View Full Version : Genetics and dogs in the show ring

14th September 2008, 05:38 PM
Very thought-provoking post (http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2008/08/making-and-breaking-dogs-in-show-ring.html) from the blog Terrierman.

The list of breeds and average lifespan and leading causes of death -- taken right from the Kennel Club's own health survey -- is utterly depressing reading. For example, the median age of death for bulldogs for example is 6 years and three months. Almost 1 in 10 pekingese die from neurological problems. Almost half of scotties and Bernese mountain dogs die of cancer. And Bernese only live til 8. :(

The story of Kennel Club dogs is pretty much the same from one breed to the next:

A relatively small numbers of dogs are brought into the Kennel Club;

The registry is closed so no new genetic material can find its way in;

The show ring selection system results in a relatively small number of dominant (ribbon-winning) sires being elevated in the gene pool;

The breed splits due to differences between types (coat color, size, lay of the ear), further reducing the already-small gene pool;

An extremely condensed gene pool (10,000 dogs may have the genetic diversity of 50) means that negative recessive genes are able to easily find each other and double down within a litter, resulting in offspring with disease or deformity.

With any Kennel Club breed, the only three variables in this story are:

The genetic quality of the dogs in the original Kennel Club pool;

The length of time the dogs are in the Kennel Club, and;

The degree to which the breed standard calls for negative morphological selection.

The genetic quality of the original Kennel Club pool is obviously important, but it cannot provide salvation, for even a pool of dogs without negative genetic traits is doomed under a closed registry and show-ring selection system.

16th September 2008, 10:39 PM
I have long studied breeding and diversity. Probably my introduction was through Jeffrey Bragg in Canada, a sled-dog breeder who got into an uproar with our club in the 90s when he tried to bring in native huskies to add to the Siberian Breed.

This is his paper written about diversity and breeding to the Canadian Kennel Club years ago, and it very much explains all that Pat Burns has written about above with more depth.


Jeffrey Bragg chose to make his own registry and separate his breed - an open registry which allows for an "evolving" breed - open stud book and new blood coming in. Of course to do this "type" has to be a little less important.


I follow his project as I have to wonder how it is going to end out and if that might be the way for other breeds to go. This idea, of course, works more easily for breeds with a pool of native stock to draw from.

Riley's mom, Siss.