by Lloyd C. Bracket
In the preceding installment, I stated that there are few real strains within any of the various breeds of dogs in this country. I defined a strain as being a "variety within a variety" having a distinct type, the members of which are recognizable as being of that family.
It was also explained that, where there are strains, one seldom finds them unmixed with the blood of other so-called strains since most breeders started their strains with the same ancestor or ancestors, this because that dog or dogs were great ones of their time and recognized generally as being so. When outcrosses are made between two such strains, there is not as great risk as thought thee were not common ancestors reasonably close up in both pedigrees.
Before going further into the subject of outcrossing, I feel it should be repeated the NO complete outbreeding should be done unless some fault or faults have shown up in an established strain. If even through careful selection during the building of his strain, a breeder finds he has some shortcomings he cannot eliminate or improve without using outside blood, then it is time to outcross. This may well be one of the most critical periods in his breeding career.
It is not the experienced and informed breeders who constantly practice outcrossing but rather the novices and uninformed who hope, through outcrossing, to retain all of the virtues, the while they eliminate the faults, in the first generation resulting from an outcross. Unfortunately it is not as simple as that, for outcrossing BRINGS UNDESIRABLE CHARACTERISTICS TOO. Faults brought in through outcrossing can be eliminated or linebreeding of the progeny resulting from an outcross.
TO GET DESIRED CHARACTERISTIC WHEN OUTCROSSING
In reaching out, through outcross blood, to obtain some wanted characteristic not present in his strain, or to correct a fault he has not been able to eliminate from it through closed-up breeding, a breeder should make the outcross as partial as possible. In other words, he should obtain the desired correction or improvement through using a stud possessing the needed trait, and who is also, if possible, related to his own strain -- the more closely related the better. Through this procedure he may save himself from the necessity of generations of breeding to regain the virtues already in his strain as well as hold those he obtained by outcrossing. This is true because outcrossing is quite as likely to destroy the good traits already possessed as to add others which are missing and desired.
Perhaps at another time I will explain the basis of this principle by going into the matter of genes and chromosomes and how they combine. For the present, however, as I have stated previously, I am making these articles as easily understandable as possible to the novice breeder. To do so, I must at times make statements of fact known to every geneticist and student of animal breeding, without explaining scientifically the proof supporting them.
So important is the matter of what to do after making an outcross, I think it should be repeated that any bad results from outcrossing can be eliminate only through continued inbreeding or linebreeding, and careful selection, so that the benefits derived form outcrossing may be incorporated in one's strain.
There are two reasons why a breeder sometimes obtains approximately what he is seeking in the first generation of an outcross. The first is that what he believes to be an outcross may be the mating of two dogs who are not as unrelated as it appears to him from looking at their short pedigrees. As previously stated, a more extended pedigree might show relationship.
The second reason takes a bit more explaining. A breeder sincerely interested in producing high quality dogs usually searches for a prepotent stud dog known to sire outstanding progeny. It is quite generally known that such males are dominant because of being, in most instances, either inbred or linebred, and, putting it in the most simple way, they thus have the power to impose their own characteristics over the recessive ones of a hit-or-miss bred bitch. Sometimes I like to explain it this way: such a cold bred bitch can be likened to the seed bed, the earth, while the male's sperm is the seed which produces its own kind. Of course, the reverse is true when the bitch with inbred dominance is mated to a cold bred stud.
DANGER IN CONTINUED OUTCROSSING
When salubrious results are obtained in the first generation of an outcross, many breeders think the mating was an unqualified success and all they need do thereafter is to continue such outcrossing to become great breeders with an established type of their own, producing a high average of good ones. They could not be more mistaken, since the exact opposite is sure to occur. I can do no better than quote here from the world-famous geneticist Dr. E. Fitch Daglish, who is also a contributor to DOG WORLD. The following is an excerpt from his article in the June 1959 issue:
"INVISIBLE FACTORS INHERITED: One of the fundamental principles of genetics is that it is not the visible properties of individuals that are inherited but those factors or genes which endow them with the ability to produce certain qualities under certain conditions. When two animals differing in genetic make-up are mated, their offspring must be genetically impure in varying degrees however closely the two parents may resemble each other in outward appearance. It is this which causes the wide variation in size, shape, constitution and so on that is invariably seen in the second generation of cross breeds ...
" ... Impressive examples are furnish by the familiar utility crosses in poultry, cattle and pigs produced by farmers. Such first crosses are, as a rule, very uniform in appearance and for certain purposes are preferred as layers or fatteners, but if such hybrids are bred from the results are always disappointing. They are impure in respect to so many genes -- for all those factors in which their parents differed -- that their progeny show the widest variations and include a large proportion of individuals of very low quality form whatever point of view they are judged. "It may be objected that what happens when different breeds are crossed is not relevant tot he effects to be expected from outcrossing within a single breed but, genetically outcrossing and crossbreeding differ only in degree. Both involve the mating of individuals whose genetic constitution is almost certain to differ widely so that there must be a drastic reshuffling of the genes in the offspring." (Italics are my own.)
It should be remember, therefore, that as dog breeders we are dealing not only with the physical structure of a mating pair, but with the GENES inherited from the forbears shown in their pedigrees.
FAILING OF MANY BREEDERS
The number of breeders who know practically nothing about the ancestors of their dogs is appalling. Many cannot even name when asked, without looking at a pedigree, the names of the sire and dam of a dog or dogs they own. Were they asked for a four-generation pedigree of one of their dogs, only a few could write it from memory. In my breeding days I could do this on any one of a hundred or more dogs in my kennel, with seldom and error.
My contention is that, unless a breeder can do likewise and also has quite a complete knowledge of the virtues and faults of all the ancestors through at least the third generation -- and even further back is preferable -- he will not become even a good breeder, let along a great one. He MUST KNOW from whence came certain traits, both desire and undesired, if he expects to retain or eliminate them. This cannot be accomplished by hit-or-miss breedings, be they inbred, linebred, or, most certainly, outcross.
Whenever a breed becomes popular, there is an influx of novices not only ignorant of what constitutes a good specimen in the variety, but much more lacking in any knowledge of animal breeding. Newcomers should be, and usually are, welcomed when they indicate a sincere desire to find out what a good specimen of their chose breed IS and have a willingness to learn and study. It is they who must replace those who are constantly disappearing from the game for one reason or another.
Of later there has been a big influx of beginners in several breeds, Poodles, German Shepherd Dogs, Miniature Schnauzers, and Basset Hounds, to name just a few. Most of my live having been spent hobbying German Shepherds; my connection with, and knowledge of, that variety is greatest, but I understand somewhat similar conditions as to the type of breeders above also exist in breeds other than the German Shepherd Dog.
Referring now to what ha already been written about outcrossing, I can state unequivocally that in the German Shepherd Dog breed, as in not other, can so many of the evils of that kind of hit-or-miss breeding be found today. Outcrossing is more the rule than the exception. it is being done not by novices and beginners only, but also by many who should know better because of greater experience in dog breeding. The results are presently visible to all and should be a warning to fanciers of other breeds. In no other breed with which I am familiar does one observe in the show ring such a wide diversity of type.
Recent years have seen dozens of German Shepherd Dogs imported, with no two of them much alike except perhaps in faults no heretofore common to our breed in their country: short necks, coarse and unattractive heads, insufficiently long and pushed forward shoulder blades, soft backs, rear angulation and proportion of length to height both falling far short of the breed Standard's specifications, etc. Because of the belief, from perhaps of an inferiority complex, that anything imported must per se be superior to something produced in this country, together with a lack of knowledge as to what a good specimen of the breed looks like, many of our breeders are rushing "like mad" to breed their bitches to these imports.
In all dogs we have what is termed "warning blood." As implied, this means that there are certain faults contained in the genes of those animals which are quite certain to show up when they are mated to others. These shortcomings became dominant through a lack of selection in the matings of their ancestors, which, properly planned, would have eliminated them. I wish to pursue this subject only enough to use it as a demonstration of WHY any kind of outcrossing, and especially that which is now being done in German Shepherd Dogs, is dangerous and can eventuate in harm to the breed.
As has been pointed out, a breeder, to be successful and not trust entirely to luck, must know the background of his mating pair. He must, most importantly of all, know the WARNING BLOOD behind them. It is difficult enough to learn of such warnings in the pedigrees of dogs with several generations bred in this country, so HOW can he find out about those from abroad. The fact is that probably not one in a hundred of the breeders using imports DOES know one darned thing about what to guard against -- long coats, and all of those quite commonly possessed faults listed above. If he is ignorant of what a good specimen of his breed looks like, or hopes that the visible faults in the dog are not inherent and will not appear in descendants "even unto the third generation," he is fooling himself and doing his breed a great disservice.
IMPORTS COULD BE "TAINTED"
Our Shepherdists were the first to take cognizance of, and try to do something about, hip dysplasia, that crippling disease found in so many breeds. Great efforts have been made to eliminate it through an educational campaign instructing breeders to use only sound animals for breeding purposes. This is admirable and to be commended, but how sincere, may I ask, are those (and amongst them are several who were the loudest in their demands that affected dogs be discarded as breeders) who themselves bred to these imported mates?
The taint has been shown to be inheritable. Not the slightest attention is, or has been given to it by foreign breeders. The individual dogs may be shown to be untainted through an X-ray examination, upon or before importation, but what about the genes they may carry for it? Do the importers know -- do the purchasers from these importers know -- do the fanciers who breed to these dogs know? What about the parents or the litter mates: are they "clean"? Who knows? The answer is that nobody knows, because no recognition is given to hip dysplasia in Germany -- no X-rays and no consequent culling of their breeding stock.
Theoretically, dogs in this country could eventually be produced free of the tainted, and then one imported dog carrying it could start the whole thing over again. It is commonly known that some of these imported dogs are amongst the worst offenders in siring dysplastic progeny (and orchidism,a s well). At least one dog, perhaps as perfect a specimen as has recently been brought to this country,and for which a big price was paid, has been returned to Germany by a conscientious American breeder because she was dysplastic.
What does all of this actually mean to breeders? It means that outcrossing is particularly dangerous when traits both visible and those inherent in the mating pair's ancestors, are not known. A breeder is gambling when he makes an outcross mating, and it is an outcross breeding when no common ancestors appear in the fourth or, at least, the fifth generation. In outcrossing one is mixing the bloodlines of different strains and consequently unwanted recessive characteristics are likely to be brought in. Very often novice breeders present the pedigree of their outcross bred bitch to me, asking for advice about breeding her. Such a pedigree cannot be evaluated properly because it is impossible to know the genetic makeup of such an animal.
Never outcross when things seem to be going well -- do it only as an experiment, or when some fault or faults cannot be eliminated by staving within one's strain. Breeding complete outcrosses is a dangerous procedure, sure to result in a hodgepodge of breed traits with a loss of all true type, if practiced carelessly, or beyond an initial mating without a definite purpose.
When, and if, an outcross is made, every effort should be expended to see that the outcross dog brings in as few line traits and genetic impurities as possible. To insure this, one should use an individual which carries as much blood as can be found of the foundation stock of the strain which is to be crossed.
After an outcross has been made, a breeder should then breed right back into the original strain. This is the only safe procedure after the purpose of the outcross has been achieved.
As Dr. Daglish states it: "Only in that way can the high degree of genetic purity established in a valuable true-breeding strain be recovered and the bad effects of mixing the genes carried by unrelated animals be avoided."