Adorable inbred Japanese dogs

I love adorable dogs. Everybody does. But what some people in Japan are doing to “customize” their adorable and socially prestigious puppies is revolting and outrageous.

Care for a Chihuahua with a blue hue?

Or how about a teacup poodle so tiny it will fit into a purse – the canine equivalent of a bonsai?

The Japanese sure do.

Rare dogs are highly prized here, and can set buyers back more than $10,000. But the real problem is what often arrives in the same litter: genetically defective sister and brother puppies born with missing paws or faces lacking eyes and a nose.

There have been dogs with brain disorders so severe that they spent all day running in circles, and others with bones so frail they dissolved in their bodies. Many carry hidden diseases that crop up years later, veterinarians and breeders say….

…Rampant inbreeding has given Japanese dogs some of the highest rates of genetic defects in the world, sometimes four times higher than in the United States and Europe. These illnesses are the tragic consequences of the national penchant in Japan for turning things cute and cuddly into social status symbols. But they also reflect the fondness for piling onto fads in Japan, a nation that always seems caught in the grip of some trend or other.

I can see getting caught up in a fad; I can understand the power of marketing and peer pressure and the desire to be trendy. But am I missing something, or is this not at the end of the day a form of torture? Pets are creatures to love like a member of your family, like a child. How could anyone do anything that carried even the slightest risk of causing an innocent animal to undergo such agony? I guess it’s just “a cultural thing” and we should respect and tolerate it as such.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 4 Comments

To a lesser extent, this is what many Americans buy into when they want dogs that have AKC papers attesting to their genetic purity. Pure bred dogs, so popular here, are just the same in-breds as these Japanese dogs. I’ve had both of my dogs (both now deceased) adopted from shelters or from private litters. Mutts are beautiful and I would never consider a “pure” inbred animal.

December 29, 2006 @ 11:41 pm | Comment

I got my cats from the shelter as well. Mutts are beautiful.

So is America’s fondness for pure-bred dogs creating horror stories similar to those in the article, or is this unique to Japan (as the article implies)?

December 29, 2006 @ 11:46 pm | Comment

Very much so. There are many genetic flaws associated with various breeds all over the world, such as labradors with bum hip joints and corneal degeneration. The trend is magnified in a place like japan where (I assume) the population of a particular breed is built up from a few imported animals as well as the market’s requirements for novelties such as rare colors or sizes.

If you look at really old pictures of, say, a cocker spaniel, you’ll find that they are cute, but rather dumpy little dogs. When compared with a picture of a modern cocker spaniel, the modern version almost looks like a caricature of the former animal, with all its characteristics exaggerated. This was what happened when dog showing organizations like the AKC took over and instead of being breed for function, dogs were starting to be breed to conform to very strict requirements as to what they look like. The geneology of the dogs also became important, which put a stop to the occasional outcrossings that infused populations with fresh genetic material.

December 31, 2006 @ 10:11 pm | Comment

Agreed.

The AKC is the canine equivalent of the “Gene Expression” crowd.

January 1, 2007 @ 8:44 am | Comment

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