Phil Drabble

Richard, a commentor below, was kind enough to tell us of this obit for Phil Drabble

Drabble was an old- fashioned naturalist, conservationist, and hunter of the kind we may not be breeding anymore. He kept lurchers and pigeons and hawks, and wrote books like A Weasel in my Meatsafe, Badgers at my Window, and Of Pedigree Unknown.

He was not easily crossed, either. From the Guardian obit:

“Just after Phil Drabble started his 90-acre nature reserve, hunting hounds invaded it and began scattering the deer. When Drabble asked the huntsman to remove them, he was told that the hounds had followed their fox into the reserve, as they were legally entitled to do. After some discussion Drabble went back to his house to fetch his rifle. In full view of the hunt, he pushed in a cartridge. “Now are you going to take them out?” he inquired. They were taken out. Somehow, after subsequent frank conversations with the hunt, he found himself invited to its supporters’ dinner.”

Read, of course, the whole delightful thing, and raise a glass to his 93 well- lived years.

“And if California slides into the ocean…”

.. it may be better for the rest of us!

A debate in the LA Times begins by framing the issues thus: “There’s wide agreement that most dogs should be spayed and neutered.” Really?

But worse is to come. “I am a volunteer humane advocate going against you, Bill, a paid lobbyist and profiteering dog breeder allied with a PR firm that unsuccessfully defended Big Tobacco and fought against a living wage law. Birds of a feather, readers!” [See Eric at Classical Values, also quoted earlier here, on the mindset of “activists”]


“Not once have I seen an e-mail response from a breeder, puppy mill or pet store saying that they will save these animals’ lives. It would mean one less family to which they could sell a puppy or kitten at a profit. These profiteers not only fail to help, they are now frantic to stop those of us who are demanding a change.
Who do you trust? Those who sacrifice or those who profit?”

So now all breeders are blood- drenched profiteers, while only animal rightists love and do right by animals.

Oh wait, dog haters do too. Here is a columnist in the same paper who also supports mandatory spay neuter (he recently also caused a controversy by writing that he hated people in the military though admitting he had never met any):

“I used to believe that I hated dogs. But now I realize that I’m apathetic about dogs, as I am about any animal that is not delicious. Dogs to me are a lot like flounder.

“What I’ve come to realize is that what I really hate is you, the dog owner. Because you’re the one who honestly believes that your dog is sentient and that he loves you. Your ego is so grandiose that you can’t see that your dog is just using you. Yes, your dog loves you, but only in the way that Anna Nicole Smith loved old, rich men. Yet you honestly believe that your dog’s love is particularly meaningful because your dog is special — almost human, really. In fact, you think, he’s an almost-human that happens to be a lot like you. He is a lot like you if you happen to assess colleagues by smelling their butts and enjoy publicly eating your own vomit.”

As a dog owner and breeder who has taken a loss, not a profit, to breed rare and useful dogs that could not even be expensively exempt under the proposed law, I am nearly speechless.

Sorry, Mary, but there is no compromise with fanatical hidden agendas (no more domestic animals) or invincible ignorance and arrogance.

Molon Labe*.

HT Margory Cohen & Reid.

*”Come and take them”– what the Spartans said to the Persians when ordered to surrender their weapons.

A Real Afghan

I have been trying to get over 100 illos for the Eagle so have been very busy but visual images are pouring in. So it’s time for Photoblogging!

First: a real hunting Afghan from Afghanistan. According to our friend Jutta Ruebesam: “She was found in the streets of Kabul by a member of a German organisation. She was nearly starving. So they cared for her for some years and brought her to Germany when they left Afghanistan.”

Intact of course. European dog folks don’t share our fetish for neutering. She will doubtless be bred to German racing and lure coursing lines. Notice her “pattern” coat, not long like a show Afghan’s. Jutta also says she is as tiny and muscular as our Atai. She should know– she has seen and photographed both. Her name, oddly for a German dog, is “Dusty”.


My old friend John McLoughlin, zoologist, evolutionist, novelist, and artist, came down to visit from his hideout in the northern mountains to visit Magdalena (always referred to as “Down Among the Wild Men”) for the first time in 23 years. He brought his three daughters and his grandson, and a fine time was had by all.

Some of his splendid books can be found here. Among my favorites are Archosauria, The Canine Clan, and the novels Toolmaker Koan and The Helix and the Sword.

We posed for nostalgia’s and history’s sake with copies of our first books, my Rage for Falcons and his The Animals Among Us.

We plan further zoological and geological expeditions later this year. As he says:

Bully Whippets

Mary, Patrick, Matt, and Reid all tipped me to this fascinating NYT science piece on so- called “bully whippets”. Thses stout over- muscled dogs are what happens when you inbreed too much seeking a single character, in this case speed. When the whippets are heterozygous for a certain gene they are fast, but when they have two copies they are rather monstrous.

This stirred up me (and Matt, and Dr. Hypercube) into some off- web discussion. It hit two of my pet peeves: that such pursuits as racing and lure coursing are as good for dogs as hunting, and that pure “blood” and closed studbooks are somehow desirable (Patrick always has plenty to say about this too).

Matt stated the first problem clearly: “… what it takes to catch a rabbit with a dog is not ONLY speed, but brains and stamina and much else besides. So never before in the sighthounds has there been an attempt to breed for speed alone as an abstract trait, and as measured by a mechanical device. That’s new, and maybe that’s what lead us to this problem.”

As for the second, look at the article:

“When mutant, muscle-bound puppies started showing up in litters of champion racing whippets, the breeders of the normally sleek dogs invited scientists to take DNA samples at race meets here and across the country. They hoped to find a genetic cause for the condition and a way to purge it from the breed.

“It worked. “Bully whippets,” as the heavyset dogs are known, turn out to have a genetic mutation that enhances muscle development. And breeders may not want to eliminate the “bully” gene after all. The scientists found that the same mutation that pumps up some whippets makes others among the fastest dogs on the track.

“With a DNA screening test on the way, “We’re going to keep the speed and lose the bullies,” Helena James, a a whippet breeder in Vancouver, British Columbia, said.”


“It was not exactly news to breeders that speed is an inherited trait: whippets were developed in the late 1800s specifically for racing. But knowing that one of her dogs was sired by a carrier of the gene, said Jen Jensen, a whippet owner in Fair Oaks, Calif., makes its championships seem “less earned.” Ms. Jensen’s suggestion that a DNA test be required for all dogs and that the fastest ones without the mutation be judged and raced separately, however, has not gone over well.

“At a recent race here in southern New Jersey, some whippet owners wanted the mutation eliminated altogether, even if that meant fewer fast dogs. But as the dogs pounded after a lure at 35 miles per hour, several owners allowed that they would prefer a whippet with the gene for speed.

““It’s more fun having fast dogs than slow dogs,” said Libby Kirchner, of Glassboro, N.J.”

But such “purity” comes at a steep cost: reduced genetic diversity. Also, genes do not exist and act in a vacuum; their effects are intimately linked. I think that is what this fellow is getting at, though the reporter didn’t elucidate his exact reasons:

“Many breeders hope this new effort to corral nature will weed out the numerous recessive diseases that plague purebred dogs after generations of human-imposed inbreeding. But some question the wisdom of escalating intervention. Mark Derr, an author who has written about the history of dog breeding, urges everyone to reconsider the goal of genetic purity.

“I always use dogs as the example of why we don’t want to be mucking around with our own genome,” Mr. Derr said. “These people are trying to use DNA tests to solve problems of their own making.” “

My take on both questions, as related to Dr. H. (slightly edited as I do go on in early AM emails!):

“Racing and lure coursing are ersatz tests– hunting is the real thing. Even competitive open field coursing introduces an element of artificiality. Hunting selects for intelligence and intangibles.

“All working breeds AT LEAST should have ways of bringing in new genes. Ideally I’d like to see it like pigeons where the result in appearance or performance is all that matters and breeding is irrelevant.

“This will never happen. Purebred dogs and shows started in Victorian times and picked up a lot of baggage there. Breed people buy in to all sorts of mysticism about it (show saluki people with their pure Arab breed myths are among the worst– see below) and make up absurd creation myths. Also the AKC pedigree machine is Big Business and we all know what that means.

“The saluki type is what John Burchard calls a “landrace” and behaves rather like a species, maintaining itself with plenty of genetic buffering and little need for pedigrees. The west split off one small Arab population, mostly from Iraq, and called it saluki, and took an even smaller group from Afghanistan and made of it the absurd modern show Afghan. The Russians, extending our idiocy, now count those two plus taigan, aboriginal Afghan, tazi, and even a longer- coated tazi variant called Khalag tazi. In “nature”, all blend into one another and keep plenty of diversity. You can see all types plus smooths in Afghanistan, and John tells me you could see all but the heaviest – coated in the Arabian peninsula 20 years ago.

“Pedigree dogs have diminishing genetic pools and they are getting worse all the time, aided and abetted by the AKC. The saluki is the ONLY AKC breed with a mechanism for bringing in new “blood” and even that is cumbersome, partially because of Arabist romanticism and the myth of the “pure” (hurr) Bedu, saluki, Arab horse, and saker. The Arabs certainly hold a higher place for salukis than “dogs” (or at least did until the recent rise in rabid Salafism, which also affects the Afghans) but the dogs still came down from Asia. Don’t know yet when my dogs will be officially accepted. Not that they care.”

Real Hunting…

… and otherwise. On Henry Chappell’s Home Range, he takes us out for a few days of old- fashioned East Texas hunting, fishing, and eating— bream fishing with bait, squirrel hunting with dogs, night hunting for raccoons. This is hunting- gathering as a life. Good pics too!

On the (very) other hand, Dave Petzal, the Gun Nut, has some stories about modern “hunters” that could make you weep. Quoting a guide:

“You people who make videos and TV shows have screwed up a whole generation of hunters. Every time someone buys something they get a free video, and the problem is, they believe them. They come out here expecting to get a 35-inch mule deer in an hour, because that’s what they see on the video. They don’t like to hunt. What they want is a big head dead on the ground, fast, so they can go to the airport and throw their camo in the dumpster and plug in their I-Pod and get back to their computer.”

And then there is what has to be the ultimate “Red State” story: the one about the eleven- year old Alabama kid who killed the thousand- pound feral hog.

I mean: not only is he eleven and from Alabama. He killed his first deer when he was five; he killed the pig with a .50 caliber revolver (I assume the big S & W); he goes to a Christian school; and he is quoted as saying (emphasis mine) “I probably won’t ever kill anything else that big.”

Hilarious. PETA, read and weep!

Update: the whole “Hogzilla II” thing has gone downhill. Patrick has the whole sordid tale: not just exaggerated or a publicity stunt (though apparently both) but a tame pig. Disgusting.

Utter Coincidence

Reid’s recommendation of the new bio of Denys Finch Hatton got me thinking about some very strange similarities between some photos.

Here is the photo of Betsy Huntington that the Russ Chatham painting on the cover of Querencia- the- book is based on:

Here is a photo of Karen Blixen that I didn’t see until after Betsy’s death:

Here is another, by Jim Bones, of Betsy with me and Riley the staghound (sorry for quality– it is from a 1985 newspaper article):

And another of Blixen, from Longing For Darkness:

Woo- woo enough for you? Here is another cosmic connection: Erroll Trzebinski, author of THIS bio of Finch Hatton, is the daughter of the author of the first review of my first book, Rage For Falcons.

Chinese Tazi Art

Or saluki if that is your preference. Paul Domski sent me this link, which caused me to reply: “Nice image. I have other Chinese saluki- tazi images, some even older, but not this one. Frustrating thing is that the article propagates the Arab origin myth– I have older images from China than any available from the Middle East!” Maybe if I ever sell that book…

Here is the oldest I have, circa 450 AD:

Prince Xanghui, circa 740 I believe:

AD 1197:

One more– not sure of the date.

The Brits found various tazis (OK, salukis if you must speak Arabic!) in Iraq because that is where they looked. (They found aboriginal Afghans , also tazis, in Afghanistan, and promptly ruined them in typical Edwardian show- dog fashion).

Salukis are Asian.