THE PURITY OF PUREBRED
David J. Arthur,
Show Scene Editor
On March 18, 2011,
the United Kennel Club (UKC) officially recognized the Silken Windhound.
Silkens are a medium-sized courser with all of the sighthound
characteristics in a compact package.
sounds reasonable enough, and they should prove a nice addition to the
registry. But what exactly is this new purebred? From the pictures, it’s a
miniature Borzoi. But it’s not a Borzoi. It’s a Borzoi, Whippet, and
Whippet-based lurcher blend. So isn’t that a mix? It’s not pure Borzoi, or
it would be called a “Miniature”, like the Mini Australian Shepherd, right?
Maybe it’s a Whippet mix that looks like a Borzoi? Either way, it’s a
lest anyone get their dander up, I say welcome to the Windhounds, and there
is no intent to criticize the breed. Once recognized and approved, they are
as pure a breed as any. And having not experienced them firsthand, I make
no comment whatsoever on their disposition or upkeep. My point is more
esoteric, and involves the concept of blending in general.
no secret there is a vast throng of breeds eligible for registration through
any number of legitimate breed or all-breed registries. Each and every one
is genuine in its own right. But in light of their origins – the Asian grey
wolf – It draws the question as to what really constitutes a purebred in
this era of designer dogs.
- Poodles, Shilohs,
Aussies, Ratties, Lurchers -
Consider Poodles, where size does matter. They have been recognized as
purebred for centuries, as it was just a matter of size selection. Of
course, there were no written standards back when the Poodle shrank, and
all of the varieties were codified upon their inception within the
earliest registries. Today, most Poodles are segregated into three
varieties, and in UKC they are further divided into two separate
“breeds”, though only for show purposes.
But even small derivations still cause controversy. For example, when
the multi-colored Poodle was recognized by UKC, many of the solid
breeders were just short of revolt! The “MCPs”, as they’re called, are
still not acknowledged by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Then, let’s
not forget the warfare over the Irish Red and White Setter. They’re now
accepted in both UKC and AKC. And God forbid anyone shows up with a
There’s also plenty of consternation over Shiloh Shepherds and Miniature
Aussies. Aren’t Shiloh’s just an oversized German Shepherd? Mate
enough big ones together and “Voila”, over time you have a Shiloh,
right? Not according to
Tina Barber, the breed’s originator. Presently, they
are relegated to a separate “breed”, recognized by neither AKC nor UKC.
And the Mini Aussies aren’t even a variety yet, though there’s little
question they will be a separate breed in time. Needless to say, the
“regular” Aussie breeders are grabbing for their pitchforks.
And have you ever wondered where American Hairless Terrier came from?
In 1972, Edwin Scott had a litter of Rat Terriers, one of which was born
bald. He liked the look, and began a breeding program to foster their
creation. It wasn’t until 1999 that the UKC formally recognized the
nekkid Ratties as a separate variety, and eventually a breed in 2004.
Because they’re all basically Rat Terriers, the two breeds can be mixed
. . . which is cross-breeding, isn’t it? Not any more than Smooth or
Rough Collies, I suppose.
But those breeds aren’t blended with other breeds. The term “purebred”
implies purity, right? Yet we see the Silken is clearly an amalgam of
Borzoi, Whippets, and lurchers. And what are “lurchers”? Heck, they’re
no breed at all. They’re a conglomeration of whatever dogs seem useful
to their breeder at the time. So the term “Whippet-based” simply means
that the lurchers in question are primarily Whippet mixes.
So how can they be purebred? I guess it’s sort of like the Shetland
Sheepdog. Now there’s a purebred . . . or at least it is now. Of
course, if you go back around the turn of the last century, the Sheltie
looked a lot different than the miniature collie we see today. It began
as a small generic Norse herding dog that landed on the Shetland
Islands. Back then, it was fairly common to cross-breed dogs to get the
necessary traits to fit your exact needs . . . sort of like making a
lurcher, I suppose. Anyway, those old Scottish breeders crossed Collies
with the original “Toonie” dogs to standardize the Sheltie’s look.
Doing that sent their size skyward, so to keep them small, they tossed
in a few condensed spitz breeds. Have you ever wondered where those
occasional buggy eyes come from? They’re from the region of Pomerania,
to be exact!
The key is, Shelties are purebred, and have been for a hundred years.
Silkens are recently “blended” . . . then again, so
also are Alaskan Klee Kais.
The Klee Kai
was developed in the mid 1970’s when Linda Spurlin quietly bred Huskies,
Schipperkes, and American Eskimos together in the lonely wilds of Alaska.
Then, in 1988, they were finally trotted out as a “new breed”, gaining
UKC recognition in 1997. And so we have another “purebred”.
Purebred Dogs -
Confused yet? Ok, let’s define “purebred”. According to Mr. Webster’s
of or pertaining to an animal, all of whose ancestors
derive over many generations from a recognized breed.
a purebred animal, especially one of registered pedigree.
What does “many generations” mean? For a mix to become a breed, the
resulting crosses must be combined until they breed true to a standard.
Generally, that takes about seven generations, and so, the Silken
Windhounds have prevailed, breeding true over the years to a lovely
medium sized Borzoi-type sighthound.
That still doesn’t answer why anyone would intentionally mix purebreds. I
suppose it all comes down to purpose. Take the Doberman Pinscher, for
example. Louis Doberman, for which the breed was named, needed a sound and
agile guardian while working as a tax collector. Nobody knows for sure, but
he apparently bred German Shepherd-type dogs, Rottweilers, Black and Tan
Terriers, German Pinschers, Manchester Terriers, and even Greyhounds
to come up with our present “purebred”. His choices
were based primarily on protection ability and temperament, and eventually
on appearance. In 1899, the German Kennel Club gave them recognition. Thus
the Dobe was deemed “purebred”.
Function has always driven kennel plans, and even today, as we work to
improve our lines, we hopefully are keeping a strict eye on what our breeds
were wrought to do. And to what purpose is the Silken? It’s a courser, first
and foremost, with nearly 20% of the breed actively competing. With a medium
size, it’s ideal for home life, whereas the Borzoi’s larger scale can be a
bit limiting when it comes to sharing the family sofa.
So maybe “purebred” doesn’t exactly require total
exclusivity at first. Heavens, all dogs are hybrids of one sort or another.
But this doesn’t mean indiscriminate breeding is a worthy venture either.
It’s a sure-fire way to lose the benefits our ancestors spent their lives
trying to refine. We honestly must protect our purebred lines by being
faithful to our standards and breeding true to that which has already been
accepted and deemed “pure”.
Either way, we now have a
new breed, fully recognized, steeped in purpose, and effusively ready for
the ring. Now let’s just hope the (insert breed prefix here )doodle isn’t
next . . . God forbid!
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