Small Dog Nation
By R. D. Flavin
Dinky the Chihuahua (CBS NEWS 2003) and Paris Hilton with Tinkerbell (MSNBC 2007).
Trends seldom develop overnight, change is slow and subtle, yet there comes a time when we glance around and notice that “we’re not in Kansas anymore” and that there’s more than one little dog named Toto. Indeed, there seems to be little dogs everywhere. I’ve written about how the USA became an “SUV Nation,” a habit we continue, and also how I’ve some experience with dogs who are size challenged when compared with such iconic canines as Lassie, Ol’ Yeller, etc. The Taco Bell Chihuahua likely played a wee part in the Grand Scheme of Things (GST), though with guessing so too did money-spoiled heiress Paris Hilton, dysfunctional attention seeker extraordinaire, with her ongoing collecting of small dogs. I’d guess that I’m not alone in having an aunt who knitted sweaters for her poodles, still ...I’ve just noticed that guys are driving massive trucks with little dogs on their laps. At some point when everyone was preoccupied with sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, politics and religion, we’ve become a Small Dog Nation. How it happened isn’t nearly as important as what we're going do about it.
The gray wolves, Canis lupis, of northern Europe (Lepore 2008) and east Asia (Pennisi 2002).
It’s been suggested that coyotes diverged from wolves about a million years ago, a “domesticated” wolf became genetically distinctive around 150,000 BCE (that's before Homo sapiens sapiens, btw), while remaining unchanged in outward appearance from the common holarctic gray wolves of then and now, and that domesticated wolves morphologically began to change with modifications to their snouts, teeth, etc. into early dogs approximately 15,000 BCE (Vilà et al. 1997). A multi-regional domestication of dogs is still considered alongside a single and “one-time only” divergence with compelling evidence indicating a significant contribution from the eastern Asian regions today referred to as China, Mongolia, and Siberia (Savolainen et al. 2002; Tsuda et al. 1997). While African, Near Eastern, and Euroasian origins of domesticated wolves and dogs are continually better understood from their ongoing archaeological recovery (Dayan 1994), a unique multi-disciplinary chronology consisting of archaeology (Haag 1948), genetics (Leonard et al. 2002) and linguistics (Roach 2008) for domesticated dogs in the New World starting ca. 13,000 BCE delightfully questions the single divergence model with over a century’s worth of increasingly exacting scientific anthropology.
Perhaps beginning as scavenging commensals following various hunter-gather groups (Schwarz 1939), opportunistically graduating to a warning sentry status against approaching danger reinforced with toleration or the occasional reward treat (Chamberlain 1890), sometimes becoming a necessary meal (Flavin 1996), and subjected to intentionally selective breeding the domesticated wolves became our modern Canis [lupis] familiaris, the common dog (Cohn 1997). The canine is regarded as our “best friend” in the animal kingdom, though certain feline fans may dispute this conclusion.
Old World Natufian with puppy ca. 10,000 BCE (Davis and Valla 1978) and New World dog burial ca. 3000 BCE (Morey and Wiant 1992).
While many are familiar with the veneration of cats by the ancient Egyptians, it should come as no surprise that dogs (and rather small-ish dogs, at that) were much appreciated by humans many years before the ca. 2000 BCE domestication of cats. Above are two images of humans buried with their beloved canines. The first is from the Mesolithic Natufian period in Ein Mallaha, Israel (the Canaanite “Chatzar Eynan” of Numbers 34:9,10) in which a human (likely a woman, though the skeleton’s pelvis is shattered which makes a positive sexual identification difficult) who was interred with a puppy carefully placed near the human’s head. The second image is of another burial separated from the ancient Near East by approximately seven thousand years and miles.
As mentioned above, dogs accompanied humans from Asia into the New World as early as 13,000 BCE (though glottochronology could assist models of initial migrations many thousands of years before though archaeology will have a difficult time locating evidence of coastal maritime activity with pre-Holocene era camp sites currently underwater some sixty or so miles off of any coast from Alaska to Chile). Significant Native American linguistic diversity beginning after a ca.13,000 BCE migration seems widely accepted (Rogers et al. 1990), yet the original approach (see mention of "multi-disciplinary" above) of Prof. Cavalli-Sforza (Stanford, genetics) combining archaeology, linguistics and genetics (Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1988) continues to be applied as with the recently confirmed dates of coprolites found at Monte Verde (be they human and dog or dog and human) to ca. 12,340 BCE. Native Americans have always appreciated their dogs and vice-versa. As with language diversity likely reflecting several migrations between ca. 35,000 BCE and 100 CE, those that took place after 13,000 BCE may well have contributed different ‘breeds’ of dogs each with their own unique traits and functions (e.g. companions, hunters, spirit-guides, occasional food source or, as with the Maya, a ritual food source). From California (Haag & Heizer 1953), to the Midwest (Koster, IL, see burial photograph above), and into the Carolinas (Mlot 1997), early dogs maintained their uniqueness until the coming of the Europeans and their dogs, ...after which much interbreeding occurred.
Our modern English word ‘dog’ is of uncertain origin (< Late OE docga; later, var. LG. dogge, Da. dogge, Sw. dogg, F. dogue) and is thought to have been initially applied to a robust breed of British dog, an English terrier or Canis anglicus, as attested according to the 3rd edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in the late 16th century with an entry in the first Dutch dictionary, Christoffel Plantijn’s Thesaurus Theutonicae Linguae (1573; Antwerp: Ex off. Christ, House of Plantini), “een dogghe, vn gros matin d'Engleterre, canis anglicus.” Its vocabular co-existence with the Germanic ‘hound’ and the Latin ‘canine’ is just another example of the open and assimilatory nature of the English language. Now, as to the specifics for the origins of small dogs, such data details might well cause previously unknown attention deficit disorders in some readers to manifest, so perhaps such will be delayed until another time. Okay, there’s readily available material on small dog skulls (Wayne 1986), small dog DNA insights (Sutter et al. 2007), and other small dog this and that, yet I need to leave further specifics for those 'special' specialists.
Mayan statues of fattened small dogs ca. 600-900 CE (White et al. 2001).
Graphic depicting major modern dog breeds ((Travis 2004).
“We're all very different people. We're not Watusi. We're not Spartans. We're Americans. With a capital A, huh? You know what that means? Do you? That means that our forefathers ...were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We're the underdog. We're mutts.” Lines spoken by the character John Winger from 1981's Stripes (written by Blum, Goldberg and Ramis; directed by Ivan Reitman; released by Columbia Pictures).
I whole heartily agree with Bill Murray when he compares Americans to mutts. We are. Canine ‘breeds’ are convenient distinctions akin to artificial categorical separations such as race, religion or political affiliation. All modern dogs are Canis familiaris whether or not we attempt to ascribe a difference according recent breeding pedigrees. Ditto, Americans. Indeed, this melting stew-pot of America contains contributions culled from nooks and crannies near and far, rare and common, equal and some ...more so. As with the unequaled deeds and efforts of the Anglo-Scot immigrant to America, James Clark Redpath (born in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England, a little more than two miles from the border of Scotland), who accomplished many impressive, if not amazing, works.
J. C. Redpath in Kansas ca.1856 (KSHS 2008), in 1870 (Pond 1900), a portrait (Horner 1926), and the cover of a new book (McKivigan 2008).
1925 fold -out advertisement for Pamahasika's Famous Pets (U. of Iowa 2008).
The Redpath Lyceum Bureau hired George E. Roberts of Philadelphia sometime around 1904 to perform as “Prof. Pamahasika” with an ever changing cast of birds and dogs. His routine was quite popular and received rave reviews in newspapers from Boston to Chicago and St. Louis to Saratoga Springs. Roberts has been described as a kind, gentle man who showed nothing but love and affection for the animals in his care (MacLaren 1938). He continued to perform until the so-called “Chautauqua Circuit” ceased operations in 1932 because of America’s Great Depression. Shortly before Pamahasika’s Society Circus faded from history, Robert’s talents were noticed by Dr. William Lentz, director of the Small Animal Hospital of the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Lentz, an otherwise respected expert on dogs, had a rather queer notion that he could ...breed a race of super-dogs. It seems Lentz was in touch with Gustave Michaud in France who believed he could ...breed a race of talking dogs. I suppose such ideas as Lentz and Michaud’s make B. F. Skinner’s work with pigeons, rats and dogs seem almost mundane.
The "Little Mutt" Beacoup and a photograph of some of her "grandchildren" descendants (Eckhardt 1930).
George H. Eckhardt, science writer and the author of such books as Electronic Television (1936; Chicago: Goodheart-Willcox Co.), Pennsylvania Clocks and Clockmakers: An Epic of Early American Science, Industry and Craftsmanship (1955; New York: Devin-Adair), and United States Clock and Watch Patents 1790-1890: The Record of a Century of American Horology and Enterprise (1960; New York: Privately printed), wrote a charming article in 1930 about how George Roberts found the little mutt he named Beaucoup wandering the streets of Roanoke, Virginia and how she and her offspring became “canine stage stars” in Roberts’ trained animal act. Eckhardt was understandably critical of the claims of Lentz and Michaud mentioned above, though throughout the article he stressed again and again that mutts are smarter than the so-called pure breed dogs and that a decreased skull size inhibits proper brain growth and intelligence. He ends his article with: “After seeing the work of little fellows [sic] like Beaucoup, Dr. Lentz believes that the ideal pet for the small boy is the little ‘mutt,’ found wandering about the streets of any town, rather than the nervous, inbred, and expensive creatures found on show benches (Eckhardt 1930, p. 367).” Apparently the author and the two canine crackpots had little regard for small dogs.
Recently the Boston area has had some small dog moments which have attracted media attention. The first occurred a couple of weeks ago when a small dog contracted rabies from receiving a rabies vaccination shot, bit it’s owner and had to be put down. A spokesperson for the Boston MSPCA guessed that it was from a “bad batch” of rabies vaccine. ...I’m not satisfied with that answer (click here for more of the story). The second incident involved an East Boston robbery in which a pug was stolen, though later recovered (click here for more). As I’ve worked on this column over the last few weeks I’ve encountered many small dog owners, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, yet despite their differences they all shared the same love for their small dogs. And, though the yapping does get annoying at times, I too appreciate small dogs, especially with a wild-rice stuffing and a tossed salad. Ah, that was a joke...
Pictured below are some of the small dogs I’ve encountered recently in Boston and its surrounding communities. I thank all the owners for allowing a stranger to photograph their beloved pets and I wish them all many years of trans-species companionship. As per the GST, we’ve become a small dog nation and I guess the only thing to do about it is to stock-up on doggie treats and ear-plugs.
Dexter and Bella
Maggie and Delilah
Sammie and Portia
Moto and Toto and Fluffy III
Chewy and Oscar and C. J.
Weebee and Maggie
Cavalli-Sforza, L. L. et al. 1988. “Reconstruction of Human Evolution: Bringing Together Genetic, Archaeological, and Linguistic Data.” With
A. Piazza, P. Menozzi, and J. Mountain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 85, 16:
6002-6006. For a discussion, see: Bateman, R. et al. 1990. “Speaking of Forked Tongues: The Feasibility of Reconciling Human
Phylogeny and the History of Language and Comments.” With I. Goddard, R. O'Grady, V. A. Funk, R. Mooi, W. J. Kress, P. Cannell, D. F.
Armstrong, D. Bayard, B. G. Blount, C. A. Callaghan, L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, A. Piazza, P. Menozzi, J. Mountain, J. H. Greenberg, K. Jacobs,
Y. Mizoguchi, M. Nunez, and R. L. Oswalt. Current Anthropology. 31, 1: 1-24. Seeking to address the question as to why Homo
neanderthalis went extinct, Cavalli-Sforza’s 1988 effort continues to have a profound influence on how we should approach the ‘how’ and
‘when’ problems encountered with questions regarding the populating of the New World (i.e. the American continents and associated
CBS NEWS. 2003. “Taco Bell Dog Bill Hiked By $11.8M.” AP File photograph. Used without permission. Available online at:
Chamberlain, A. F. 1890. “Mohawk Folk-Lore.” Science. 16, 407: 289.
Cohn, Jeffrey. 1997. “How Wild Wolves Became Domestic Dogs.” BioScience. 47, 11: 725-728.
Davis, Simon J. M. and François R. Valla. 1978. “Evidence for the domestication of the dog 12,000 years ago in the Natufian of Israel.”
Nature. 276: 608-610. Uncredited photograph described as “Fig. 1 Tomb H. 104 at Mallaha, showing the human skeleton and puppy” from
p. 608. Used without permission.
Dayan, Tamar. 1994. “Early Domesticated Dogs of the Near East.” Journal of Archaeological Science. 21: 633-640.
Eckhardt, George H. 1930. “The Little Mutt Dog Finds His Defender.” The Science News-Letter. 17, 478: 355-356+367. Uncredited
photographs on pp. 355 & 356 used without permission. Both photographs are likely to be publicity stills taken for Roberts’s Pamahasika's
Famous Pets traveling show, see various material as featured the mid-1920s advertisements included in the “Traveling Culture: Circuit
Chautanqua in the Twentieth Century” digital collection (U. of Iowa 2008).
Flavin, Richard. 1996. “Cooking With Canines or How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?” UseNet newsgroup: sci.anthropology. Posted
on Sunday, Sept. 29, 1996. Available at: http://unauthorised.org/anthropology/sci.anthropology/october-1996/0007.html.
Haag, William George. 1948. “An osteometric analysis of some aboriginal dogs.” University of Kentucky Reports in Anthropology. 7, 3:
107-264. Lexington, KY: University Of Kentucky.
Haag, William G. and Robert F. Heizer. 1953. “A Dog Burial from the Sacramento Valley.” American Antiquity. 18, 3: 263-265.
Horner, Charles F. 1926. The Life of James Redpath and the Development of the Modern Lyceum. New York: Barse & Hopkins.
KSHS. 2008. “Photograph, James Redpath.” From the collection “Territorial Kansas Online 1854-1861.” Maintained by the Kansas State
Historical Society and the University of Kansas. Item # 101422; Call # B Redapth, James *1. Described as “James Redpath came to
Kansas Territory as a reporter for the New York Tribune, but he soon became a participant in the free state cause. He was involved with
John Brown and wrote a biography on him that was published in 1860. He reported on the free state movement in Topeka.” Photographer
and date unknown. Used without permission. Retrieved online Apr. 28, 2008. For original, click here.
Leonard, Jennifer A; Robert K. Wayne; Jane Wheeler; Raúl Valadez; Sonia Guillén; and Carles Vilà. 2002. “Ancient DNA Evidence for Old
World Origin of New World Dogs.” Science. 298, 5598: 1613-1616.
Lepore, Jeff and Photo Researchers. 2008. Copyrighted photograph retrieved April 3, 2008, from Britannica Student Encyclopædia:
http://www.student.britannica.com/comptons/art-8026/. Used without permission.
MacLaren, Gay. 1938. Morally We Roll Along. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
McKivigan, John R. 2008. Forgotten Firebrand: James Redpath and the Making of Nineteenth-Century America. Second and revised
edition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Mlot, Christine. 1997. “Stalking the Ancient Dog.” Science News. 151, 26: 400-401.
Morey, Darcy F. and Michael D. Wiant. 1992. “Reports: Early Holocene Domestic Dog Burials From the North American Midwest.” Current
Anthropology. 33, 2: 224-229. Photograph on p. 226 credited to D. R. Baston and described as “Fig. 1. Koster canid burial F2256 in situ,
just prior to excavation, with mano and metate near the cranium.” Used without permission. The authors advance a date of ca. 8,500 BP.
MSNBC News Services. 2007. “Paris and Britney: A dog’s worst friend?” Updated 8:01 a.m. ET, Tues., Aug. 14, 2007. Available at:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20253374/. Photograph credited to Jim Cooper /AP file/2005. Used without permission.
Pennisi, Elizabeth. 2002. “A Shaggy Dog History.” Science. 298: 1540-1542. Photograph from p. 1542 credited to Zhinong Xi. Used
Pond, James B. 1900. Eccentricities of Genius: Memories of Famous Men and Women of the Platform and Stage. New York: G. W.
Dillingham. Photograph listed as “James C. Redpath, c. 1870 (Pond, 533)” on the Mark Twain Project, part of the Mark Papers of the
California Digital Library as maintained by the University of California; available online here. Used without permission.
Roach, John. 2008. “Siberian, Native American Languages Linked – A First.” NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC.COM/NEWS. Dated March 26,
2008. Retrieved on 3-31-08. The article describes the work of Edward Vajda (Western Washington University at Bellingham, Director of the
Center for East Asian Studies) connecting the Yeniseic language family from central Siberia with various Na-Dene languages from the New
World; available at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/pf/56527567.html. For a related article which suggests that Paleoindians may
have brought the bottle gourd and dogs with them across Beringia around the same time, see: Erickson, David L.; Bruce D. Smith; Andrew
C. Clarke; Daniel H. Sandweiss; Noreen Tuross. 2005. “Biological Sciences: An Asian Origin for a 10,000-Year-Old Domesticated Plant in
the Americas.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 102, 51: 18315-18320.
Rogers, Richard A., L. D. Martin and T. Dale Nicklas. 1990. “Ice-Age Geography and the Distribution of Native North American Languages.”
Journal of Biogeography. 17, 2: 131-143.
Savolainen, Peter; Ya-ping Zhang; Jing Luo; Joakim Lundeberg; and Thomas Leitner. 2002. “Genetic Evidence for an East Asian Origin of
Domestic Dogs.” Science. 298, 5598: 1610-1613.
Schwarz, Ernst. 1939. “Commensalism and Domestication.” The American Naturalist. 73, 746: 270-278.
Sutter, Nathan B. et al. 2007. “A Single IGF1 Allele Is a Major Determinant of Small Size in Dogs.” With Carlos D. Bustamante, Kevin
Chase, Melissa M. Gray, Keyan Zhao, Lan Zhu, Badri Padhukasahasram, Eric Karlins, Sean Davis, Paul G. Jones, Pascale Quignon, Gary
S. Johnson, Heidi G. Parker, Neale Fretwell, Dana S. Mosher, Dennis F. Lawler, Ebenezer Satyaraj, Magnus Nordborg, K. Gordon Lark,
Robert K. Wayne, and Elaine A. Ostrander. Science. 316, 582: 112-115.
Travis, John. 2004. “Breeds Apart.” Science News. 165, 21: 324-325. Uncredited graphic from p. 325. Used without permission.
Tsuda, Kaoru; Yoshiaki Kikkawa; Hiromichi Yonekawa; and Yuichi Tanabe. 1997. “Extensive interbreeding occurred among multiple
matriarchal ancestors during the domestication of dogs: Evidence from inter- and intraspecies polymorphisms in the D-loop region of
mitochondrial DNA between dogs and wolves.” Genes & Genetic Systems. 72, 4: 229-238.
U. of Iowa. 2008. 1925 illustrated advertisement brochure for Pamahasika's Famous Pets. Redpath Chautauqua Collection. Special
Collections Department of the University of Iowa Libraries. Online at:http://sdrcdata.lib.uiowa.edu/libsdrc/details.jsp?id=/pamahasikas/3
Used without permission.
Vilà, Carles; Peter Savolainen; Jesús E. Maldonado; Isabel R. Amorim; John E. Rice; Rodney L. Honeycutt; Keith A. Crandall; Joakim
Lundeberg; and Robert K. Wayne. 1997. “Multiple and Ancient Origins of the Domestic Dog.” Science. 276, 5319: 1687 - 1689.
Wayne, Robert K. 1986. “Cranial Morphology of Domestic and Wild Canids: The Influence of Development on Morphological Change.”
Evolution. 40, 2: 243-261.
White, Christine D. et al. 2001. “Isotopic Evidence for Maya Patterns of Deer and Dog Use at Preclassic Colha.” With Mary E. D. Pohl,
Henry P. Schwarcz and Fred J. Longstaffe. Journal of Archaeological Science. 28, 1: 89-107. Photograph on p. 92 described as “Figure
2. Late Classic period Maya figurines portraying dogs probably fattened on maize” and credited to the Museo de Antropologia, Tabasco.
Used without permission.
...and, perhaps his name is "Charlie," a pug riding the MBTA
Trying to lift my leg,