The Genetics of Size

The Pomeranian and the Pekinese

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The table above summarizes the population structure of the seven sizes of the dog. In the genetics of dog size, there is a sweet spot in each size where speed, agility, strength and endurance are at an optimum. Within each dog population, there is both a lower and an upper selection limit. It is not possible to reduce the lower limit or increase the upper limit and still produce healthy dogs.

Pekinese
Pekinese

For instance, while Pomeranians and Pekinese bred to their respective breed standards are  both toys. Poms generally weigh 3½–7 pounds and Pekes weigh 7–14. Any true toy Pekinese weighing more than 14 pounds will probably not be as healthy as those who weigh less, otherwise, they will be miniatures. In either case, these dogs cannot compete in the show ring because the breed standard, in essence, says they cannot; the document says they are disqualified. This is because the breeders who helped write the document understood this. I am not aware of a book that explains these facts; I had to figure it all out for myself.

The bell curve shown below depicts the logarithmic distribution of the population structure of the Pom, the Toy Eskie (read more about the Toy American Eskimo, Eskie, in our Introduction) and the Peke.

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The Peke’s history also makes the differing sizes clear. The Chinese knew centuries ago that there were four sizes of the Imperial Ch’in. The two larger of those four sizes, shown in the table below, are the toy and the miniature. The Peke’s breed standard tells us that the upper limit for healthy toy Pekes is 14 pounds. Knowledgeable breeders tell us they do not want miniature Pekes larger than this in their show rings.

Data published by Simon and Schuster.
Height and weight data by Gino Pugnetti in Simon and Schuster’s Guide to Dogs

The Chinese royal family had many teacup Pekes when the British sacked a royal palace in 1860. These teacups weighed less than 6 pounds. If you cross a 5-pound teacup with a 10-pound toy Peke, you may get a 10-pound hybrid. This hybrid will have one allele for a toy and one allele for a miniature on its asp gene. tiny_gold_pomeranianIf you cross this hybrid with a 10-pound pure miniature, you are likely to get some 5-pound teacup offspring as demonstrated below based on the history of the Eskie. The history implies that you are just as likely to get some around 10 pounds also. It appears to be like flipping a coin; you will get some toys and some miniatures.

According to classical quantitative genetics, if we cross many pairs of 5-pound dogs from a population where the vast majority weigh 3 1/2 to 7 pounds, the likelihood of getting enough 10-pound offspring to be prominently recorded in the history of a breed—as is the case with the history of the Pom—is very remote. This is prime facie evidence of a major gene for size in the dog; the gene that has the alleles to determine which of the seven sizes of the dog a pup will grow up to be.

The odd nature of these unexpected and really unwanted 10-pound Poms satisfies the offspring/parents resemblance test for a major gene, as discussed further below. The evidence for the existence of the theoretical f count macrogene is found in the biological theory of how the brains of mammals are produced in the embryo and the evidence the asp gene is in fact that theoretical gene is discussed on the Macrogenes and the Dog page.

The Italian Greyhound and the Whippet

The evidence I have about the population structure of the dog does not end with the above. The official history of Italian Greyhounds say these dogs can weigh up to 14 or 15 pounds. However, they average 8 and can be as light as 5. The ancestors of some of these greyhounds raced as Whippets in England in the first decade of the 20th Century. This is why the Italian Greyhound violates the 2.0 rule I discuss on the homepage. If we divide 15 pounds by 5 pounds, we get a ration of 3.0. Working class breeders, who tried to augment their income to help feed their families, experimented to find the ideal weight for a racing greyhound.

Freeman Lloyd wrote his book on the Whippet at that time. It has since been republished, since it tells the history of the breed at that important time in Northern England. The heavier greyhounds in the 5 to 28 pound range are faster than the lighter ones, so various handicapping schedules were devised allowing the lighter dogs to run a shorter race. Lloyd’s schedule has a 5- to 28-pound range. This means that some of these so-called Whippets were in fact Italian Greyhounds weighing up to 14 or 15 pounds.

Pegram, the Dean of Whippetdom, has a handicapping schedule, which was used in the eastern U.S. in the 1920s, with a range of 10-28 pounds. This indicates that U.S. breeders had figured out by that time that any greyhound under 10 pounds, who could come close to competing with the heavier ones, was a toy. The lighter miniatures do not have enough substance or bone, so their muscles are inadequate. A 9-pound, properly muscled toy greyhound should be able to beat any 9-pound miniature Whippet of Lloyd’s day by a mile in a standard one-eighth mile race. I discuss this phenomenon of unhealthy 8- to 9- pound English Toy Spaniels and Havanese below.

The Pomeranian

The history of the Pom, further discussed below, makes it very clear it has been downsized to the limit for a healthy toy breed. The breed standard indicates they weigh 3 to 7 pounds but that 4 to 6 pounds is preferred. Actually, after reading websites of breeders who claim to have produced Teacup Poodles for more than 10 years, it has become clear to me that the lower limit for the toy is around 3 1/2 pounds, not 3.0 pounds. This is because breeders who do not have the right teacup genetics do not have pictures of sires less than 3 1/2 pounds. Whereas, breeders who have the right genetics will usually have sires in the 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pound range. Although it is possible to produce teacup males weighing less than 2 1/2 pounds, these rarely occur. Females weighing less than 2 1/2 pounds occur more frequently but they should never be used as dams, which I explain on the Teacup Health page.

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Therefore, the graph above has been constructed showing the population structure of the toy size of the dog using the Pom’s, Peke’s and Eskie’s individual population structures. These are presented on a logarithmic x axis as discussed in the Introduction. The fact that the graph is produced on a logarithmic scale is indicated by the fact that the distance from 3 1/2 to 7 pounds is the same as the distance from 7 to 14 pounds.

In the first half of the 20th Century there were two show ring size classes of Poms in the U.S., above and below 7 pounds. These size classes were defined in the breed standard. They were not called the “Top” and the “Miniature Pomeranian” but that is what they were. Therefore, 7 pounds marked the boundary between the toy and miniature sizes of the Pom at that time. When Queen Victoria acquired her first miniature Pom, Poms became the rage in the U.K. However, a few decades later, the toys became the rage in both in the U.K. and U.S. and the smaller the better. Therefore, breeders who may have mated two 5-pound Poms may have, and often did, have both 5- and 10-pound Poms in the same litter. The best books on Poms discuss this but I am not aware of any book on the Pom, and I have read quite a few, that explains the genetics of this history. As I say above, this famous historic evidence is prima facie proof for the major gene that determines the seven sizes of the dog because it satisfies the offspring/parent resemblance test for a major gene.

Falconer and Mackay discuss the offspring/parents resemblance test in the 4th edition of their textbook on quantitative genetics, where they say that in the past, this test has always required a statistical argument. However, in the case of the dog in general, and in this case in particular, in the Pom, no statistical test is or was required. By that time the miniature Pom of Queen Victoria’s era had been reduced to its minimum size of around 7 to 14 pounds. Therefore, a 5-pound Pom was a toy and a 10-pound Pom was a miniature. There was no doubt about it. Knowledgeable breeders knew this and enshrined it in the breed standard of the day. No statistical test is required in hindsight. The historical evidence from the English Toy Spaniel and the Havanese, explained below, helps make this argument possible. Enough unwanted Poms weighing more than 7 pounds were whelped to keep the larger show ring size class until enough of the miniature alleles were weeded out that so few larger dogs were entered into competition that eventually the Pomeranian Club of America eliminated what should be called the “Miniature Pomeranian” from the breed standard.

The English Toy Spaniel

English Toy Spaniel Cropped
English Toy Spaniel
There are three sizes of British land spaniels, which I explain in the Introduction. The English Toy Spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are the same size, which is undoubtedly a miniature. The English Toy Spaniel is called the King Charles Spaniel in the U.K. The Cav was the original type preferred by King Charles II. He was so enthralled with his many Cavs that he neglected his duties as King. He eventually lost his head due to a dispute with Parliament and Oliver Cromwell.

The Toy Spaniel like the Miniature Pom was downsized to the limit in the late 19th Century. Its breed standard now indicates they weighed 8 to 14 pounds, with the smaller size preferred in the show ring when all other important points described in the breed standard are equal. Therefore, breeders never could produce healthy miniature Toy English Spaniels weighing less than 8 pounds whereas they could do so in the case of the Pom because of its genetics. This website describes the difference between the two Toy Spaniels that belong to the AKC’s Toy Group; even though, they are really miniatures.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan with King Charles dog.
U.S. President Ronald Reagan with his beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

This allows us to compare the popularity of two breeds of the same general type and size where one has been downsized to the selection limit and the other one has been restored to the original size of King Charles II’s day very near the sweet spot for the miniature. Check out the AKC’s most popular dog breeds in American to see the two breeds popularity for yourself. Not surprisingly, the smaller breed near the selection limit is more appropriate for a person with a relatively sedate lifestyle; whereas, the Cavalier needs more exercise that can be provided by an owner with a more vigorous lifestyle. The White House photographer has taken many pictures of Ronald and Nancy Reagan with Ronnie’s Cav such as the one to the right.  

The Toy Poodle and the Havanese

The exact same situation occurred in the Poodle up until the end of the 19th Century. The AKC’s official Poodle history says Toy Poodles were produced in the late 18th Century, presumably in Paris. However, as I explain in the Introduction, these poodles were actually Miniatures. Queen Ann of England earlier in the 18th Century was entertained by a troupe of White Cuban Poodles who danced to music on their hind legs like humans. Troupes of Poodles subsequently toured Europe entertaining the royalty, lesser nobility, and commoners.

Havanese on hind legs.
A Havanese Standing on its hind legs. Photo by Viorel Sima. Used with appropriate license from www.123RF.com.

The Havanese and the Poodle

Poodles evolved to retrieve ducks and arrows shot from bows for hunters in the lakes and ponds of Germany. They were subsequently used to hunt with firearms in both France and Germany. The hunters clipped the coats to help the dogs swim better in water while leaving the pompoms to help keep their feet warm. The Poodles near the sweet spot for their size were the best hunters. Dogs near the sweet spots have the best speed and agility. Entertainers discovered that Poodles could dance on their hind legs to music in a human like way. This ability of some dogs, such as the breed known as the Spanish Silk Poodle, which is now known as the Havanese, has been known since Queen Anne’s time in the early eighteenth century. Since Poodles were easy to train and had good agility, they were often featured in circuses in past centuries.

Therefore, they have been selected for their ability to learn a routine. They are now considered one of the smarter dog breeds. In contrast, the sport of dog agility requires a dog that can traverse a set of apparatuses based on simultaneous voice and hand instructions from its human partner as opposed to learning a routine. Since the human handler does not know the order in which the apparatuses are to be traversed until the day of an event, the ability to learn a routine is counterproductive. Therefore, dog breeds that were selected for their ability to take both voice and hand signals from a shepherd on how to move sheep do best in those events.

The Parisians thought the hunting clip made the dogs look elegant, so dog groomers today will gladly prepare your Poodle for a red carpet walk. Red-blooded Americans in the Midwest selected the American Water Spaniel for duck hunting and would not be caught dead with a French Poodle in their duck blind. Many duck hunters in the South do not use dogs while the Chesapeake Bay Retriever was selected by professional saltwater duck hunters in the nineteenth century. However, some people claim to still hunt ducks with French Poodles.

Breed standards for dog breeds were not written down until about a 150 years ago. The Poodle is closely related to the Havanese. The Havanese are the descendants of the dogs of the Cuban aristocracy of past centuries. They have also been called the Spanish Silk Poodle. It is a miniature like the so called Toy Poodles prior to 1900. The version of its breed standard in the 1998 official AKC publication states that they weigh 7 to 13 pounds with 8 to 11 being ideal. It has subsequently been changed to define the size differently, without any effect on the breed itself. Therefore, although 7-pound Havanese dogs can be whelped, the breeders who wrote the document did not want those 7-pound Havanese in their show ring. Since these dogs of the Cuban aristocracy of days gone by were no longer welcome in Fidel Castro’s Cuba, many breeders of these dogs got up and left. Many of them moved to Florida with the dogs of their ancestors.

The French Poodle and the German Poodle

As I mention above, there is no book that explains this interpretation of dog history. This is especially true as it relates to the German Poodle. Certainly, the AKC’s official publication does not. It says the White Cubans who entertained Queen Ann were Toy Poodles. It says there were Toy and Standards Poodles in Paris prior to 1800.

poodle_eiffel_tower_graphicIn fact, there were no large Standard Poodles in Paris at that time either. If you read between the lines of Eileen Geeson’s history of the Standard Poodle, you will see the large Poodle probably originated independently in Russia, Morocco and Algiers in the late 19th Century. The Moyen or Medium Poodle was the original duck hunting size variety that originated in Germany, not France, prior to 1500. Janice Biniok in her book on the Toy and Miniature Poodle actually says that larger Poodles benefited from a Russian influence without going into further details.

The Poodle was subsequently made famous on the boulevards of Paris in the late 18th Century just before Marie Antoinette lost her head. Ms. Geeson practically shouts out that she knows that the so-called 40-pound Large Poodles who pulled milk carts in late-18th Century Brussels and Antwerp were really just heavy-boned mediums, Moyens, with the muscles to do it easily. The more elegant, so-called Miniature Poodles  used to make fashion statements on the boulevards of Paris before the French Revolution were just the elegant Moyen Poodle of today. There was no French breed standard for the German Poodle at that time.

The Toy Poodles of that era were Miniatures who had been bred down to allow some of them to weigh 8 pounds or slightly less. Of course the Poodle made a comeback in Paris after Robespierre and his friends lost their heads and Josephine Bonaparte became the next Queen. Read what Ms. Geeson says about the early pictures interpreted by the AKC to depict the original duck hunting size German Poodle. She practically shouts out that the 19th Century French duck hunters were using Moyens, not the larger Standards who dominate the AKC’s Standard show ring of today. She does this without even mentioning there are four sizes of Poodles recognized in France today. It was obvious to me the first time I read her history of the Poodle that she knows the Poodle Club of America’s secret. That is one reason why her book has remained on the shelves of bookstores for so long. She did not actually divulge the secret but anyone who understands what I am trying to tell you right now should understand, if you read her version of Poodle history, that she understands the secret.

Poodles and Hunting Clips

White Toy Poodle

The white Poodle in the French clip is in the hunting clip, allowing the dog to swim faster in water while still staying warm enough in cold water during duck hunting season.

The pompons on the foot joints help to keep this dog warm. While some Europeans may still use Poodles to hunt dicks, no red-blooded Southern American would be caught dead with one in a duck blind.

The American Water Spaniel is bred specifically to hunt ducks and not to make fashion statements.

The American Eskimo Dog

American Eskies.
American Eskies.

 

One day, I went to the Central Branch of the Houston Public Library to find some interesting dog books because I knew hardly anything about the subject. Since the Fondren Library at Rice University, where I did much of my research had no books on dog breeds, I figured that was the best place to start. I sat down in the aisle because many of the dog breed books were on the bottom two shelves. Monica Sellers’ and Barbara Beynon’s books were on the bottom shelf. I picked up Monica’s first and Barbara’s second. I checked those two out that day and do not remember if I checked out any others. I have never found a better book on the Eskie than those two. I seriously doubt anyone has ever written a better book on the subject than Barbara’s. Monica explains the genetics in just a few words; it was a “Eureka moment” for me when I read those sentences. Barbara explained the genetics in much more detail in various parts of her book.

Monica uses the term “size throwback.” There is no better scientific name for the phenomenon in my opinion. At the time they wrote their books, only the Standard and Miniature size varieties were recognized in its breed standard, so Monica does not discuss the Toy. She says if you cross the Standard and the Miniature, you are going to get a mixed bag of pups in the litter. Some will be Standards and some will be Miniatures, and even when you start breeding for size again, you will get size throwbacks for several generations until they begin to breed true again. It happens whether you are just trying to produce either size variety.

Resources on the Eskie

Barbara relates the sad stories of some of the best Eskie breeders in the 70s and 80s that had size throwbacks because there were many toy/miniature and miniature/medium hybrids. She writes that one of the best breeders, who had been breeding for correct size for three generations, was starting to get consistent size. There can be no doubt that, due to the documentation of the issue by these two writers and the general knowledge passed abound by the breeders, that the breed no longer has the problem.

Ms. Beynon devotes an entire chapter to the best breeders. Of the many breeders she discusses, she reports only four who experienced size  throwbacks. The different size varieties that appeared in some of their litters were not desired by the breeders in every case she relates. The breeders who had bought Miniatures as breeding stock were certainly not happy when their best pups wound up too small to enter the show ring. She just happened to relate every possible combination of size throwbacks in the four adjacent size varieties. She does not have an example involving a toy and a medium in the same litter. This information, including the breeder and kennel names, are available below.

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The Eskie belongs to the spitz family that evolved as all purpose dogs in cold northern climates. All sled dogs belong to this. The different size dogs could do various tasks. Naturally people over the generations kept the ones that had the best combination of speed, agility, strength and endurance.

German immigrants brought their dogs to the U.S. in the late nineteenth century. Circus acrobats found that these spitz dogs were relatively easy to train to enhance their acts. They found that acts involving people standing up riding a dark horse with different sizes of all white spitz dogs jumping onto the horse and back down as they all went around the circus ring could be easily seen from up in the stands in a three ring circus.  Naturally they kept the best performers out of the litters. One Eskie was the only dog to ever walk a tightrope. A troupe of them were once taught to preform an intricately choreographed circus parade act as the wived around the wheels of a circus wagon on the trip from the railroad station to the circus site. All circuses put on such circus parade.

Some people wanted these white spitz circus dogs, so the circus performers would trade them to the townspeople for what they needed. Eventually, a breed standard was written describing the ideal agile, trainable circus dog that could learn a routine and preform it day after day without humans having to tell them each day what to do. Therefore, although they have great agility, they do not excel at the sport of dog agility, which requires a dog that quickly obey voice and hand commands from its human handler.

The data form the five of the eight sources that were found that give Eskie weight ranges are presented in the table below. I used this data to initially identify the 5 to 10, 10 to 20 , and 20 to 40 pound rue of thumb, which I eventually found to fit all seven sizes of the dog. This data and 2.0 rule, which I discuss in the Introduction, allowed me to construct the logarithmic population structure graphic of the Eskie that is below the table.

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Therefore, when an expert Eskie breeder crossed two Miniatures weighing between 12  and 18 pounds and had a pup that grew up to weigh 30 pound Eskie or one that grew up to weigh 7 1/2 pounds, they did not need a statistical test to know that something strange genetically had happened. The data in the table, the population structure in the graphic, and the history satisfies the offspring/ resemblance test for a major gene. I believe that major gene is the theoretical one I call the f count macrogene and that it is the same one as the actual asp gene with repeated DNA sequences to code repeated columbine binding IQ domains. The data and this history were invaluable in coming to this conclusion.

The three existing sizes of the Eskie are the same as the the three historic sizes of the Pomeranian.  The Standard is the same size as the two that Queen Charlotte brought to London from Pomerania. The Miniature is the same size Queen Victoria brought back from Italy.  When the Miniature Pom  was removed from its breed standard in the mid-twentieth century, some of these were re-registered as Miniature Eskies. Some of these newly minted, hybrid Eskies produced Toy Eskies.

I have spent months studying the histories of many breeds and found quite a few sources that relate similar problems. However, I have not found any other sources where actual examples of size throwbacks are described. based on personal knowledge. Many of these occurred a hundred or so years ago.

Substance

ideal_population_structure_of_dogs

Greyhounds racing on an oval track display the double suspension gait.
Greyhounds racing and displaying the double suspension gallop.

The fastest dog breeds including all greyhounds like the Whippet have a unique gait called the “double suspension gallop.” It is called “double suspension” because it has two different cycles of leg movement, as seen below.

Most gaits have only one cycle. Breed standards often describe in detail the defining gaits for a breed. A gait required for the dogs of one breed may disqualify the dogs of another breed if they display in the show ring.

The Greyhound is the fastest breed in the world. The fastest female Greyhounds usually weigh 60–65 pounds and the fastest males usually weigh 65–70 pounds, according to its breed standard.

The fastest Whippets usually weigh 28–38 pounds, according to its official AKC history. Therefore, greyhounds who weigh between 39 and 59 pounds of either breed are usually slower than the dogs within the sweet spots of either breed. I have never seen these sweet spots explained in a book. After I caught the sweet spot hunch, I found it confirmed in these two breeds of the greyhound family. Classical genetics cannot explain why 28 to 38 pound Whippets and 60 to 70 Greyhounds are generally faster than dogs of either breed weighing between these two sweet spots.

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Every breed standard should define the substance of the breed. Substance is a kind of nebulous concept. They know when they see it. I had to figure out what it actually means for myself. The best veterinary schools in the U.S. need to study the substance of the dog, then they will be able to explain it to other quantitative geneticists. Certainly, Falconer and Mackay don’t seem to know anything about it. The word bone is used synchronously with substance in may breed standards

For instance, Pekinese breeders should try to produce dogs that weigh between 7–14 pounds. They should be surprising heavy when lifted, which means they should have heavy bone. Pekes more than 14 pounds are disqualified from the show ring. Pekes more than 14 pounds will have bone that is too heavy, and be muscle-bound, or it will be a miniature and not a toy.

This is why there is an upper limit of 28 pounds on the French Bulldogs, which should be muscular and heavy boned according to their breed standard. Those who weigh more than 28 pounds are likewise disqualified from the show ring. Those more than 28 pounds may be the same size as the English Bulldog, which is a medium.

Substance is a quantitative trait. That means it can be expressed in numbers, but the dog fancy uses words like “fine,” “moderate,” “medium,” “good,” “well boned,” “heavy,” “very heavy” and “extraordinarily boned.” This makes it clear the numeric measure of a lighter boned dog should be smaller than that of a heavier boned one.

For instance, of the different size varieties of the Poodles are bred to the same standard, so they should have the same numeric value. It should be smaller than the French Bulldog’s because it should have heavier bone. Therefore, the numeric value of the French Bulldog should be higher than the value of the Standard Poodle; even though, the Bulldog is lighter than the Standard Poodle in this case, but the Frenchie is heavier than the Toy Poodle.

The fact that heavier boned dogs have more muscle than lighter boned ones allows substance to be defined in physical terms that can b used to try to produce a numeric scale for bone. More muscle means the body of the heavier of any two dogs of the same height of the same breed should have a higher value for substance than the lighter one. Therefore, it may be possible to define substance as the ratio of the weight to the height of the dogs of the same breed.

The same 28 pounds is the upper end of the Whippet’s handicap schedules for the early 20th Century in northern England and on the East Coast of the U.S. in the early 1920s as discussed above. If breeders of those eras could have produced 29 and 30 pounds Whippets who could compete on both the race track and in the show ring, they would not be as famous as the two sisters who did it between 1930 and 1934.

Bloodhounds and Clumber Spaniels

bloodhound_red_black_pigmented_400px The Bloodhound (right)was bred to track while being held on a leach so the humans could keep up. The heavy bone enhances the sense of smell by maximizing the nerve endings in the wide noses for the sense of smell.

Clumber_Spaniel_from_1915The Clumber (pictured left in 1915 photo) also has an excellent sense of smell and is reputed to have been bred so old men can keep up. Canaan dogs needed just enough substance over the last two thousand years so they could live a feral existence when a nomadic sheep herder did not adopt them to protect his flock.

The History of the Whippet

This amazing feat of mammalian breeding is documented by Pegram, the Dean of Whippetdom, in his famous book mentioned above. Ms. Julia and Ms. Judith Shearer were almost as famous at Churchill Downs for their thoroughbreds, Sandbrilliance and Syndicate. They bred the dam Syndicate of this pair and bought the sire Sandbrilliance on a buying trip to England. Besides champion Whippets in their own right, together, Syndicate and Sandbrilliance produced more champion Whippets than any other pair in Whippet history.

However, the achievement by the Shearer sisters requires the revision of all quantitative genetics textbooks. There was a punctuated evolutionary event in the Whippet in the U.S. between 1930 (when the two sisters opened Meander Kennels) and July 11, 1944 (when the bred standard was revised to describe the medium Whippet). Prior to 1930 no Whippet breeder could produce a dog over 28 pounds that could compete on the race track or the show ring. The sisters had done the impossible and they were shrewd about it. They did not initially show or race any Whippets who weighed more than 30 pounds. They only used their 29 and 30 pounders.

They apparently let others buy some of their pups who grew up to be heavier before they entered their own heavier dogs so the Dean of Whippetdom did not understand what they pulled off. According to Pegram, who trained and raced many of their dogs, they did not discuss their breeding strategy with him or anyone else. The Whippets of today weigh 28 to 38 pounds. Few of the Champion Whippets of the 1920s would be lager enough to enter today’s Whippet show ring because of subsequent changes in the breed standard to avoid size throwbacks.

Heavy-Boned Breeds

Scottish Deerhounds weighing more than 110 pounds are often coarse and have trouble keeping up with the pack on the hunt. They should resemble rough-coated Greyhounds of larger size and bone. Saint Bernards were once bred up in size in 19th-Century Britain so that some had trouble getting from one side of the show ring to the other. As it is, its gait is not defined in its breed standard. Speaking of which, have you ever watched the gait competition in the English Bulldog’s show ring and compared it to a breed with less bone like the Whippet or Border Collie who are bred for speed and agility, respectively? The French and English Bulldogs are not bred for speed and agility. They are bred to be heavy-boned.

Light-Boned Breeds

The Pomeranian’s breed standard says it weighs 3 to 7 pounds with 4 to 6 being ideal. It should have medium bone. Any Pom under 3½ pounds is going to be “weedy”—have thin fragile bone and be susceptible to hypoglycemia. The ability of very small Pom puppies to play frisbee for an hour or more may be impaired by a lack of an adequate adipose fat layer under its skin to supply energy to its muscles. Once it burns up the glucose in its blood stream, it will go into a coma because the brain requires glucose. Lack of adequate glucose in the blood is the same problem those with Type I diabetes can have. I discuss hypoglycemia in the dog on the Teacup Health page.

The current Havanese breed standard defines its height range and specifies the ideal for it. It should be a sturdy little dog and should never appear fragile. Any Havanese weighing less than 8 pounds is likely to be too short with too light fragile bone. The Shiba Inu is the smallest native Japanese breed, which makes it very popular. Its bone is described as moderate. It has been bred down to the lower healthy limit. The ideal weight for females is 17 pounds and 23 for males. Females under 14 pounds probably have too thin bone. The Canaan dog has moderate substance. Female should weigh 35–45 pounds; males should weigh 45–55 pounds.

Speed, Agility, Strength and Endurance

Speed depends on length of stride. The English Greyhound is the fastest dog breed in the world. In general, a 65-pound Greyhound should be the fastest. The Whippet is the fastest medium size dog. The 34-pound Whippets should be the fastest. Within the miniature and toy sizes of any breed, the heavier dogs are generally the fastest because of the length of their stride. However, the evidence above shows 14-pound toys and 28-pound miniatures should be the fastest for their size. Although heavier dogs can be produced in these sizes, they will be too muscle-bound for speed.

Eskies and Poodles

This picture shows an early 20th Century circus wagon of an acrobatic dog act at a free side show used to build excitement during Circus Week. This act enticed patrons to buy tickets for the famous Three Ring Circuses that toured the country before motion pictures with soundtracks, radio, or television.
This picture shows an early 20th Century circus wagon of an acrobatic dog act at a free side show used to build excitement during Circus Week. This act enticed patrons to buy tickets for the famous Three Ring Circuses that toured the country before motion pictures with soundtracks, radio, or television.

Elaborately decorated circus wagons were built for the Circus Parade. The wagons were carried from city to city by Circus Trains. The wagons pulled by horses accompanied by elephants and clowns entertained the crowds that gathered to see these famous events publicized in advance of the week when the circus came to town.

This dog act featured the two best dog breeds that could be trained to display agility in circuses. The wagons like this one were lined up as soon as they got to the site for the free side show depicted in the picture. Poodles are famous for their ability to dance on their hind legs to music like humans and were used in extensively in circuses in Europe in the 19th Century and evidently by this circus act. The dog standing on its hind legs on the stand is a Poodle. Three poodles can be seen on the Circus Wagon.

The white American Eskimo Dogs, the Eskies, were use in statue acts. Two white Eskies are sitting side by side on the left in the Wagon. Two horses, two acrobats, a man and a woman, and two, four, or six Eskies were used. Dogs and horses were completely white. The acrobats were completely dressed in white with their faces and hair also white. Each acrobat stood on a horse’s back while the act paraded around the ring while the white Eskies ran with them jumping from the ground to the backs of the horses. Both groups would do the same pose like statues for several seconds. White was used because it is the easiest color to see and the white color produced a dazzling act when Circus Week was a highlight of the year.

Eskies were also used in many dog acts requiring agility where other breeds could be used. They jumped rope with their trainer. They could stand on their hind legs and push a scooter; stand up in a toy car and push it around the ring.

Eskies were the best at tightrope walking. Two of the most famous were named Storey’s Bidu owned by the Storey husband and wife tightrope act and Stout’s Pal Pierre. Such featured acts would always be placed in the Center Ring of the three rings in the famous three ring circuses. Such a famous tightrope act naturally appeared in the Center Ring of famous Ringling Brothers Bormann and Bailey Circus.

Here is a picture of a Side Show featuring Eskies presented in front the Big Top circus tent. Every circus had to have a group of elephants who were used to help lift the heavy tall poles required for the circus tents. They did the Elephant Act usually in the Center Ring. The elephants marched in the parade and were on display in the Side Show so the local folks would buy peanuts, which the elephants would gladly pick up with their trunks and put in their mouths saving on the cost of hay.

All Eskies are white or as white as they can be. The circus Eskies were the inspiration for the breed and the reason why the Eskie have the best agility and are highly trainable, but they were bred to stubbornly do their act and not be distracted by humans. Therefore, they do not like to be told what to do next by a human handler in the sport of agility as practiced by the dog fancy.

Each ring had a different acts going on at the same time. The audience sat in bleachers around the three rings in the huge circus tents called Big Tops that were also carried on circus wagons. The clowns walked besides the wagons to entertain the crowds that came to view the free Circus Parade, one of the highlights of the year of city life before there was no radio or television.

The rings were always 13 meters since the late 18th Century in Europe to allow horse in such acts to easily parade around the ring while keeping the audience close to the action. Special Circus Wagons were built and elaborately decorated the parades. The wagons were carried on the Circus Trains that moved the circus from town to town. The better circuses used more horses and dogs.

Agility is best near the sweet spot. Both Poodles and Eskies are famous for their circus acts because of their agility. Poodles can dance on their hind legs to music in a human-like way. Eskies have appeared in intricately choreographed circus train and big top acts. One Eskie is the only dog to ever walk a tight rope in a circus.

The sport of Agility in the dog requires both speed and the ability of the dog to understand the spoken word as well as the hand signals of their human partner. This is why shepherds like the Border Collies who have the best instinct to understand both human speech and hand signals do the best. The 34-pound Border Collie in prime condition should theoretically be the fastest of the breed.

Heavier large size dogs like the Alaskan Malamute, bred to pull sled heavy loads at moderate speeds excel at that sport. Heavier Moyen Poodles pulled milk carts in Brussels and Antwerp while, lighter more elegant Moyen Poodles made fashion statements on the boulevards of Paris when Marie Antoinette was the Queen. Lighter sled dogs like the Siberian Husky excel at endurance. They were bred to pull light loads at moderate speed on multi-day journeys where the sled had to carry the food for the driver and dogs.
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