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Westminster gives prizes for highest rates of deformity and disease

The German shepherd was invented in the 1890s as a symbol of Teutonic purity, but changed dramatically when he became a show dog, and even more when he was recast for the silver screen. Audiences were so impressed by his role as Rin Tin Tin that breeders crushed his hind legs and froze him permanently into the statuesque pose that everyone knew and loved. Lassie go home. Perhaps to distract from the dog’s wolfish demeanor and Nazi ties, and to make him look more like a war hero, front legs were left straight, as though planted firmly on a rock like a sentry. Hind legs were bent and lowered unnaturally to the ground, which produced a dragging effect when he tried to walk but kept the body in this inclined position. The ultimate effect was that of a dog gazing out over some imaginary valley below. People continue to expect this pose—called, predictably, a “regal stance”—and though it causes endless agony to the animals themselves, breeding for this mutation is still rewarded with prizes at Westminster and Crufts. The iconic image of Rin Tin Tin played no small role in giving the German shepherd this crippling deformity of the hind legs.

Read more: U.S.

Abnormal or "regal" stance considered normal today.

The way German shepherds once looked.

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