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10 Fun Facts About The New Breeds Appearing in the 2015 Westminster Dog Show

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In a press conference yesterday, the Westminster Kennel Club showed off two new breeds—Coton de Tulears and Wirehaired Vizslas—that will compete in its 139th annual dog show. Here are a few things you might not have known about these adorable pooches.

Falko, a 17-month-old Wirehaired Vizsla from Montreal. Photo by Erin McCarthy.

1. The Wirehaired Vizsla is a hunting dog that hails from Hungary. Vizsla means “quick” or “pointer” in Hungarian.

2. In the 1920s and ‘30s, breeders wanted a dog similar in personality and looks to the smooth-haired Magyar Vizsla, but wanted it to be better able to withstand conditions in the field. That meant a thicker coat. To create the new breed, Vasas Jozsef, owner of the Csaba vizsla kennel in Hejocsaba, bred two of his female Vizslas with a brown German Wirehaired Pointer owned by de Salle Kennel’s Gresznarik Lazslo. The first Wirehaired Vizsla was shown in 1943. Other breeds that may have been incorporated include the wirehaired pointing griffon, pudelpointer, Irish setter and maybe even a bloodhound.

3. In addition to helping it be more comfortable in all kinds of terrible weather, the Wirehaired Vizsla’s rust-colored coat acts as camouflage, helping it blend in with dried grasses.

4. Both the Maygar and Wirehaired Vizsla breeds were nearly wiped out during World War II.

5. Wirehaired Vizslas are calm and gentle and will doggedly stay on scent, making them good in the home and in the field. And they love to swim!

Coton de Tulears Chanel (right) and Burberry (left) from New Jersey. Photo by Erin McCarthy. 

6. Coton de Tulear—pronounced KO-Tone Dih TOO-Lay-ARE—includes the French word for “cotton,” which perfectly describes the soft, silky coats of these pups.

7. The exact origins of the Coton de Tulear is a mystery, but it’s believed that they date back to the 15th century, and popped up in Madagascar in the 17th century. They’re named after the island’s Port of Tulear.

8. The dog was sometimes brought aboard ships to take care of rodents.

9. The Coton de Tulear is the Official Dog of Madagascar, and is sometimes called the Royal Dog of Madagascar (for a long time, only Malagasy royalty and noblemen could own the dog).

10. The dog was honored with a postage stamp in Madagascar in 1974—the same year that it arrived in North America.

Sources: The American Kennel Club (1, 2); Wirehaired Vizsla Club of America; The United States of America Coton de Tulear Club; Canadian Coton du Tulear Club

Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds

Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.

There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]


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