Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Response to "The Future of the Azawakh in America," by Dr. Werner Röder

I share your scepticism as to the future of the Azawakh race in the Western World after its emancipation from the status of a "rare breed" towards an eye-catcher at Kennel Club events and the attraction for pet fanciers motivated by curiosity, vanity and commercial interests without serious cynologic competence and intellectual and/or emotional capacity to understand the heritage of one of the last remnants of originals dogs. This is a quasi dialectical problem: A much larger substructure of owners and breeders is needed as a basis for survival. On the other hand, popularisation opens the way for the eventual destruction of an original canine breed as executed by Anglo-European "Dogdom"-organizations since the second half of the 19th century. It’s worth trying to keep this developement under some control, hoping for an effect of educational activities. This does not only pertain to the field of genetics, but also - as Tinalhinan is pointing out - to behavioural questions in the context of our social systems.

Over here we can observe a growing belief among breeders, owners and – worst of all – among judges and thus among the general public, that Azawakhs are "untouchable" due to their very nature, and sociable specimens are untypical for the breed. It might be still hypothetical to assume that the „social incompetence“ spreading among European Azawakhs lines is a part of inbreeding depression. However, tantrums of panic or/and aggression of Azawakhs seem to become quite normal again in the exposition rings after a positive intermezzo with new imports and their offsprings during the Nineties and after. An over-all tolerance of sociopathic demeanour of Azawakhs from the side of the judges, eventually accompanied by prices, will serve as a further incitation of breeding policies without considerations for behavioural qualities and of those owners who are unable or unwilling to communicate with Azawakhs along the lines of their natural traits of character. The other (and eventually especially American) side of the coin is the demand for dogs as comfortable pastime accessories with a simplified reservoir of social reactions. This is a likewise precarious misunderstanding in respect to aboriginal dogs.

These days I looked at the archive material of our expedition to Burkina and Mali in 2000. The film (camera: Dr.Lutz Vollweiler)had the purpose to document colors, markings and phenotypical variations of Azawakhs and their natural environment. There is also a rather comprehensive demonstration of behavioural patterns of Azawakhs towards their masters, families and visitors of their camps. In the latter case, reactions range from individual distance limitations and different degrees of watchfulness to very close contacts. In neither case aggressiveness or panicky reactions have been observed. The basic confidence of the dogs towards their people is obvious, regardless of a sometimes rough handling. They are fitted for a reasonable adaption to the requirements of Western living conditions under intelligent guidance – by people who know and certainly not by "Everyone".

Dr.Werner Röder


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