Since I am not a professional writer, nor do I possess either the aptitude or inclination for such work it has been my intention and desire to discontinue these articles as soon as I felt that the editor’s request for something on the above subject had been covered. It seems, therefore, that I made a mistake when I stated, at the end of a previous installment, that a continuance would be predicated upon the interest shown by DOG WORLD readers. I am sure the response has amazed all of us.
Because through lack of time I have been unable to write personally to each of those who have requested more articles, I want to express my appreciation here.
The effort made to be of whatever help I can is doubly rewarding because of the many novices who have written that although they had long wanted information on breeding better dogs, and had repeatedly asked successful breeders for help, little had been forthcoming. One does indeed wonder why so many old timers are chary of assisting the beginners. We seem to forget that we ourselves were once in their position, and how much easier the road would have been for us had we been given encouragement and a helping hand.
The preceding installments have dealt mainly with defining inbreeding and linebreeding together with their advantages and the results to be expected. There was also a report of some of the writers successes obtained by using these breeding methods. While much more could, and perhaps should, follow along the same line, it can wait until a future time. The subject of outcrossing is particularly timely now, when there seems to be not only many misconceptions regarding it, but probably never before in the history of dog breeding such a regrettable and harmful amount of it being done.
Somewhere in a previous article I made a statement to the effect that in some breeds the bad results of outcrossing were not as evident as they would be were it not almost impossible to find absolutely unrelated blood in those varieties. This, I said, would be explained later. Probably this should be done now, before going into the matter of outcrossing.
Ancestors In Common Don’t Guarantee Worthwhile Breeding
Many breeds, and the German Shepherd Dog is a prime example, can trace their origin back to not only one or two foundation heads, but also through little, if any, more than a human lifetime. I myself had dogs but a few generations removed from Horand Grafrath. He was whelped in 1895 and was the first dog of our breed to be registered. To my knowledge, every living German Shepherd Dog in this country traces back, through one or another of his sons, to Horand. Some breeds which have existed since antiquity, with a type somewhat like that of today, can similarly trace their upgrading, which developed the present specimens, to some “great” of the relatively close past. This is true in many varieties of animals, as illustrated by Hamiltonian 10 in racehorses, to cite just one example.
If one will examine the complete pedigrees, perhaps through six generations, of ancestors behind any two purebred dogs of a recognized breed, it may be seen that the two mated dogs will have at least one ancestor in common somewhere in the combined pedigrees. It is more likely that there will be several common ancestors in the six generations and that the name of one or more of them will appear more than once in one or both pedigrees. With the usually shortened pedigree, supplying the names no further back than perhaps the great-grandparents’ generation, the breeder may believe that he is making a complete outcross.
While it is most assuredly not my contention that the breeding of one dog to just any other in the same breed is not outcrossing, I am trying to explain that there often is some interrelationship. Although a common ancestor is so far removed as to have no significant influence, the type that lie originated may have kept the breed members more closely alike than they would have been without him.
In view of what I have written above, some of my readers may conclude that an outstanding animal appearing once or even several times further back than the third generation will have a noteworthy influence. One often sees pedigrees, especially those of German Shepherd Dogs currently being imported, stating that there is linebreeding to one or more sires, as “4-5” or “5-5,” meaning in the fourth and fifth, or twice in the fifth, generations. When it is considered that a dog appearing the fourth generation contributes only about 1/256 of the heredity factors in a puppy, one can understand that those distant relatives could not have done much to overcome the influence of the unrelated and perhaps inferior specimens appearing in the pedigree later. Altogether too many fanciers are misled into feeling they have a worthwhile breeding animal because back in the third or fourth generations there appears one or more outstanding dogs.
Outcrossing, Part of Planned Breeding
There have been many, and far better, articles than I can write anent the matter of outcrossing including if, when, and how to do it. One such appeared only last year in DOG WORLD by the famous geneticist Dr. E. Fitch Daglish. Anything that I, or anybody else might write would have to be repetitious, so well did he cover the subject.
Pointing this out to our editor, he explained that there were probably many who did not read it, that there were new subscribers who had not had the opportunity, and, “Besides, it and the other subjects you have been covering can’t be repeated too many times.” If all this be true, I need then only apologize for singing the same song again to those who are excepted from the above categories.
Outcrossing is, of course, a concomitant of “planned breeding” and therefore MUST be considered when offering any effectual treatise on that subject.
Previous installments have dealt in the main with the use of inbreeding and linebreeding to establish a strain within a breed of dogs. It remains now to cover the matter of how often it is advisable to introduce an outcross and, when and if such an outcross is made, where one goes from there.
I would like to interject here my observation of something that continually amazes me, and it has to do particularly with our present-day German Shepherd Dog breeders. Practically none of them have evolved a “plan” of ANY sort. There is presently a heterogeneous crop of imported males available and they are being used as breeders by hundreds of fanciers who have NO knowledge of those dogs’ ancestors. Neither have they the least knowledge of the producing abilities of these studs themselves, in most instances. I have asked dozens of these breeders (they cannot rightly be designated as “fanciers”), “Where do you plan to go from there?” and I cannot remember a single instance when any one of them could tell me of a breeding plan he had for the future.
We are about to discuss outcrossing and, as above outlined, “how often,” “when,” and “if” to do it. This will mean absolutely nothing, whatever I may write, to such hit-or-miss breeders who are not only starting with outcross-bred animals, but must almost of necessity CONTINUE that process unless they immediately find some way to breed back on the sire’s side (often inadvisable when his forebears are considered, or impossible from the standpoint of availability), or start inbreeding on the best dogs of the dam’s side. But when asked, “What are you going to do next?” as stated above, the usually reply is, “I haven’t gotten that far” or “I haven’t thought of that.”
Using the vernacular, I will state unequivocally that “nobody but nobody” amongst them is going to do constructive animal breeding or produce a satisfactory percentage of top specimens, and most certainly they WILL NOT build a strain within the breed. This having been proved to be true innumerable times by geneticists and all successful animal breeders, regardless of variety, what follows can be of value or interest to those now doing such outcross breeding only for one reason: to demonstrate why they are not getting the desired results.
Outcross Only for Definite Purpose
Those doing planned breeding based upon inbreeding and linebreeding should outcross only for a definite purpose. Where the misconception started that it is not safe to inbreed more than three generations without an outcross nobody seems to know, but it is not necessarily valid. To my own misfortune I myself believed this fallacy at one time, and reaped the consequences.
Every experienced breeder knows that, perhaps more often than not, the offspring of a first-generation outcross of two excellent animals show many of the good points of their parents. That is why, when so many of those first generation puppies from outcross matings are doing well in the show ring, their breeders, and others who have noted this, rush to make similar breedings. They will undoubtedly learn, as I did, that the youngsters of succeeding generations of outcross breeding will be a heterogeneous lot, showing an absolute lack of uniformity. This will not only prevent those breeders from developing and holding a proper type, but will help to make their breed one of even further differing types in size and proportion.
Such breeders then, do a disservice to their breed and are mainly responsible for the great differentiation within it. They also are the cause of many judges’ bewilderment. One often hears puzzled judges ask, in judging German Shepherd Dogs, for instance, “What DO you WANT, anyhow, those big and square ones, the small long ones, those angulated as your Standard calls for, or those built about like Collies?”
Breeders who believe that an outcross should be made at some definite time as, for instance, the previously mentioned third generation, are, as another writer has put it, giving credence to one of those “old wives’ tales” to which some dog breeders seem to be particularly addicted.
When Should Outcross Be Made?
In answering this question, I can give no better advice than that advanced by Dr. Daglish: “To ask when an outcross should be made in a certain number of generations is like asking on which days of the week one should carry an umbrella.” It seems to be a popular belief that bringing in new blood every once in awhile, or even with every breeding, must be beneficial after linebreeding and inbreeding have been practiced for a few generations, but it is absolutely the opposite of the truth if my several times repeated tenet, “Physical compensation is the foundation rock upon which all enduring worth must be built,” has been followed during the period of closed-up breeding.
If my readers have obtained a correct understanding of the earlier installments of these articles, they will know that inbreeding and linebreeding make for the elimination of recessive factors, which produce faults, and bring about purification within their strain. This close breeding upon the blood of one or more superior specimens has quite rapidly done away with the influence of the more faulty ancestors, and caused a definite type to be established. Because, at least after the first generation of an outcross mating, a breeder will LOSE THE TYPE HE HAS WORKED TO OBTAIN through linebreeding and inbreeding (unless he then breeds back into his established line), an outcross should be made only FOR A SPECIFIC PURPOSE — to correct a fault or faults which may have shown up in his inbred strain. More will be written about this later.
To be successful as a breeder, one must seek to produce animals which are genetically pure for all those dominant qualities which are demanded by the breed’s Standard of perfection. The nearer he approaches that ideal the more uniform — similar in type — will be the dogs he produces.
When a breeder of any variety of dogs uses the more distantly related animals in his matings, he can expect less uniformity in the offspring. So, as previously stated, if complete outcrosses are used at all, they should be made for a definite reason and not with the belief that the purpose of the matings will be fulfilled in one generation. To cover fully the reasons for this statement and prove its worth would entail the writing of a full-length installment in this series, as well as the use and explanation of many terms, which might be confusing to novices in the breeding art.
To supply some backing for what I have written however, other than my own statement of fact, which is based upon both study and experience, I quote Onstott: “Any virtues which may be added to a strain through out-crossing … cannot be looked upon as inherent in that strain UNTIL THEY HAVE BEEN PURIFIED AND FIXED WITHIN THAT STRAIN THROUGH INBREEDING. Outcrossing is only to be employed as a means to an end and as a preliminary to the FIXATION of its good results, if any, through inbreeding.”
Strains And Real Strains
To those who have become readers of DOG WORLD since this series started, I might explain that in speaking of a “strain” I mean, as someone has put it, a “variety within a variety” of animals.
One familiar with many breeds of dogs is struck by the fact that few breeds have many real strains within them. Uninformed breeders speak of “my strain” or “his strain” when all that any of them have is a kennel of dogs possessing hit-or-miss pedigrees with a hodgepodge of ancestors, perhaps including “Champions” in their pedigrees, which, of course, indicates to the cognoscente that the advertiser is a rank and uninformed novice of the first order. In conversations, these people usually speak of their “strains” when, as stated above, all they have is a mixture of several strains, or perhaps one of “just dogs” with no rhyme or reason for any of them having been mated together.
However, where there ARE real strains within any breed, one seldom finds them unmixed with the blood of other so-called strains, because most breeders start their strain with the same ancestor, or ancestors. This is done because those mutual ancestors were considered to be great dogs of their time, as they probably were, or else a breeder knowledgeable and serious-minded enough to start building a strain would not have chosen them. WHEN such superior specimens have in mutuality been selected by the founders of different strains within a breed, the so-called outcrossing between their strains is less hazardous than would be the using of animals with either no, or very distant, relationship.
I shall continue this important subject of outcrossing in the next installment and try to explain how best to do it, when it is considered advisable.
Reprinted from Dog World. Copyright © 2011 Lumina Media. All rights reserved.