An animal’s hair frequently undergoes changes with domestication and it is doubtful that this is the case with any species more than it is with dogs. Even sheep don’t show the spread dogs do. Wolves have pretty much the same kind of coat all over the world where they have been found. Very northern races or subspecies have a heavier winter coat than a form from the Sinai Peninsula, but not that different. A wolf’s coat protects it from heat just as it does from cold, and just about all wolves, perhaps all, in fact, have winter and summer versions of their natural coat.
Under the loving care of man dogs now have virtually no coat (the Chinese crested dog and the Mexican hairless), weird corded coats that the dogs develop naturally at about the age of two (the puli and the komondor), thick double coats like all of the northern spitz types – the sled dogs – and hard, fine, single coats like the pointer and the greyhound.
They can have hard wiry coats like most of the terriers, or soft, woolly coats like the soft-coated wheaten terrier. One breed, the dachshund, can come in three coat types: short, long and wire. The fox terriers, the chihuahua, affenpinscher and collie, also come in two, and so it goes.
Dog Skin and Care in Breeds
Poodles have no natural maximum coat length. Their hair will grow as long as they live. They are potential hippies. The only thing that spares them that fate is our ego-inspired attentiveness. Read any book of standards. Coat types vary enormously.
When thinking about variations that have been brought about in dogs keep in mind that we generally encounter relatively few breeds in the United States. The American Kennel Club currently recognizes 135 breeds for show purposes. There are at least three hundred more breeds that the AKC has yet to acknowledge.
It is not that the dogs are being kept out of the hallowed halls by some arcane exclusionary plot, but rather that there has been too little interest in them to establish studbooks and successful breeding programs here. Potentially all could be given AKC recognition in the future. All three hundred or so “exotic” breeds are recognized by kennel clubs in other countries, some as close by as Mexico and Canada.
Changes in Dog Skin and Coat
Skin often undergoes changes in the process of domestication. Lots of flaps and folds are juvenile characteristics in wolves that many dogs retain throughout life. Again, our sense of aesthetics and our need for eternal babies in our pets can be seen at work. Since pet keeping undoubtedly had a great deal to do with our ever taking wolves into our lives and turning them into dogs in the first place, that is all fine and natural.
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