Smooth Chows

As  A Separate Variety

 

By: F.P.A.Odenkirchen
 
 


 
    I believe the controversy about the smooth chow stems mainly 
from a lack of understanding of the hereditary make-up of both 
varieties resulting in an unfounded fear that crossing them would 
lead to impurity of the genotype. I we can set aside the romantic 
illusion that our Chows are somehow a species apart from all others, 
some have even suggested them to be an evolutionary derivative 
of a now extinct bear, than we can perhaps approach the issue 
logically and with pragmatism. Believe it or not chows are just 
another man made (purebred) variety of dog, and all dogs have 
the wolf as a common ancestor. In the case of our chows it most 
likely was the Canis Lupus Chanco variety. The point is that all 
300 recognized purebred breeds through selective breeding and 
crossings of phenotypes were created by men for a specific 
purpose or function. It has been postulated by Professor Dr. 
Holmer many years ago that our modern chow was obtained 
through the crossing of the black Chinese Spitz and the red 
Tibetan Mastiff. Therefore the term "purebred" is not an absolute 
and only relevant to identifying a species whose ancestors were 
of unmixed decent since the recognition of the breed 
(A.K.C. definition). In the case of our chows this means only 
since 1895.

       Historians tell us that early importations of chows from the 
Orient consisted of about 50% smooths and indeed the first 
chow ever exhibited in England was the smooth bitch Chinese 
Puzzle who won a silver medal at the Crystal Palace Show of 
1880. Miss Ella Casella around the turn of the century bred and 
showed a number of smooths, and the more contemporary 
Ukwong Kennels always had at least one smooth bitch in their 
kennels. Since all our chows are related, and a quick perusal 
of all bloodlines show a fair number of smooths
being used over the years it is safe to say that all our roughs
carry the smooth gene. It is therefore not a matter of rough 
versus smooth but all of us learning to deal with this variety, 
hopefully in an objective and constructive way. Personal 
prejudice only serves to subtract from the breed total. 
One may dislike cinnamons, or blacks, big dogs or curly tails, 
the solution simply lies in avoiding them in one's breeding 
program rather than trying to legislate them out of the standard 
as has been the case with the smooth variety in the U.S. and 
Canada until 1986. In tackling the question of a separate variety 
we first have to deal with the ambiguity of the term in AKC 
parlance. We note that 13 breeds are subdivided in two to eight 
varieties which are each individually represented at group level. 
They include Collies, Poodles, Beagles, Bull Terriers, 
Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Fox Terriers, Schnauzers, Pointers, 
Retrievers, Setters, Spaniels and Welsh Corgis. On the other 
hand we have Chows (Rough  Smooth), St. Bernards 
(Longhaired & Shorthaired), and Newfoundlands (Black &
Landseer) with two distinct varieties which are not individually
represented at Group Level. To make matters even more 
confusing we note that the three varieties of Dachshunds 
represented at Group Level are further subdivided into the 
standards and miniatures who, unlike the Beagles, Poodles, 
and Schnauzers, are not individually represented at Group 
Level and thus fall into the same category as the Chows, 
St. Bernards and Newfoundlands

      Since AKC objects to further increasing the number of dogs
competing at Group Level by subdivision of breeds in separate
varieties, it is safe to assume that any effort to that effect will
be unsuccessful, until such time that a determined effort to
standardize characteristics and improve the quality of the smooths
has been achieved. As this presents a formidable challenge it can
only be achieved if enough hardcore fanciers can be found, ready to
take up the gauntlet. At this stage it would be counterproductive
to split the breed into two distinct and separate varieties, as the
gene pool for smooths is still too limited. But down the road it
would indeed be necessary to do exactly that, if fine tuning of the
variety distinction is desired! An excellent case study can be
found in the approach of Kennel Clubs outside the U.S. to
progressively purify the different varieties of the Dachshund.
Whereas the longhaired variety was obtained by crossing with
longhaired Spaniels, the smooth and longhaired coats were 
separated by selective breeding long before recorded registrations. 
The wire haired variety was obtained more recently (1890) by 
crossing with harsh wire terrier coats. Originally crosses between 
all varieties was permitted to obtain sufficient breeding stock.
However, unlike in the U.S. where these crossings still continue,
Kennel Clubs elsewhere learned that these crossings did more 
harm than good, with the inevitable production of intermediate 
coats, conforming to neither coat standard, and uncertainty of 
coat texture for several generations. Does this not sound familiar?
There certainly is controversy about the desired length of coat of
the smooth. Indeed the 1933 edition of "The Dog Owner's Guide"
offers the following: "In the Smooth Chow the coat, instead of
being long and open, is short and lies smooth and flat to the
body." I cannot agree more, but this type is exceedingly hard to
find these days.

      In conclusion I would suggest that separation of the varieties in
competition at breed level should be targeted in order to promote
graduation of individuals, to establish their quality within their
respective varieties. Strict separation should be avoided, at least
until sufficient numbers of smooths have been obtained. Only at
that stage, will strict separation be required to benefit both
varieties and eliminate the present intermediate coat types.

Waterdown, Ontario
June 18, 1990
 


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