Tag Archives: horse

Baboon Dog Syndrome

Deformed+wolf.+A+wolf+taken+down+by+hunters+in+Russia_7e8c75_4766173Having been raised by wolves, I was naturally quite interested to find the photo at right wandering around the internet.  What was this curious little beastie?  Photoshop was the word that sprang immediately to mind, but the reality is that this poor critter is (likely) real, and exhibits a spinal deformity common enough to have a name: baboon dog syndrome.

The name appears to have originated in South Africa, where enough animals were found exhibiting this condition that the locals had a name for it.  It’s not endemic to wolves, of course: according to the references below, the South Africans saw the issue in dogs, and apparently it’s also been seen in foxes and other wild canids.  Baboon dog syndrome is differentiated from achondroplasia/dwarfism in that the latter (usually/often) produces animals with shortened limbs and a normal-length spine (resembling a Corgi) while baboon dog syndrome produces animals with what appear to be normal limbs under a half-length or apparently “missing” spine, and often a “bob” tail.

Here are the best references I was able to find online:

  • This forum thread contains references to Genetics for Dog Breeders, by Frederick  Bruce Hutt, which notes an inherited abnormality in dogs which results in an extreme shortening of the entire spinal structure; an illustration of an image by David Klocker Ehrenstrahl of a “fox-dog cross” (unlikely due to differences in chromosomal number) with the condition (Google does not reveal this painting); and a reference to How to Breed Dogs, by Leon Whitney, which supposedly contains a photo of the skeleton of a baboon dog.
  • This thread references a book called Animal Genetics, also by Frederick Bruce Hutt.  Google Books indicates this book mentions “the baboon dogs of de Boom”, described by Dr. H P A de Boom of the Veterinary Laboratory at Ondestepoort in South Africa, and contains photos of such dogs, showing the “typical humped back, short tail, and apparent lack of any neck”.  The dogs are also mentioned in Comparative aspects of reproductive failure, a paper presented at a conference at Dartmouth Medical School in 1966.
  • This imgur thread has some photos of modern-day dogs with the disorder, including this one, as well as a fox and the above wolf photo.
  • animatedgifofPigThis reddit thread contains photos of a dog named Pig who appears to have the syndrome.  A link sends you to the Do Day Day Dog Festival in Birmingham, Alabama, where Pig appeared with her owner Kim Dillenbeck.  A news article on Pig, with video, and some more details about her, is available here.  Pig is visible in the animated GIF above right.
  • This thread contains photos of a horse with the same condition.
  • This page has a passing reference to a similar-appearing condition being caused, in mice, by an overabundance of vitamin A during gestation, which affects expression of the HOX gene.
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How You Can Help The Moira, NY Horse (Or Any Sad Animal)

Moira NY Horse in Need

Let’s repost this with hope it reaches someone who can help >This horse belongs to Frank Burgess and Brenda Waite of the Best Road in Moira NY. The state police have been alerted to the condition of their horses. Please help to keep the heat on their owners so that they are taken away. Not fair.

EDIT: These horses have been helped!  According to the comments below, the NY State Police have been informed about their situation.  It’s not entirely clear whether the horse(s) have been moved, or whether they are still at the site, but various sources strongly indicate that action is being taken.  Also, it seems that Brenda’s last name is Wattie, not Waite.  Thanks everyone!

UPDATES: the first news article, from the Utica Observer-Dispatch.

The local paper, the Daily Courier-Observer, pitches in with its own update on 8/27/13.

And the beautiful mare above is named Dreamer, and has arrived at the Adirondack Equine Center for rehab.  See some photos here!

This morning my Facebook feed turned up the above photo, with attached caption.  It exhorted me to forward the photo on, until “it reaches someone who can help”.  It occurs to me that simply sharing a photo on Facebook is not helpful to this horse in any way.  How can I help this horse?

First, some minimal research.  Like photos of lost children, photos of abused animals tend to persist indefinitely.  Long after the crisis is over, people will continue to forward the photos, trying to help without first checking to see if the animal is even still in danger.  Also, not every forwarded photo of an emaciated animal has the full story — there is no way to verify in this case that the caption matches the photo.  Maybe this animal is already under veterinary care, or this is a “before” photo “borrowed” from an unrelated animal rescue site.  Before taking action, I should check to see if someone else has seen this first.

A quick Google Search By Image for the above picture reveals no immediate matches, so next I search for the names and location in Google.  This reveals only the Facebook posting, which appears to be rather recent because there are not a lot of links.  I also try phrases like “animal control burgess waite Moira NY” and get nothing, so…okay, our initial search reveals that there’s nothing on Snopes or any large sites yet to tell me if this is real or not.  (Often, during research I’ll find local newspaper stories or police blotter postings confirming the story or filling in details.)

One link in particular (as well as the original “share” I saw on Facebook) describes the Facebook post as originating when “[poster] shared Rob Carlsen‘s photo.”  The original post may in fact be here (I looked for Rob Carlsen on Facebook)…it contains the above information and nothing else.  (It also has about 14,000 shares as of this moment…!)  It also does have at least one comment on it from someone promising to look into this, so there’s hope!

In this case I’ll assume, because I love horses, and I’d like to help this one, that this photo has some basis in reality.  Just sharing it on Facebook will only result in the propagation of the photo.  How do I help this horse, from where I am?

First, locate the proper authorities: Google will also tell me where the local humane societies, right near Best Road in Moira, NY, are.  Clicking on the individual links gives me web sites and phone numbers:

  • Potsdam Animal Shelter (315) 265-3199 potsdamhumanesociety.org
  • North Country Animal Shelter (518) 483-8079
  • Tri-Lakes Humane Society (518) 891-0017 tlhsny.webs.com
  • Massena Humane Society (315) 764-1330

The New York State Police has an office in nearby Malone as well: (518) 483-5000.  Searching for “Moira, NY horse rescue” turns up a couple of helpful links:

(I have not researched any of these sites, past looking at their web pages.  I can only assume they are legitimate organizations — either way, calling them will not hurt!)  The next step is to call or email these institutions and politely ask if they have investigated this photo.  Since it’s roaming around on Facebook, they are probably receiving 200+ calls an hour about the picture, so remember to be polite, be brief, and do not waste their time.  In the unlikely event that they don’t know about the photo yet, you’ve informed them of its existence.  If they do know, you’ll be (gently!) nudging them to fully investigate.  If I had friends in New York I would probably mention this to them as well — it is likely they know of other places one could call to try to get confirmation that this horse is, in fact, in trouble, and, if so, to get help to it.  If you have something to offer (time, money, information) you could also consider contacting the lady who answered the original post and offered to drive by.

I suspect that, very shortly, there will be news stories about this horse telling us what really happened to it — I leave the investigative reporting to the people on the ground in New York.  However, when I find out the rest of the story I’ll be sure to add it to this post, to try to close up the story of this horse so when other people find the photo and research it, they’ll be able to see whether their help is still needed or not.

Much better than just hitting “share”, don’t you think?  And not much more effort!  Good luck, anonymous horse!