We probably don’t have to tell you that when it comes to getting a dog, rescuing – either from a reputable rescue or an animal shelter – is ten times better than buying from a breeder or pet shop. New insights into how breeding has changed many dog breeds deepens the issue.
Just check out this image on the left from the 1915 book, Breeds of All Nations by W.E. Mason. The photo on the right is of a modern Bull Terrier.
Science of Dogs collected these old photos and said of the bull terrier comparison, “It seems incredible that at one time the Bull Terrier was a handsome, athletic dog. Somewhere along its journey to a mutated skull and thick abdomen, the bull terrier also picked up a number of other maladies like supernumerary teeth and compulsive tail-chasing.”
Of course, dogs (and all other animals) can be expected to change naturally throughout the years and will continue to pick up genetic diseases. But the problem begins when breeders intentionally select to breed for traits that result in diseases. “Improvement,” if speaking directly to looks, isn’t really improvement at all. If it’s making them ill, how is trying to make a “cuter” dog really all that important? And when it comes to getting an animal for your family, how much should looks really matter anyway?
Here are some other examples from the site of dogs who have changed significantly over the years:
“The Basset Hound has gotten lower, has suffered changes to its rear leg structure, has excessive skin, vertebra problems, droopy eyes prone to entropion and ectropion and excessively large ears.”
“A shorter face means a host of problems. The modern Boxer not only has a shorter face but the muzzle is slightly upturned. The boxer – like all bracecyphalic dogs – has difficulty controlling its temperature in hot weather, the inability to shed heat places limits on physical performance. It also has one of the highest cancer rates.”
The English bulldog suffers from almost every possible disease, says Mus Musculus on Science of Dogs. They die at the median age of 6.25 years, according to a 2004 survey by the Kennel Club. And their proportions make mating or birthing almost impossible without medical intervention.
Visit Science of Dogs to see how other breeds, including the Dachshund, German Shepherd and others, have changed over the years.
We hope, as always, that if you decide to get a new dog, you consider adopting a mutt. But if you’re insistent on getting a “purebred” (whatever that means anymore), please do your research both into the breed and the breeder you’re considering using.