Health, Ethics, and Genetics:
If you’re a type 1 Diabetic, do you stop being diabetic if you cut sugar out of your diet?  If you have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism or drug addiction, […]

Hip Dysplasia is Genetics, Not Kibble

If you’re a type 1 Diabetic, do you stop being diabetic if you cut sugar out of your diet?  If you have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism or drug addiction, […]

A cutting edge treatment for canine arthritis with no cutting and no toxicity. There’s a widespread, serious, and almost universal welfare issue in dog ownership — perhaps larger in scope […]

Treating Canine Arthritis with Stem Cells

A cutting edge treatment for canine arthritis with no cutting and no toxicity. There’s a widespread, serious, and almost universal welfare issue in dog ownership — perhaps larger in scope […]

In a post from 2010, Through Anomalous Eyes, I exposed how statistical analysis proves the long rumored–and often denied–belief that Wiston Cap, the most popular sire in Border Collie history, […]

How we know Wiston Cap carried Collie Eye Anomaly

In a post from 2010, Through Anomalous Eyes, I exposed how statistical analysis proves the long rumored–and often denied–belief that Wiston Cap, the most popular sire in Border Collie history, […]

One of the most pernicious mantras in the dog world is “It’s all in how you train them!” Let’s pretend for a moment that this statement is true.  What other […]

It’s all in how you train them? Not really.

One of the most pernicious mantras in the dog world is “It’s all in how you train them!” Let’s pretend for a moment that this statement is true.  What other […]

The unending human fascination with novelty is seemingly unhindered by ethics all over the dog breeding world.  Not only are there countless examples of breeders and leaders turning a blind […]

Dogs Defined by Disease

The unending human fascination with novelty is seemingly unhindered by ethics all over the dog breeding world.  Not only are there countless examples of breeders and leaders turning a blind […]

My dogs make it through the 4th of July with the selective use of Melatonin and a ThunderShirt. I suggest you use them too if you have noise phobic dogs. […]

Melatonin + ThunderShirt = Better 4th for Your Fearful Dog

My dogs make it through the 4th of July with the selective use of Melatonin and a ThunderShirt. I suggest you use them too if you have noise phobic dogs. […]

Latest Dispatches:

Puppy Coat Color Mystery

While this blog speaks often of genetics and shepherd dogs, coat color genetics holds little interest to me save when it represents a moral issue.  But, coat color genetics is perhaps the most popular interest of dog breeders, mostly because they want to know how they can get that pretty color in their litters.  So, coat color aficionados, can you solve this puzzle?

Here are photos of a sire and dam, and their puppies.  How can two parents that display white markings produce puppies that don’t?

The Sire

The Sire

The Dam

The Dam

Their Puppies

Their Puppies

Where are the white markings?

Where are the white markings?

Leave your theories in the comments, please.

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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Hip Dysplasia is Genetics, Not Kibble


If you’re a type 1 Diabetic, do you stop being diabetic if you cut sugar out of your diet?  If you have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism or drug addiction, do you prevent having alcoholic children if you abstain from drinking?  If you’re allergic to peanuts do you cure the allergy by not eating peanuts?


You can prevent, limit, or forestall manifestation of a disease path with nurture, but this doesn’t mean that the disease path itself originates in nurture or behavior, and managing it in this generation does nothing to solving it in the population as a whole, especially going forward.

If your collie is MDR1, you don’t solve the disease simply by NOT giving them MDR1 drugs. It’s still there.  The weakness will be passed on.

This is not a profound idea, but it’s a concept that I see abused regularly, even by people who claim genetic literacy.

Example 1: Uric Acid disease in Dalmatians

All traditional Dalmatians are homozygous for the disease gene causing Uric Acid disease. All of them have two copies. There’s no diversity on that one gene in the breed.

And yet all Dalmatians don’t suffer the problems the same. Does this mean the disease is not genetic?  No.  Does this mean that the best path to limiting the disease is a nurture strategy versus a genetic strategy? No.

The renal disease of the sort Dalmatians get is fleetingly rare outside of Dalmatians. Other breeds can safely process purines in their food and don’t produce excess uric acid which leads to kidney stones. We can give Dalmatians a special diet which tries to avoid the disease much like denying a genetic-alcoholic booze or avoiding peanuts for someone with the allergy.

Before the High Uric Acid gene was identified, you could even run an analysis on the disease expression across generations showing that its “heritability” was some X percent where X is less than 100.  Meaning that if both parents had kidney stones, not all of their children necessarily would.

Idiots use this number to say that “it has a genetic component but is not fully genetic.”  This is stupid, especially when we artificially limit our view to a population that is all essentially the same genetically.

“Not all Dalmatians get High Uric Acid disease! Therefore it’s food and we can manage food so we don’t have to change our gene pool!”

This ignores that of all the cases of HUA disease almost every single one comes from a dog with two copies of the bad gene.  You can certainly alter nurture in an unaffected dog and get them to express the disease, you could overdose them massively on uric acid, overwhelming even their normal ability to process it.   Sure.

But this no more makes the disease nurture than genetically homozygous Dalmatians not getting it frees it from being genetic.

Genes aren’t assured destiny. Expression is variable. Penetrance is not absolute. So what? This doesn’t change one thing about the strategies that must be employed to improve health in dogs.  And yet all too often people who DON’T WANT to outcross use this uncertainty as some justification.

“I can manage my dog’s food and get somewhat better results, so I won’t dare consider outcrossing to introduce a healthy allele and eventually breed out this problematic allele. That’d be totally uncalled for!”

The logical solution is to zap that gene and not require an entire breed to be fed a special diet to avoid disease expression.

Example 2: Hip Dysplasia is caused by kibble?

Carol Beuchat has an article about Hip Dysplasia in dogs that points to kibble as the culprit, specifically too much of it.

The results of a study show a delay and a decrease in expression of HD in dogs feed less, who are presumably less fat, which presumably puts less stress on the hip joint, which would lead to less disease expression.

This is no more profound than not feeding peanuts to an allergic, preventing an alcoholic from drinking, and stripping the Dalmatian diet of the compounds they are unable to process normally.

It’s nice advice to people and it will certainly lead to less pain in dogs, but it’s no cure. It speaks nothing to the actual cause of the disease.  Putting less stress on a weakened joint doesn’t cure the joint, it just doesn’t accelerate the disease as fast.

And yet Carol can’t help but say dumb things.

It seems clear that it has some genetic component (it is thought to be polygenic) but there are clearly environmental (i.e., non-genetic) influences as well.

This is boldly meaningless. Almost every single disease can be said to be both genetic and environmental. But not in equal measure, which is usually the next stupid thing said. It’s both, therefore it’s both equally and also therefore I don’t have to do anything about one because I can or can not control the other!

I can control the environment, therefore I don’t need to address the genetics. Or I cannot prevent X in the environment therefore it’s going to happen anyway at some rate and damn you if you remind me that genetics could drastically lower the rate no matter what the environment presents.

There has been some modest success in reducing its incidence in some breeds by screening programs, but for the most part it remains an intractable problem and the focus of many research programs.

Translation: Breeders have done next to nothing useful in combating HD in their breeds because they refuse to employ the most potent tools, like outcrossing and accelerated breeding and culling (which is how HD was bred out of many sight hound breeds). What breeders have done is said, heck, we’ll not stop our drinking but we agree to call a cab when we’re blotto and we’ll go to the hospital when we get alcohol poisoning. This decreases a few deaths here and there, so woo hoo. It does not, much like trying to breed out HD from within a closed pool with high saturation of the genes that cause it, remove the genes very fast.

In Dalmatians, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to breed out HUA disease because it was 100% saturated. It was FIXED in the gene pool.

So “breeding away” from the dogs that were diagnosed would do nothing, much like it did… it did nothing for all the years people tried to breed away from it from within the pool. Only the outcross made breeding away from it possible.

With HD we don’t have the candidate genes, BUT WE KNOW THAT HD IS PROFOUNDLY GENETIC!

How can I say that? Because it is almost entirely absent in several sight hound breeds. You can feed THOSE dogs whatever you want, limiting their kibble will not make the disease stats go down, doubling it will not make the dogs profoundly dysplastic. You can’t turn a Greyhound into a Lab by feeding it like one, you can not make it dysplastic with the normal environment which produces profoundly dysplastic Labs.

So if the Dysplasia is SECONDARY to the gene pool, talking about kibble is a diversion from reality. Greyhound breeders don’t have to feed their dogs special diets for HUA or HD. Because genetics.

Genetics trumps environment, even here.

Consequently, I was quite surprised to run across a paper (1) published in 2006 about a study that was able to substantially reduce in incidence and severity of hip dysplasia in Labradors – not by locating particular genes or implementing strategically-designed breeding programs – but by reducing food consumption.

And guess what, any and all benefits of denying calories to the Labs would immediately stop producing a reduction in HD expression in any and all future generations where such a diet was not maintained.

This is management. Not treatment. Not prevention. Not cure.

Great news, though. It is something that can immediately be done to stop current dogs from suffering. But Beuchat doesn’t run a wellness blog. She runs a breeding blog and diet is not a breeding decision. Diet is not a population genetics matter. It’s not genetic counseling strategy.

It’s a patch on a faulty tire.

In each litter, puppies were paired and one assigned to the control group and one to the treatment group. The control group was provided food ad libitum (unrestricted) starting at 8 weeks, and each puppy in the treatment group was fed 25% less than the amount consumed by its pair in the control group. Their weight was monitored and hips x-rayed at regular intervals throughout the lifetimes of the dogs.
Dogs that were fed less had dramatically lower incidence of hip dysplasia. How dramatic? Have a look at these graphs (modified from Smith et al’s paper).

Dogs allowed to eat as much as they wanted showed evidence of hip dysplasia at younger ages than dogs fed less, and the difference between the groups got worse as they got older. By 6 years of age, 50% of dogs in the unlimited food group had evidence of osteoarthritis, compared with only 10% of dogs in the restricted food group. More than 50% of the dogs in the restricted food group still had radiographically normal hips at 12 years old; in the other group, 90% were arthritic. Dogs fed 25% less food than their pair in the control group weighed about 25% less throughout their lives. Heavier dogs had worse hips.

You want to know what’s missing here to make any statement about genetics? Another two control groups of Greyhound puppies fed in the exact same manner.

When none of those dogs would develop HD, you wouldn’t be fooled into saying such things like “some genetic component.”

If somebody was to submit a grant proposal to test a treatment that promised to reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs – not by 10%, or even 25%, but 50% – I should hope it would receive very serious consideration for funding. And what about the Canine Health Foundation and also the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), which owes its founding to concern about the high incidence and crippling effects of hip dysplasia in dogs? A browse of the information on their websites about the disease makes no mention of this study or the potential benefits of lifelong food limitation.

Feeding Dalmatians a low purine diet (compounds that metabolize into uric acid) is a palliative. And frankly promoting it does more harm than good. It might help current dogs to not suffer, but it gives aid and comfort to the enemy: breeders who resolutely will refuse to do what is right for all future generations of Dalmatians by removing the disease entirely.

Feeding Labs less is a palliative. You can prevent wear on the joints and delay the disease, but the outcomes even with the low-calorie Labs were not spectacular. Their hips still went bad. Over 70% of them eventually went dysplastic. It bought them time though, more than half the more food Labs had HD by 6, the less food labs didn’t pass 50% until 12. Yay. But so what?

What is more likely: Getting the majority of Lab owners to restrict their dog’s diets or producing more sound dogs that will not get HD no matter how they’re fed, especially out of the normal given that we damn well know that the vast majority of any dog breed owners aren’t paying attention to studies?

Greyhound owners don’t need compliance from their owners.

“Less Food” – such a simple (and cost-effective!) way to substantially reduce the suffering of dogs, reduce veterinary bills for treatment, x-rays, and pain relief, and increase the amount of time the family dog can continue to lead an active life. Millions of dollars are spent every year looking for sources and cures of disease in dogs so that we can offer them better lives. Maybe we should direct some of this funding to an informational public service campaign to get this simple information to breeders and pet owners, and perhaps also some clear recommendations on dog food bags, maybe even brochures in veterinary offices.

Well meaning but stupid. Let’s divert resources from study which could solve the problem for EVERY future generation of dogs into advertising which will be an endless pit that needs to be filled every generation, forever, until someone actually manages a cure that doesn’t require owners to know and comply to some special diet.

I mentioned up top that there was also most certainly some genetic component to development of hip dysplasia, and that’s certainly worth talking about because there might be some surprises there as well.

Some? Again with the nonsense. All you need to remember is that HD was PURGED from a breed by genetic selection. Diet and environment be damned, it didn’t matter and the problem was eliminated.

Do you want an HD and HUA free breed or do you want a fussy food case that requires compliance to a so-so plan that might spare your dog some suffering, or not, but will do nothing to all the dogs in the future who you saddle with the same bad predispositions because “management” sounds more palatable to breed purists than doing something that’s actually an imposition like culling and outcrossing and preserving diversity while purging disease which requires strategies that aren’t nearly so easy as just going along with the corrupt current culture.

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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Treating Canine Arthritis with Stem Cells

Dublin with a Frisbee

A cutting edge treatment for canine arthritis with no cutting and no toxicity.

There’s a widespread, serious, and almost universal welfare issue in dog ownership — perhaps larger in scope than any other health concern because it is certain to afflict almost every dog as they age: chronic untreated arthritis.  I’m lucky that all of my dogs have lived long lives, but this has meant that every one of them has eventually been afflicted with some form of arthritis.  Until now, I haven’t been comfortable seeking a more robust therapy than palliative drugs to mask or dull the pain.  But I’ve been following the use of stem cell therapy to treat arthritis for several years now and am ready to take the plunge and seek this therapy for my dogs.

Stem cell therapy offers the promise of robust and targeted arthritis treatment with limited intervention,  no crippling side effects like liver and kidney toxicity, no lengthy recovery from major surgery and something that drugs and surgery can’t achieve: rebuilding natural tissue to restore function.

That’s why I’m excited to treat Dublin’s arthritis with stem cell therapy from VetCell. I’ll be documenting the treatment and his progress here on the blog.  The process is rather simple. Your Vet extracts a bit of fat from your dog, that fat is processed into stem cells, those are injected into the arthritic joint, and that’s it.

Most animals hide their pain until it becomes too profound to mask.  They literally suffer in silence lest their display mark them as vulnerable or sick to other animals.  Many owners don’t know the subtle signs of pain, and so our dogs suffer.

Even when dogs do show outward signs of pain,  the over-the-counter options for treatment are few and unsatisfactory.  You can find dozens of varieties of pain medications for humans at the store but few if any are effective, safe, and suitable for long term treatment of your dog.

Liver and kidney toxicity of common human drugs (and even most of the prescription drugs you can get at the vet) leave many owners choosing to just not treat the pain.  I’d argue that leaving your animal in pain is a worse choice than harming their kidneys or liver, but I think I’m in the minority on this view.

Drugs indicated for canine use require frequent trips to the Veterinarian and monitoring of side effects.  Finding the right pill can be frustrating,  expensive,  and lengthy.  This additional and recurring cost also leaves too many dogs untreated or under-treated.  And at best, these treatments just mask the pain and do not treat the underlying disease path.

Surgery is available for only a few of the many locations dogs can develop arthritis and the risks,  the extensive recovery time,  and the significant cost are also barriers preventing suffering dogs from getting the relief they deserve.

I’ve never owned a dog that didn’t develop some sort of arthritis as they aged.  And until now,  the options for treatment have been less than stellar.  VetCell’s stem cell therapy is the first arthritis option that I’m actually excited to provide for Dublin, so keep an eye on the blog as I document his treatment and evaluate its effectiveness.

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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Zootopia vs. The Jungle Book


Furries of the world have a lot to celebrate this Spring as Disney rolled out two anthropomorphic talking animal blockbusters: Zootopia and The Jungle Book. Despite the universal praise for Zootopia and the predictable leftist hit pieces against the “racist,” “imperialist,” and out-dated Jungle Book, I have little doubt that in 100 years Rudyard Kipling will still have his work being adapted and no one will remember a thing about Zootopia.

Why? Because Zootopia, despite its virtues, is wholly red meat (ironically absent from its vegan utopian world) for modern progressive wish fulfillment regarding genetics and ability favoring unattainable blank slates versus genetic rationality that exists in reality. The premise is so preposterous that when you actually analyse the “utopian” world, the internal inconsistencies destroy the suspension of disbelief required to adopt the PC premise. And it’s not just a failure of extending a metaphor too far, the fatal choices are deliberate and central.

Beneath a deliciously cute cover–the animation and character design are sure to sell millions of adorable plush animals and spawn a generation of young artists who will mimic the style in their anthro art–is a surprisingly weak story that fails at nearly every turn to match the message with reality. Specifically the story pushes the trite Socialist Utopia (it’s right there in the title), where animals are so amazingly blank slate in the future that predators no longer eat prey! Like Star Trek socialism, they ignore the issues of scarcity and necessity, there is just enough food (not described but assumed vegan) for everyone and it’s hand waved where it even comes from or what obligate carnivores like Cats are even supposed to eat if not fresh and raw flesh.

The message is typical progressive rah-rah minority and special interest propaganda. There’s the “strong female lead” which is a necessity now for PC approval, and yet when positive critics claim that this character speaks against sexism, the movie itself offers no overt affirmation of this. The female bunny rabbit who strives to become the first police officer from a prey species (versus the 10% minority predator species, who dominate the job) or maybe it’s the first mammal police officer, or wait it’s the first rabbit police officer… we have no opposition presented against HER being a female, in fact there’s overtly another female cop already on the force (an elephant). Nor do we have a lack of mammals on the police force. Nor is she really the first prey species, as the police chief is a Water Buffalo. So she’s the first rabbit police officer. And yet there was no overt limitation against this happening in the world save the expectation of her parents and peers and the ability to pass the physical requirements of the tests, which the rabbit initially fails but using her smarts finally masters.

If this is an allegory for sexism, it fails because she’s never denied anything by her sex. Nor is she denied anything by her race/species. All the metrics presented in the world are objective skill and when she finds a means of passing them, she’s awarded the top position in her graduating class and is assigned to the most important post: Inner City Zootopia. Mind you, she’s then “punished” but the Water Buffalo by being assigned meter maid duty instead of being put on the case of the dozen plus missing persons cases which eventually form the plot of the movie.

Other elements of sexism against the factually female lead are also absent. For instance, her parents don’t try and talk her out of becoming a cop in favor of, say, fulfilling an implied duty to settle down and start pumping out more baby bunnies (not that they don’t reinforce the fecundity stereotype of rabbits rather often). They are fearful of the danger of the job and don’t make any mention of a gender role. No one does in fact, friend or foe.

So it’s rather unclear what the glass ceiling is against her, or rabbits or other species of animal from becoming police officers in this world. At the end we’re supposed to be fulfilled that she’s still a top cop and her ad hoc Fox partner (who is a con artist she picks up along the way to proving her viability to stay on the job) is allowed to be a cop too. These fail on examination because there are corollary animals already on the police force for all the categories we might assume that the rabbit and fox are breaking the glass ceiling for: predators and prey, meek and aggressive, mammal and otherwise, male and female.

The best glass ceiling I can muster is a comparison to the modern debate over women on the front lines of the infantry. Even this fails in Zootopia, however because unlike women versus men in human combat roles, there are much more profound physical differences in the animal world and there are nowhere near the technological levelers to compensate (such as the observation that women can use a gun as well as a man despite their general smaller lighter frames and decreased physical performance in regards to strength or otherwise. In humans, we have women who are passing the requirements that men have to pass and there’s much to be said for a smaller, faster, lighter human being able to wield a gun that is every bit as deadly). In Zootopia, without the magical hand-waving that is left unexplained, a tiny female rabbit would not last very long as a police officer in a realistic world where the first wolf driver she pulls over to ticket for speeding could quickly devour her whole.

Which brings us to the central failing of Zootopia. Despite the utopian hand-waving where predators no long predate and prey no longer pray for deliverance from being eaten, what lessons are really going to stick from this artifice when children and everyone else will be constantly reminded that in the real world, predators will still and always hunt and kill their prey. The ethics of Zootopia are built on the fundamental and unresolvable lie that life can exist without death and that some bundle of modern values can over-come the laws of nature that every living thing consumes and is consumed.

Zootopia and Jungle Book both contain the little lie: talking animals who have humanesque social structures suitable to hang a morality tale on. The big lie in Zootopia, however, is one that ultimately dooms the story to fluff instead of insight. The neutering of nature, the removal of cause and effect.

Compare the training montage of Judy Hopps to Mowgli. Both begin with a traumatic motivator: young Judy dreams of being a police officer but is assaulted by a stereotypical/cliche insecure male bully fox who scars her face. Years later we find her in the Academy failing most of the physical tests repeatedly while the female instructor declares her “dead” after every failure. But she overcomes eventually using her wits. This includes things like knocking out a Rhino in the boxing ring using the amazing powers of magic elastic ropes to jettison her body like a cannonball. While well within the realm of cartoon physics, we know that in real life you could fire a rabbit out of a cannon into the temple of a Rhino and it probably wouldn’t notice. Reality trumps the too-perfect movie logic.

Mowgli has a training montage of his own, where it’s acknowledged that he can’t run as fast as the wolf pack, and likewise he compensates with his comparative advantage, his arms and his brains. Mowgli swings from branches and vines to compensate for the physical deficiencies that he will never match the wolves at. And even still he fails when he chooses his path poorly, picking to vault off of a dead tree whose branch fails to hold his weight. His panther mentor teaches him to look for the vines encasing dead trees, the tell tale sign of their rotted nature. Which of course is foreshadowing the finale of the film where Mowgli uses his very human nature to best Shere Khan luring the beast into a trap which takes advantage of a rotted out tree, his weapon being his mind and his climbing as he has no claws to match the deadly tiger. Note that Mowgli’s adoptive wolf mother chastises him for using “tricks” which are not the hallmark of wolves, but his mentor Bagheera supports his use of cunning and technology and this is further exploited and encouraged by Baloo when he tricks Mowgli into amazing feats of engineering to create a stockpile of delicious honey. The wolves ultimately reject Mowgli because they can’t accept his nature, he will never BE a wolf or be made to be a wolf despite their rigid wolf propaganda nurture regime. Baloo has no problem exploiting Mowgli’s comparative advantage, in what is at the surface a selfish exploitation but which provides Mowgli the opportunity to grow into his true nature, to create tools, to engineer, to build and to conquer nature.

While we certainly have our own “cartoon logic” at work, where young Mowgli whips up Da Vinci worthy riggings that allow him to harvest the cliff hives in style, there is nothing inherently false about man’s ability to perform these feats, where as a rabbit will never sucker punch a Rhino into unconsciousness and when confronted with a raptor swooping down will most certainly die of a heart attack, a condition that would rather trump the notion that a rabbit would make a suitable police officer.

If Zootopia didn’t have the veneer of a positive, inclusive message the other trappings of its conceit would surely bring hell fire down upon it from the Politically Correct Offense brigade. For instance, there’s a rather extensive Easter Egg to Breaking Bad in the middle of the movie, complete with a sophisticated meth drug lab where the glowing blue drug which turns animals feral again is being cooked up by Walter and Jesse sheep donning yellow jump suits and breathing masks. Should such a scene appear in, say, a right wing Christian cartoon the progressive nannies would squeal over the crass joke and the assumed harm that it will do to make kids fall in love with meth due to their happy associations with Zootopia’s drug lab once they’re old enough to connect the dots, etc. While I personally don’t mind adult humor in kid’s movies to entertain the parents, nor do I suspect this scene will raise a generation of meth-loving tots, I find it worth mentioning the intense double standard the left employs to parse harmless and well meaning statements by those on the Right (or Libertarians now that we’ve arrived enough to be mocked), but when they make carefully planned tasteless homages to entirely unsuitable material for children, the criticism will be inaudible.

Other Zootopia failings are myriad when you simply point them out. We aren’t supposed to stereotype people based on their ethnicity, but the film is actually full of stereotypes and many of them hardly flattering. Wherein we just reinforce the reality to children that foxes are faster than sloths, bears are stronger than mice, giraffes taller than rabbits. If we are to take the species as race equivalents, the ideal society is rather horrific. There are essentially biome ghettos where different species are expected to live and stay with their own kind. Sloths are slow physically and mentally, and of course they populate the DMV. While this makes for an excellent joke, when you think about it, it rather sends the message that government employees, especially ones that deal with the public, are unqualified for their jobs and incompetent to the point of sabotage. Which happens in the film. Judy needs to solve the case in 48 hours to keep her job and a simple trip to the DMV to run a license plate begins in the morning and by the time she leaves it’s night. Ha ha ha, but obviously counter to the notion of some perfect utopia where things magically work out for the best.

One of the prominent criticisms against The Jungle Book is how racist and imperialist it is as metaphor for British colonization of India. A specific example points out how offensive it is that democracy or perhaps monarchy is being thrust on the apes and monkeys in the work paralleling British desire to tame the savage dark-skinned-men with their systems of law and government. It’s an interesting criticism because it both uses the assumed crime of cultural hegemony and cultural appropriation via natural selection of effective memes (democracy and laws are certainly cultural memes that even the most strident of progressive Marxists would laud, no?) while somehow not tarnishing those memes in the process. It’s so imperialist that you bring clean water although … yeah… clean water is sort of a good thing… but you’re still an asshole for doing it! If it’s so offensive in Jungle Book that monkeys and apes need a king, what then should we say of Zootopia? In that film the animals aren’t just granted a veneer of human society, they are fully stripped of their inherent cultures. We’re supposed to be offended at Kipling’s imperialism by having “King” Louie, this horrid shoving of British government on to animals. And yet Zootopia takes this to 11. Animals are supposed to have jobs and live in metropolitan cities and suffer the DMV and have career anxiety! Cell phones and apartments with loud neighbors and boutique shops and traffic tickets.

The left wants us to poop our pants in rage over a little bit of hereditary hierarchy — a culture which is abundantly present in many animal species — and yet there’s no grand criticism of the supplantation of animal culture with human culture and the sort of artifice of fake enclosure and institutional segregation which is exemplified in the ZOOtopia. The same people who cheer the closing down of SeaWorld’s killer whale habitats and working performances will likely not see that this movie is one big SeaWorld complete with artificial biomes and trained careers and the whole lot. Zootopia takes it even further by removing the fish the whales would be fed if that species appeared in the film (they don’t along with a host of other clades), as all the species apparently survive on carrots, blueberries, doughnuts, and popsicles. It must be noted that the character of King Louie is not the invention of Kipling, but wholly created by Disney. There is no analog for him in the original texts and frankly both the original movie and the 2016 remake are only thematically related to the works of Kipling. His works are actually more complex and interesting in their use of identity and belonging and community and how Mowgli forges an identity for himself both apart from man and from the jungle. Anyone looking for some “British imperialism is superior to primitive native culture” will not find much evidence in the actual works of Kipling…. Mowgli doesn’t find happiness in ritualized tea ceremony and copious amounts of quinine, pomp, and circumstance. But, of course, actually reading the source material was never the strong point of outraged neo-feminist-Marxist lit crit bloggers, they are all crit, very little lit.

The leftist rags also praise Zootopia as taking a stand against racism and minority rights and policing. I’m not sure how this is supposed to work, however, as in the reality of the film the minority predators (who they tell us multiple times make up 10% of the population) are actually over-represented in the government and the police force. There’s really no “Predator Lives Matter” possibility here. The Mayor of the city is a Lion. The majority of the powerful animals in the film are predators or surrounded by predators. And when the movie tries so hard to make the PC point that it’s not inherently the nature of the bad guys to be bad, the nature of the predators to be violent, etc., that lesson is doomed to fail because in the REAL world the animal kingdom is a profound lesson in nature being superior to nurture. Predators kill because that is how they evolved to survive. So what does that make of our minority vs. cops problem in humans? “It’s all in how they’re raised” falls flat when we move out of dog mommy world and into nature. So is this movie really making a positive PC point in favor of violent crimes committed by human minorities? I don’t know how you could reconcile that. Panthers might be misunderstood vegans in this film, but when kids see them at the zoo they won’t be eating tofu and reading Slate.

The strongest political message in the film stems from the concocted plot of the assistant Mayor and her sheep allies to harvest a hallucinogenic plant that makes all animals become vicious and feral, and to selectively use this drug on predator species, thus creating a safety panic within the city where the “us vs. them” mentality will be used to consolidate power in the hands of the sheep. Ruling by fear. The Lion mayor is ousted and exposed when our heroes reveal that he has been keeping the dozen-some primary victims of this drug in a secret medical facility where his scientist doctor is trying to find the cause and a cure for these otherwise model citizens who have become vicious. It becomes an odd plot point because the PC leftist overtones would certainly find an appeal to nanny-state protectionism appealing, right? These are the same people who want the powerful to run around the globe protecting the meek and injured and to provide safety and protection over freedom and risk. So a safety quarantine would seem to be well within their natural playbook of options for government to deploy in such a situation. And while it was done in secret, we’ve all seen that cries for transparency are only shrill when the opposing party is in power.

So I’m not sure what to make of this major plot point because the movie itself isn’t really sure what to make of it. The scientific work that is being done is ultimately what gives us our happy ending when all the infected animals are cured at the end, and it’s not as if their quarantine is lifted when the Lion is deposed. They just sort of toss the Mayor out as a casualty and yet keep all the things he did in response in place. Perhaps this is a failure of the extended metaphor or just sloppy writing.

The Jungle Book has no such problem because Rudyard Kipling is a superior thinking and writer to the team behind Zootopia. He envisions no Socialist Utopia nonsense where animals are suddenly vegan (and probably gluten free too!) and their blank slates are filled only with what learned sages write upon them. No, Rudyard was a keen observer of nature and nature. The animals of the wild and their behavior which was dictated by their inherent qualities and inbred assets.

Zootopia seems to send the message to kids “you can be whatever you want to be.” This is a nonsense. The Jungle Book sends the superior message: be yourself, be your better self, strive to be your best self. Zootopia with all of its heavy-handed politics creates a horrifying world where animals are stripped of their inherent nature and their culture is supplanted with the most trivial of human culture. Segregation, inbreeding, and stereotyping abound when the metaphor fails a second inspection.

The Jungle Book succeeds because the values that Kipling puts forth are actually cultural memes which are still successful today. The progressive left loves to look down their noses at the religious right fundamentalist evangelicals over issues like evolution, but they don’t seem to be at all enamored with cultural evolution, with the propagation of successful memes in the same manner as successful genes become dominant in populations. What we would call cultural hybrid vigor, the left sneers at and condemns as “cultural appropriation” or “imperial cultural hegemony.” This is what leaves them in the unsupportable position of defending mainstream and radical Islam while hypocritically condemning the abuse of homosexuals, women, minorities, etc. They have no problem with cultural hegemony when it’s their ideal culture being steam-rolled over the primitive right wingers, but if it’s the British culture colonizing India god forbid we acknowledge that globalization and modernization has done immense good to raise the standard of living and assuage poverty, suffering, disease, and strife.

These same folks await every US Supreme Court decision with anticipation that such an institution will affirm their beliefs — and institution which sits atop countless cultural memes and evolutionary forces of Western Culture, a sure symbol of democracy and a constitutional republic and peaceable resolution of conflict and rule of law and codified justice and philosophies of power and the rights of the individual versus the state — would be horrified if we suggested that instead of reason and precedent and law we settled our differences by sending out two champions to fight to the death or we play a game of death soccer where the losing team is sacrificed by the winning team. And yet when we rightly point out that “imperialism” and “colonization” and “cultural hegemony” is the reason that we no longer sacrifice the neighboring tribe to bring rain for our crops, WE are the insensitive bastards, for in progressive-la-la-land you can just wave your hands and make obligate carnivores into vegans and no culture is superior to another even though progressive culture is superior to all.

Kipling (and the distillation of his themes by Disney), despite being denigrated as a racist imperialist scumbag, ultimately tells the more uplifting story. He acknowledges nature and its very real implications, but he also sends a message that even the most overly emotional tree-huggers should appreciate. Mowgli is acculturated to the jungle. He is not totally apart from it even though he is a man-cub. His very success speaks to the notion that man is a part of nature and man can learn and love the natural world and be within it and not strictly apart from it. Man’s superiority is a fact of nature, we have evolved just as long as every other life form on the planet, and yet our gifts compared to theirs have proven superior to meet our ends. This is not unnatural, it is the very product of evolution and natural selection! Kipling writes several stories that are absent from the current Disney retelling where Mowgli interacts with humans as much as he has the jungle, and finds both acceptance and rejection. In doing so he becomes a self actualized man who incorporates the merits of his two worlds and rejects the bigotry against him from both.

Zootopia strips nature of its essential qualities, the Jungle Book does not. It revels in them and builds upon them and sets them against each other the very way that nature does every hour of every day. Despite the fantasy of elevated speaking animals, the Jungle Book is grounded in reality, in nature. The metaphor informs the story. Zootopia is not grounded at all, the metaphor is ultimately at odds with reality and thus it undermines its own message. We can read in the news the perils of people who go-Mowgli and attempt to force themselves into nature’s domain and culture without acknowledging animals for what they are. Timothy “Grizzly Man” Treadwell and the “tiger whisperer” who just lost her life both come to mind. So too can we read what happens when man denies that he is part of nature and appreciates that despite our undeniable gifts we are still just one element in a larger ecosystem. Arrogance in both extremes so often leads to our death.

Man has bested Shere Khan with our brains and our arms. Rabbits will never arrest sheep for plotting political coups over lions… the best they can do is hop after them a bit pretending to be border collies. In such, the Jungle Book original and even the Disney adaptations tell a story that ring more true. Zootopia, despite being a perfectly adorable and entertaining movie does not rise to the level of art and literature worth revisiting because its story rings so false.

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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How we know Wiston Cap carried Collie Eye Anomaly

In a post from 2010, Through Anomalous Eyes, I exposed how statistical analysis proves the long rumored–and often denied–belief that Wiston Cap, the most popular sire in Border Collie history, carried the gene for the recessive disease known as Collie Eye Anomaly.  Using the same statistical analysis, it’s also assured that Cap (the second most popular sire), was also at least a carrier if not affected with CEA.

International Supreme Champion Wiston Cap (ISDS 31154) was certainly a carrier of Collie Eye Anomaly.

International Supreme Champion Wiston Cap (ISDS 31154) was certainly a carrier of Collie Eye Anomaly.

How can we be so sure International Supreme Champion Wiston Cap was a genetic carrier for Collie Eye Anomaly if he was long dead before there was a test for CEA?

We can’t test Wiston Cap directly, he’s dead and gone. But Wiston Cap and Cap have left us a DOCUMENTED genetic legacy via the stud book. We know tens of thousands of their descendants and we know HOW those dogs are descended from Wiston Cap and Cap. Even with pedigree fraud and error, the volume of accurate pedigrees and the growing number of dogs being tested combine to inform what genes Wiston Cap had and passed on.

Every Border Collie tested today, and they’re all related to Wiston Cap and Cap, tells us a lot about that dog, a good deal about that dog’s parents, some about their grandparents, etc. and a little something about Wiston Cap and Cap.  The more dogs tested, the more accurate the picture we have of Wiston Cap and Cap.

We KNOW that Wiston Cap was a carrier for CEA because the pattern of affected and carrier dogs which HAVE been tested are more than 99% consistent with Wiston Cap being a carrier.  There is a ~0% chance that Wiston Cap was affected and a ~0% chance that he was clear.  If he were affected we would expect a very different pattern of disease in his offspring and their offspring and their offspring; specifically we would expect to see a lot more dogs being tested as carriers and affected than we do.  Likewise, if he was clear, we would not expect to see the pattern of affected and carrier dogs that we do see.

How can we know what an ancestor had without testing that ancestor?

We can test their descendants and use pedigree analysis to reconstruct with great accuracy what the ancestor’s genes looked like.  Like a Sudoku puzzle, we use incomplete information and deduction to reconstruct information that isn’t obvious when we start because we know that there are rules that were followed as the information was passed down to us.  If we start at the mouth of the Mississippi River at its delta near New Orleans, we might think we could never figure out where all this water came from, but we can. We can start going back up-stream and finding out where the tributaries enter.  If we test the water at the mouth and find there’s some toxin in it, we can even deduce where the toxin is coming from without testing all the thousands of tributaries, we can start testing concentrations as we go back upstream and find where the signal is stronger, where it’s weaker and where it’s absent and that will allow us to paint a picture of what upstream must look like.

Wiston Cap’s genes flow down to us through hundreds of streams that are defined and recorded by the stud books.  The more of these streams that we test, the more we can tell about Wiston Cap until the odds stack up and we are more certain of what Wiston Cap had than we even would be if he were tested himself (the certainty of our calculations can surpass the error rate of the test!).

How do we establish certainty about ancestors like Wiston Cap by only testing current dogs?

For some genes, we know near exactly what an ancestor had without testing them, as long as we do test one of their descendants. Your mitochondrial DNA is the same as your mother, and her mother, and her mother before her (save for the rare mutation). This mtDNA is what allows current scientists and genealogists to tell you where some of your ancestors were 20,000 years ago. For men, their Y chromosome is the same as the one their father has, and his father, and his father. Like mtDNA, we can say with great certainty that yDNA your male line ancestors had. We don’t need to test them, we know how this works.

In dog breeding, we call the y-chromosome line the “Sire Line” and the mitochondrial ancestry is represented by the “Dam Line.”  You can learn more about the popular sire lines in Border Collies in my post: Popular BC Sire Lines.

If we tested a number of direct male-line descendants of Wiston Cap, we would be able to tell with high certainty what his y-chromosome looked like (and we could even weed out pedigree fraud if we found a minority of claimed male-line descendants who did not share the same y-chromosome).  We don’t need to test Wiston Cap directly because we have thousands of offspring to test and the more of them we test the more we know we’re certain about Wiston Cap.

CEA is not sex-linked (mutation occurring on the y chromosome or the x chromosome) nor a mitochondrial disease, so this type of certainty does not apply to CEA but it does apply to other diseases that are passed on with a sex-linked or mitochondrial pattern, so it’s worth mentioning. You can brush up on the difference between mtDNA, yDNA, and Autosomal DNA in my post: The 3 Types of Genetic Inheritance.

How do we logic our way to certainty about ancestors like Wiston Cap for genes that aren’t always passed down to every offspring? 

Not all genes are deterministic like y chromosomes and mitochondria. For most of your DNA, you get one allele from your mother and another from your father. Both of your parents had two alleles from which to give you their one, so there’s some uncertainty.  Still, this does not prevent us from reconstructing what alleles they had to pass on, especially when we have multiple children and multiple generations of information.

A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but a lot of data can really clarify the situation.  For example, let’s begin with total ignorance.  We don’t know what our dog has or does not have. Our dog can be in one of 3 states: CEA CLEAR, CEA CARRIER, CEA AFFECTED.  Without knowing anything about the breed-wide distribution of CEA, we’re really hard pressed to say which one of those states is the most likely for our dog.  The breed could be devoid of CEA and if we only knew this we’d be able to say without testing that he was clear.  The breed could be saturated, and in that case we’d be certain that he was affected.

When we don’t know which of 3 states our dog is in {Clear, Carrier, Affected} we don’t know which of 9 states the parents are in: { (father clear, mother clear), (father clear, mother carrier), (father clear, mother affected), (father carrier, mother clear), … , (father affected, mother affected) }.

So we test. We get a CLEAR result.  What can we say about the parent dogs?

Well, we can say with CERTAINTY that neither parent is affected. So (father affected, mother affected) now has a 0% probability.  We can also say that any of the 9 possible states that include an affected parent are 0% probability too.  Why? Because if either or both parents are affected the offspring could not be clear.  So of our 9 possibilities, we’ve ruled out 5 of them as impossible. We know that each parent is now either Clear or Carrier.  We can assign probabilities to these, but I’ll spare you the math.

So this one test result has told us some things with certainty about the parents without testing them and other things we can apply probabilities.

As we test more offspring of these dogs (together or with other mates) we can adjust the probabilities that they are Clear or Carrier.  The more puppies that either one produces that are clear, the higher percent we can assign to them being clear.  If they ever produce an affected, we KNOW with certainty that they are a Carrier, and so is the other parent they produced an affected puppy with.

Likewise, the more dogs we test, the more we can with certainty tell what their parents would test, and the more parents we nail down with certainty, the more we can pin down the grandparents.  First we narrow the probabilities and then, sometimes, we can pin them down with certainty too.  Even without logical certainty, the more information we have the more our combined probabilities approach certainty.

So what happens when we get a CARRIER result? What do we know about the parents? 

When we know nothing else about a dog’s parents, when it comes up a CARRIER for a recessive disease we can say there are several possibilities. We know that there are 9 total parent states, and a carrier result rules out two of them (father clear, mother clear) and (father affected, mother affected).  Neither of those two states could produce a puppy that is a carrier.

For example, if all of the children of a sire are carriers for CEA and none of them are affected, we are pretty sure that the sire is affected and all the dams are clear.  Every additional child of that sire that comes up a carrier or affected makes us more certain of this.  If any child came up clear we would have to reevaluate the odds we placed on affected and carrier.  A clear child should not come up from an affected sire, so either all the other children are a statistical fluke or the sire is not actually the sire we think.

If we have a sire who has bred with multiple females, as we do in dogs and certainly as we have with Wiston Cap and Cap, we can begin to distinguish which parent is responsible for the pattern we see in their descendants.  For example, should either parent produce an affected, we KNOW that each parent is AT LEAST a carrier.  Neither one can be clear and produce an affected.  If a parent never produces a clear, we’re certain that they are more likely to be affected than a carrier.

If one parent is affected, every single one of their offspring will be at least a carrier.  So if we find that for an untested parent every tested child is a carrier and some are affected, the odds increase that the parent is affected vs. carrier.

The same logic can be used when a dog comes up affected.  We know that he got a copy from both parents so both are at best carriers, perhaps affected themselves. Looking at other offspring will begin to paint the picture of what the parents actually are.

Does the testing only tell us about untested parents or does the information reach back further in the pedigree?

There’s no limit on how many generations back a modern test will inform, but the ability of any single test this generation does fall off by a power of 2 each generation.  For example, if we only test one dog, and thus have no means to differentiate between the parents, we assign each parent the same probabilities of being clear, carrier, affected based on what the dog we tested came out.  The more puppies we test, the more we can affirm or change those percents.  But as soon as we assign any probability to a parent, we can assign a probability to their parents.  And so on.

A single test only shifts our default probabilities so much, but multiple tests across a variety of descent paths really do move the probability matrix back across multiple generations, often approaching near certainty.  Because Wiston Cap was bred a lot we have a lot of data downstream to create an accurate picture of what he was.

Every new test makes all the previous information in our probability network more accurate.  For example, if we start with only one puppy from a sire x dam being tested we can’t really differentiate the probabilities between the sire and dam. But then the dam has a new litter and several of those puppies are tested and we get a much better picture of what she is like.  This information will flow back upstream to her previous litter and will change what probabilities we assign to that sire.  Likewise, when he is bred again, and some of those descendants are tested, the information will improve our picture of him and of all his previous mates and then all their children, etc.

How can this type of analysis provide even MORE certainty than a direct DNA test?

Every test, even DNA tests, have an error rate: the results can read affected when the truth is clear.  This is why doctors will retest for important results even with tests that are 99%+ accurate.  Pedigree analysis, the sort of deduction I have been explaining, can even provide higher certainty than a direct DNA test.  This happens because one single DNA test might have a 98% accuracy rate… it only returns a false result 2% of the time.  But when a dog breeds and passes along its genes, it’s performing an event which reveals something about its makeup.  The more puppies it produces and the more puppies they produce in a documented manner, the more likely their genetic profiles will mirror the expected outcomes.

As we test all those puppies, we are at the same time performing a test on the parent, just not a direct test, but the results are still informative.  If we only perform 1 test on the parent, our results will be wrong 2% of the time.  But if we perform hundreds of tests on the children, even though the results have only half the power individually to inform the parent, the sheer number of tests makes the collective error rate less than 2%.

Can we be as certain of a derived result as we can be of a direct one?

Yes.  Because everything is actually a derived result if you think about it.  When you get your test back from the lab, do you KNOW that it’s accurate?  Or could that be the two in a hundred that are accidentally wrong?  What if they tested multiple times?  Well we can be MORE certain but not perfectly certain.  A dog who is just a carrier could test once, twice, three times as affected.  It could also, by sheer chance, always pass along its affected allele and never its clear allele and thus it could even breed like an affected dog instead of a carrier.  All possible.  Just not PROBABLE.  So even if we get that dog tested three times and he produces a dozen puppies, there is a non-zero chance we’re wrong.

But we don’t need to live life like this… it’s a very very very small chance.  So we can move along and will likely never have that come back around to bite us.  We don’t need to stress about remote possibilities.  And the fact that they always exist doesn’t corrupt the rest of our decision-making either.  I mean the Earth could end tomorrow, and if we KNEW that, you could probably skip work today and go have a last fling before the end.  But it’s not likely, so if you keep skipping work and going on flings on the remote chance that the earth will be gone tomorrow, you’re probably going to screw up your life for all the much more likely outcomes.

So yes, there’s some remote certainty that Wiston Cap was not a CEA carrier. But it’s no larger than the remote chance that if he were directly tested that he’d come up clear.  And given the entirety of the thousands and thousands of litters since that have come up with CEA based on the exact pattern we’d expect if he was a Carrier, there is NO REASON to believe anything other than that Wiston Cap was a CEA carrier.  The totality of the facts say only that one thing.  All of the testing that has been done crossed with all of the pedigrees that have been kept make Wiston Cap being a carrier as much or more certain than if we could have him tested directly right now.

So if anyone denies this, they are doing so because they don’t want it to be true, not because it’s at all a reasonable position to hold and not because it’s consistent with any facts we have.

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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