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2009-07-08 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

Dogs and cats have been domesticated for thousands of years with most breeds originating in other countries. However in the spirit of July 4th, the American Kennel Club (AKC) and Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) have teamed up to salute some truly All- American breeds of dogs and cats.

First the patriotic pups:

American Foxhound - this tall rare Foxhound dates to the 1700s in Virginia and Maryland. Many early settlers were lovers of "the chase". George Washington owned and bred what later became American Foxhounds. Some of the Father of the Foxhound's foundation stock came from French hounds sent as gifts by Lafayette.

American Eskimo Dog- these white snowballs are descended from Spitz types, not working sled dogs. During the 19th C. "Eskies" were commonly found with German immigrants. After WWI the name was changed from "German Spitz" because of anti-German sentiment. Later the dogs were a favorite of traveling circuses, the first breed ever to walk a tightrope.

American Water Spaniel- is the state dog of Wisconsin. During the mid 1800s the breed was developed in the Great Lake region as an all-around farm and hunting dog that could retrieve from boats. Still quite rare, the majority of American Water Spaniels are not show dogs, but small working spaniels in Wisconsin and surrounding states.

American Staffordshire Terrier- was developed in the early 1800s for farmers and settlers as a sturdy dog to do general farm work, hunt bear and wild pigs and guard the homestead. It is thought to be a cross between an older, leggier version of the Bulldog (used for bull baiting) and a game terrier breed.

Boston Terrier- is truly "made in the USA". Now the state dog of Massachusetts, the "American gentleman" because of his tuxedo markings was developed in Boston and is the product of the English Bulldog and a now extinct white English Terrier. By 1889 the new breed had become popular in its native city.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever- the state dog of Maryland is thought to have originated from two puppies that were rescued from an English shipwreck in 1807 near the coast of Maryland. By the late 1800s, these retrievers were known for their ability to retrieve waterfowl in the chilly Chesapeake. The dense Chessie coat has an oily texture that helps the dog maneuver in extreme weather conditions. Its slightly wavy coat sheds profusely in spring and requires daily brushing.

Plott - one of the most recent AKC recognized breeds is the state dog of North Carolina, so powerful that it can tree a bear. Plotts are also used for coon hunting. This breed joins at least 5 regional varieties of Coon hounds (Black and Tan, Redbone, American English, Bluetick, and Treeing Walker) each fine tuned for hunting raccoons throughout early Americana.

Australian Shepherds- the name is misleading because the breed as we know it today was developed entirely in the US to work as herding dogs on western ranches. The Australian connection might come from the breed's forebears belonging to Basque sheepherders who arrived in the US from Australia in the 1800s.

Cocker Spaniel- over time Cockers bred in the US became smaller dogs than their English Cocker ancestors, and Cockers are now recognized as 2 separate breeds. What we commonly refer to as the "Cocker Spaniel" is known as the "American Cocker Spaniel" outside our 50 states.

Toy Fox Terrier- also known as the "American Toy Fox Terrier" or "Amertoy" was developed in the US in the 1930s and is directly descended from the Smooth Fox Terrier whose standard dates back to 1876. The breed was miniaturized in the US via careful crosses with English Toy Terriers, Chihuahuas, and Italian Greyhounds.

Now for a few All-American Felines:

Maine Coon- legends galore surround the origin of one of the oldest cat breeds in North America. One story is that their bushy tails are from a biologically impossible cross between cats and raccoons; another myth is that Marie Antoinette sent her 6 pet cats to Wiscasset, Maine when she was planning to escape during the French Revolution. Most breeders believe that the breed originated from pairings between native domestic shorthairs and the longhaired Angora types brought by seamen, possibly the Vikings. Maine Coons are especially good with kids and dogs.

Ragdoll-this particularly sociable breed can be traced to one cat and one California breeder in the 1960s. The process was a bit controversial. Ann Baker bred Persians and the founding queen of Ragdolls was her neighbor's cat called "Josephine", possibly a Birman mix who had litter after litter of wild kittens. However at some point Josephine was hit by a car and after her recovery the kittens she produced craved human attention. Baker kept selectively breeding Josephine's progeny, patented the name "Ragdoll" and set up her own registry….Please do not try this stunt at home.

The other American cat breeds include the American Curl, American Shorthair, Burmese, LaPerm, American Bobtail, Ocicat, American Wirehair, and Selkirk Rex. The AKC and CFA American salute is a kick off to a special event called "Meet the Breeds" - a showcase of over 200 dog and cat breeds that will be on hand at the Javits Center in NYC on Oct.17-18. To learn more, visit:

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Both poster dogs are sweet All American Mutts, victims of an all too common problem nowadays- eviction. "Roxie" is a 6 year old Collie mix in Cage 43 while "Oreo" is a 4 year old Cocker mix, previously adopted from the shelter.

Female: "Lucy"- pure white eviction cat in C-2; "Carly"-calico declaw; "Lady"- Border Collie mix Cage 31; "Hallie"- Pit mix Cage 38.

Males: "Spotty"-Shih Tzu; "Phelps"- canal swimming Retriever Cage 5; Beagle Cage 1; Shiba/Spitz Cage 18; "Skitz"- great tabby.

LOST DOG: Female Bernese Mountain Dog scared by firecrackers bolted from her yard in Deer Park. Sweet but timid dog. If sighted, please call 516-587-1686 or 516- 587-1684. Reward.

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