Category: History

Origins of the Shih Tzu Breed

A Guest post from Rick Hatfield.

For the life of me I can’t recall how the connection between Rick and me was made; sign of the times! But Rick asked for a link to his website to go onto my blogroll and then offered this guest post.

So without any further ado here it is!

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Origin of Shih Tzu Breed

The shih tzu has enjoyed a long history, starting in its country of origin, Tibet. Although the exact date of the breed being recognized is not known, what is known is that a short, rather squat dog which fits the general description of the shih tzu was first recorded around 1000 BC. This means that it is possible to record the history of the shih tzu from that point forward, although it is believed that the dog was around for centuries before that time.

Tibet & China

While the exact origin point is not known, the shih tzu does appear to be from Tibet. You can see evidence of their presence with the famous statues of Tibetan “Lion Dogs” which are part of Buddhism. It appears that the shih tzu was bred to resemble lions, albeit in small form. In fact, the very name “shih tzu” means “lion”. Of the holy dogs that were part of Tibetan culture, the shih tzu quickly became the most famous.

It was not long before the breed spread from its origin point from the mountains of Tibet and into China itself. The fierce looking dog with the gentle nature quickly became a favorite at the royal courts of Chinese rulers. However, they would not gain their current appearance until a millennium later when trade was opened to another part of the world far away from China.

Change from Europe

Contact between China and Europe dates to the Roman Empire. And from such countries as Malta, Persia, Greece, and Turkey small dogs were provided as gifts to the Chinese rulers which in turn were bred to the “lion dogs”. The Pug and Pekingese were intermixed with other breeds and the shih tzu as we know it came about.

Although a favorite in the courts of China, their original purpose was as guard dogs that would warn the Emperor of people or animals that approached their presence. When they became smaller in size, the shih tzu was adapted to becoming a companion dog. When this occurred, it became rare for a shih tzu to leave China as they were so revered.

Explosion of Popularity

The shih tzu that we see today can be credited to Dowager Empress Cixi who had a kennel that included Pugs and Pekingese as well. However, when she died in 1908, the breed was seemingly lost as the kennels were dispersed.

But in 1930, a pair of shih tzus arrived in England. Over the next three decades, more shih tzus arrived which helped expand the breeding population. As this was happening, soldiers returning from the China theater during World War II brought the dog to America where it was quickly bred. Soon, the dog became extinct in China as they were expanding around the world.

While the breed was recognized in England in 1949, it would take another two decades before being officially recognized in the US. Today, the shih tzu is one of the most famous breeds in the world. A stark contrast to its near-extinction 80 years earlier.

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Rick clearly knows the history of the Shih Tzus as this fascinating account reveals. Fancy the history going back to 1000 BC! But of course the history of dogs being associated with humans goes back much beyond 3,000 years ago; to at least 20,000 years ago and there are reliable accounts of dogs going back, perhaps, another 20,000 years for a total of 40,000 years ago. What beautiful creatures!

Anyway, this was a lovely guest post as I am sure you will all agree.

The Queen’s Christmas message.

Can the Queen save Christmas?

Learning from Dogs is going to take a break. For a week. We will be back ‘on air’, so to speak, on January 1st, 2021.

The Queen has been broadcasting a Christmas message since 1952. I was just eight-years-old when she first broadcast her own message.

How very much has changed over those years. Beyond imagination.

The Conversation has an article about the Queen’s broadcast and it is shared with you all.

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Can the Queen save Christmas?

December 21, 2020

By

Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Aston University

At 3pm UK time on Christmas day, the Queen’s Christmas message is broadcast across the Commonwealth. Each year the format is largely the same, with the Queen giving her own account of the main personal, national and international events of the year and reflecting on the meaning of Christmas. As such, it has become an important part of the festivities for many families in the UK and beyond.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, fresh restrictions imposed and Brexit rapidly approaching, this year’s broadcast has taken on new significance as a source of stability and comfort, a constant in these difficult and uncertain times. Therefore, it is worth examining how the language used in the broadcast creates this sense of reassurance.

Since 1952, the Queen’s Christmas message has performed three ideological functions through rhetorical appeals based on faith and family.

Identification

The Queen shares personal anecdotes, which she often links to ordinary people’s experiences through the pronouns “we” and “us”.

On Christmas Day 1964, for instance, she told viewers that: “All of us who have been blessed with young families know from long experience that when one’s house is at its noisiest, there is often less cause for anxiety”. As most new parents would recognise this truism, it conveys the message that – in this respect at least – the royals are like any other family.

The first televised Royal Christmas message, 1957. The Royal Family/YouTube

The Queen is also aware that some families will be separated during the festive season and regularly expresses empathy for them. As she said in 1956: “I would like to send a special message of hope and encouragement to all who […] cannot be with those they love today: to the sick who cannot be at home”.

This message is made more poignant because of COVID-19, as the Queen recognised in her special address on April 5 2020. Indeed, it is almost inevitable that this year’s Christmas broadcast will include similar words of consolation for those who have been separated from their loved ones during the pandemic.

Continuity

Uncertainty is another recurring theme in the Queen’s Christmas broadcast, as she tries to make sense of the year’s events for the benefit of her audience. She gives her personal responses to national and global problems, which frequently involve the enactment of supposedly timeless (but predominantly Christian) values. On Christmas Day 1980, amid issues such as the Soviet-Afghanistan war and UK unemployment, she said:

We know that the world can never be free from conflict and pain, but Christmas also draws our attention to all that is hopeful and good in this changing world; it speaks of values and qualities that are true and permanent and it reminds us that the world we would like to see can only come from the goodness of the heart.

Among these values are faith, charity and compassion and, by praising them as a source of stability and the means for creating a better world, the Queen is perhaps seeking to strengthen adherence to them. Not only that, her appeals to Christian values and her emphasis on the family provide a sense of security for those who are disoriented by the rapid pace of social change. In turn, this sustains the monarchy by establishing the Queen as “a permanent anchor, bracing against the storms and grounding us in certainty”, as former British prime minister David Cameron said in 2012, marking her Diamond Jubilee.

Unity

The Queen’s rhetoric of unity is based primarily on the metaphor of the Commonwealth as a family, which recurs throughout the Christmas broadcasts. In 1956, for instance, she observed that:

We talk of ourselves as a “family of nations”, and perhaps our relations with one another are not so very different from those which exist between members of any family. We all know that these are not always easy, for there is no law within a family which binds its members to think, or act, or be alike.

Despite these differences, in 2011 the Queen described the Commonwealth as “a family of 53 nations, all with a common bond, shared beliefs, mutual values and goals”. As the head of the Commonwealth, it is perhaps no exaggeration to say that the Queen is the matriarch of this family of nations, whose primary role is to keep the unit together and uphold its values. Indeed, the Christmas broadcast has been an important source of soft power since the end of Empire. As Sonny Ramphal, a former Commonwealth secretary general, put it: “without her presence, the Commonwealth will feel it is missing the captain from the bridge”.

With the UK government having tightened Christmas COVID-19 restrictions, as well as the introduction of bans on UK travel in numerous countries, this festive season will be very different. Perhaps more than ever, as families face separation or the disruption of their traditional plans, people will seek solace in the ritual of the Queen’s Christmas broadcast.

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I can’t find a copyright-free photograph of the Queen’s Corgis but this one will do. It is from Pexels.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

So her Majesty The Queen is 94! Wow!

That makes her the oldest monarch to have reigned in Britain. Ever!

Queen Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death, in 1901. That makes Queen Victoria the second longest monarch to have reigned.

So with that, it’s time for a small break.

See you in 2021!

Mid-Winters Day.

An essay about the 2020 winter solstice!
Winter solstice 2020 in the Northern Hemisphere will be at 2:02 AM on Monday, December 21. That is our local Pacific Time which is 8 hours behind UTC.
So in UTC terms that is 10:02.
For some reason I have always regarded the Winter solstice as special, no doubt because in the Northern Hemisphere it is the time for the shortest day! It is the start of the new year!

Here is that essay published by The Conversation.

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What you need to know about this year’s winter solstice and the great conjunction

December 18, 2020
By William TeetsActing Director and Astronomer, Dyer Observatory, Vanderbilt University

Editor’s note: Dr. William Teets is the director of Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory. In this interview, he explains what does and doesn’t happen during the winter solstice on Dec. 21. Another cosmic phenomenon is also going to occur on the same day called “the great conjunction,” where Saturn and Jupiter, both of which can be seen with the naked eye, will appear extremely close to one another.

What happens on the winter solstice?

The winter solstice this year happens on Dec. 21. This is when the Sun appears the lowest in the Northern Hemisphere sky and is at its farthest southern point over Earth – directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. For folks living at 23.5 degrees south latitude, not only does this day mark their summer solstice, but they also see the Sun directly over them at local noon. After that, the Sun will start to creep back north again.

The sequence of images below shows the path of the Sun through the sky at different times of the year. You can see how the Sun is highest in the Northern Hemisphere sky in June, lowest in December, and halfway in between these positions in March and September during the equinoxes.

The winter solstice is the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere but not the day with the latest sunrise and earliest sunset. How is that possible?

The winter solstice doesn’t coincide with the latest sunrise or the earliest sunset. Those actually occur about two weeks before and two weeks after the winter solstice. This is because we are changing our distance from the sun due to our elliptical, not circular, orbit, which changes the speed at which we orbit.

If you were to look at where the Sun is at exactly the same time of day over different days of the year, you would see that it’s not always in the same spot. Yes, the Sun is higher in the summer and lower in the winter, but it also moves from side to side of the average noontime position, which also plays a role in when the Sun rises and sets.

One should also keep in mind that the seasons are due to the Earth’s axial tilt, not our distance from the Sun. Believe it or not, we are closest to the Sun in January.

What is ‘the great conjunction’?

Saturn and Jupiter have appeared fairly close together in our sky throughout the year. But on Dec. 21, Saturn and Jupiter will appear so close together that some folks may have a difficult time seeing them as two objects.

If you have a pair of binoculars, you’ll easily be able to spot both planets. In even a small telescope, you’d see both planets at the same time in the same field of view, which is really unheard of. That’s what makes this conjunction so rare. Jupiter and Saturn appear to meet up about every 20 years. Most of the time, however, they’re not nearly as close together as we’re going to see them on Monday, Dec. 21.

For a comparison, there was a great conjunction back in 2000, but the two planets were separated by about two full-Moon widths. This year, the orbits will bring them to where they appear to be about one-fifth of a full-Moon diameter.

We have been encouraging folks to go out and look at these planets using just their eyes between now and Dec. 21. You’ll actually be able to see how much they appear to move over the course of a single day.

The next time they will get this close together in our sky won’t be for another 60 years, so this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event for many people. In fact, the last time they got this close together was in the year 1623, but it was really difficult, if not impossible, to see them then because they appeared much closer to the Sun and set soon after it. Go back another 400 years to 1226 and this would have been the last time that we would have had a good view of this type of conjunction.

What advice would you give to people who want to see the great conjunction?

If weather permits at Dyer Observatory, we’ll be streaming a live view of the conjunction from one of the observatory’s telescopes, and I’ll be available to answer questions. Even if you don’t have a telescope or a pair of binoculars, definitely go out and check out this very rare alignment with your own eyes. Remember that they set soon after sunset, so be ready to view right at dusk!

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From the introduction that was received by email:

I want to include another piece on the conjunction. It comes from the introduction to that item above: It’s been a tough year. To many of us, every day during the coronavirus pandemic has felt incredibly long. Perhaps it will come as a relief that Monday will be the shortest day of the year. December 21 will also bring a rare cosmic phenomenon. If the sky is clear over the next few nights, look out just over the southwest horizon. You may see Jupiter and Saturn coming together and then drifting apart in an event known as “the great conjunction.” Although this occurs once every two decades, the last time they came this close, and we Earthlings got such a clear view, was in 1226.

I also want to include a copy of an article on the website belonging to KRCC  that talks of the Great Conjunction.

Why The Jupiter And Saturn Conjunction During The 2020 Winter Solstice Is Extra Special

By Mike Procell

December 18, 2020

The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn appears over Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs. Jupiter appears brighter and to the lower right of Saturn. Saturn, to Jupiter’s upper left, has a slightly golden hue. Photo taken December 5, 2020. The planets will be closer than they have been observed from earth in over 800 years on the Winter Solstice

A rare celestial event will help mark the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere on Monday, Dec. 21.

Jupiter and Saturn are currently appearing very close together from an earthly vantage point. These two gas giants are in conjunction, an occurrence that happens every 20 years or so.

This one though, is extra special.

“Really, really close conjunctions like this one are quite rare,” said Hal Bidlack with the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society. “We haven’t been able to observe Jupiter and Saturn this close since the year 1226. And we won’t see them again this close for decades and decades to come.”

The two planets were last about this close together in the year 1623. But the pairing occurred while the planets were close to the sun from earth’s perspective, Bidlack said, and the sight was basically washed out in the sun’s glare.
In reality, Saturn and Jupiter are hundreds of millions of miles apart.

“On the 21st they will appear so close that if you held a dime on edge at arm’s length, that’s how close they would be together,” Bidlack said.

From Colorado Springs, sky gazers only need to look toward Cheyenne Mountain to catch a glimpse. Elsewhere in Colorado, Bidlack said folks can look to the southwestern skies, low near the horizon.

The pair sets around an hour and a half after the sun does, about 4:39 p.m. on Monday.

The planets will begin to separate when viewed from Earth, and will eventually disappear altogether from the night sky until reappearing in the morning sky in early 2021. See more skywatching tips from NASA.

If you have managed to stay on today’s post until near the end you would have seen the following: “We haven’t been able to observe Jupiter and Saturn this close since the year 1226. And we won’t see them again this close for decades and decades to come.”

Just about 800 years ago since this last happened.

If you can, go outside with a telescope or a pair of binoculars and watch the sight! That time of the sunset is 4:39 PM Pacific Time. I think that wherever you are in the world starting to watch as soon as  it is dark would be a good idea.

For me the new year starts now!

Happy Solstice!

Returning to the history of dogs.

Reflections!

Yesterday’s post about the loyalty of dogs brought to mind a post that I published way back in 2013. Let me take an extract from yesterday’s post:

It’s no secret that domesticated dogs are descendants of wolves. Even today, modern dogs continue to share similar genes to wolves that live in the wild. The idea of “the loyal dog” is both a cultural and biological construct, as humans have created the dog over years of selective breeding and domestication to be this way. Essentially, humans picked and chose the wolf characteristics that would best serve their own benefit, transforming a wolf’s hierarchical structure and social bond to their packs into obedience and loyalty to humans.

The fact that is key is that dog packs are hierarchical. They have three status roles and the rest of the pack are all pack members. The three roles are Alpha dog, always a female, the Beta dog, always a male, and the Omega dog that could be either male or female.

The role of the alpha dog is to have first pick of the eligible males and to move the whole pack if in her analysis the territory becomes unsuitable for the pack. The role of the beta dog is to keep the pack under control and not to let fights get out of hand. The omega dog is to keep the pack happy and playful.

So to the post that was first published on the 10th April, 2013.

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Yearnings for a new start!

You may wonder about the title of this post?  Stay with me for a moment.

As has been written before on Learning from Dogs, when dogs were living in the wild just three animals had pack roles.  The leader of the pack, always a female animal, was the alpha dog. Second in command was the beta dog, always a dominant male, and the third role was the omega or clown dog.  The wild dog pack was thought to have consisted, typically, of about 50 animals.

Pharaoh
The wisdom of thousands of years showing clearly in Pharaoh’s eyes, our very own beta dog. Beloved Pharaoh. Born: June 3rd., 2003 – Died: June 19th., 2017. A very special dog that will never be forgotten.

As leader of her pack an alpha dog had two primary functions .  One was having first choice as to the male dog she was going to mate with – thus demonstrating how women always choose! 😉

Her second important duty was deciding that her pack’s home range was insufficient for the needs of her ‘family’.  As wolves still do, wild dogs lived within small, well-defined territories when food was abundant.  When food became less abundant then it was time to move to more fertile grounds.  As an aside, research in South Africa as to the area requirements for a small pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) shows they require from 65 square kilometers (25 square miles) to 150 sq. km. (58 sq. mi.). (See footnote.)

Dogs, like all wild animals, instinctively live in harmony with nature.  So the call from the alpha dog to find a new range didn’t mean they left their old one as a barren disaster area.  You can see where this is heading!

Wild dogs were in contact with early man at least 50,000 years ago. (Just reflect for a moment on the length of that relationship between man and dog.) So each specie has had plenty of time to learn from the other.

Thus, as mankind is on the verge of discovering that our existing ‘territory’ is becoming unsustainable for the healthy life of the species,  one fundamental learning point from dogs appears to have escaped us: Mankind doesn’t have a new range available to our species.

This preamble came to mind when I recently read a short but powerful essay on Alex Jones’ blog The Liberated Way.  The essay was called A global leaky bucket.  Alex has very kindly given me permission to republish it.

A global leaky bucket

Global weather extremes will force people to hard choices.

Nature will have the last word in the debate over sustainability.
Nature will have the last word in the debate over sustainability.

I write this in despair, it is snowing again here in Colchester UK.  I admit envy for those of you who live in California or Hong Kong area, I see your photographs where the seasons always seem to be warm and sunny.  The northern Jet Stream refuses to move, Greenland enjoys growing strawberries as the lambs die in the fields of Britain from the winter that refuses to let go.

The extremes of weather are noted in the South of the world as well as the North.  Argentina has had the worst floods in decades last week.  The cause is that the systems such as the Jet Stream are paralysed in one place, thus everyone suffers flood, drought or winter in excess.  Nobody is sure why this paralysis is going on with systems like the Jet Stream, some say it is climate change, the point is that we are experiencing this, and it appears to be more than a temporary issue.

My opinion is that these weather extremes are here to stay for the long duration.  One is then left with a harsh reality of does one seek to control the weather or adapt to the weather? How does one control the weather, a chaotic energy system where even a small change can have great consequences? Perhaps adaptation is the better option, but does one know how huge those adaptations will have to be where drought and flood could be lasting decades?

Lets say food, water and energy are all contained in a bucket.  We take a jug and scoop out from the bucket what we need.  There is a tap that is constantly running filling the bucket with the food, water and energy.  We waste those resources so the bucket leaks.  We disrupt or destroy the renewal systems in the ecosystems so the tap is no longer running as fast as it should.  We are greedy consumers so we take more than we need from the bucket with our jug.  How will the bucket look now? Is this a sustainable future to you?

If our global weather extremes continue as they are it will be like a storm rocking the bucket spilling its contents, will our bucket future look even less sustainable? Extreme weather destroys harvests, kills animals, sends already distressed ecosystems into the abyss.  What happens when the bucket is so empty that people can no longer enjoy their lifestyle of wasteful excess, or worse that people grow cold, hungry and thirsty? Do they sit there and do nothing but die? Will they fight? Who will fight who? As the bucket contents get ever smaller, who will win in the fighting for what is left?

Copyright (c) Alex Jones 2011-2013.

Colchester has a place in my past as I started and ran a business there between the years of 1978 to 1986.  More about that some other day.

Back to Alex’s essay.  It strongly resonated with a recent item on Peter Sinclair’s excellent blog Climate Denial Crock of the Week which I will refer to tomorrow.

So I will leave you with this tragic, emotional thought – where, oh where, is our alpha dog?

Footnote:  The figures for the ranges of wild dogs were taken from a fascinating paper published by Lindsay, du Toit and Mills that may be read here.

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One thing that has become clearer over the years and with the advent of DNA analysis is that the process of wolf and man coming together, and wolf becoming dog, was in the timeframe of 25,000 to 40,000 years ago. It’s a very wide band of time but there’s no scientific method, certainly at the moment, to refine the years down to a shorter number.

But even taking the lower limit, 25,000 years ago, it is still an indescribably long time back in the past.

They are such precious animals.

Science explains why dogs are so loyal.

A fascinating article!

I had a particularly uncomfortable 24 hours Monday afternoon through Tuesday morning.

I went to upload an update to my iMac early on Monday afternoon but for some reason it all went wrong. As in the iMac became unresponsive and continuously showed the Apple icon for about 10 minutes and then went blank for another 10 minutes, and went on repeating itself.

On Tuesday morning I spent several hours on the phone to Apple support and finally the third adviser told me to turn everything off and do a cold reset. That fixed it and I didn’t have to go down to Medford and leave the machine with Connecting Point Computers. Plus I saved $99!

So I am very grateful to be able to share this post with you all! It’s an article on Treehugger, Why Are Dogs So Loyal?

Enjoy!

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Why Are Dogs So Loyal?

There’s a scientific explanation to what makes them “man’s best friend”

By   Katherine Gallagher
Updated December 09, 2020

Daniel Grill / Getty Images

Any dog owner will tell you that there’s something indescribable and unique about their loyal companions. Dogs wait for their humans patiently by the door when they leave, act like they’ve been given the world when their dinner bowls are filled, and express a sense of devotion that is rare in many other pets. Where does this trait, the trait that makes dogs “man’s best friend,” come from? Why are dogs so innately loyal? The obvious explanation would be that their owners provide them with food and shelter, but the deeper answer actually comes down to science.

It’s no secret that domesticated dogs are descendants of wolves. Even today, modern dogs continue to share similar genes to wolves that live in the wild. The idea of “the loyal dog” is both a cultural and biological construct, as humans have created the dog over years of selective breeding and domestication to be this way. Essentially, humans picked and chose the wolf characteristics that would best serve their own benefit, transforming a wolf’s hierarchical structure and social bond to their packs into obedience and loyalty to humans.

Selective Breeding

Throughout history, long-term domestication has resulted in hundreds of different dog breeds designed to fulfil specialized functions in society, many with significant behavioral differences. Early humans likely participated in selective breeding without even knowing they were doing so, by killing off the dogs who attacked or bit a member of their family or community. Additionally, dogs who were naturally gifted as loyal hunters would have been better cared for, upping the chances of successful and repeated reproduction. Dogs that contributed to society were kept for longer, while aggressive or unskilled dogs weren’t. And, as humans promoted dogs with tame or friendly characteristics, physical attributes began to change as well.

The early domesticated dogs intelligent enough to associate their owners with things like food and shelter in exchange for obedience (think: “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”) were more likely to survive longer. In a reliance comparison between dogs and cats, for example, studies show that dogs attempt tasks before looking at their owners while cats do not.

While it may have started with a simple exchange of food and shelter for animal-assisted guarding or hunting, humans eventually began to favor dogs that were more docile and sociable. As humans evolved to hunt less and moved on to more secure lifestyles, the domestication process eventually began to encourage companionship.

Pack Behavior

Dogs, like their wolf ancestors, are pack animals at their core. In order to survive in the wild, members of a pack have to be trusting and cooperative. A wolf leader, or alpha, is in charge until it becomes too sick or old to perform at its highest abilities and is eventually challenged by a stronger wolf for the betterment of the entire pack. This suggests that wolves are motivated by the good of the group rather than pure loyalty to its leader. This is exactly what a 2014 study in Vienna found when researchers examined lab-raised dog and wolf packs, concluding that the relationship between dogs and humans is hierarchical (with their owner at the top) rather than cooperative. As wolves were slowly domesticated into modern dogs, the study suggests, they were bred for their loyalty, dependance on human masters, and ability to follow orders.

Social Bonding

Oxytocin, the peptide hormone released when people hug, snuggle, or bond socially, also has a part to play. Gaze-mediated bonding, as well as petting and talking, increases oxytocin levels in both humans and dogs. This is a human-like mode of communication, since wolves rarely make eye contact with their handlers, meaning that the fact that you and your dog like to lock eyes is a trait likely picked up during the domestication process. Oxytocin is linked to feelings of attachment and confidence, which in turn facilitate the establishment of loyalty and love in emotional relationships. The fact that oxytocin increases in both humans and dogs — but not wolves — while engaging in eye contact and communicating social attachments may have supported the evolution of human-dog bonding.

Are Some Breeds More Loyal Than Others?
The domestic dog, or Canis lupus familiaris, is the first and only large carnivore ever to have been domesticated by humans. Mostly within the last 200 years or so, dogs have undergone a rapid change characterized by maintaining breeds through selective breeding imposed by humans. Compared to other wild and domestic species, modern dogs display incomparable genetic diversity between breeds, from a 1-pound poodle to a 200-pound mastiff.

We’ve all heard stories of individual dogs known for fierce loyalty, like Hachiko, the Japanese Akita who waited for his master every day by the Shibuya Station in Tokyo even after he passed away at work. A 2018 study on the genomic make-up of the Czechoslovakian wolfdog found that a common German shepherd crossed with a wild wolf has the same tameness and loyalty to its master as a fully domesticated dog.

There isn’t much scientific evidence of certain breeds being more loyal than others, though one could certainly argue that dogs bred for specific jobs like hunting and herding would have a higher chance of staying loyal to their owners. Breeds that are known for specific tasks may not check all the boxes depending on qualities preferred by the owner. The dependency on human guidance desired in companion dogs may get in the way of a rescue dog’s ability to function successfully in situations when its handler isn’t around, for example. There is a “nature vs. nurture” aspect to consider as well. It isn’t all about genes, though they do play a critical role, but a dog’s individual environment and history can also greatly affect its lifetime behavior.

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There, the science behind a dog’s loyalty.

Despite having spent a number of years writing and learning about dogs there were still a few points mentioned in this essay that were news to me.

As they say, one is never too old to learn!

It’s all too much, or it could be!

This year, 2020, has been unlike any other year.

I am not saying anything new but just reiterating what has been said before: 2020 is going to go down as the year from hell! And I don’t think that is too strong a word!

Part of it are the news stories that sweep the world: Covid-19; Brexit; Climate change; up until yesterday what was President Trump going to do in his last few weeks; etc; etc.

Also part of it is the way that news and more news and, yes, more news is flashed around the globe. Most of it bad news as we all know that bad news sells!

Finally, part of it is the new world of social media especially messaging on a smartphone. President Trump isn’t the only one to communicate greatly via Twitter.

Now, speaking personally, I couldn’t have got through this year without Jeannie and our dogs.

Pure bliss!

But, nevertheless, something has changed and Mark Satta has written an article that tries to explain things.

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Three reasons for information exhaustion – and what to do about it

By Mark Satta, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Wayne State University.

November 18th, 2020

An endless flow of information is coming at us constantly: It might be an article a friend shared on Facebook with a sensational headline or wrong information about the spread of the coronavirus. It could even be a call from a relative wanting to talk about a political issue.

All this information may leave many of us feeling as though we have no energy to engage.

As a philosopher who studies knowledge-sharing practices, I call this experience “epistemic exhaustion.” The term “epistemic” comes from the Greek word episteme, often translated as “knowledge.” So epistemic exhaustion is more of a knowledge-related exhaustion.

It is not knowledge itself that tires out many of us. Rather, it is the process of trying to gain or share knowledge under challenging circumstances.

Currently, there are at least three common sources that, from my perspective, are leading to such exhaustion. But there are also ways to deal with them.

1. Uncertainty

For many, this year has been full of uncertainty. In particular, the coronavirus pandemic has generated uncertainty about health, about best practices and about the future.

At the same time, Americans have faced uncertainty about the U.S. presidential election: first due to delayed results and now over questions about a peaceful transition of power.

Experiencing uncertainty can stress most of us out. People tend to prefer the planned and the predictable. Figures from 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes to 20th-century Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein have recognized the significance of having certainty in our lives.

With information so readily available, people may be checking news sites or social media in hopes of finding answers. But often, people are instead greeted with more reminders of uncertainty.

As Trump supporters denounce the 2020 election results, feelings of uncertainty can come up for others. Karla Ann Cote/NurPhoto via Getty Images

2. Polarization

Political polarization is stressing many Americans out.

As political scientist Lilliana Mason notes in her book, “Uncivil Disagreement: How Politics Became Our Identity,” Americans have been increasingly dividing politically “into two partisan teams.”

Many writers have discussed the negative effects of polarization, such as how it can damage democracy. But discussions about the harms of polarization often overlook the toll polarization takes on our ability to gain and share knowledge.

That can happen in at least two ways.

First, as philosopher Kevin Vallier has argued, there is a “causal feedback loop” between polarization and distrust. In other words, polarization and distrust fuel one another. Such a cycle can leave people feeling unsure whom to trust or what to believe.

Second, polarization can lead to competing narratives because in a deeply polarized society, as studies show, we can lose common ground and tend to have less agreement.

For those inclined to take the views of others seriously, this can create additional cognitive work. And when the issues are heated or sensitive, this can create additional stress and emotional burdens, such as sadness over damaged friendships or anger over partisan rhetoric.

3. Misinformation

Viral misinformation is everywhere. This includes political propaganda in the United States and around the world.

People are also inundated with advertising and misleading messaging from private corporations, what philosophers Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall have called “industrial propaganda.” And in 2020, the public is also dealing with misinformation about COVID-19.

As chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov put it: “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

Misinformation is often exhausting by design. For example, a video that went viral,Plandemic,” featured a large number of false claims about COVID-19 in rapid succession. This flooding of misinformation in rapid succession, a tactic known as a Gish gallop, makes it challenging and time-consuming for fact checkers to refute the many falsehoods following one after another.

What to do?

With all this uncertainty, polarization and misinformation, feeling tired is understandable. But there are things one can do.

The American Psychological Association suggests coping with uncertainty through activities like limiting news consumption and focusing on things in one’s control. Another option is to work on becoming more comfortable with uncertainty through practices such as meditation and the cultivation of mindfulness.

To deal with polarization, consider communicating with the goal of creating empathetic understanding rather than “winning.” Philosopher Michael Hannon describes empathetic understanding as “the ability to take up another person’s perspective.”

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As for limiting the spread of misinformation: Share only those news stories that you’ve read and verified. And you can prioritize outlets that meet high ethical journalistic or fact-checking standards.

These solutions are limited and imperfect, but that’s all right. Part of resisting epistemic exhaustion is learning to live with the limited and imperfect. No one has time to vet all the headlines, correct all the misinformation or gain all the relevant knowledge. To deny this is to set oneself up for exhaustion.

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That last section, What to do?, is full of really sensible advice. In fact, the American Psychological Association has an article at the moment that appears to be freely available called Healing the political divide.

I intend to read it.

It finishes up saying:

Scientists must strive to share their research as broadly as possible. And they don’t have to do it alone. Organizations like More in Common work to conduct research and communicate findings to audiences where it can have the greatest impact.

Advocacy is essential as well. Other countries that have made strides in addressing the political divide relied heavily on government-led reconciliation efforts. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for example, in South Africa, has been fundamental in addressing disparities and conflict around Apartheid.

Were the United States to consider similar, government-backed efforts, psychologists must be part of the call to do so. And the behavioral expertise of the field would be central to success.

“The collective mental health of the nation is at risk,” says Moghaddam. “Just as we should rely on epidemiological science to tell us when there is a vaccine ready for mass use, we have to rely on psychological science to guide us through these mental health issues.”

And following an election that, for many, has felt like the most polarized of a lifetime, this piece seems critical. “ This is what our profession is all about,” says Moghaddam.

Good advice especially if you can take time off just losing oneself in nature.

Dawn behind nearby Mt. Sexton. Taken from our deck on the 21st August, 2019.

Enough said!

Of dogs and men.

Ancient genomes reveal the common history of human and dog.

At the end of October, 2020 Science magazine published an article about the evolutionary genetics of humans and dogs.

I am not allowed to republish the full text, despite being an AAAS member, but I am sure that selected quotes will be alright.

The article was written by Pavlos Pavlidis and Mehmet Somel.

Dogs likely evolved from a wolf population that self-domesticated, scavenging for left-overs from Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers in Eurasia. However, the exact timing and geographic location where the dog lineage started remain unknown, owing to the scarcity of Palaeolithic dogs in the archaeological record. Analyses of genetic data suggest that dog-wolf divergence took place ~25,000 to 40,000 years ago, providing an earliest possible date for dog domestication.

The last paragraph in the short article is as follows:

For example, there is evidence that pigs were domesticated in both Anatolia and China. For dogs, however, the story is different. Dogs and modern-day Eurasian grey wolves appear as monophyletic groups; that is, any dog is genetically closer to another dog than to a wolf, and vice versa, Monophyly supports a single origin of dogs from a possible extinct wolf lineage.

Absolutely fascinating!

A couple of photographs, courtesy of Pexels, to close the piece.

The wolf

oooo

The dog.

See you tomorrow.

The rise of dogs!

Mr and Mrs Biden are very fine dog owners.

As the BBC News website reported yesterday:

A Joe Biden presidency means the return of a long-held tradition of pets in the White House.

The President-elect and his wife have two dogs at present: Champ and Major. They are German Shepherds. Champ, who was then a puppy, was given to Joe Biden in 2018 by his wife. Major was fostered and then adopted, also in 2018, from the Delaware Humane Association.

Joe Biden with Major. Courtesy of The New York Times.

Here is another picture of the two dogs. This time featuring Mrs Biden.

Courtesy of Yahoo News.

So GSD Major will be the first shelter dog that from January, 2021 will reside in the White House.

The 2020 presidential election is bringing a slew of firsts into the White House: the first woman vice president, as well as the first Black woman and person of South Asian heritage to hold the position. The first first lady to continue working a full-time job. The first Jewish spouse of either a president or vice president.

But President-elect Joe Biden is bringing yet another first this January: The first-ever shelter dog will now reside in the White House.

Whatever one thinks about the current politics it is brilliant that dogs are back in the White House.

Maybe President-elect Biden should think of a more formal role for Champ and Major!

That DNA link; from the BBC.

Another article about the origin of the dog.

This time on the BBC News website.

When I published the post about the dog’s nose and heart I concluded at the end that:

When one quietly reflects on the span of time that dogs and humans have been together, something in the order of 40,000 years, it’s no surprise that dogs have evolved to be our closest companion.

But the BBC proclaimed that:

The analysis reveals that dog domestication can be traced back 11,000 years, to the end of the last Ice Age.

So that rather confused me.

But read the full article from the BBC before I comment further.

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Dogs are humans’ oldest companions, DNA shows

By Paul Rincon
Science editor, BBC News website, 29th October, 2020

A study of dog DNA has shown that our “best friend” in the animal world may also be our oldest one.

The analysis reveals that dog domestication can be traced back 11,000 years, to the end of the last Ice Age.

This confirms that dogs were domesticated before any other known species.

Our canine companions were widespread across the northern hemisphere at this time, and had already split into five different types.

Despite the expansion of European dogs during the colonial era, traces of these ancient indigenous breeds survive today in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania.

The research fills in some of the gaps in the natural history of our close animal companions.

Dr Pontus Skoglund, co-author of the study and group leader of the Ancient Genomics laboratory at London’s Crick Institute, told BBC News: “Dogs are really unique in being this quite strange thing if you think about it, when all people were still hunter gatherers, they domesticate what is really a wild carnivore – wolves are pretty frightening in many parts of the world.

“The question of why did people do that? How did that come about? That’s what we’re ultimately interested in.”

To some extent, dog genetic patterns mirror human ones, because people took their animal companions with them when they moved. But there were also important differences.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback retains ancestry from an ancient African dog lineage

For example, early European dogs were initially diverse, appearing to originate from two very distinct populations, one related to Near Eastern dogs and another to Siberian dogs.

But at some point, perhaps after the onset of the Bronze Age, a single dog lineage spread widely and replaced all other dog populations on the continent. This pattern has no counterpart in the genetic patterns of people from Europe.

Anders Bergström, lead author and post-doctoral researcher at the Crick, said: “If we look back more than four or five thousand years ago, we can see that Europe was a very diverse place when it came to dogs. Although the European dogs we see today come in such an extraordinary array of shapes and forms, genetically they derive from only a very narrow subset of the diversity that used to exist.”

An international team analysed the whole genomes (the full complement of DNA in the nuclei of biological cells) of 27 ancient dog remains associated with a variety of archaeological cultures. They compared these to each other and to modern dogs.

The results reveal that breeds like the Rhodesian Ridgeback in southern Africa and the Chihuahua and Xoloitzcuintli in Mexico retain genetic traces of ancient indigenous dogs from the region.

The New Guinea singing dog is one representative of a lineage found in dogs across Asia and Oceania

The ancestry of dogs in East Asia is complex. Chinese breeds seem to derive some of their ancestry from animals like the Australian dingo and New Guinea singing dog, with the rest coming from Europe and dogs from the Russian steppe.

The New Guinea singing dog is so named because of its melodious howl, characterised by a sharp increase in pitch at the start.

Greger Larson, a co-author from the University of Oxford, said: “Dogs are our oldest and closest animal partner. Using DNA from ancient dogs is showing us just how far back our shared history goes and will ultimately help us understand when and where this deep relationship began.”

Dogs are thought to have evolved from wolves that ventured into human camps, perhaps sniffing around for food. As they were tamed, they could then have served humans as hunting companions or guards.

The results suggest all dogs derive from a single extinct wolf population – or perhaps a few very closely related ones. If there were multiple domestication events around the world, these other lineages did not contribute much DNA to later dogs.

Dr Skoglund said it was unclear when or where the initial domestication occurred. “Dog history has been so dynamic that you can’t really count on it still being there to readily read in their DNA. We really don’t know – that’s the fascinating thing about it.”

Many animals, such as cats, probably became our pets when humans settled down to farm a little over 6,000 years ago. Cats were probably useful for controlling pests such as mice, that were attracted by the waste generated by dense settlements. This places their domestication in cradles of agriculture such as the Near East.

“For dogs, it could almost have been anywhere: cold Siberia, the warm Near East, South-East Asia. All of these are possibilities in my mind,” Pontus Skoglund explained.

The findings have been published in the journal Science.

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Well back to that age thing!

I decided to review the Wikipedia page on the origin of dogs. At last the discrepancy became clear. The difference between divergence and domestication. (My emboldening.)

The genetic divergence between dogs and wolves occurred between 20,000–40,000 years ago, just before or during the Last Glacial Maximum[6][1] (20,000–27,000 years ago). This timespan represents the upper time-limit for the commencement of domestication because it is the time of divergence but not the time of domestication, which occurred later.[6][7] One of the most important transitions in human history was the domestication of animals, which began with the long-term association between wolves and hunter–gatherers more than 15,000 years ago.[4]

So that explains a great deal.

But it nevertheless remains the fact that they are our longest, dearest companion.