Talk Dirty to Me: It’s Called “Piloerection”

What some people will do to get read….

In spite of a suggestive subject line, there’s nothing risque about piloerection. It’s simply the technical name for when the hair on the back of a dog stands up (pilo referring to “hair” in medical terms), or what most people refer to as “raised hackles.” Raised hackles (or piloerection) is an involuntary reflex triggered by something that puts a dog into a state of heightened arousal. It could be anger, fear, anxiety –  or simple excitement at wanting to play.

There’s another reason for hair doing something different on a dog’s back, and that’s because its breed has a ridge, an “escutcheon,” or “characteristic feature” of the breed.  There are several such breeds, and they include the Thai Ridgeback, the Phu Quoc dog,  the Cambodian Razorback, and the Mha Kon Klab of Thailand (now likely extinct). The best known of the ridgeback breeds is, of course, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, probably the only breed in the bunch whose original breed standard was based on the Dalmatian standard, something still reflected by the FCI’s classification of the Ridgeback as a “related” breed to scenthounds, under the same heading as Dalmatians. That original standard was drafted by F.R. Barnes in Bulawayo, Rhodesia in 1922, and approved by the South African Kennel Union four years later. Years after that, Barnes admitted that he had ‘poached’ the Dalmatian standard, and a comparison of the two standards hints at a similarity in the descriptions of general appearance, head and skull, eyes, ears, neck, forequarters, hindquarters, body, feet, tail and coat.

It was Barnes who named the breed the “Rhodesian Ridgeback,” after it had been known as Van Rooyen’s lion dog, the African Lion Hound, or African Lion Dog. Interestingly, Barnes insisted that the breed be placed in the South African Kennel Union’s ‘gundog’ group, and indeed, there is remained classified as a gundog for over 20 years.

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