Form, function and fashion: health, disease and pedigree dog breeding in the 20th century


  • Alison Skipper

    King's College London

Project summary

Pedigree dogs are controversial; there are tight-knit breeding and showing communities who admire their appearance and preserve their lineages, but others think the dogs are man-made freaks, crippled by diseases linked to their exaggerated features and plagued by inherited conditions exacerbated by inbreeding. 

I will ask how this situation arose, how vets and breeders have responded, what influenced their actions, and what the implications were for the purebred dog. I will use underexplored source material to uncover the formational and reciprocal influence of eugenics, the changing ideas of canine health, and the social and scientific contexts. I will look at the way new epistemologies, prestige and affection have influenced the bonds between fanciers and their dogs, and how these factors came together in the management of pedigree dog disease, drawing connections between historical scholarship in medicine, veterinary medicine and animal studies. 

My findings will inform current debate and cover the consequences and impact of pedigree dog breeding.