FCI STANDARD BY ANTONIO MORSIANI , ONLY ONE TRUE CANE CORSO BREED STANDARD
THE STANDARD AND THE CONCEPT OF CANINE BEAUTY : MORPHOGENETIC SELECTION
By: ANTONIO MORSIANI
Before we go on to examine the STANDARD OF THE CANE CORSO and relative comments , we believe we can help the reader BY EXPLANING BRIEFLY JUST WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERMS “STANDARD” and “BEAUTY” in cygnostic language , furnishing at the same time a few cognitive elements to aid in understanding better the significance and scope of morphogenetic selection.
The STANDARD of a breed should be a description of its ethnic characteristics which will guide breeders ad judges… Unfortunately , very few standards in the world scene give an exact portrait of the breed involved. In 95% of cases, they are only a list of the chapters in an enormous and very detailed book which one can only know after decades and decades of daily experiment: that is by a constant reading from life of the breed. So to speak of a standard to be used for breeding or for judging in dog shows is absolutely restrictive. Only a few standards , the Italian once , provide an orthodox photograph of the breed they intend to describe.
IN GENERAL THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF STANDARDS:
1. THE ENGLISH STANDARD
So-called “large knit”, known , with a few exceptions, for their imprecision and approximation. These are miles away from the so-called type portrait called for by modern cynotechnic science. The malign say that the English , good merchants that they are living on the income from the great breeders of the last century and have written foggy standards in order to smuggle their barn dogs out to our numerous idolators of all things foreign. In other terms, if a dog has qualities or faults which are not in the standard but are traditional, English judges take this into account. Troubles arises when the judge aren’t English and, in an attemp to fill in these holes in the standard, come up with contrasting interpretations.
2. THE FRENCH, DUTCH, SWISS, GERMAN and also AMERICAN STANDARD
They are much more precise and accurate then the English once (above all the German), but are not always technically acceptable or circumstantiated. Many of them are archaic , empiric and formulated in horse-breeding term. For the breeds involved , tradition means more than content here too.
3. THE ITALIAN STANDARD (from 1987)
Is most precise and meticulous , really represent the “type portrait” of the breed. In them every region and under-region of the body , every relationship among the single architectural parts , is described with maximum accuracy.
These Italian Standard , which we can define as “tightly knit” express, according to us , the best that cynognostic can give. Certain vague terms which fill the standard of other countries , such as “of good lengh” , “long”, “short”, “neither short, nor long” – improper and empirical terms- are unknown in ours. It may be that some Italian standards and we refer to the most detailed, make the breed seem static entities na longer in evolution, but these are venial sins compared with the riches of their content. In fact, Italian standard include the comment on them. This is why they are such a help to breeder and judge. It must be remembered that in the description and valuation of ethnic characteristics one may use either the average statistics of biometric components, or the average of the best subject in the entire population. According to us, this letter is the better method for dog breeds even though the first should npt be ignored. Let us add that the writers of a standard should have their eyes trained on the future and imagine a better dog than the present prototype.
VARIOUS METHODS OF SELECTION
It is clear that whatever we have to say on this subject has an exclusively practical value, and we have no intention of entering into the mysteries of applied genetics.
We want only to make clear that the best dog breeds we possess today would never have reached such a high level if, through generations, their breeders hadn’t made an appropriate choice of material. In fact, while in nature wild animals are a result of a balance between their genetic constitution and environmental factors, domestic animal are selected only by man. We might call it controlled, rather than casual reproduction.
It is clear that nothing in nature is perfect: hence breeders must necessarily concentrate on a restricted number of characteristics for valid result, and give up others. Nor must we forget that there are associated positive and negative morpho-functional trails. The breeders must then find a balance between PRO and CONTRO. Anyone who insist that he can find perfection is bound to fail, because the more numerous the characters that one intends to select, the les effective the improvement one intends to bring to the breed. Many breeders have been destroyed by this system.
According to Gualiani, the applied technique of individual selection consist in the genotypical valutation of the animals to be bred and in the identification of those which will improve the breed, with the intention of forming , through isolation, selective families or lines. We personally have obtained , as a breeders, certain stud dogs which were dominant and capable of transmitting their fundamental characters. The search for these “imprinters” leads back to the use of animals of genetic purity.
The only element which can furnish a proper demonstration of the genetic value of an animals is his offspring. Unfortunately, a dog’s life is so short that we often are unable to judge his progeny before he dies. It would be truly interesting to be able to keep the semen of important subjects (bank sperm) and our universities should work towards this end even for the dog. The bureaucratic and legal problems involved could could be easily resolved.
THERE ARE VARIOUS METHODS OF SELECTION OR MORE EXACTLY , SYSTEMS OF CHOOSING THE PARTNERS. I WILL LEAVE ASIDE THE CASUAL COUPLING WHICH MANY , PERHAPS EVEN MAJORITY , PRACTICE: THEY RUN WITH THEIR BITCH TO THE NEAREST MALE. OBVIOUSLY THIS HABIT IS AREAL CANCER IN THE BREEDING OF DOGS, NOT ONLY CANNOT COINCIDE WITH PLANNED SELECTION :IT IS ITS NEGATION. THERE ARE PSEUDO-BREEDERS WHO USE THE WINNER OR THE CHAMPION OF THE MOMENT, IGNORING ANY GENETIC STUDY OF THE DOG INVOLVED: THIS SYSTEM IS BETTER THEN THE OTHER , BUT STILL NOT ALWAYS PRODUCTIVE OF SELECTIVE IMPROVEMENT.
Thenwe have the selection based exclusively on phenotypical characteristic: that is, mating of two similar partners who are not related “ like to like” as they say, a procedure much used in Germany and Scandinavia. The result is an occasional product , a subject phenotypically valid, but whithh no value from the genetic point of view. Or there is the mating between two closely related dogs which is mean to fix certain fundamental characteristic and improve the breed. This is the method we have chosen, but we are forced to say, that if this is in one sense the shortest to the objective, it is at the same time the one most fraught with difficulties and negative implecations. Consanguinity can be defined as a higher degree than average of blood relationship in the individuals who make up the breed. Two dogs are relatives, that is, when both descend from a common ancestor or from two of them. There is a direct – line, ascendence , like that which unites children to parents, to grandparents, great-grandparents and another ascendence in collateral lines, like that which connects brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.
The degree of relationship can be measured by counting the generations which separate two individuals who are related in a direct line, while, in the case of collateral relations, one must go back from the individual to the common ancestor. Personally , as a breeder I have often used both close inbreeding (mating animals who are related in the first or second degree : parent/child , brother/sister) and inbreeding : when the animals are related to mate to the 3th or 4th degree (uncles, nephews, cousins) as well as line breeding. This last method is intended to augment in the progeny the genetic patrimony of a certain ancestor, male or female, without great risks except in the case of a re-cross with the dog’s own parent, which is the closest kind of line breeding.
We must emphasize that consanguinity has made a great contribution to the formation and perfection of many dog breeds. It is obvious that its advantages depend both on the capacity of the breeder and on the value of the animals used. It is nevertheless a two-way street, because it transmits both the positive and the negative characteristics , which are expressed through homozygosis.
Today we know that consanguinity has in itself n particular effect, either bad or good and that it only provokes, with the homozygosis of the genes, a progressive purification of the hereditary patrimony possessed by the founders of the family and the line.
However, the basic problem of line breeding lies in selection. In fact, if on one hand consanguinity is the only way in which we can augment positive characteristics, on the other hand it will accent the negative ones in the family. For this reason , if we do not applied a drastic culling we will find ourselves in real “ DEPRESSION FROM CONSANGUINITY” , turning out subject with hormonal problems, smaller, malformed, depigmented, overshot or with a weakened immune system.
Inbreeding, then , is not economically convenient for a breeder because of the strict culling he must practice, but if it is properly used it will lead to an improvement in the breed: not to mention that, by augmenting the homozygosis of the genetic patrimony of the dogs, it reveals the hereditary nature of these characters and allows us, through the elimination of undesirable or degenerate subject, to build families with the high genetic purity through which the characters transmitted will be uniform and constant. The often-cited “overpowering heredity” characteristic of many excellent producers comes from homozygosis , from the dominance of the genes transmitted, and that is obtained through inbreeding.
It is clear that consanguinity is most indicated in a situation where the breeder has first-class phenotypical and genotypical subject in large number at his disposition.
Since we have experimented consanguinity for a long time, we believe that the method can be used for several generations: one must, however, establish different families or separate lines. In these parallel lines selection will have fixed certain characteristics. When, during the inbreeding procedure, one notice that the animal are less vigorous , or something else is not working properly , one can turn to the fusion with some of these parallel lines.
In the case that this practice turns out not to be productive, it may be necessary to exit from consanguinity by introducing completely new blood: in this case, the ideal is the mating of an inbred male with bitch coming from an outside line but gifted with health, vigor, fecundity and can refresh a bit the consangineous blood of the former branch. We have occasionally used this method, which is called topcrossing, with satisfactory result. We should point out that the introduction of “rustic” procreators in a breeding program should be done by degrees and with prudence because , even through the inbreed blood normally accepts the outside influence, there is always the risk that this new blood could upset completely that which was patiently constructed through inbreeding.
Another system we have seen tried with success is that of using a proven stud dog with bitches coming partially from the same family group, but living for many years in a distance place, with a different climate and alimentary system (The United states or Australia, for example).
From the zootechnical point of view, “beauty” is a synonym of usefulness: that is, an animal is beautiful when its morpho-functional characteristics show the maximum attitude toward that for which he is to be used.
It is evident that in dogs, as in horses, harmonic beauty has great importance, and this has its strong point in a precise architectonic style: that is, in the proper rapport between the various region of the head, the neck, the body, and the legs, together or separately. Some authors , in addition to harmonic beauty, speak of the aesthetic beauty which strikes and artist and satisfies the spirit. The sculptured shapes, the various gaits and the elegance of an Arabian horse contain an aesthetic beauty, and it is not absent in the dog.
Unfortunately , through many breeders and even some judges are fascinated and lured by this kind of beauty and forget that , in cygnostic terms , the base must always be organic harmony between form and function : zootechnical beauty of adaptment and use.
The St. Bernard is so big because he had to dig a large tunnel in the snow, unbury, extract, and often pull a victim to the nearest refuge, something no other smaller or less powerful breed could possibly accomplish. The dachshund has those short legs under a long body in order to be able to hunt in a hole in the ground.
These days man has taken over many of the tasks obce given to dogs. The Cane Corso, for example , rarely works with cowboys or hunt big game any more, the St. Bernard no longer needs to save victims of the snow alone, because human technical means have partially taken over. The northern breed who live in temperate climates seldom pull sleds, and its the same for other breeds in other fields.
Many would like to recreate where possible conditions under which dog could return to their original uses and be tested periodically for their functionality. Many St. Bernard Clubs, for instance, hold trials in the mountains where earlier conditions are perfectly reproduced. The same is true for northern sled dogs, with those splendid trekking manifestations which prove and exalt the more functional dogs. In a few masserias of the south the Cane Corso is still working as a herding dog, and more rarely hunting badgers and wild boar. The Cane Corso Club should work to this end, because such traditions, especially that of herding , need to be conserved and , where possible, encouraged. Trials of this kind should give us directions in breeding and be extended to every working breed.
With no way to test their instinct , working dogs are destined to an inevitable involution, or at the most to the sole task of guard or defense dog: the Cane Corso, for example, is undoubtedly formidable guarding or defending , but this is a far cry from the fascination of herding or hunting. Of course many working breeds have come to be used in the most various fields (tracking, catastrophes, drugs, etc.), but this has little to do with the morphological and physiological qualities required for their original function.
Dogs suffer also from a kind of beauty imposed by fashion (conventional beauty). Unfortunately , in English- speaking countries harmonic- aesthetic- conventional beauty if preffered in dog shows, and sometimes the conventional alone. In England there are setters with luxurious coats, as large as newfoundlands , winning at shows: there giant with heavy heads and abundant lips could never hunt . In America St, Bernards are over- angulated , with a sloping croup, and they move in the ring like German shepherds , covering a lot of ground but useless for any action in the mountain.
This dichotomy can be found in many breeds, and represents the limits of dog shows intended to be spectacles rather than zootechnical manifestations as they should be. Breeders, especially those of hunting and working dogs, should react to this exasperation and , in their breeding, hold ever in mind a comparison with function.
The Cane Corso still has morphological and attitudinal characteristics which coincide extraordinarily with his antique and noble tradition: to his breeders and his fans goes the job of keeping him that way without spoiling his true essence.