Nov 13, 2008

The Komondor and the Goats

Edison and I stayed up late last night to watch the rebroadcast of a dog show from Houston. Both of us have very particular tastes as far as breeds are concerned, with me cheering on my own personal favorites and Edison doing the same in his own way: play bowing and barking loudly at the TV when they show the dogs he is most partial to, all of them, not surprisingly, toy breeds. He never barks at any other group and even then, only a very select few breeds within the toy group.

Unlike him, though, I enjoy a few of the larger breeds and one I especially like (but would never own because I am far too anal to deal with their coat) is the komondor. I adore them, and to a slightly lesser degree, their smaller cousin, the puli. Both are of Hungarian descent, both are herding dogs and both sport a beautiful dreadlocked coat.

But anyways, I digress. The komondor who won its breed group at this particular show is a multiple Best in Show winner and is currently the number one komondor in the country. His owner/breeder/handler was explaining the difficulty in keeping his coat show ring ready and how she has on more than one occasion accidentally left in a scrunchie or two that were used to keep those amazing cords organized and clean, only to find them while the judge was examining her dog. It was then that the reporter covering the show for this network asked if this specific dog has ever herded anything in his life, given the fact that he is, in fact, a dog whose ancestors were bred to herd. The owner laughed and said, "Never!" Her dog is actually a third generation Best in Show winner with an impeccable pedigree, one in a long line of number one komondors both in this country and abroad and other than the occasional romp in her backyard is one very pampered pooch who has never even seen a sheep or goat. Ever.

So they all piled into an SUV: dog, owner, reporter and camera crew and they drove out to a farm just outside of Houston where they put the komondor into an enclosed grassy paddock with a herd of goats. The dog walked back and forth for a moment studying the goats, spent another few moments checking out the paddock and then walked over to the herd and just stood there for yet another few moments watching them. Then in quick fashion, the dog began to systematically move all the goats into one corner of the enclosure and when he had them in a tight group, circled them once, moved to the outside of the herd and turned his back to them. He then laid down on the grass in front of them watching alertly for anything that might attempt to approach the herd.

It was amazing to watch. A dog that had never even seen a farm animal until moments before had in less than five minutes herded and secured every last animal. That's how strong the instinct to perform a task is still ingrained in certain breeds of dog, however far removed from that activity their everyday lives might be. And that's the beauty of careful and highly selective breeding: no matter how far removed from its intended job a dog has traveled, that instinct is always in there, alive and kicking and ready when needed. How awesome is that?

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