What is a Canine Breed? Picture

What is a breed? To put the question more precisely, what are the necessary conditions that enable us to say with conviction, "this group of animals constitutes a distinct breed?"

In the cynological world, three separate approaches combine to constitute canine breeds. Dogs are distinguished first by ancestry, all of the individuals descending from a particular founder group (and only from that group) being designated as a breed. Next they are distinguished by purpose or utility, some breeds existing for the purpose of hunting particular kinds of game, others for the performance of particular tasks in co-operation with their human masters, while yet others owe their existence simply to humankind's desire for animal companionship. Finally dogs are distinguished by typology, breed standards (whether written or unwritten) being used to describe and to recognise dogs of specific size, physical build, general appearance, shape of head, style of ears and tail, etc., which are said to be of the same breed owing to their similarity in the foregoing respects.

The preceding statements are both obvious and known to all breeders and fanciers of the canine species. Nevertheless a correct and full understanding of these simple truisms is vital to the proper functioning of the entire canine fancy and to the health and well-being of the animals which are the object of that fancy. It is my purpose in this brief to elucidate the interrelationship of the above three approaches, to demonstrate how distortions and misunderstandings of that interrelationship now threaten the health of all of our dogs and the very existence of the various canine breeds, and to propose reforms which will restore both balanced breed identity and genetic health to CKC breeds.

In order for canine breeds to fulfil their destinies effectively, the three distinct axes along which breeds are distinguished must have equal importance and consideration, otherwise serious problems arise. Breeds cannot be distinguished by ancestry alone, by purpose alone, or by typology alone. Unless these three vectors of breed identity interrelate fully and co-operatively, the fulness of that identity is missing or marred. Unfortunately, this full and co-operative interrelationship is a rarity in our contemporary dog world. The criteria of ancestry are applied rigidly and mechanically; the criteria of purpose and utility are subordinated or not considered at all; the criteria of typology are applied in a highly exaggerated, obsessive fashion. The interaction of the three approaches is seldom considered and almost never is a sustained effort made at the integration of the three.

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