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October 26, 2009

I haven’t had the resources to write up anything new. But, harking back to my last post, I feel an urge to thrown in a brief dog geekery aside:

I am still surprised at the perception that the Carolina/Kentucky Shellheap/Basketmaker, etc. “Indian cur” type of dog is rare now, precisely because not many people know what they’re looking at, and make Eurocentric assumptions.

Especially once you factor in feists, curs, and similar breeds heavily derived from them. Any of these dogs that you find outside the Southeastern US have been taken there. Some people try to explain these solely in terms of introduced European dog breeds, largely because they don’t know any better. Looking at a lot of these animals, it’s easy to see the resemblance to “wild type” Southeastern dogs.

Breeds derived from “Indian curs” would also include most Southeastern bulldogs, and American Pit Bulls:

Remember, being mostly a European dog the original bulldog was acclimated to a much cooler climate than the rural southern United States. Because of this inherent lack of tolerance to heat, most stockmen and hunters found that the cur-type/bulldog crosses made for a better all around dog. These cur-type dogs are mostly believed to be results of crosses themselves between Spanish Mastiff-type War Dogs*, Greyhounds, Beauceron, Danish Hounds (the Great Dane) and the generic-type Indian curs (the Catahoula red-wolf hybrid) that roamed the American south.

In addition, ” Leopard Curs, Catahoulas, Blackmouth Curs, Mountain Curs, etc., are all branches of the same root stock”.

A lot of these now-recognized-as breeds have also been used to further develop one another. So you get Southern bulldogs (already crossed with cur types) crossed again with Black Mouth Curs and similar to produce pit bulls. The Black Mouth Curs and Southern pit bulls frequently get confused by now, and people are continuing the pattern with pit bull/cur crosses among others. (That particular dog mostly looks like a generic cur, which is not surprising.) Teasing out most dog breeds’ influences by now is about as easy as giving a serious answer to nosy “blood quantum” questions.**

To be fair, there may not be as many “pure” “wild” ones now, dogs being dogs (and coyotes, wolves, etc., possibly all at the same time). Which is why the idea of “pure” populations of dogs left to their own devices is ridiculous to begin with. Not to mention the huge kerfuffle over whether near-extinct red wolves deserve continued protection and reintroduction efforts, very probably being a naturally occurring hybrid between grey wolves and coyotes. (Nobody has been claiming, AFAIK, that they are not still a unique population of wolves.) Along with Scottish wildcats: “Some authorities question the whole notion of purity, purporting that wildcats have been interbreeding with domestic cats since man first adopted his feline friend.” It also seems ridiculous to assume that humans weren’t also keeping European wildcats around, in their range. There are also Florida panthers, which have at least had a ruling in favor of hybrids still being considered part of the same endangered population.

This is also another case where it’s hard not to see connections between “vanishing” animals and “vanishing” humans, when reality (and history) is far more complicated in both cases. It’s also hard not to think of “admixture” and human eugenics, in context.

OK, so it didn’t stay plain dog geekery. 🙂
* I must say, though it’s hard/impossible to prove, I do like the idea of Native people in the Southeast gaining some benefit from left-behind war dogs, to which de Soto and his men had been throwing them if they refused Catholic baptism (or just because they felt like it). It wasn’t the dogs’ fault.

** My mom, completely fed up, gave one inquisitive stranger a deadpan answer: “In 1632, Archibald McCraw married a Rappahannock woman. Their kids were 1/2 Rappahannock and 1/2 Highland Scottish. The one we’re descended from married a man who, for the sake of argument, we’ll assume was 1/4 Angolan, 1/4 Irish, 1/4 Nottoway, and 1/4 Meherrin. That made their kids blah-blah-blah. One of the sons moved further west and married into the Saponi.[Rattles off more off the top of her head, close enough to what she knows of the truth to make a point, until Mr. Nebby finally cuts her off.] That’s just one side of the family; now, on the other side…” His series of facial expressions was priceless. I had to walk away to keep from choking and ruining the whole effect.

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