WHICH CAME FIRST, DOG SHOWS OR PEDIGREES?
CinDee Byer, Breed Clubs Editor
Dogs were the first animal to be domesticated in 13000 BC, the first pedigreed dog show was 1859 in England and in 1884 the AKC was formed in the U.S.
Today I came across this internet story, “How Victorian-Era Dog Shows Divided Canines Into Breeds – And Birthed A Pedigree Fixation” by Mr. Michael Worboys. Like so many Internet articles it was based partly on history and partly on opinionated fiction. The story can be found on several sites.
I am a breed historian. It is through the eyes of the breed historian that I took issue with this article. For Example: Mr. Worboys believes a pedigree “fixation” happened in the Victorian era with the advent of the purebred dog and dog shows.
Not so. Humans have been recording the family trees of plants, animals, and humans as far back as 7000 years ago.
Selective breeding and the recording of the animals it produced became popular during the agricultural industrialization. The first animal recorded with a detailed, certified pedigree was not a dog, it was a “breed” of horse.
Historians tell us that the ancestry of Arabian horses (the pedigree) was penned on parchment paper. Those pedigrees had the seal of royalty, in wax, affixed to them. These ancestral documents were carried in a leather pouch around the horse’s neck in order to identify each individual animal.
A pedigree was and is essential for the selective breeding process. Selective breeding is necessary to preserve the integrity of the breed itself and of a valuable genetic combination.
Yes, it is true. Pedigreed animals were and are more valuable than non-pedigreed animals. The reason is this. Pedigree animals not only have consistent mental and physical attributes associated with their breeds but more importantly, these animals could and still do more reliably reproduce themselves. Pedigreed animals are living pieces of history.
Before dogs moved into our homes, farms dogs ran free and interbred with other dogs in their area. These dog relationships were often very incestuous. As nature dictates, mutations came to the surface and only the strong survived. The surviving dogs continued to inbreed with one another. This process set the genes and type for the dogs in that particular area.
Therefore, those dogs looked and acted alike whereas dogs from different areas were distinctively different. In effect nature was guilty of dividing dogs into breeds, according to the areas they lived in. Humans began referring to those dogs by the places they came from such as Chinese Chow, English Bull Terrier, German Shepherd Dog, Lakeland Terrier, Old English Sheepdog, Tibetan Spaniel.
Long before the Victorian era, humans began to see purpose in these dogs. They brought them into their homes, bred them and began recording their breeding history. Types of dogs, which were selectively bred by humans, were often referred to by the name of the person who bred them. Examples are the Doberman (developed by Louis Doberman) and the Gordon Setter (named for the Castle Of Gordon.
So in the early days of purebred dogs, dog shows did not divide dogs into breeds. The breeds already existed. The first dog shows were simply a place to evaluate breeding specimens. They were held at farmers markets, in the town squares on farms and in fields. It was a time for breeders to come together, discuss breeding specimens and research pedigrees.
Pedigrees, in essence, existed before dog shows were even invented.
The “Victorian era dog show” (approximately 1820 through 1914) did not create anything that wasn’t already there.
During and following those centuries, many more breeds and varieties of dogs developed. So, what was the biggest change in breeding and dog shows during the Victorian era? The difference was the new emerging inventions of travel - automobiles, trains and planes!
For the first time in history
the breeder had the ability to evaluate dogs from other areas. Breeders also had the ability to show off their own dogs to other breeders. It
later became possible for a breeder to breed with dogs from around the world. This is how new breeds were made. And this is how the world fell in love the purebred dog.
Just think… today we can see and evaluate
different breeds of dogs from around the globe with a click of the mouse!
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