The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 12, 2010

Book review: This dog tome a candidate for best of breed

“The World Atlas of Dog Breeds”

By Dominique Russell-Revesz

If you can lug it home (it weighs in at nearly 6 pounds), you’ll find lots of interesting information in “The World Atlas of Dog Breeds” by Dominique Russell-Revesz.

Published by TFH, a major pet info publisher, this sixth edition is a complete overhaul of the book first published in 1989. This latest edition includes breeds not previously included and, sadly, drops a few breeds now considered extinct.

The first section is general information about dogs, including history and development, breed types, and those aforementioned extinct breeds. I may have just missed something in recent years, but in their history of the dog, the authors promote the theory that dog and wolf separated on the evolutionary chart over 100,000 years ago and that our dogs, domesticated about 10,000-15,000 years ago, descended from those early dogs and not from wolves (as I had always been led to believe).

There’s some very interesting material on neoteny (the retention of juvenile characteristics into adulthood) in dogs, as well as other information on canine development. A pictorial section on ear types (rose, drop, button, etc.) as well as furnishings (ruffs, beards and so on), patterns and coat types clarifies those matters for the novice. That is followed by the breed type information, broken down differently from the familiar American Kennel Club groupings.

Since they include dogs from various registries (AKC, United Kennel Club, American Rare Breed Association, Australian National Kennel Council, Canadian Kennel Club, Federation Cynologique Internationale, and Kennel Club) they do not follow any particular organization’s breed groupings but instead use their own 10 groupings: Companion (breeds created for that purpose or developed later for that specific purpose), Nordic (spitz-type dogs), Mastiffs (large dogs originally or later developed into personal or home guardians), Flock Guardians, Herding, Scenthounds (tracking), Sighthounds (chasing), Sporting (pointers, setters, retrievers, flushers), Terriers, and Pariah dogs (primitives like the Dingo and a few similar domestics like the Canaan and Basenji).

Each group has a color code, which is very helpful because the dogs are listed in alphabetical order rather than within their grouping. I think that alphabetical listing within groups is usually more helpful, but given that there might be some confusion as to which group the dog you’re interested in might fall, or that the reader might be a complete novice and have no knowledge of the dog aside from the breed’s name, I can see the merits of the alphabetical listings here.

Following that, the layout for each breed’s information is spelled out. Of course, all dogs need food and exercise and so on, but they have given as much breed-specific information as possible for each area. The areas covered include exercise, feeding, grooming, health, training, compatibility with children, compatibility with other pets, energy level, loyalty, protectiveness and trainability. There are also breed-specific origin and history information and a “personality profile” for each breed, and at least one excellent color photo of a good example of the breed to go along with the standards (height, weight, colors, coat type) and which registries recognize the breed. So, what kind of information is given for each breed?

The breed specifics are really specific. Under “feeding” for the Affenpinscher, for example, it says: “This small dog has a tendency to eat whatever he comes across, regardless of whether it’s truly edible.” Nice to know! Alaskan Malamute? “The Alaskan Malamute’s thick undercoat sheds almost constantly, and about twice a year, he blows his undercoat and clumps of fur fall out. He requires regular brushing.” Count me out!

The Australian Kelpie is “a breed that would rather work than eat … Consequently, he needs a job that incorporates consistent exercise. Without it, his energy may lead him into trouble and even self-harm.” Critical information if you’re thinking of bringing a Kelpie into your home.

There is a glossary that includes information on health issues (mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIB?!?!) mentioned in the breed profiles.

While not inclusive of all breeds, this book covers many breeds I have never heard of (and I read every library book on dogs I could find growing up), like the Hellenic Hound, Kromfohrlander, Perdiguero de Burgos and quite a few others.

In short, this is an invaluable book for those thinking of bringing a purebred dog into their lives as well as those, like me, who just have a lifelong habit of reading all about dog breeds. It joins the hundreds of books and videos the library already owns about dog breeds, care and training, not to mention cats, horses, ferrets, gerbils and so on. Dig in!

Linda Cannon is the circulation supervisor/collection development librarian at Joplin Public Library.