Not sure where else to put this, so I'll put it here…
I was wondering if anyone else had read Johan Gallant's Story of the African Dog (Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 2002). I whipped through it a while back and found much to think about, though he doesn't speak specifically on Basenjis. I thought I would quote a bit from the book here for the purposes of education and inviting commentary, because I'm curious how serious Basenji folks would respond.
Under the section "Thoroughbreds with African Roots,? and speaking specifically of the Basenji, he writes:
My own experience with traditional Congolese dogs goes back to my 1957 travels in the country. My observation was that the dogs of the southern savannah were taller than those of the equatorial forest but were largely of the same type. Pricked ears and tightly curled tails were not a standard feature among either the savannah or the forest dogs. These details only became 'fixed' when the modern Basenji was selectively bred.
My more recent field work in southern Africa has confirmed for me that virtually all traditional African dogs carry an ancestral graioid streak. They inherited it from their forefathers who arrived on the African continent 7000 years ago and brought these genes from the protodogs from which they had evolved. It seems misplaced, therefore, when the canine-fancying world promotes the show Basenji as the prototype of the African dog. To the contrary, this pure-bred Basenji is a typical example of modern cynotechnical interference with the gene pool of a naturally evolving land race.
When, during the 1930s, Mpoa specimens were collected from the 'natural' dog populations endemic to the Congo forest, this chosen dozen formed the foundation stock for a new breed. Planned inbreeding within this isolated group ensured artificial selection towards set goals, defined (as is all too often the case) not by concern for the well being of the breed itself, but by fashionable standards of what is perceived to be attractive. The inevitable cost to the Basenji of such inbreeding within a small foundation stock has been the development of a host of hereditary defects associated with the breed. These have persisted despite the most dedicated efforts to eradicate them, for example, through the periodic introduction of new equatorial stock as recently as 1987. The American Kennel Club unfortunately since banned this practice.* The case of the Basenji is a sad illustration of the results that ill-considered genetic tampering can have. It seems that modern dogdom has simply accepted that this is the toll that modern breeds have to pay for their privilege of pleasing their eyes (p. 85, 87, emphasis mine).
- Okay, I know this isn't true since the books were since reopened, but this was published in 2002.
So while his words are harsh, I think I understand where he's coming from, and don't dismiss it out of hand. But I don't feel like his criticisms are all fair in light of how I complex I find "modern dogdom" to be. I was wondering if anyone here might care to respond?