Man – sometimes woman, but mostly man because man just can’t leave things alone – has been manipulating the genes of animals since before he knew animals had genes or what genes even were. Take that God!
Over the centuries, breeding dogs for specific purposes has managed to produce an explosion of canine varieties of different sizes, shapes, hairiness, temperament, and colour, although, sadly, still the same smell when they get damp.
But just what were certain dogs originally bred for?
I’m glad you asked.
Also known as the sausage dog due to its fatal allergy to the foodstuff, the dachshund is notable for its elongated body and short legs. In the medieval era the dachshund was bred to perform the role of draught excluder around castle doors which were notoriously prone to cold winds. In the modern era many people prefer using stuffed toy versions of dachshunds as draught excluders leading to great unemployment among the breed.
Old English Sheepdog
The Old English Sheepdog is particularly distinguished by its mass of white and light grey fur which covers its entire body including its face making it difficult to recognise in police line-ups. The sheepdog appeared among the breeds of dogs at around the same time that schools began performing plays that required more realistic-looking clouds than simple painted scenery. Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov, for instance, is totally ruined without a clutch (collective noun) of sheepdogs suspended from above.
The Puli is an average-sized dog with thick hair that grows quickly and becomes knotted in natural dreadlocks. The Puli breed started appearing in the Caribbean and the Americas during the 1930s when the Great Depression was blamed on Rastafarians and the Rasta Purges began. Many Jamaicans today owe their very existence to the fact that their relatives hid among the dogs’ coats in these terrible times.
The whippet is very similar in appearance to the greyhound, that being a frail-looking, almost-undernourished, sleek animal, thin and fast, with long legs. The emergence of the whippet breed can be attributed to the fashion industry’s general move towards skinnier and skinnier models on the dogwalk. In recent times there have been calls for whippets to bulk up in order to set a better example. This does not mean you should feed a whippet fat-soaked chocolate though.
The boxer has distinctive drooping jowels on a blunt face; its body is quite muscular and lean unless it is fed nothing but vegetables and fat-soaked chocolate. So don’t. The end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century saw a great amount of drug use in Victorian England. Highs were easy to come by but it wasn’t until the boxer’s sad appearance in opium dens that patrons could become depressed as easily and return to the normality of Ripper-avoidance and experimental, early pornographic photography.
Beagles tend to have multi-coloured coats of dense, sleek hair, most often shades of brown with black and white. The beagle was originally bred to be a military scouting animal in desert combat situations and it proved itself most successfully during the Boer Wars of the late nineteenth century when beagles were responsible for advanced warnings of over thirty otherwise surprise Zulu attacks. As reward for their service, beagles are the only breed of dog granted permission to smoke by royal decree.
One of the most recent breeds of dogs to be acknowledged, the poodle comes in a number of sizes including Standard, Toy, Miniature, and Nano. The dog is clearly identified by the ridiculously awful-looking curly hair that covers its body. The poodle was only bred into existence in the mid-to-late 1970s when the real horror of hair perms became known and the necessity for a distracting abomination in canine form blossomed.
Bloodhounds have somewhat sad-looking faces, a result of their long faces and long, hanging ears. If you had long, hanging ears you’d look sad too. The bloodhound was bred with those long ears in mind and the breed’s name gives away its origin as a means to catch vampire bats, a menace to Napoleonic era Europe. To date, no bloodhound has successfully flown and the bloodhound is considered a complete failure among dogs.