer arrogance to 'standardize’ breeds by removing the naturally occurring variation. This included colors deemed undesirable, unworthy, or just plain unfashionable. Fad and fashion have shaped the fancy, and it’s standards, from the beginning.

Although standards are often touted as being necessary blueprints to keep breeders on the straight and narrow, this was not always so (please see the above paragraph; which came first, the standard or the breed?) The primary purpose of the standard, written and agreed upon by a committee of breed experts, sanctioned by a breed club, has been dog shows. A standard is an absolute necessity for a judge who does not live intimately with a breed.

It is also necessary to understand not WHAT the standard says, but WHY it says those particular things. For instance, the AKC Afghan hound standard calls white markings, especially on the face, 'undesirable.’ The FCI and UK standards accept all colors, yet the AKC standard was changed in 1949 to make white markings undesirable. Why? Because a certain black dog with white blaze, chest and front feet, Turkuman Nissims Laurel, owned by the influential and opinionated Sunny Shay, was doing a lot of winning. He finished his championship in 1948. Likewise, the ridiculous preference for a level bite over a scissors bite was the result of politicking.

It was not just the standard itself that shaped the distribution of color in the Western Afghan population. Fad and fashion had a strong influence. Breeders would eventually bucket pups without masks, because there was a fad for red dogs with masks and no one wanted a dog without. Domino pups were bucketed early on, until a European dog named Tanjores Domino finished and was shipped to the US in the fifties. (Prior to that, domino was called 'reverse mask.’) Dominos were not acceptable prior to the fifties, regardless of what the standard said.

The UK Saluki standard DQs brindle and blue, it was changed in 2012. Brindle is contentious in the UK due to the fraudulent registration of longdogs that have some greyhound behind them. This is not relevant to brindle Salukis which are not descended from UK stock, yet they are still DQed in the UK. The FCI standard considers brindle 'undesirable,’ and that’s fairly recent (2000.) More politicking, since the Germans have been registering black, blue, and brindle import dogs for decades. In fact, some of the earliest imports into the UK and Europe were black, blue and brindle. The AKC standard says nothing at all about brindle, and it also has nothing to say about chocolate (liver), or particolor, both fairly common in the show ring.

(Note that blue in Salukis [and Afghans] is not [usually] the same dilute d/d blue seen in Italian greyhounds and Great Danes. It is the effect of the grizzle gene, EG, on a black dog. If you have black and grizzle in a population, you will eventually get blue. There are some dilute blue Salukis, but they are exceedingly rare. I can think of only two instances of d/d blue.)

Salukis imported from the countries of origin have always been accepted for registration somewhere in the West. This is a point of pride for Saluki fanciers. What is interesting is that this requires the reconciliation between what the Saluki is in the COO, a landrace with a wide geographical distribution from North Africa through the Middle East, to India, up to China, and what the Saluki is in the West, a 'purebred’ shaped and defined by Westerners. There are no standards, no kennel clubs, no registries or dog shows in the vast majority of the Saluki countries of origin. No Afghani tribesman is going to reject a good hunting dog because it lacks a 'sidegait to die for.’ The Saluki and the Afghan, along with many dogs that have country of origin populations, are victims of colonialism, the idea that wealthy whites need to tell brown people what is good for them. And their dogs. The standards for the Saluki and the Afghan were not written by native breeders, but by wealthy Brits, many part of occupying military forces, that brought home souvenir dogs.

Sadly you can see this colonialism active even today in certain factions with both breeds. These are the same people that are very shrieky about the standard, and very shrieky about COO dogs, and who don’t seem to understand how the one does, or sometimes doesn’t, relate to the other.

(I have no issues with the AKC Saluki standard. It’s color issues aside, it’s a fine standard and encompasses the variety inherent in the breed. The AKC Afghan standard is a mess.)

In other words, there are parts of a standard that can be utter bullshit. Is it 'responsible’ to apply a great deal of social currency to the standard? The fancy itself, clubs, standards, shows, is a cultural construct, and a relic that has it’s origins in some very shaky and often repellent social movements and bad science. It’s bible and tenets are frequently arbitrary and mired in tradition, not carefully thought out actions with welfare in mind.

I own, and will eventually breed, off colored Salukis. My next litter should produce black and blue pups. I purchased my black Salukis not because of their color, but because I fell in love with their mother, an elegant, racy bitch who happened to be blue. My Saudi origin brindles I wanted because they are one generation from the sand, and have strong genes for heat resistance and activity during hot weather, which suits my purposes. My next litter will produce blacks and blues.

Quite frankly, haters can suck it, because I’ve been arguing with idiots who are all up in arms about those weird colored Salukis that are going to ruin the Western population with their foreign genes, watching people lie about health issues in brindle dogs (yes, really), lie about DNA studies, lie about basal DNA (long story), lie about the colors and origins of original imports, for years now. A perfectly nice brindle bitch was dismissed by an 'activist judge’ at the last SCOA specialty. There are calls for closing the registries to imports, especially from those countries in the Eastern part of the range where odd colors are more common. All these lies, all this strife, people losing long term friends, over colors that are easily avoided simply by looking at the pedigree. Imports are easy to spot. You’d think that dog breeders are stupid or something.

So, while your scenarios may seem simple and straightforward, they aren’t. Most breeds have had changes made to the standard over time, including colors. These changes are frequently made due to fads or politics. A simple perusal of photos, artwork, and true breed histories will show you how much fashion and fad have changed breeds over time. (Be wary of potted histories.) It is easy to condemn the breeding of colors that have associated health issues. It is harder to make a case for the wholesale elimination of colors that simply became unpopular or are relics of breed development or the time preceding standardization. Whether these colors are popular with 'bybs’ isn’t relevant to the actual issue of ethical breeding, because it’s entirely possible to breed rare colors in an ethical manner. (Recently introduced colors are, I think, a slightly different case, but they are still bound by the same welfare issues.) I dislike the 'OMG BYBS’ argument in general, because there are no real welfare differences in breeding based on purpose, whether breeding for the pet market, for show, or performance, the welfare issues remain the same. Breed healthy, durable dogs, do relevant health testing, don’t lie, practice good husbandry, don’t fuck over your buyers. I’d go so far as to say that someone who breeds a breed that is based around a deformity probably hasn’t an ethical leg to stand on while condemning breeding a rare color, all other considerations being the same.

A large part of the fancys argument over the breeding of non-standard colors is that these dogs can’t be shown. This is predicated on the assumption that the only ethical reason to breed is to produce show dogs. This is already too long to get into a real discussion about supply, demand, and markets, which is really what drives the vast majority of dog breeding, but 'you should only breed for competition’ is at it’s core an elitist argument that goes back to the formation of the dog fancy, which was driven by conspicuous consumption and the market for 'improved’ purebred dogs as being suitable for upwardly mobile Victorians, unlike those unimproved commoner dogs. This is probably not conscious nowadays, for the most part, but if you pay attention, it’s there.

I identify as a backyard breeder. When I got into dogs, a backyard breeder was someone who didn’t show, and usually bred for the pet market. The meaning has changed somewhat and acquired a negative connotation. I run my dogs but I’m not a serious hunter, I don’t compete with them otherwise. My first purebred dogs were show dogs, and most of the dogs I own have show dogs behind them, many with champion parents. I count among my friends judges, people who compete in various venues, hunters, pet breeders, etc. I’ve co-bred a litter with a show breeder, the puppy that went to her finished easily, and I have people who show on my puppy list. If you are at all intellectually honest, once you have been involved in the fancy for a while, you will realize two things. One, there are no bright lines to differentiate 'these’ breeders from 'those’ breeders as good or bad, no matter what color or kind of dogs they own (I also breed crosses.) These distinctions are largely cultural, not practical, it’s not a black and white issue, there are many shades of grey. Two, WHY somebody breeds is far, far less important than whether they’re a damned fool or not. I’ve run across far too many 'reputable breeders’ in my breeds that hadn’t a clue about history or function, and I’ve seen breeders that tick all the right 'responsible’ boxes that I’d never refer a buyer to because they’re psychotic assholes. Intellectual honesty is in short supply in the ‘purebred’ dog world, however.