This is Part 1 of a 2-part blog entry. Read Part 2 here: For Love of the Asong Pinoy (continued) – posted June 8, 2012
I recently discovered the existence of a project regarding the Asong Pinoy / Aspin whose purpose is, I quote “… to create and protect a purebred strain of dogs that are native to the Philippines, that we call the Native Dog or simply “Aso”.”
While the advocacy for the Aspin promoted by the project proponents is indeed admirable, I find myself disturbed by the idea that alongside this advocacy is the promotion of the creation of a Philippine breed of dog. Thus, I felt the need to air some of my thoughts on this matter, as an attempt to provoke some serious thinking and promote an intelligent discussion on the subject.
My argument is partly that definitions need to be clarified, and it is partly to ask: where exactly is this headed? My thinking was that the point of any campaign to promote Aspins, was to celebrate diversity and to liberate oneself from labels and human-defined standards. After all, the Aspin or native dog is by definition not a breed of dog, but a mongrel or mix of many dogs. This leads me to two main things that I find confusing about Aspin-advocacy being promoted alongside Philippine dog breed creation:
Firstly, it seems to me that the project is an attempt to bottle and brand the traits that make the Aspin unique. But isn’t variety what makes the Aspin unique in the first place? Therein exists, in my opinion, an obvious oxymoron. From a simplified genetic viewpoint, the development of a breed of Philippine dog interferes with natural selection, which evolved the Aspin to be built for survival, to become resilient and which has allowed him to thrive. Once humans meddle and control breeding and reproduction, what is selected for is not traits necessary for survival, but traits that humans find appealing. The creation of a pedigreed dog whose offspring will look the same over succeeding generations requires a lot of mating between close relatives, which has been known to cause a lot of undesirable traits to surface. The end result is a dog which may look and perform the way humans want, but who is also highly predisposed to specific diseases – something that the Aspin has been able to avoid because of its hodgepodge of genetics. Therefore, if we start to select for genes according to our desires, we risk veering away from what we admire in the Aspin and what he holds over the pedigreed dog.
Secondly, considering how difficult it has been (and still is) for the Aspin, the mongrel or the mutt to win the hearts of the Filipino dog owner, and then looking to the future when this Philippine Dog breed has been established…Well, it seems we would be taking a huge step backwards in the campaign to promote the Aspin, when exclusion and discrimination may once again predominate against dogs labeled impure and without pedigree to certify them as Philippine Dog.
Possibly this project is partly driven by the need to create something that is “Proudly Pinoy” as we oft like to say, and to satisfy the Pinoy fixation for brands and labels. I feel it also links to the idea of dog as a commodity.
I can appreciate the beauty and usefulness of certain breeds, and I can appreciate that selection and breeding for specific traits has been beneficial for human society in many ways. But I fear that this project may cause many to lose sight of what truly needs advocating, that the Aspin – or any dog for that matter – does not need to be judged on pedigree. As is, the Aspin is no less than any other dog, and does not need to conform to any standards. If we are advocates of the Aspin then we are advocates of the Dog in whatever variant form he comes.
My great fear is that the end result of creating a Philippine dog breed will be that of continued and even greater discrimination against the Aspin than is already presently seen in Philippine society; and my personal opinion is that there is no further need to breed the mutt out of the Aspin. Human-imposed physical standards should never be a requirement before any animal is deemed deserving of our respect, love and care.
If I have in any way misunderstood the project’s intentions, I invite its proponents and followers to comment on the subject and correct any erroneous assumptions or interpretations that I may have made. I reiterate, this article is not written with the intent of attacking the project’s proponents, but to promote an intelligent discussion on the subject. It is written for the love of the Aspin, the mutt, the mongrel, the Dog.
Doc Marose has shared her home with pedigreed dogs, mixes, and Aspins. Her current dogs are a labrador-golden retriever cross, and a terrier mix, – one gifted to her, the other adopted. She also shares her home with seven Pusang Pinoys or Philippine domestic short hair cats – all adopted/rescued.
Below is an interesting and disturbing documentary about pedigree dogs, specifically those bred for dog shows. NOTE: I recognize that the so-called “Philippine Aso” is probably not going to be bred with the intention of producing a show dog, but I posted this video just to make people aware of what overbreeding and inbreeding can do to a dog.