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The Portuguese Water Dog: From the Russian Steppes to The White House

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Until the announcement on the 11 April 2009 about the breed of dog that President Obama and his family were to welcome in to the White House, little was known about the Portuguese Water Dog.  Yet the fact that Bo (as he became known) is now ensconced in the White House is, for his breed, something just short of a miracle. Behind the shaggy good looks there lies a remarkable story of species survival. By the 1930s the dog was on the verge of extinction.

Arguments abound about the origins of the Portuguese Water Dog with many maintaining that the first early examples of the species appeared on the Russian Steppes around 700 BC.  If this is the case, one can only wonder whether the irony is lost on President Obama: the dog that became part of his family has its origins in what was for many years called the USSR?

Red Squirrels Show Signs of Recovery from Deadly Poxvirus

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The red squirrel population in the UK, long on the brink of complete destruction, has shown signs of resistance to a deadly poxvirus which has killed hundreds of thousands of them over the decades. A study in an area of Merseyside in the North West of England has shown that around 10 percent of the population there now carry squirrelpox antibodies in their bloodstream. The antibodies, which enable the squirrels and their descendants, to respond to the virus also indicate that a number of the animals have had the disease but have recovered.

This is the first time that a red squirrel surviving exposure to the poxvirus has been recorded. The news has been welcomed by naturalists as an encouraging sign. So, what happened in Merseyside to make a difference?

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