Tag Archives: pig

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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Pig or Puppy, the System Still Sucks

I was raised by wolves, or at least by a pack of consummate carnivores.  I find that not a lot of my friends want to talk to me about animal welfare because they think that, by objecting to how we treat our meat and research animals, I’ve become a brainwashed, tree-hugging hippie who’s trying to convert them to veganism.  They like eating their meat, and they get grumpy when they think someone is trying to take it away.

All right.  We all love bacon.  Pigs provide bacon.  You gotta kill pigs to get bacon.  Fine.

Now imagine that there are two ways to get bacon out of a pig (or a puppy).

The first way is an old, slow, traditional way: you raise the pig in a nice big space, let it exercise the muscles you’re going to eat, feed and water it properly, give it love, health care, and shelter, and kill it as humanely as possible.  You clean the carcass carefully, use as much of it as you can, and only keep and slaughter as many pigs as you can kindly handle.  Because you have a lot of time to work with individual animals and to make sure your facilities are clean, this produces clean, fresh bacon — and a lot more of it, off fatter, healthier pigs (or puppies).

The second way is the new, fast, modern way: you raise hundreds of thousands of pigs in small metal boxes in the dark.  You grow them so big, so fast, their legs break.  You fill them to the eyes with antibiotics so they don’t get sick.  You can’t process all the pigs yourself, so you hire (and abuse) minimum-wage workers to do the slaughtering in a partially automated process.  Processing 3,000 pigs an hour (one every two seconds), not all the pigs die before being dismembered.  Something like 20-30% are “legged”, gutted, and dissected alive.  Everything moves so fast there’s no time to clean properly, and carcasses (and everything else) are covered in feces, blood, and other materials.  There’s no time to inspect carcasses properly, either, and diseased animals are packaged up for sale.  When disease is inevitably discovered in your product, instead of slowing down the line, you wash the meat down in chlorine before you package it.

Either way, you end up eating bacon.  But the first way, you’re getting good meat, and the second way, you’re getting meat full of chemical washes, pus, E. coli, and sawdust.

Just for this moment, we’re gonna skip all the animal welfare issues, the worker welfare issues, the adorable little kids dying of E. coli poisoning, and the really cute part where the plants are run and “overseen” by the rich, fat-cat assholes in Washington that you hate, who are even now passing laws to make it easier for them to churn out tainted, sawdust-flavored crap and sell it everywhere.  Boiled down to the basic facts: the current system of food production, which supplies most grocery stores and restaurants, turns out horrible, diseased, scary meat which is doused in chemicals and potentially dangerous for you.

Your status as a carnivore is not in question.  The question is, which pig (or puppy) would you rather eat?