The Plight of the Bahamian Potcake

Despite how it sounds, potcakes have nothing to do with illicit substances. They’re mixed-breed, indigenous dogs from the Bahamas or the Turks & Caicos islands.

Bahamian Potcake, Dog, BahamasNobody knows for sure where the name originated, but many Bahamians believe it came from the thick, leftover mixture remaining at the bottom of a pot of rice after multiple reheatings. This “potcake,” as it was known, was often fed to stray mutts.Potcakes (6)

Given the relatively small gene pool from which they evolved, many potcakes exhibit similar traits. Typically, they’re slim, short-haired, medium-size hounds. Most are tan, brown, black or some combination thereof.

Though strays can weigh as little as 25 pounds, a healthy, well-cared-for potcake weighs 35-50 pounds. As any potcake owner will attest, they’re lovely and loving dogs, with beautiful features and gentle temperaments.

It’s said that there are more than 5,000 stray potcakes roaming the streets in Nassau, and another 2,500 stray and/or unaltered dogs on Abaco and its cays. It’s heartbreakingly common to see these malnourished strays foraging for food and water alongside the road.

Potcakes (4)Fortunately, a number of organizations, including Royal Potcake Rescue USA, Potcake Rescue Bahamas, the Humane Society of Grand Bahama, Abaco Shelter, the Bahamas Alliance for Animal Rights and Kindness (BAARK), Operation Potcake and the Hope Town Humane Society are working to improve the plight of the potcake. They rescue strays, spay/neuter them, provide medical care and find them forever homes – not just in the Bahamas, but in the U.S., Canada and beyond.

Potcakes (9)To help control and reduce Abaco’s potcake population, Royal Potcake Rescue USA (“RPR”), BAARK, Abaco Shelter, the Hope Town Humane Society and Abaco veterinarian, Dr. Derrick Bailey, are teaming up to hold a spay/neuter clinic in Marsh Harbour April 25-27. Their goal is to spay/neuter 250 potcakes — 100 more than were sterilized during a similar clinic held this past October.

Several veterinarians will travel from Nassau to Abaco on their own time and provide services and supplies at significantly reduced prices. Aside from medical staff, the clinic will be manned by Bahamian and American volunteers. Total cost per animal will be approximately $50, or $12,500 total.

To raise these funds, RPR is undertaking several initiatives. They still have a fair way to go to achieve their fundraising goal, so please, please help if you can.

Here’s how:

DONATE through Royal Potcake Rescue’s Bahamas, Potcakeonline Indiegogo fundraising campaign, which runs until April 3, 2014.

RPR is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit pet rescue organization, meaning American donors will receive tax receipts for donations. Depending on the level at which you donate, you could also receive an exclusive Potcakes of Abaco bumper sticker, can cooler, T-shirt or tote bag.

Donations can also be made through RPR’s website or mailed to: Royal Potcake Rescue USA, PO Box 56050, Atlanta, GA 30343.

VOLUNTEER at the April spay/neuter clinic. RPR relies on volunteers to help with trapping, transporting, vet assistance, recovery, cleaning, record-keeping and other tasks. If you’re interested in an enjoyable and rewarding “spaycation”, here’s the volunteer application.

Potcakes (1)TRANSPORT A POTCAKE back to the U.S. If you’re traveling from Abaco to Florida or Atlanta, you can help by bringing a potcake puppy back with you. RPR looks after all paperwork and provides the carrier. All you have to do is bring the pup (which usually weighs 10 lbs or less), in its carrier onto the plane and keep it under the seat in front of you during the flight. A RPR volunteer will meet you at the airport to collect the puppy and deliver it to its foster or forever home. For more information, visit RPR’s How You Can Help page.

FOSTER A POTCAKE. If you live in or near Atlanta, GA, consider fostering a potcake until its forever home can be found. RPR takes care of all medical costs — all you have to do is provide a home, the day-to-day basics and lots of love. If you’re in Florida and can pick up a potcake pup at the airport, you could foster him/her for a short period of time until RPR can arrange to get the dog back to Atlanta. For more information, visit RPR’s How You Can Help page.

Should you need a bit more motivation to lend a hand, here are just a few of the potcakes currently available for adoption through Royal Potcake Rescue USA and Potcake Rescue Bahamas. Who could say no to these adorable faces?

Photos courtesy of Royal Potcake Rescue USA and Potcake Rescue Bahamas.

Next time: Adopting Your Own Bahamian Potcake

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Bahamas DNA Project – Untangling My Family Roots

DNA vials 5

Some people’s family trees grow in neat, tidy branches. My ancestry is more like a twisted, rambling vine, or a set of tangled Christmas lights.

On the Bahamian side, my ancestors include Eleutheran Adventurers (English Puritans fleeing religious persecution in Bermuda, who settled on the Bahamian island now known as Eleuthera), British Loyalists who fled the U.S. and settled in Harbour Island and Abaco following the American Revolution, and at least one pirate.

Faced with a cholera outbreak, potato blight and political unrest, my Dad’s great-grandfather moved his family from Germany to Jamaica in 1834. My paternal grandmother’s heritage goes back to Curacao, Cuba and the Danish West Indies before bringing her to Jamaica where she met and married my grandfather.

Because of the relatively tiny communities in which many of my ancestors lived, I often find I’m related to the same person through different pathways. For example, I’ve discovered that three of my four maternal grandparents are direct descendants of Wyannie Malone, a Loyalist widow said to have settled Hope Town, Abaco in the late 1700s. Long story short, I’m the human equivalent of a Bahamian potcake.

Hard to believe that one of these tiny vials holds my complete genetic history.

Hard to believe that one of these tiny vials holds my complete genetic history!

One of the speakers at this year’s Island Roots Heritage Festival was Peter Roberts, administrator of the Bahamas DNA Project, a private, non-profit organization that connects people who share Bahamian ancestry and traces their origins in Africa, Europe, and North America.

DNA testing, Peter explained, can help determine whether others with your surname are related to you, and identify family connections that may not be traceable through other genealogical research methods. It can also scientifically verify traditional genealogical research, and locate relatives you never knew you had.

Peter also recounted some of the many success stories that have emerged from the Bahamas DNA Project. For example, DNA testing has shown that Bahamians with the surname Albury (i.e., my Mom) can trace their ancestry back to medieval European nobility. And though most assumed that the Bahamian Lowes (including my 2x great-grandmother, Jessie Lowe) were of British ancestry, testing shows that their roots are actually in Mexico, Portugal, Brazil and Tanzania, and their heritage can be traced back to pirates. Matthew Lowe, a well-known pirate in Bahamian history, was my 8x great-grandfather.

I’ve wanted to participate in the Bahamas DNA Project for a while, and after Peter’s presentation, I signed up on the spot. Submitting my DNA sample was easy. I just swabbed the inside of my cheek with a tiny brush (plus another one, for backup), sealed the brushes in the tiny vials provided in the test kit, and mailed off the samples.

Genetic Makeup

My genetic makeup, from FamilyTreeDNA.com

I ordered two tests: mtDNA and Family Finder. The mtDNA test traces maternal DNA passed from mothers to their children, male or female. It traces your maternal line (i.e., your mother’s mother’s mother, etc.), and is best suited for revealing deep ancestry. (Men with paternal ancestry in the Bahamas can also order a y-DNA test, which traces your father’s father’s father’s line.)

Family Finder helps to locate more recent genealogical matches (i.e., within the last 10 generations or so.) It’s an autosomal DNA test that compares your DNA with that of others who’ve been tested, and identifies people who share parts of your DNA.

After about eight weeks, I received an email with a link to my results. Here’s just some of what I learned:

214px-King_George_V_1911_color-crop

King George V

Genetically, I’m 86.6% Western European (specifically from the Orkney Islands in northern Scotland), 5.9% West African (from the Mandinka and/or Yoruba ethnic groups) and 7.4% Middle Eastern (Mozabite, Palestinian, Bedouin, Bedouin South, Druze, and/or Jewish ethnicities.)

I belong to Haplogroup T2, a subset of Haplogroup T. (A haplogroup is basically an ancestral clan, kind of like the Vikings or the Celts.) Haplogroup T is believed to have originated in Africa about 45,000 years ago. Over time, this group spread into northern Italy and eventually throughout Europe. About 10% of modern day Europeans, Palestinians, Turks and Syrians belong to Haplogroup T, which is found in particularly high concentrations around the Eastern Baltic Sea, Ireland and west of Britain.

220px-Jesse_james_portrait

Jesse James

Some better-known members of Haplogroup T (and therefore, people with whom I share maternal ancestry) include Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, American outlaw Jesse James, and Kings George the I, III and V of England.

As for more recent relatives, my DNA tests have revealed dozens of people world-wide with whom I share DNA — and therefore, at least one common ancestor. In some cases, the connections are quite far back in time and difficult to trace. But in many cases, the DNA test shows that the connection is fairly recent. I’ve been in touch with some of my newly discovered relatives and we’re comparing family trees and DNA results in an attempt to identify our common ancestors.

Though quite a few Bahamians of European descent have been tested since the Bahamas DNA Project began in 2004, the project is eager to have more Bahamians of African, Chinese, Greek, Lebanese and Native American ancestry participate.  Depending on what tests you choose to have done, prices range from $49 to $199 plus postage, though if cost is a concern, you can request sponsorship.

To participate in the Bahamas DNA Project, visit the project website, their Facebook page, or the Bahamas DNA Project Page on the Family Tree DNA website.

 

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