Diversity and the pure bred dog



Diversity and the pure bred dog
(The poodle and the chocolate cake)

Loss of Diversity
Suppose we start a new population with only six or eight founders. (A number of breeds have started with that few.) We will get rid of hundreds of bad recipes, but the remaining dozen or two will be encountered much more frequently. Furthermore, if there are several good or excellent recipes, the chance of dropping one of these from the collection grows greater as the number of founders diminishes, and the risk of losing one remains high as long as the effective population size remains low. Working with small numbers will inevitably decrease the diversity, simply because individuals do not pass on their recipes equally to the next generation and some recipes are accidentally lost. This has the superficially desirable result of giving a more reproducible phenotype, but at the expense of an overall reduction in quality, health, and longevity.

The common practice of almost everyone rushing to breed to the currently-popular male show champion is probably the most significant factor reducing whatever diversity remains. Consider your own breed (the situation for most breeds is similar). Can you find one or more males that appear in most pedigrees? Almost everyone decides they like the recipes of (insert name) — or at least the ones they can see readily — and abandons other recipes with little thought to the eventual consequences. In a few generations, almost everyone has a substantial number of his recipes, though not necessarily his exceptional ones, and many excellent alternatives are very hard to find.

For those genes that establish breed identity, there will be markedly less variability within a breed than within Canis familiaris as a whole. The tricky bit is restricting variability for those genes that make a breed distinctive without sacrificing the variability/diversity that is necessary for good health and long-term survival of the breed. In many cases, this has not been achieved, and we are now paying the price in terms of high incidence of specific genetic diseases and increased susceptibility to other diseases, reduced litter sizes, reduced lifespan, inability to conceive naturally, etc.

Why has this happened?

Many breeds have been established with too few founders or ones that are already too closely related.
The registries (stud books) are closed for most breeds; therefore you cannot introduce diversity from outside the existing population.
Most selective breeding practices have the effect of reducing the diversity further. In addition, the wrong things are often selected for.
Even if the founders were sufficiently diverse genetically, almost no one knows how their genetic contributions are distributed among the present day population. Consequently, breeding is done without regard to conserving these contributions, which may be of value to the general health and survival of the breed.


This is the reason that Anglo Wulfdog breeders are prepared to bring in unrelated females of other wolfdog breeds and to outcross to unrelated studs at any time in the future - this way ensuring a healthy diversity without reaching a genetic "bottleneck" as with other similar breeds.





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