A popular sire is one that produces a high number of litters and thereby reduces the genetic diversity in the population.
Population bottlenecks have a similar affect. These can be caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes, flooding, droughts or disease or by man made catastrophe such as genocide.
The end result is the same, after the bottleneck the population is left with less genetic diversity, it is less able to adapt to change, less robust and more likely to be affected by a build up of deleterious disease causing diseases. Inbreeding becomes more common and the situation will continue until another population contributes fresh gene or, far more slowly, the gradual mutation of genes provides more diversity.
Beardies have been suffered a long line of ‘popular sires’ going back to the earliest days. Britt of Bothkennar, for example, sired 17 litters. Britt was born in a year when only 18 puppies were registered, so it is easy to see the effect his genes must have had on the breed. After just four generations he had 2446 descendants and appeared 3088 times in their pedigrees.
In more recent years individual dogs have sired up to more than 100 litters, with many producing between 40 and 70 litters.
It is not difficult to estimate the massive effect this overuse of stud dogs has had on the genetic diversity of the breed. The owners of these dogs cannot be blamed in anyway. They were only doing what the current wisdom told them was the right thing for the breed. We hadn’t learned about the serious effects bottleneck sires could have on the health and future well-being of the breed. Now we know and we must take firm action to prevent continued loss of genetic diversity.
What Do We Need To Do?
We need to limit the use of individual stud dogs and increase the pool of males that can be used for breeding. Ideally stud dogs should not be used more than twice per year or more than ten times in their lifetime. It will take a few years to achieve these goals as it will take time to build up the reservoir of dogs available. We will need to encourage buyers of ‘pet puppies’ to allow their dogs to be used and provide handlers who can help to secure successful matings.
Every dog has a unique set of genes, so even the brothers of existing stud dogs may be invaluable in achieving the ultimate aim of greater diversity in the gene pool.
Travel to overseas stud dogs would be useful, especially if dogs can be found with several generations of ‘non UK’ breeding. If dogs can be found that can boast at least eight generations of non Uk breeding they will be as effective as an outcross, even though their foundation ancestors are the same as those found in the UK. The same can be said for any pockets of breeding in the Uk that have been kept distinct from the main population for around 30 years.
IRENA FRANSSON has produced an outstanding website,
that provides pedigree details of dogs born in the UK, Europe and where possible North and South America, South Africa and other countries. Irena has very kindly been working with Breed Protection and has modified her site to include a tab for Stud Dogs. These are listed by year of birth.
We are extremely grateful to Irena for the work involved in this invaluable tool.
From left to right: Ch Bravo of Bothkennar, Ch Osmart Bonnie Blue Braid, Ch Orora’s Frank, Ch Potterdale Philosopher, Ch Potterdale Philanderer, Ch Gillaber Tillycorthie, Ch Gillaber Drummond, Ch Diotima Sea Wolf at Ramsgrove and Ch Ramsgrove Ragthyme. These dogs are in a direct line of descent and, with the exception of Ragthyme, all were popular sires. They were outstanding producers of top quality Beardies. Ch Gillaber Drummond, for example, sired six Crufts best of sex winners – breed record - and five championship show group winners.
But however outstanding the physical attributes of a sire’s progeny might be they are not outweighed by the detrimental effects his overuse has on the genetic diversity of the breed as a whole.