Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Pekes then and now

Mary Evans Picture Library/THOMAS FALL
There's a good piece by judge and dog-show globetrotter Andrew Brace ("Air Miles Andy" as dubbed by the irreverent Gossip Hound) in this week's Dog World explaining the mechanics of how and why exaggerations occur in some show dogs. (See the whole article here.)

Brace focuses on the Pekingese, and features the above dog, Ch Caversham Ku Ku of Yam - a 1950's-vintage Peke.

"Although the study by Thomas Fall, who photographed so many of the great Pekingese of the past, is of Ku Ku sitting down it is clear to see that he did not carry an unduly profuse body coat (other full body photographs of him confirm this fact)," writes Brace. "His coat is obviously clean and well groomed but is presented in a very moderate fashion, rather than having the hair on his ears brushed up in an exaggerated way to emphasise width. 
"However it is the dog’s face that I feel is worthy of the most careful study, and bear in mind that this dog was born in 1952. Here we see a Pekingese head which complies perfectly with the requirements of the breed Standard yet in no way could be considered extreme. 
"A seminar could be given on this head alone. Look at the width yet shallowness of the face, the naturally flat topskull, the position of the correctly fringed ears and then examine the facial features. Here are eyes that are set well apart, large and expressive, with no suggestion of being bolting. The position of the eyes relative to the nose is exemplary, the nose and nostrils being sufficiently large. 
"The over-nose wrinkle is in no way exaggerated and sits perfectly on the nose while the muzzle is well padded, wide and in no way ‘lippy’. Most importantly the underjaw is wide, deep and strong, proving perfect lip-to-lip placement. I feel that so many of the Oriental breeds these days are lacking in chin and this is a vital ingredient when it comes to creating the essential arrogance of expression. All these individual features help to demonstrate the ‘openness’ of the face.
"I believe it is vitally important that breeders and exhibitors should occasionally browse through the old breed books and actually study the dogs of yesteryear. Doing so might give them a slightly different perspective on the dogs of today and pose some interesting questions." 
Indeed. But, actually, by the 1950s,  the show-ring had already wrought considerable shape-shifting on the Pekingese. And I don't agree with Mr Brace that the dog above has nares wide enough to guarantee the free-flow of air. (Feel free to click on the above pic to enlarge - I've paid for a hi-res version from the Mary Evans Picture Library so you can have a good look.)

Here's a 1899-style Peke from the famous Goodwood Kennel to compare - no nose wrinkle at all (because the muzzle is much longer), a bigger nose and wider nares. See other vintage pekes here.

Of course this dog wouldn't really be recognised as a Peke today. Now that doesn't mean that the dog has to be returned to this phenotype. It might be possible for today's breeders to find the right balance between type and health (not of course that it should ever be a tug-o-war between the two).

And I would agree with Mr Brace in saying that the breed has, in part, been hauled back from the appalling excess of 2003 Crufts winner Danny, who looked like this:

This is the 2013 Crufts BOB, btw... a real improvement.  Still w-a-a-y too much coat, though.


  1. Yeah that first Peke still has stenotic nares and the only Peke not predisposed to skin fold dermatitis on this page is the 1899 one.
    How about crossing them with (healthy) Tibetan spaniels? Bit more leg and nose, finer coat, fitter dog. End of. Still little lap dogs who would compare with the standard, only healthier.

    1. Anon 18:05

      I fear your entirely sensible suggestion may well have some Peke lovers up in arms. Shame, because I have no idea why these strange looking things can be attractive to people. They look like giant, hairy rodents. It's cruel to have so much hair and no muzzle to cool down properly.

    2. Anon 20:22 says: "They look like giant, hairy rodents."


      Come now, even Capybara have muzzles! *Looks forward to someone photoshopping a Capybara with the Peke's profuse coat*

    3. I am a Peke (and Chow) lover, and have played with the idea to get a Tibetan spaniel female to mate with my not too much overdone Peke...
      As I love the Peke character, their personality and I don't find that in Tibbies.

  2. From the Dog World article:

    "I believe it is vitally important that breeders and exhibitors should occasionally browse through the old breed books and actually study the dogs of yesteryear. Doing so might give them a slightly different perspective on the dogs of today and pose some interesting questions. - See more at:"

    I own most of the Afghan hound books published since the first breed book, the Afghan Hound Handbook, by Doggie Hubbard. If you exclude the handbook, which was published in 1951 and contains many pictures of the first imports and their immediate descendants, you will not find find many pictures of the early dogs and no pictures of native hounds in most breed books. The only book that is a standout is Margaret Niblocks The Definitive Afghan Hound, which is out of print. This book contains a discussion of the early development of the breed in the West, and includes pictures of contemporary native dogs.

    The internet has been a major boon in regards to exposure to pictures of the early dogs, and contemporary native Afghans.

    In some breeds it may be wise NOT to express too much liking for the dogs of the past. These are direct quotes from Facebook, directed at an individual who expressed admiration for the early, more moderate, sparsely coated Afghans:

    "In any event I can't imagine what your point is in criticising todays dogs ... unless you just don't
    believe that people have the right to breed purebred dogs?"

    "I also wonder where these people are coming from. Suspiciously sounds like Peta or some other group who want to destroy the dog show world with their false information and lack of true
    experience or knowledge of the breed."

    Then you have the accusations against the little racing line bitch that won the lure coursing competition at last years AHCA specialty. She couldn't possibly be a purebred Afghan! And these people profess to know their breed history? She is the bitch in yellow in this video:

    Many pics of contemporary Afghan Tazis in Northern Afghanistan on this page:

    Don't even get me started on how the West turned a landrace into separate 'breeds', you can't even have that discussion with some people, they JUST DON'T GET IT. To them, there is only the 'dog show world.'

    1. Jess, love the little racing line bitch and the Kuchi Films site is breathtaking. Thanks for the links.


    2. Jess, that Afghan bitch is great. Afghan Hounds are not used in lurcher mixes in the UK; they're not fast enough. Salukis, racing (not show) Greyhounds and Whippets are regularly used.

    3. Wow, I can't believe those sparsely coated dogs on the Kuchi Films FB page are Afghan Hounds! They are so beautiful, are remarkably similar to the foundation UK imports and look like they could do a day's work.

    4. I have actually been told that "Afghans are SUPPOSED TO BE slower than Salukis." This is bunk, because they were developed to go after the same sort of game, Salukis DO occur in mountainous environments as well (Iran, and Iranian Salukis are very popular as racing dogs in Europe), and Salukis and Afghans are, essentially, varieties of the same 'breed' in their countries of origin. Their structure in the COO simply isn't that different, and most people who consider 'structure' are talking about skeletal structure, and that completely and utterly discounts the soft tissue.

      I have an acquaintance in Pakistan that runs both Salukis and a little Afghan bitch that came from the mountains around Quetta. He says she is faster off the line than his Salukis and has just as great endurance. There are pictures of her on my blog, her name is Sonya.

      IOW, if you don't breed for it, you will lose it.

      You'll note the difference in movement between the two dogs in the video. Contrast Kepi, the racing bitch, with these dogs:

      Jemima, some of the comments on that page from hardline purists are extremely amusing. You can see the disconnect between the concept of landraces and the Western 'purebred' definition. IOW, if it has lots of hair, it's a Afghan. If it doesn't, it's a Saluki.

    5. Yeah... spotted and laughed at the "beautiful Saluki" comment!


    6. I made a video about exaggerated dogs 1½ years ago (it's on YouTube and has been posted widely on the internet), and featured, among the "less extreme cases", the Afghan hound.

      Over and OVER again, I hear people telling me "That's not an Afghan hound, that's a Saluki!" (Regarding a picture from 1915.) I say, "No, it is an Afghan hound. If it had been a Saluki it would have said Saluki or Persian greyhound, I only call it an Afghan hound because it said Afghan hound."

      But still people refused to believe it. I looked up the source again, a complete, scanned-in book from 1915 (you can find it on the internet, it's called "Dogs of all nations"), where the picture is, and under it, it sais "Afghan hound".

      They've shut up for now at least... amazing that they actually believe hunting desert-hounds ALWAYS had a silky coat that reaches the ground.

    7. I am unaware of an 'Afghan' in Dogs of All Nations. The 'Persian Greyhound' depicted on page 104 is an illustration of Shahzada, who came from Balkh province, Afghanistan. The 'Gazelle Hound' pictured in, amusingly enough, 'British Colonial Breeds', and described as being from India, is a Saluki, one of Florence Amhersts dogs, which were from Egypt.

      When Afghans and Salukis were first being shown in England, they were all grouped under the name Persian Greyhound. The Middle East, at that time, encompassed a much larger area to the East than we generally recognize today, and there were 'Kyrgiz greyhounds' (whether these particular dogs came from Kyrgyzstan is not known), all called Persian Greyhound. This jives very nicely with descriptions from military personnel in India, Afghanistan, and the rest of that area, of the native sighthounds as 'Persian Greyhounds.' (Sometimes you get fun names like Caboolie hound.) Towards the turn of the century, hairy dogs were put in the Afghan Greyhound category, while less hairy dogs remained Persian Greyhounds.

      The story of Muckmul, a very early Afghan import, is very interesting. He was actually from Iran and was acquired directly from the Shah, not from Afghanistan at all. This particular dog had three different identities.

      Khulm, daughter of Muckmul.

      Afghan Bob, a very early import.

      The very famous Zardin, who shaped the perception of every Afghan that came after him.

      The British do not have a lockdown on Afghans and Salukis in the West. These dogs were imported all over Europe and you will find references to them in both German and French writings. More on the French Tazis.

      (An aside that I am sure Jemima will find amusing: I have been told repeatedly that my view of dog breeds as malleable genetic aggregations [tools] and my harping on the extreme youth of the Kennel Club Model means that I HAVE NO RESPECT FOR HISTORY.)

      There is a reason why Afghans and Salukis 'cluster', genetically. THEY ARE ONLY SEPARATE BREEDS IN THE WEST. In the countries of origin, they are part of a very large continuum of dogs from Northern Africa to India, extending up into Russia and China. Mars has recently confirmed that German Salukis of Iranian descent cluster genetically with UK Salukis, despite the contentions of some people that the Iranian dogs are 'impure,' 'mutts', 'mongrels', 'lack Saluki type', etc. (Yes, there was a brindle dog involved in that study.)

      Landrace, people.

  3. What those experts tend to forget is that for example the Peke and the Pug have historically been distinct dog types longer with a muzzle than without. This to breed flat faced dogs is of latter date, a fashion mostly of the 20th century. So there are even no historical or cultural reasons for keeping these breeds more restricted. And here we are, modern educated people, that must realise that we always must choose the sounder and more functional alternative for our dogs. Why cannot these breeds get their muzzles back, that so rightly belong to them, without any discussions or struggle? It goes without saying. For heaven’s sake, haven’t we had enough of freak show in the dog world? I thought that the time of The Elephant Man touring was over?

    Two big challenges for people in pure bred dogs are to keep all the hundreds of small populations, =breeds, in a healthy and strong state. And that will be a job I can tell you! And then of course we must stop breeding dogs with all those silly exaggerations. We cannot go on doing this because to please a few so called connaisseurs acting judges at shows.

  4. There are stuffed domesticated pedigree dogs at the Tring museum. They display 56 dogs breeds (I think). I say it's a must visit if you go Jemima. In conclusion they have a stuffed "Ah Cum", and Chinese "Happa Dog".

  5. There is a book of photos of the collection of stuffed dogs at the Science Museum at Tring, edited as far as I remember by Juliet Clutton Brock, the museum also published a series of postcards of the dogs probably in the 1920s, which I have too. The dogs are mostly from the late 1890s to around 1910, maybe one or two later ones, in varying condition, very interesting, especially breeds like the Afghans which had only recently arrived in the UK - and looked very different from the modern show dogs - far less coat


    Speculation about the possibility of improving brachycephalic dogs' breathing.

  7. I believe this opens a specific case I've always wanted to talk about. Obviously long coat hair is the example here. Example for what? For extremities. Its very obvious, since we first started asking questions as a child, "What is the world's longest snake? Who is the hairiest person? Which creature has the strongest bite force?" etc......

    We want to see unique and outstanding features, and this will likely never go away. Which is why people think novelties are awesome, just to see and own that thing. The incorrect assumption is that this goes away on a "professional" level. Hardly, if anything it encourages it since they now have more knowledge in playing god. Even better, make it a social statues onto conforming creatures to those standards as "winners".

    The nail in the coffin is that it is very marketable for profit. Puppy mills may be the opposite in simple mess of genes by extreme rates of offspring, but certified breeders get those special studs that have "quality" in their simple awesomeness of what they are to those rich and shallow enough to consider buying anything they divine with their super-standard genes.

    This gets to my point: That this is a fundamental part of what sapient species will want when given the means. For example, one guy wanted a hyena; you can guess that he had a hard time, but the novelty was too much to handle, so reason was thrown out the window. That is not to say those animals we own cannot make positive bonds, but the cost is just so much.

    But breeding takes it to a whole new level over the long-term. Its out of control, and I doubt any movement, no matter how noble, committed and morally true, will ever be able to stop it. People want their guns to shoot, to hunt. People want to climb the biggest mountains. To tour a danger jungle, get that hot car, have that asian girl, steal that iPad forgotten on a desk, etc..... The allure is simply a part of us. We have to have it, no matter the cost, to us or to others. In this case, dogs....

    1. Perhaps your assertion is a glimmer of hope. Mongrels are, after all, one offs. Unique, even. If shelters marketed better, some of your "novelty seekers" could be turned in that direction.

      As for the rest...well. If there is shame in breeding unwell animals (rather than ribbons) and if there is shunning of the practice, it will stop. Humans *can* get better, but you have to stop rewarding them for bad behavior before they do.

  8. Jess, thanks for links, really enjoyed the Kuchi Productions photos of dogs in Afghanistan

  9. Poor dog, if I can call it that, because it looks to me something from the freaky horror show. All hair and eyes and not much else. I don't understand why anyone would allow a breed to become a shadow of its former self.

    And I don't understand this desire to shorten the muzzle of any dog. I personally don't find it in the slightest appealing. But cosmetics aside...shortening the muzzle, shortens the airways, therefore it's not the way to go if you're priority is the welfare of the dog.


  10. Are not all the double-suspention galloping sighthounds really just different varieties of one great breed? Why not register them as such?

    And the Lapdogs {Moppets}? There is a group which could really profit from a little friendly togetherness with other varieties of their type. Why not clump the Lap Spaniels together as different varieties of one breed, and let those who want to mix them up a wee bit to have a go at it?

    That way the interbreds could still be entered in events, and those breeders who see potential in the interbreds could use them in their breeding programs, and each step of the way would be recorded.

  11. I think its a great step forward for a lot of pedigree dogs that they are now more and more being seen as "freaks" and not symbols of pride either nationally or domestically.

    Who would have thought PDE would have actually worked as it has given the long very long held established perception out there that these exaggerations were things of beauty, in everyone's eyes breeders and the public.

    Not to say there weren't detractors out there because there have always been especially in the working dog fraternity but they've never succeeded quite like PED did when it did to bring this to such a large audience. For the expose to gain such acceptance in the publics eyes if not entirely in the eyes of breeders, kennel clubs, breed clubs and the showing fraternity is indeed a huge achievement. An achievement I for one certainly didn't exactly see coming or happening in my lifetime.

    I suspect the timing of this has a lot to do with it too. People the general public are definitely having too many problems and heartache with their dogs. A breaking point if you like where people have been simply wondering why they can't just have a happy healthy sound pet of any breed anymore.

    I know for myself it was in the late eighties early nineties when I decided vast swaths of pedigree dogs were not worth the trouble or risk. As the options became smaller and smaller I was led to working breeds and breeds where showing was not a big part. In the cases where showing wasn't at all considered favourable I found the biggest improvement in dogs health and function.

    Maybe its time for these examples to get an airing but then maybe not? As soon as they do their popularity becomes their undoing and they eventually become the show dogs of tomorrow along with all the heart ache and problems.

    A quite different point here but pertinent is that many of the prototype dogs funnily enough that led to established breeds recognised as they are today and not so long ago were not the best dogs and did need tweaking as breeds through the years.

    As an example I was noticing the hind leg in the Basset of old pictured here it was extremely straight, this predisposes them to cruciate ligament failure and injury and a few other problems. It isn't thus ideal, however in later dogs this improved and this is where it should have stopped. So there is definitely something to be said for not returning to some original breeds just because that's what they looked like then because they weren't neccesarily fully functionaly built not by a long shot.

    It seems that showing and breeding for the show ring is however singularly responsible for the exaggerations that crept in. Possibly the only way to right this is to change showing criteria and entirely.

    As by far most dogs are kept as pets in the West at least and not as working dogs, the pet quality of breeds has to be the most important criteria not the exactitude of adhering to a fixed physical standard that has for all intensive purposes ruined most breeds shown today. Sure performance testing for example. They do it for horses why not all 'hounds'.

    So the Pekes will be judged on how easy it is to maintain that coat and not how big a fluff ball it can become (: They will need to climb a flight of stairs at least seven steps lol and they need blood tests afters to see how much oxygen is actualy getting in there to even qualify to compete for the most attractive beast on show. make nomistak a standard will evolve and it wont need to be written in stone.

  12. All the pekes I've had / known over the years have looked like the vintage pekes.....and they're quite beautiful with varying coat colors and markings. They all were rather athletic and didn't have any more trouble breathing than I do.
    the show quality pekes can barely walk... really.... I never understood why the judges of these dog shows consider the exaggerated Pekingese standard and preferred over a particolor peke with beautiful facial markings... a peke that can run and jump and play. All these showdog owners can do with their pets is groom their dogs and show them..... My peke ziggy takes long walks and can run fast / play fetch . He is super smart and does many tricks. Spoiled but He is a wonderful pet.

    1. Yes I've known some delightful Peke types too. Sadly it is difficult to get one where breathing is not in some way compromised even a cross.