The Greyhoundshow


What was good back then…

Filed under: Auf den Greyhound gekommen,Gesundheit,Standesamt — admin @ 10:14

could not be bad today?!

Dee Rock

Dee Rock, winner of the Waterloo Cup (1935) and Winner of the Waterloo Purse (1933). In addition, sire of the Waterloo Cup winners 1939, 1940, 1941 and 1942.

Talking to breeders, who have been in the “business” for quite a while, about innovations in dog breeding, you often get to hear: “What is this all about restrictions and health testing? In the old days without those they did not breed bad dogs at all – quite the contrary!”
And then they refer to examples of breeds which have indeed deteriorated during the last 20 or 30 years: hatchbacked German Shepherds which struggle when going around a bend without toppling over, brachycephalic Bull Dogs which are not able to breathe or Molossers which have become so wrinkled they look like a total loss walking.
Likewise, old photos are presented on which you can see Afghan Hounds bursting with vigour and fierceness. Or very functional while beautiful Greyhounds like the one on the right.
All this is used as a reference to justify why one does not want to have requirements like health testing, more transparency or – heaven forbid! – training programmes for breeders.
This argumentation follows several errors at the same time. Because what used to be good and right in those days, may not any more. Listed below are some circumstances of dog breeding, which have changed considerably.

Not putting the case for the antiglobalists, but – it’s a small world today! Due to crucial improvements in transportation travelling – even across whole continents – has become much easier and normal compared to 40 or 50 years ago. Therefore, nowadays it is no problem at all to get your bitch in season to the selected stud in time, even if he lives far abroad.
“Wedding trips” from Germany to France, Great Britain, Scandinavia or Eastern Europe are more and more common today. In addition, reproductive medicine has made huge progress: Artificial insemination is a routine procedure, cryopreservation allows it to send semen of coveted males around the globe, and even the genetic material of already deceased specimens can be brought back into the population.
These tools should be viewed unbiasedly, they can mean curse or blessing for modern dog-breeding – depending on their application.

Before these possibilities existed, purebred dog populations were strictly regional. This is how the individual breeds developed after all: Suited to their respective task and their environment. The breeding stock at hand was normally limited to the own animals’ progeny and dogs in the region. Thus, inbreeding was unavoidable. The increasing level of inbreeding led to a more uniform breed type and a consolidation of desired traits. But – one should not delude oneself about it – at the same time a rigid selection took place. Animals which did not perform, or would not thrive on the diet, under the housing or weather conditions, were culled without mercy. Puppies that were born malformed, feeble or even surplus, were not raised at all.
Fresh genes could enter those “subpopulations” only via regional fairs or with people passing through. So there were many small subpopulations, which existed within a landrace or breed, and which were genetically consolidated in themselves, but only distantly related to the other subpopulations. Thus there was always the opportunity to outcross within the own breed with different genetic material, but with the same desired traits as well. The chart below right may illustrate this fact.

Inbreeding in different directions within the several subpopulations of a breed does little harm to the overall genetic diversity.

Meanwhile, we are miles apart from this situation in modern dog breeding. Many breeds have started their triumph around the world during the last or in the century before last. Partly because they accompanied “their” herds as stock dogs, partly because they were brought along by emigrants. In addition, there has been a worldwide trade of talented gun dogs or particularly sought after specimens for over a century as well.
Yet, the main structure of breed populations remained the same: Several small subpopulations, which were closed and without much genetic diversity. And between which only from time to time an exchange happened – as a rule a true outcross, contributing desperately needed genetic material. „Popular Sires“ existed then, too, but without today’s tools their influence remained regional. Even if breeding stock was placed from one continent to the other, it stayed there until the rest of time.
Selection was still an important part of breeding, until the 1970s it was common practice in most German breed clubs that you only got stud book entries for six dogs of a litter, the rest was usually culled.
So we can use the same chart again:

Several „closed“ subpopulations provide the opportunity to „outcross“ anytime with a distant related animal of the same breed.

What has happened now that we may have to rethink the usual ways of in- and linebreeding? To subject breeding stock to a more or less exhaustive panel of health testing? To urge longtime successful breeders to upskill on recent findings regarding genetics, behavior or dog health?
The answer is simple:

While there were several well-bred subpopulations under the “roof of the breed” until 30 years ago, nowadays there is a trend to “dissolve” those “genetic islands” in the big main gene pool of the breed. This would not matter, if there was an equal distribution of the genetic material with due regard to all known lines. And with a smart breeding strategy to prevent the creation of a large “genetic mishmash” where all individuals get closely related after only a few generations.
Both of the mentioned precautions we do not find in most of the dog breeds, neither in Greyhounds. The Effect: The global already very small effective population of Show Greyhounds is further shrinking, because only a few, closely related dogs are used for breeding worldwide.
The above mentioned new tools create the possibility to use a “popular sire” from Europe frequently in the USA and vice versa. Other, currently not so popular lines go extinct.
Especially in our breed with the very low demand for puppies this poses a severe problem. If you venture to breed a litter of Show Greyhound puppies, a well-known parent helps a lot in order to find puppy buyers at all. Hence, a handful of males are being used way too often. This is even more alarming, as those males are heavily inbred themselves and boast a huge ancestor loss.

Dr. Barbara Kessler showed this quite impressively during her talk at the 1. Greyhound World Congress in Oslo, using the appearance of „Treetops Hawk“ in modern pedigrees as an example.
The following current „popular sires“ are all descendants of „Treetops Hawk“.
If you take a look at their 12 generation pedigrees, you will meet the “wonderhound” quite often:

  • Windrock Fernando (1999) → 507 times (25,7 %)
  • Boughton Benvoluto (2000) → 449 times (29,0%)
  • Epic Brave at Sobers (2001) → 470 times (25,2%)
  • Showline Sporting Trophy at Sobers (2009) → 493 times (17,6%)

If you then – for example – investigate Greyhound breeding in Germany, you will find the above mentioned males in all three German Show Greyhound litters:

  • Grian Gryjandi: Windrock Fernando, Epic Brave at Sobers
  • Royal Bunnycatcher’s: Windrock Fernando, Boughton Benvoluto, Epic Bombastic (brother to Epic Brave)
  • Ina’s Fashion: Windrock Fernando, Boughton Benvoluto, Epic Brave at Sobers

Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that we find new genetic defects in Show Greyhounds on a regular basis. And just as little that Show Greyhounds are being diagnosed with diseases which are associated with genetic depletion and a high level of inbreeding.
The continuation of once sensible breeding procedures (in- and line-breeding with only occasional outcrossing) in the world of today has resulted in directing a lot of dog breeds into a genetic deadlock.
In order to avoid the decline of the entire population, we need breeders with foresight, which are able to develop border-crossing breeding strategies allowing for the latest scientific insights and using all available tools wisely.

Ein Kommentar »

  1. … should be provided to all breeders of pure-blooded breeds and dogs that do not have pedigrees, and they have excellent characteristics of the possibility of exhibiting and obtaining paper (a new genetic well will be created from which additional qualitative progeny of all breeds could be developed) … , because often these dogs and their offspring often turn out to be much better than all those who see themselves at the exhibitions (reasons and arguments are many and too many, but I will not go into that area … and explain), and the proud owners will give them titles / trophies … because today everything is reduced to bussines, profits and profits …

    Kommentar by Sasha Dobrijevic — 13.3.2018 @ 15:22

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