I recently jumped at an opportunity to acquire a well-worn, slightly water damaged, mildly smelly time capsule that has, however, miraculously retained all of its plates for 163 years.
The Dog, by William Youatt.
Mine is the 1847 American edition, edited and with additions by E.J. Lewis, M.D.
You don't have to save your pennies for an antiquarian keepsake to read it; it's available as a modern reprint, and online for free.
Mr. Youatt was a British veterinarian of wide renown who published on many species, but had a particular interest in, and love for, dogs.
He wrote this opus more than a decade before the first British dog show.
The overview of British dog breeds includes no reference to any "standards" or litany of "important" show winners and sires of show winners.
Yet there they were -- sheepdogs, cur dogs, lapdogs, esquimaux dogs, Newfoundlands and beagles, poodles and The Alpine Spaniel or Bernardine Dog.
Somehow human beings managed to develop and maintain distinct breeds without the authoritative oversight of a kennel club. No overlord to petition for, grant, or withhold permission!
Now one of the things that is explained to me from time to time is that all objections anyone has to anything on animal welfare grounds are a plot hatched last Tuesday by PeTA.
So I periodically learn, for example, that Ingrid Newkirk invented both the word puppymill and its imaginary business model some time in the 1990's. Nevermind that I can remember first encountering the term and the reality in a dog fancier magazine some years before I first encountered pubes.
One of the most adamant recurring lessons goes like this:
If I can't cut off my dog's ears and tail to suit my whimsy, then I don't really own him. They'll be coming to take him away any minute.
It is mandated in the Breed Standard because that is what is correct for the breed.
Having its roots in the Historic Vital Function Of The Breed and in The Inerrant Authority Of The Dead Breed Founders.
Only a whiny little dog-ignorant sentimental Bambi-loving vegan twinkie raises an objection to this practice, which is not cruel or painful at all.
Real Dogmen know that The Standard represents not only Knowledge Moste Anciente and Wyse, but the unanimous consensus of all the Founding Breedfathers and the Leading Men of The Day.
Men like Youatt, natch:
Ever see an ear-cropped pug?
Cropping of the Ears. -- I had some doubt, whether I ought not to omit the mention of this cruel practice. Mr. Blaine very properly says, that "it is one that does not honour the inventor, for nature gives nothing in vain ... That must, therefore, be a false taste, that has taught us to prefer a curtailed organ to a perfect one, without gaining any convenience by the operation." He adds, and it is my only excuse for saying one word about the matter, that "custom being now fixed, directions are proper for its performance."
The owner of the dog commences with maiming him while a puppy. He finds fault with the ears that nature has given him, and they are rounded or cut into various shapes, according to his whim or caprice. It is a cruel operation. A great deal of pain is inflicted by it, and it is often a long time before the edge of the wound will heal: a fortnight or three weeks at least will elapse ere the animal is free from pain.
Mr. Blaine very naturally observes that, "it is not a little surprising that this cruel custom is so frequently, or almost invariably, practiced on pug dogs, whose ears, if left alone to nature, are particularly handsome and hang very gracefully. It is hardly to be conceived how the pug's head -- which is not naturally beautiful except in the eyes of a perverted taste -- is improved by suffering his ears to remain."
Me neither. Add that to the list of things for which I am deeply thankful.
Guess that particular arm of custom was not entirely fixed. I don't know whether pinna amputation never made it into the sacred texts, or was later removed.
Lucky pugs. Left without a functioning respiratory system by mandate of their "standard" and those who serve it, they have at least been permitted to retain their ears.
Dobermans, schnauzers, pit bulldogs, boxers, Boston terriers, Danes, miniature pinschers -- not so lucky.
A practice that would likely have faded away on its own accord in all but a few cases (fighting pit bulldogs, some LGDs) was codified, regularized, and made either mandatory or effectively so because kennel clubs and the dog fanciers' breed clubs were looking out for the "purity" and cosmetic uniformity of the gene pools they captured from the original landraces.
163 years after Youatt, is it too much to ask that fanciers of show dogs who do no work acknowledge the butt obvious truth that the leading dog vets of the mid-19th century could spot and name gratuitous cruelty grounded in idle vanity very well, thank you?
Or does Peter Singer have a secret time machine?