THE IRRELEVANT PAST
Last year Gerald Schwartz wrote a provocative Dog News article on original breed function versus form (type). Although he didn’t mention our breed, I couldn’t help thinking about my position on this issue in our breed.
Schwartz said function has little place in the show ring, which has no sleds, carts, sheep or ducks. He and other conformation judges are bound to evaluate only what is described in the standard. The ring is not the place to evaluate a dog’s ability to pull a sled or cart, round up sheep or retrieve a duck. I noted that the ancient sport of bull baiting and bear fighting were not mentioned,
Many people took exception to Schawartz’s point of view. Marcia Schlehr castigated his apparent disregard for certain breeds’ original functions. An example she used to justify advocating original function over form attracted my attention. In less than flattering terms she cited the modern Bulldog’s obvious short-comings as a bull fighter.
Bulldoggers readily agree that our show specimens would be no match for a bull or a bear. The contest would prove that modern Bulldogs are incapable of performing the breed’s original function. Bull baiting and bear fighting have been outlawed for more than 150 years.
The Bulldog’s original function not only is unlawful, but also irrelevant. Except for those few remaining physical characteristics described in the standard that were once useful to subdue bulls and bears, the original function no longer exists. But the Bulldog was painstakingly preserved and enhanced for a far nobler purpose than its original function. Aside from its uniquely macho appearance, it is admired for its companionship, not for its former fighting abilities.
Breeders for generations have knowingly attempted to divest the breed of its previously aggressive temperament. Instead of preserving the notably vicious and highly mobile fighting machine, they sought to preserve and improve the breed’s inherently loyal and affectionate nature.
Unfortunately, in the course of the evolution from fighting dog to lovable companion, many breeders unwittingly perpetuated some of the physical defects found so objectionable by fanciers of more robust breeds. Many beautiful Bulldogs lack stamina because of their elongated soft palates, weak stifles, overly dysplastic hips, grossly inverted tails, and tracheas that are constricted or too small for the dog’s overall size and weight.
Breeders and judges must be aware of the outward symptoms these defects produce. Those who fail to heed these dire warnings and contue to breed dogs with these defects do a disservice to the Bulldog. Judges who reward otherwise gorgeous specimens with obvious symptoms of these defects are equally responsible,
Perhaps the parent club, as Schwartz suggests, should consider rewriting the standard to try to correct these defects, which pose such a serious health threat to our beloved breed. At the very least the club’s education committee should initiate an all-out effort to alert and educate breeders and judges to these dangers.
Our breed’s already-too-short average life span is growing shorter. To save the Bulldog from unnecessary suffering and possible extinction, breeders and judges must become better educated and committed to eliminating these life-threatening defects.
- William Andree, 204 S. Beach Dr., Monticello, IN 47960.