1- Comparative Analysis of Two Different Strains of Anatolian Shepherd 2- Stray Street or Pariah Dogs 3- Interview with “Beşli Ismail Kara 4- The Steppe Monster: Bozkir Canavari 5- Malak 6-The Greyhound of Anatolia: The Turkmen Tazi 7- Bogus: The Wrestling Anatolian 8- Castration For Economy 9- Interview with Geygel and Sarikecili Yoruks
10- Stub Tails and Cropped Ears 11- Dwindling Flocks and Vanishing Coban Kopegi 12-Yal 13- Annihilated Yoruks And Goats; Prospering Pine Needles And Kangals (not appeared in CC)
Interview with "BEŞLİ"
Interview wıth “BEŞLI” ISMAIL KARA
DOG WRESTLING in ANATOLIA
“Besli, first of all I want to thank you for the opportunity that you are giving me for this conversation. I also want to thank you for the puppy you gave me back in 2002.”
Besli smiles with his eyes and says, “Not at all.”
ISIK: How long have you been dealing with dogs?
BESLI: Since I was 9 years old.
ISIK: How long have you been involved with the wrestling matches?
BESLI: After I came back from my military service in 1955, I started going to wrestling matches in Kutahya, Denizli, Manisa, Sarigol, Burdur, and Antalya.
ISIK: Why do you like the Karabas?
BESLI: A dog with “karabas” (a black head) is an economical dog. There is nothing wasteful about it. It is good-looking and handsome.
ISIK: Is a dog with all black claws better than one with some white claws?
BESLI: Some people look at those, but in actuality it makes no difference.
ISIK: What if there is a white spot on the tip of the tail?
BESLI: It is not a problem. When we choose an “enik” (puppy), we choose the good and strong-looking one.
ISIK: What do you have to say about the “ala it” (pinto dog)?
BESLI: When a dog is karabas, people insist on calling them “Kangal,” because the Sivas Kangal dog is generally black-masked. Nothing is wrong with “ala it.” The mighty God creates all of them.
ISIK: Does “kaba it” (a rough-coated dog) not wrestle?
BESLI: It does if it is well taken care of. One needs to love the dog as he loves a child. My dogs get to a point that they cannot eat bread, milk, egg, and meat (meaning he feeds them well).
ISIK: Which coat type is more resistant to cold, the kirik (short coat) or the kaba?
BESLI: The “tülü”(long-haired) ones are really more resistant to cold. How does it feel when you go out without your jacket?
ISIK: Do akits (white dogs) wrestle?
BESLI: Why not? Of course they do. A woman who does not leave her house, the rooster who crows three times, and the dog that comes across and knocks right in the middle are preferred. (Besli said the above in his normal rhyming manner; it sounds nicer and more effective to hear it in the original language.)
ISIK: What is the importance of size in a “Boğuş” (wrestling match)?
BESLI: I would not let a small dog wrestle against a big one. They must be equal in size. Anyone can have a weak dog that is choked (knocked down along with a grip on the throat). It is not an accomplishment. The value is created when you have a good one choked. 1/40 of the time (means very rarely, but not impossible) a small dog can knock a large dog down.
ISIK: What is the most important quality in a wrestling dog or in a shepherd dog?
BESLI: The heart. (He means the bravery.)
ISIK: At what point do you decide that a dog is the loser?
BESLI: When a “pehlivan” (human wrestler’s) back touches the ground, he says “pes” (OK; lost). When the dog is knocked down, I consider that he has lost. I count to three and that is the end.
ISIK: How do you choose a wrestling puppy?
BESLI: The right blood needs to be found in its parents.
ISIK: Could a wrestling puppy and a shepherd puppy come from the same litter, or not?
BESLI: What do they say? “ Does any boy born to any woman become a ‘pehlivan’?” You must search for the good “vein.” When a dog gives birth to 15 pups, only one can be a wrestler. (Besli is exaggerating to demonstrate that only one dog in about 15 might be a wrestling candidate. (Litter sizes in Turkey are not large.) This wrestler pup adheres to or complies with its true roots. A month old puppy will show whether it is a candidate for wrestling. It dominates the rest of the puppies. It will not let the others get the best nipple. It has a better structure and is stronger than the other puppies. It is too hard to tell about the puppy’s temperament when it is two days old. Some people inflict pain on the puppy to see its pain resistance and forecast from that. It is wrong to inflict pain on babies.
ISIK: How long has it been since the wrestlings were first organized?
BESLI: Since my grandparent’s grandparent’s time. It is part of our culture.
ISIK: We call the the dog matches “wrestling” or “choking” (güreş or boğuş) here in Denizli and in the Aegean part of Anatolia. We do not call them fights. Why is that?
BESLI: It is because our dogs wrestle. Pitbulls fight, because they intend to damage each other. Our dogs are not crazy. Shepherd dogs wrestle, because they intend to test each other’s strength and will power. Camels wrestle too. They do not fight. Rams toss each other. Are they fighting? No, they are learning about each other. When the opponents become too stubborn equally, then the testing becomes a fight. You have been at the wrestling events. How many dead dogs have you seen? How frequently have you even seen blood? Almost no death and minor injuries, right? When two men wrestle, they get injured. You can see bleeding noses or a broken bone, but rarely. Do you see why we call it wrestling now?
ISIK: What if my argument is that there is still a possibility of death?
BESLI: When you drive, there is a possibility of death. Driving is intentional, and you can die. Therefore, driving must be banned, as it requires wearing seat belts. Life goes with death. They are together. Do not try to separate them. Our dogs wrestle. It is our and their intention. There is no forcing involved. Besides, some people do not wrestle their dogs, and we do not judge them because they do not test their dogs the way we do. Some people do not go to school and the society judges them. Besides, who says the dogs are killed? How many dogs have you seen or heard of that died in a match?
ISIK: None, so far. Man slaughters millions of heads of livestock and poultry daily, and these animals must not enjoy their throats being slit or being shocked with an electrical tool so that their hides can be skinned and their feathers plucked before they are even dead. They are given no chance to resist. They will die for sure. We can justify the systematic mass murder of animals and the ravaging of forests for our comfort and pleasure, and in order to not feel too bad about ourselves, we have to come up with some exceptions or double standards. Like treating the horses nicer than the cattle, and calling the horses “noble” and the cattle “dumb,” or defending comfort rights of domestic dogs while exterminating the wolves and the leopards.
BESLI: Man is the boss. The trouble is knowing whether he is just and fair or not.
ISIK: What is a Malak?
BESLI: It is a separate breed. It can be found all over Anatolia.
ISIK: What is a Kangal? Did you know of the existence of the breeds Kangal or Akbas 30 years ago?
BESLI: If my memory is not misleading me, Kangal has been around since the 1970’s-80’s. The name was changed from Karabas recently. We have dogs here in Denizli that are more successful than the Kangals. Some Kangal people met the right people at TRT (Turkish Radio Television) and advertised them cleverly. These Kangal people bring dogs from the city of Kangal to wrestle against our dogs, but they cannot compete with our dogs. Dogan Kartay comes here and collects breeding stock from us. The outcome of the wrestlings tells about the quality of our dogs.
There was Akbas before the 1980’s. We called them “Akkus.” They were everywhere.
ISIK: What color must a Kangal be?
BESLI: Kangals are generally karabas dogs, but there are “alabas” (pinto head) Kangals as well. If the trait for “ala” is in the Kangal’s ancestors, it shows up in the progeny.
ISIK: Is it preferable to have a bitch that throws fewer puppies?
BESLI: The puppies of a bitch that gives birth to fewer puppies are handsome. A bitch has eight nipples, but the fewer the puppies, the better the bitch.
ISIK: How do you breed the bitches?
BESLI: Years ago, when a bitch came into heat, any dog that was dominant enough could mate with her. Now we breed bitches with the successful dogs. This improves the wrestling quality faster.
ISIK: How about inbreeding?
BESLI: You would not see sibling-to-sibling breeding. We do father-to-daughter and father-to-close-cousin breedings. It is sometimes good to crossbreed with dogs from other regions. Make sure not to lose the main characteristics of the dog. Once you catch a nice line, do not lose it.
ISIK: What is your comment on crossing dogs with wolves?
BESLI: Now some people cross their dogs with wolves. The crosses are very solid and sharp dogs. They do not give up in a match. They have better stamina. Some come with erect ears.
ISIK: What were the dogs of Baklan and Cal like in the past?
BESLI: We used to bring dogs from the mountain villages of Cal. Those dogs were very famous. They had long legs. They were pretty tall dogs. Those dogs used to be as famous as the wrestlers of Kirkpinar (a town where the national wrestling matches between men are performed every year). At that time, the Baklan dogs were OK, but the Cal dogs were much sharper than ours.
ISIK: What happened to those dogs?
BESLI: Our dogs mingled blood with them. The forestry people banned the goats and the sheep in the Cokelez and Besparmak Mountains. People had to sell their flocks. Some left, but life is hard on them now. There used to be at least fifty dogs in any village. Today some have none.
ISIK: I remember when I was a child, my father had to pull his car to the left and we had to wait for the flocks to cross the road, sometimes for up to fifteen minutes. I remember those huge goat and sheep herds with large, mighty dogs, but certainly you know the times prior to my childhood.
ISIK: Why do some dogs bark a lot?
BESLI: This also is inherited. Some people talk a lot, but what they say bears no importance. Dogs that bark less are preferred.
ISIK: Is it the bitch or the male dog that barks more?
BESLI: It is the bitch.
ISIK: Is a bitch ever wrestled?
BESLI: Yes, but rarely. Bitches wrestle the other dogs a lot when they are with the sheep herds.
ISIK: Let’s say there are five puppies from a single whelping and you are going to keep one and kill the rest. What are your selection criteria? Do you test the puppies?
BESLI: It is hard to choose before they are a month old. The wrestling dogs are used to people. They get used to people as they see people more. For sharper dogs, restrict their interaction with people and do not handle them.
ISIK: Could you claim that the eastern Anatolian dogs are better than the Denizli dogs
BESLI: We see the results here. Top Kangals have been brought here to Denizli and they fail.
ISIK: What is the difference between your wrestling rules and the ones in Maras?
BESLI: We do not let the dogs wrestle until they are totally exhausted, and we do not let the dogs reach the point of killing each other. As a referee, I interfere when I feel it is necessary, and my decision is final. If a dog screams or tucks his tail between his legs, he is considered “choked” (meaning beaten). Why does he lower his tail? He is saying that he submits. He screams. He is saying, “I am scared thus I cannot challenge.” If we see these signs, we consider it the end of the match.
ISIK: What do you think is going to happen to the wrestling dogs, after the wrestling matches are completely over?
BESLI: The dog’s value will be evaporated.
HALIL COKAK (a shepherd present at the interview): The wrestling dog owner says, “If I cannot have my dog wrestle, then why would I keep him?”
BESLI: Why does someone pay $5,000.00 for a dog? Because he expects the dog to triumph. This kind of dog requires a worthy opponent.
ISIK: Is the kurtbogan (wolfkiller) trait inherited or is it taught to a puppy?
BESLI: It is in the veins (inherited).
ISIK: Is it true that the darker the dog, the more kurtbogan it becomes?
BESLI: No. It is not a matter of color, but of heart (bravery).
ISIK: What is the ideal way to feed a wrestling or a shepherd dog?
BESLI: The food needs to be balanced. It should be a combination of eggs, milk, meat, bread, and yal. However, feeding a lot of meat burns the dog. You should feed the dog more bread or yal than meat. (When Besli says, “Meat burns the dog,” he means that the dog was fed too much animal protein and it slowed down the dog’s growth.)
ISIK: Do the “salli” (rectangular/long) or square dogs wrestle better?
BESLI: A salli dog bumps the opponent with greater impact by using its body like a log. A square dog, on the other hand, can turn itself around or turn around the opponent faster.
ISIK: Is there any relationship between the dogs that have dew claws and the ones that have none?
BESLI: No, there is no relationship.
ISIK: Some dogs have black spots inside their mouths. What does that mean?
ISIK: Why do we not see “sirtlan” (brindle) and black dogs in the wrestling matches, yet we see fawn and pinto dogs?
BESLI: There are brindle dogs and they are proven to be good. They come from Maras.
ISIK: Will you continue serving as a referee in the matches?
BESLI: There are so many pressures on me imposed by the government and the animal rights people. I am too old to take too much stress. I liquidated my dogs like many other fans.
ISIK: What happens if everyone like you quits?
BESLI: When people like me die, these top quality dogs will go extinct. It takes at least two years to raise a wrestling dog. It takes decades to collect the nice bloods, and concentrate and filter the qualities. A puppy candidate has a real match after it is two years old. It takes investment in terms of time, money, and expertise. Anything we villagers enjoy doing is banned. We cannot plant what we choose to plant. Animal lovers do not cry when our soldiers fight against the Kurdish terrorists and die, but they come and interfere with our traditions along with some foreigners. They are saying that we will be in the European Community (EC) soon. Therefore we must be more civil. We are what we are. Although collars are protective, wolves do not like spiked collars, which is how they remain wolves. We are an easy target for these people, but the really important matters like the funds of taxpayers stolen from the banks, lost and underpaid farm products, unemployment, orphan children, and the poor population bear no importance. These dogs are competitive yet gentlemanly creatures of God, and we love them because of the mighty God. We love these dogs, but we seek different qualities to respect in them, compared to the city people. We like their souls; the noisy city dwellers like their shape. Well, if you reduce these dogs into pets to be petted, then they no longer possess any quality to respect in themselves and we do not respect them. The city people do not make their living from the soil and they raise nothing to consume, yet they have all kinds of luxuries, and they consume our products and then come here with such arrogance and tell us what to do. They act like God because they have no fear of God in their hearts. God is in exile. City people and Westerners love their dogs, whereas we are proud of our dogs. You know why we are proud? Because they perform.
ISIK: Animal rights people state that it is cruel to have the dogs fight. That is why they have dog exhibitions.
BESLI: Stop boxing first. Two men punch each other and it is a sport! Is it not cruel to raise the dogs in the city, in houses, or in kennels? Shows are for showing. How do you know which horse is faster? You race them. How do you know which cow yields more milk? You milk them. How do you know which shepherd dog is better? You wrestle them. Why? Because a dog that cannot wrestle cannot protect the flock. Besides, we enjoy wrestling as a nation. It is a man-to-man, dog-to-dog challenge. It is manly. It is noble. Yet it is not European. Well I am Turkish!
ISIK: By the same token, the Spanish have bullfights and they are part of the EC. The French and Hungarian force-feed the geese and they are part of the EC. Europeans and Americans have been raising animals on antibiotics and growth hormones in the feedlots, keeping poultry in the battery cages, sows in the crates, and now they are imposing those practices on the Turks. The Turks traditionally chose extensive farming, not intensive, and did not wipe out the wolf population systematically in order to keep more livestock, and yet they just cannot pass the test. Westerners brand their animals or make holes in their ears for identification purposes. After the pressures from the EC, now the cattle have to be tagged in Turkey. Westerners castrate their animals for better management. These issues are all about human interests, not about animal rights. I see your point.
BESLI: Obviously you know about their practices more than we know in this small town. We had to quit on our sheep and cattle. We always had the wrestling dogs that did shepherding. The shepherd dogs always wrestled or challenged the other dogs from the other herds when several herds grazed on the same pasture. Wrestling the dogs stems from their original activities. The only activity left for us and for our handsome dogs to do is wrestling. These wrestling dogs will disappear with us. Look at the shepherd dogs of Cal. Their numbers are so decimated that you can hardly find just a regular shepherd dog in the villages. Some villagers and farmers and shepherds who cannot pursue their old ways anymore do still raise a few wrestling dogs. However, the number of dogs today is not even 1/10 of the dogs of yesterday. It is being reduced every day. You told me that they register these dogs in the USA and breed them in kennels in Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara in order to preserve them. They will preserve the names of the dogs with useless and unproven samples. We do not collect their names. We remember the ancestors for about three generations.
ISIK: So you pass them through each other, through the best ones to the next generation. In other words, you import the past into the future and make the past a better today. You are preserving the dog, not the names. Is that why you said, “Not any boy born to any woman becomes a pehlivan”?
BESLI: The blood is essential, yet being pehlivan is about wrestling, not about a lead pencil recording or an exhibition.
If I am not mistaken, Besli was born in 1936 in Baklan, Denizli. He is a Wiseman from the old times. His hands are worn out just like his wife’s from working with soil and animals. The couple has constant smiles on their faces.
Besli is Ismail Kara’s nickname. He is also called Grandpa Besli. Besli has very warm, greenish-blue eyes with plenty of light in them. He started blinking his eyes. I realized that he was tired and bored and frustrated, and I had to thank him for his time, his genuine expertise, and for being a warm host. I wished him a long and healthy life. We finished our tea as we ate sweet biscuits in his traditionally-decorated village house that hosted all kinds of pleasing aromas from the fields, like apple, pear, quince, cantaloupe, flour, and hay. As my shepherd friend, Halil, and I got up, he opened the door and the cool air rushed inside bringing the sheep and soil odors from the high steppes. He sent us on our way with blessings, saying, “Ugurlar olsun.” (Have a good trip).
Whenever I think about him, his image brings to mind the large, handsome, quiet, and mainly brave dogs of the steppes. Whenever I think about his shiny eyes, I feel the passion and patience in his soul. I feel so lucky that he always shared what he knew without any reservation, and passed at least part of his culture on to me so that I could share it with you.
Denizli 28 April 2006,
Castration for Economy
Castration For Economy
A vet friend of mine recently attempted to castrate a Buck who was 8 years old; he died in three days in pain. His witty reasoning was to eat buck meat without any buck odor! He did not castrate him early, because he used him as a stud buck for several years. Then the buck died in agony after all his service! This is how humane people can be, including industry sponsored vets. If we look at Old Spanish cattle history, Spanish had no neutering practices and they bred the Long Horn that formed the basis of American cattle industry for about 100 years. No castration was practiced on the black fighting Bulls and they were the basis of the Long Horn Cattle. Steers exhibit a different horn growth compared to Bulls. J.F. Dobie, in his book the Longhorns noted “Bull horns were generally thick and stubby, though some grew rather long, and many were very sharp. Stag males castrated late in life, develop horns more like those of a bull than those of a steer.” Neutering pets is another modern practice like cattle or dog shows or pedigree keeping.
Both growing an ASD to its full potential and neutering it at the same time are not possible. Should neutering happen before the dog is 9 months old or before it starts marking its territory by raising his leg he will end up with an incomplete growth. The ASDs enlarge their bulk after about 9 months old and that is when their heads become larger and this process continues all the way up to 20 months. The humane approach would be to shoot the dog that needs to be neutered. For some the process of cutting that is neutering must be required to make the dog complete! The alternative humane approach is neutering the dog when it is about a week old, like a castrated child, when it bleeds less and feels less pain.
Neutering a dog when it is 24 months old would give its owner a larger dog only. However the neutered dogs cannot secrete the same hormones that the intact ones can. Therefore they cannot excel at their protective duties. The trauma that the dogs go through is not humane (I have a different understanding of being humane), considering the age of the dog.
Castration specialists do not consider the effect of the hormones on the mental and physical health of the dog into consideration. All the hormones produced by the brain have purposes. They are regulators, triggers and even neutralizers.
Some ASD owners advocate neutering the dogs so that they would not wander for mating purposes. ASDs are roamers and the negative aspect of roaming is offset by their territoriality. Roaming is also an extending patrolling. An ASD whose instinct has not been removed via surgery will evaluate its territory differently than the neutered one. For such a dog, the distance it can see is its territory. Today roaming may not be acceptable for farm conditions, but then a mastiff and a Ridgeback or a GSD could do the same job. Why do we need an ASD? I know roamer dogs that come back with foxes and wolves and wild boar piglets. On the other hand I know a female ASD in Turkey that the shepherd initially thought was a cowardly dog, but then he realized that she loves sheep. If she were neutered when she was very young, the shepherd could not possibly know how good a shepherd dog she was. She could not have reached the stage of being selected as a good breeding dog. She was a white dog and it was impossible to tell that there was a dog in the flock. She was very quiet. She would just stick her head among the sheep and watch. Some males do the same thing. They are never castrated. Let’s keep in mind that what an ASD means, not what it is that we envision. It is now time to admit that “neuter” is a safe, soft and dishonest word which we exchange for “castration”.
Above is a clue for cattle ranchers in the USA who are concerned about wolf attacks on the cattle. Cattle protection requires roaming. People discussed this before and concluded that ASDs are not good for cattle protection, however there are Turkish cattle dogs that protect cattle that I have seen in Kayseri in central Anatolia and Rize in northwest Anatolia. Most Turkish dogs roam because of the historical and traditional animal husbandry in Anatolia.
The question that needs to be posed to the pro-castration folks is: What makes the dog roam or what goes on in the mind of the dog that makes it roam?”
I have different approaches of reasoning against the castration, but I also believe that the owner should make the final decision and should not be judged or prosecuted by the clubs or animal rights hobbyists.
The animal rightists as a political power needs to be approached carefully when castration in discussed. I met a few of them. According to them “it is OK to crop the tail of a hunting dog, but it is not OK to crop a tail of a GSD or crop the ears of an ASD, yet the dewclaws must go! Castration is healthy. It is about animal welfare. It is OK to make double holes on the both ears of a cow to tag her, but it is not OK shoot a fox, and again it is acceptable to kill badgers suspected having TB”. If it exists, I cannot follow their divisive logic. People can be so hypocritical. They respect more the rights of a dog, but they do not respect the animals that they eat. The same mentality secretes beliefs like “A horse is a noble animal, but a cow is dumb.” I can extend this infected mentality right into the politics but it is not necessary. I have visited a cattle market and watched cattle cry with large tears in their eyes as their horns are cut of with saws as their faces covered with blood. Yet a group of people in the USA is putting all their efforts into stopping Greyhound races!
There is a very simple description of a neutralized animal: testicle-less, ovum-less animal. But it is not the same with ear-less or dew-claw-less, because it is about a future without any reproductive possibility.
This is not about animal rights. It is about communistic repression. A dog without ears can still pass its genes, but it is not possible without the reproductive organs. Those two surgeries cannot be compared.
My sister neutered her English Cocker recently when the dog was about eight years old, because she did not want to breed her. She was neutered when it was clear that she was going to have health problems and it was too late to breed her.
The vets might say “well it is good for the animal’s health, if it is not going to be bred”. What if he or she needs to be bred late in their lives? I know a few bitches that they have not been bred until they were 6 years olds and then they gave birth to healthy puppies from promising males. Apart from that I really believe that we need to ask another question which is “what happens when we castrate?” Take at a look at the bull’s case; it becomes more docile, when it becomes a steer/bullock. Bulls are not suitable for draft purposes but only oxen. A horse is converted into a gelding because the rider needs a calmer and more manageable horse. It is the same with the dogs. Docility is the opposite of aggression and protection requires aggression without violence. If one does not need protection then he does not need a protection dog like ASD. Yet some recent research about the behavior change in dogs after the surgery found that castrated dogs could become more aggressive than their intact siblings. This kind of aggression is one that is caused by the lack of balancing hormones that they are supposed to be part of the general mechanism of the dog. The appointed experts are like children who like to fix things even when they are not broken. No wonder they end up with comics instead of real characters. Striping the organs and qualities of animals and plants in order to optimize or rather maximize their production is simply modern Frankesteinism. I wonder why modern Frankesteins build new domestic life forms by combining various organic parts of animals and plants. Perhaps they work on this subject in cooperation with GM voodooists.
Another concern: most of the time someone who is experienced enough can tell about the temperament of a dog when the dog is about a month old, but there are exceptions. Some dogs show their true color when they are 6-9 months old. I had an ASD and he was a coward until he was 5 months old and one day he transformed into a Samurai. Had he been castrated he would not have had a chance to pass his valuable genes. Some dogs need an opportunity to show their deeply buried values. Some dogs are shy like people, but they can change when they are in a comfort zone or when they accomplish something important for them.
Again, agreeing with the castration practice in general is one thing; managing and oppressing the owner of the animal is another. The owner should have the final word about what part of the animal needs to be chopped off, not the institutions of technocracy or irresponsible but authorized, power hungry midgets of bureaucracy. I find it hard to listen to the so-called “animal lovers” when they repeat the memorized slogans about animal welfare. The impression they make is if you are not like them, then you must not be an animal lover. Does it sound familiar to you? “He that is not with me is against me”. This dilemma is so false that it can only generate fallacy.
I wonder if anyone calculated the money annually spent on “chop off operations” on dogs and cats in the USA and in the United Europe. The dogs and the cats are not the beneficiaries for certain.
Sep 03, 2007
Stub Tails and Cropped Ears
As it applies to ASDs, not all dogs have a tail. Some dogs are born with short, rudimentary tails. Other dogs have their tails docked short soon after birth. Dogs without tails and those whose tails are commonly docked often belong to the herding and working breeds of dogs. In these breeds, a long tail is considered a disadvantage or a hazard, depending upon the dog's intended usage or line of work.
When people talk about dog tails, they associate the tails with communication. It is perceived as an organic and silent tool for communication. According to this approach tailless dogs must be lacking communication skills. The fact of the matter is that tail is the barometer of the dog’s mind. Dog does not communicate with its tail; although it cannot be denied that the visual position of the tail may have some affect on the communication, the tail movements are essentially the end result of mental state of the dog. We humans are very creative at the process of identifying the sources of our information. Some attribute the tail movements to communication. Dogs can use their tails and ears in the absence of dogs or humans. Reaction is not communication, but only taking a position. Our interpretation is limited to our perception.
Most veterinarians may believe that ear cropping, the removal of the earflap for purely cosmetic reasons, is inhumane, so they refuse to do it. They may also believe that dogs communicate with other dogs and with humans through their ear language. However droopy-eared dogs cannot effectively maneuver their ears like GSDs. Therefore since they have almost no ear position they must have very limited means of early communication. If they wanted to, they could have seen that by cropping half of the ear, they could have been helping the dog to communicate better. Clearly their choice is subjective one. The same vets do not mind pulling the dewclaws off the dog. Because they reason that they can get caught by the thorny brush! ASDs in their native conditions can manage without their dewclaws getting caught much like Great Pyrenees. And they have been effectively communicating with their cropped dewclaws. What the bright observers are terribly missing because they have probably never become one with the dog is that dogs communicate with their torso, eyes and vocal cords. The tail is located at the rear of dog. A tail does not function like a human’s hands. Then human hand communication differs from one culture to another. The head, eyes and mouth of a dog are the organs that face another dog. They are the front liners. A dog that does not want to communicate turns its back to another dog. In addition to these, dogs’ scents give them material to process and it takes place in the brain not in the tail.
The ears of some goat breeds with very long ears in India are sometimes cropped because of the vegetation with thorny barks and branches. Long, hanging is not natural so they are shortened to help the goat move easily. Some goat breeds like Maltese’s udders are covered with a goat bra in Anatolia so that the udders do not get caught in the maquis. ASDs working in the maquis can easily tear their ears.
ASDs hear better with cropped ears. One can try to hear the same sound with an open ear and then try it with a folded ear. It is the same with the dogs. Dogs with pricked ears can rotate their ears towards the source of sound. ASD with ears can do the same but what they receive is not the same with that of a wolf receives. By cropping the ears the dogs not only can rotate the ear, but receive more input as well.
Shepherd dogs have larger ears than wolves. Hence a dog’s large ears which increase its effective surface area. Heat loss occurs by pumping blood into its ears of any mammal. By removing half of the ear the surface are is reduced in to half. That way a shepherd dog looses less heat from its ears. The same can be observed in Polar Bears and Arctic Fox clearly.
Lost heat can be compensated either by moving and therefore eating or only by eating alone. This solution is not viable under traditional and natural settings. Although ear cropping for this reason only may not be received as a just reason, its benefit in lowering the heat loss is apparent.
Swollen earflaps are technically called Aural Hematomas. They are a fairly widespread condition in dogs. It is believed that there is a link between swollen earflaps and excessive flapping of the ears. Swelling is caused by a ruptured blood vessel after bleeding has occurred inside a tissue. When a blood vessel within the earflap ruptures the earflap swells with blood. This condition causes a significant change in the carriage of the ear. An aural hematoma can disfigure the ears. A dog with cropped ears does not have such problems.
Long droops ears protect the eardrum from external substances such as rain, dust and wind. This protection comes with a drawback. Whatever enters the ear, cannot exit by itself. Assistance is required. A foxtail enters the ear needs to be pulled out by a vet with special tools. No air circulation in the hanging ears makes the ear stinky and uncomfortable for the dog. This conditions invites fungal growth as well. While hair is growing inside, dust, mites, and tick use ears as breeding ground. I have witnessed that a GSD, Ridgeback-cross used to have sever fly infestation during the summer in Texas. Medication was a temporary solution since he lived outdoors with horses at all times as a guard. His summer ears were so bloody that other dogs had to help him by licking his ears.
A dog scratching its ears for either it is infected with mites or fungus will cause the ears bleed that will invite more problems. One may object all the above by reasoning that modern medicine can cure everything. Nevertheless the subject here is about unspoiled Anatolian Shepherd Dog that works independently out in the open for the whole year under any kind of weather.
Ears are cropped in Turkey in the villages also because cropped ears are less subject to be ripped during an encounter between two dogs or between a dog and wolf. Apart from that it is believed that a cropped ear dog is a handsome dog. The modern medical and scientific philosophies claim that they provide answers for any problem and situation. The traditions of that past may seem brutal and meaningless to many, but this conclusion is out of convenience not out of knowledge and experience. It seems to me that is too expensive to waste the accumulation of thousands years of traditions thinking that the recently released version of “Homo-Consumer” knows better.
Tail has survival functions. A thick tailed dog would curl its tail around its body in the freezing cold, cover its face and insulate energy. Very swift dogs use their tail as a counter balance tool when they make sudden sharp turns. A tail also can be used as a stirring wheel in the water and a fly repellent in the fly infested areas.
Yet some dogs born without tails and some dog breeds come without tails like Old English Sheep Dog and ASD. These dogs like hyenas have very short tail can perfectly communicate and even survive in the freezing temperatures. Stub tailed dogs have a tendency to be shorter horizontally.
In the northeastern part of Anatolia some shepherds get rid of 1/3 of the tail. Most shepherds anywhere in Anatolia do not like very long tails. Whether it has a logical base or not they feel long tail comes with less courage.
Tail docking seems to be a cultural practice more than practical use. As explained above cropped ears have several advantages like not getting chopped of during a fight. Some dogs are very sensitive to flies in the summer. Their ears are infested with blood sucking flies. If we let Alabias leave in their traditional settings we might as well possibly see some individuals coming up with tail and parasite related problems. This has not been tested so we cannot explain the validity of health related docking reliably. However the crevices of a long fat tailed sheep’s tail is a breeding ground for some flies. A very curled tailed of a dog may serve a similar nest under certain conditions. On rare occasions I have seen dogs with broken tails. Who knows how they were broken. It must be very painful. It is like castration the sooner the better -less painful-.
No tail docking or the infrequency of it in Anatolia proves that ASDs are from Anatolia mainly not from Turkmenistan although Turkmen tribes migrated to Anatolia 1200 years ago. Why would they leave their practice behind but not their dogs? Turkmen might have become a minority among the natives. Finally they must have abandoned the practice. Perhaps the suggested Central Asian flies did not escort the dogs all way into Anatolia!
Tail docking is not about nature but nurture kind of choice. Inflicting pain on the dog is has indirect benefits for the shepherd to observe the puppy under physical pressure. This is purely cultural. It is a sort of test. A shepherd does not crop the ears of a puppy to inflict pain but takes advantage of the reaction of the puppy when the ears are cropped. He can see which puppy screamed most as he cuts the tail or the ears. Testing is not about pleasing and pleasure. It is about selection. There is nothing such “humane selection”. There is either aesthetic oriented and culturally biased politically correct selection or purely commercial selection.
Circumcision, ear piercing and aesthetic surgeries that people go through are “humane”, because it is a human thing. Humans like to alter looks either on themselves or on animals or plants. Pets are now inserted electronic IDs by piercing their skins or cattle’s ears are pierced for management reasons which I am not for marking animals as a forced policy on people. Animals are for their owners not for the clubs or governments. Governments should have no right to intervene with people’s cultural and personal choices. Besides animals are not citizens.
Breeding stump-tailed dogs is not illegal so far, but docking is in some countries, but again it is OK to breed English bulldog. Is it not cruel to alter and bastardize a life form, furthermore genetically fix those traits because that form entertains us? It is OK to castrate but not to dock. According to the masters of twisted logic, one is humane the other is cruel because of their biased egocentric culture. This kind of culture not only loves to ban anything that does not suit it well but also likes to crush minorities and their way of life. That is how the way to repressive communistic society is paved.
Curly tails are being a new interest among the ASD breeders recently. A curly tail is basically a deformed vertebrate and man like to breed deformed animals. Deformation is a branch of domestication. Increasing the head size is another form of deformation. It has to be noted here that ASDs do not guard with their tail, so there is no correct tail type that one can base on a scale of “absolute correct”. If one thinks curled tails are pleasing the eye, he should go for it, but setting standards out of nothing is misleading and distorting. Some of the ASD breeders may have exaggerated souls, but exaggerating the dogs is torturing them. ASDs must be strong and fast, not necessarily big and large. Largeness comes after strength and speed in order to support the guarding ability.
Whether curly tailed, kink tailed or stub tailed, ASDs do not lack any shepherding qualities, just because they have no tails. Alabais may come with stub tails or their tails are cropped as a general practice. There are several heresy about ear and tail cropping, but apart from them the practice has been practiced not for showing, but for either practical or belief reasons. Missing performance is more important than missing parts. Tail and ear cropping in Doberman must not be confused with an Alabai or ASD tail and ear cropping. The former is practiced for mainly aesthetic reasons; the latter however is for functional or cultural and traditional reasons although it eventually leads to an aesthetic alteration. One may like the altered looks or not. It is purely subjective. Prejudiced standards have no place in real ASD selection for the tail does not wag the dog.
Ocean Park, WA