Most animals come in a general range of sizes, but for some reason or another, people are continually trying to manipulate those sizes. Either large animals are made small, or small animals are made large. We can never seem to be happy with the size things already are. Would an elephant be even more cool if it were tiny? Would a guinea pig be more interesting if it were huge?
Most domestic animals, from horses, to dogs, have been bred to reach size extremes, both large and small. To this extreme we see “giant” animals, and ones sold as “teacup” or even “shot glass” pets.
This is a Belgian draft horse at a show, it is not the largest horse ever, or even the largest horse breed.
Draft horses have always been large, but never so large as they are today, toping 19 hands. A hand measures 4 inches. A typical riding horse may be between 15 and 16.2 hands high.
On the other hand horse have been bred smaller, and cuter than ever, to the point that miniature horses are now often under 5 hands high. Both of these extremes, but particularly the smaller version, are prone to health problems. Miniature horses often die during pregnancy or when delivering, and generally have shorter lifespans when extremely small. At 17 inches, Thumbelina (pictured above) is clearly suffering from knee problems.
In the dog world the title of tallest breed often goes to the Great Dane, but Wolfhounds are not far off. Large breed dogs have short lifespans and ethical breeders know that encouraging fast growth actually hurts the dog, causing tremendous joint problems later in life.
Chihuahuas are generally considered one of the smallest breeds, with one dog standing less than 5 inches tall. When dogs are intentionally stunted through poor genetics or poor nutrition they are often called “tea-cups”. This is a sign that a dog will probably have a lot of health problems and a short lifespan. No reputable breeder would intentionally breed, or market, “teacup” dogs.
Photo Source http://www.flickr.com/photos/toronjazul/1084010083/
The largest cat must be a wild animal, although some house cats like to pretend they are huge when shredding a sofa. The male Siberian Tiger is undoubtedly the biggest big cat. Within domestic cats, the Maine Coon often claims the spot as being the largest cat, but typically some obese cats, suffering from overfeeding, weigh in at top spot. Sadly glamor is given to the owner in exchange for them abusing their cat with too much food, typically fattening food that is not suited for cats to begin with.
A new cat breed was recently started when a cat was born with a mutation of having very short legs. This breed is now known as Munchkin. Typically their body size is normal, but their short legs give them a kitten like appearance, this breeds was not intentionally stunted through poor breeding although cats have since been selected to have shorter and shorter legs. They are not as unhealthy as animals bred to be small all over. A breed for known to be small all over is the Rusty Spotted cat. These cats may weigh under three pounds. Otherwise any abnormally small cat is usually the result of poor breeding or poor nutrition. Allowing a cat to breed too soon may stunt her growth. Both obese cats and those who are tiny have short lifespans plagued by health problems.
Pigs on a farm are raised to become food on our plates. The bigger the better. Large pigs can actually be very dangerous to humans and can even, unintentionally, squish and kill their young. They can weigh over 800 pounds and are said to be as intelligent as dogs.
As sad as eating these intelligent animals is, it is sadder what the pet industry does to them. Intentionally stunted pigs are sold as pets. Typically these are miniature potbelly pigs stunted further because “cute” sells. They are given the name of “teacup” pot bellied pigs and are often sold at a high price tag. Untimately the pet suffers because while its outsides stop growing, its insides do not.
Animals marketed as “Teacups” tend to have many health problems as a result of being poorly bred. Also consider that these pets are usually sold at a higher price tag because of being “cute” but will generally have more costly health care associated with them too.
Here are just some of the problems in “teacup” pets:
- Heart complications (often not living more than a few months).
- Digestive system complications (again contributing to a shorter lifespan).
- May be born with liver deformities, known as shunts.
- They are prone to hypoglycemia, and need smaller feedings more often.
- They are prone to dehydration.
- Their soft spot on their skull may not harden correctly, thus putting them at risk for injury.
- When they get sick it is more difficult for them to recover.
- They are more at risk for broken bones.
- They often have an increase in dental problems.
- An increase in rates of epilepsy.
- They can be easily hurt through regular handling, by other pets, or by children.
Facts about the “giants” pets:
It is less likely for a breeder to encourage abnormal growth in an animal. Most realize that, for the pet industry, small tends to outsell large. With livestock the reverse is true, but little concern is given because the animals will be slaughtered. In general the health problems are addressed more directly when people are breeding large animals.
With dogs, and horses, this means care is taken to slow down their growth rate. Special foods are made for large breed dogs because if they grow too fast too much weight is carried on their joints. The same is true for horses, often the larger breeds are not ridden as young as the smaller ones for fear of long term damage done to their legs.
Heart issues are always a concern
Later in life, larger animals are very prone to arthritis.