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Health, Ethics, and Genetics:
Dog breeds are not separate species. Still, the majority of the dog fancy behaves and enforces breeding rules as if they were. Having what could be the most extant genetic […]

Minimum Viable Population: 5,000 Adults

Dog breeds are not separate species. Still, the majority of the dog fancy behaves and enforces breeding rules as if they were. Having what could be the most extant genetic […]

What do you get when you cross a Dodge Ram and a Pontiac GTO?  Either a Cheviot Caprice or a Jeep, apparently. On a farm in County Kildare Ireland, a […]

Introducing the 2014 Chevy Caprice Hybrid

What do you get when you cross a Dodge Ram and a Pontiac GTO?  Either a Cheviot Caprice or a Jeep, apparently. On a farm in County Kildare Ireland, a […]

Wyndlair Kennels has closed down.  They’re the outfit that intentionally bred Merle to Merle in order to create a double merle stud dog named Wyndlair Avalanche “Aidan” that would always […]

Wyndlair Double Merle Collie Kennel Closes

Wyndlair Kennels has closed down.  They’re the outfit that intentionally bred Merle to Merle in order to create a double merle stud dog named Wyndlair Avalanche “Aidan” that would always […]

Crufts 2014 is in full swing and the breed judging for the Border Collies has chosen a Best of Breed winner, Caleykiz Rhythm In Black, a six year old bitch […]

Inbred Crufts Border Collies

Crufts 2014 is in full swing and the breed judging for the Border Collies has chosen a Best of Breed winner, Caleykiz Rhythm In Black, a six year old bitch […]

There is no clear separation between inbreeding and linebreeding. Both terms are used to describe having the same ancestor on both the top and bottom of a pedigree (on both […]

How Linebreeding Causes Disease Expression

There is no clear separation between inbreeding and linebreeding. Both terms are used to describe having the same ancestor on both the top and bottom of a pedigree (on both […]

GCH Afterall Painting The Sky Breed: Fox Terrier (Wire) Sex: Bitch AKC: RN 17023004  Date of Birth: June 18, 2008 Breeder: A J Pertuit Jr & Betty Seton Owner: Victor Malzoni Jr & Torie Steele & S […]

At Least Westminster’s Wire Fox Terrier Isn’t Inbred

GCH Afterall Painting The Sky Breed: Fox Terrier (Wire) Sex: Bitch AKC: RN 17023004  Date of Birth: June 18, 2008 Breeder: A J Pertuit Jr & Betty Seton Owner: Victor Malzoni Jr & Torie Steele & S […]

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8

Minimum Viable Population: 5,000 Adults

Pandas are one of many endangered species who don't meet the 5,000 minimum population for long term viability.

Pandas are one of many endangered species who don’t meet the 5,000 minimum population for long term viability.

Dog breeds are not separate species. Still, the majority of the dog fancy behaves and enforces breeding rules as if they were. Having what could be the most extant genetic diversity of any species doesn’t really matter if all the diversity is never allowed to interact. It’s a theoretical advantage, not a realized one.

One of the most powerful forms of speciation is when two once related populations are no longer able to breed. Dogs, wolves, coyotes, dingoes, and golden jackals (members of the genus Canis) can all freely interbreed and produce fertile offspring. We can assign different species names to them but they can also be considered the same species depending on how you’d like to define that term. All of them have 78 chromosomes that come in 39 pairs and the uncompromised fertility of offspring of hybrids between these populations mean that any and all of them can be used for “genetic rescue” of each other. In fact, scientific investigation of DNA shows that such admixture is profound within various sub-groups of canids.

But dog breeders still treat mere breeds as permanent barriers and therefore many breeds are suffering effects similar to endangered species due to depleted genetic diversity, unavoidable inbreeding, and insufficient populations to maintain long-term viability.

So how many adults is the bare minimum to maintain a species? One research group from Australia claims that 5,000 adults is the minimum.

To ensure both long-term persistence and evolutionary potential, the required number of individuals in a population often greatly exceeds the targets proposed by conservation management. We critically review minimum population size requirements for species based on empirical and theoretical estimates made over the past few decades. This literature collectively shows that thousands (not hundreds) of individuals are required for a population to have an acceptable probability of riding-out environmental fluctuation and catastrophic events, and ensuring the continuation of evolutionary processes.

Here’s a decent article from American Scientist which outlines the concept:

An Australian team says it has figured out the minimum viable population for mammals, reptiles, birds, plants and the rest.

Imagine how useful it would be if someone calculated the minimum population needed to preserve each threatened organism on Earth, especially in this age of accelerated extinctions.

A group of Australian researchers say they have nailed the best figure achievable with the available data: 5,000 adults. That’s right, that many, for mammals, amphibians, insects, plants and the rest.

Their goal wasn’t a target for temporary survival. Instead they set the bar much higher, aiming for a census that would allow a species to pursue a standard evolutionary lifespan, which can vary from one to 10 million years.

That sort of longevity requires abundance sufficient for a species to thrive despite significant obstacles, including random variation in sex ratios or birth and death rates, natural catastrophes and habitat decline. It also requires enough genetic variation to allow adequate amounts of beneficial mutations to emerge and spread within a populace.

“We have suggested that a major rethink is required on how we assign relative risk to a species,” says conservation biologist Lochran Traill of the University of Adelaide, lead author of a Biological Conservation paper describing the projection.

In an effort to help guide rescue efforts, Traill and colleagues, who include conservation biologists and a geneticist, have been exploring minimum viable population size over the past few years. Previously they completed a meta-analysis of hundreds of studies considering such estimates and concluded that a minimum head count of more than a few thousand individuals would be needed to achieve a viable population.

“We don’t have the time and resources to attend to finding thresholds for all threatened species, thus the need for a generalization that can be implemented across taxa to prevent extinction,” Traill says.

In their most recent research they used computer models to simulate what population numbers would be required to achieve long-term persistence for 1,198 different species. A minimum population of 500 could guard against inbreeding, they conclude. But for a shot at truly long-term, evolutionary success, 5,000 is the most parsimonious number, with some species likely to hit the sweet spot with slightly less or slightly more.

Some criticisms are mentioned in the full article, and of course it should be noted that this is stochastic modeling which has its own set of assumptions and limitations.  The paper even cites climate change as similar issue, and it’s clear that there are many problems with modeling and convincing arguments in that arena as well.

So models are not guarantees, but they are in many ways the best thing we can do in the face of uncertainty and complicated systems that do not bend themselves to simplification.

I’ll also note that the application of this not-really-magic (despite the name of the linked article) number to dog breeds would also assume that dog breeds are bred in the manner assumed by the model.  There are several factors which would limit this assumption:

- There is not random mating or even animals selecting their own partners in dogs, thus in each generation the vast majority of the offspring are produced by a very few of the dogs in the last generation.  This isn’t particularly like most wild species.

It would be interesting to see the same sort of models carried out with data that more closely matches the number of founders and population structure of dog breeds.

- Dogs are not profoundly selected by natural forces.  We don’t allow the most fecund or hearty animals to breed the most, breeders select them based on other criteria, often having nothing to do with fitness.  For example, the mere fact that Bulldogs still exist speaks against the notion of survival of the fittest, as so few of them are actually able to whelp naturally.

Even with this caveats, it’s interesting to have a number to work with to identify dog breeds that don’t meet the minimum requirements.  And the speculate if other breeds that have more than that number but are built from only a few founders will likewise fail the model.

Recall that Border Collies, who are being bred on the order of 30,000 puppies a year between the 4 US and UK registries alone, have an effective number of founder genomes of only 8 dogs.  So some clarification is in order if it’s simply a matter of 5,000 adults or if these other factors would change that number.

Still food for thought.
Further Reading:

Pragmatic population viability targets in a rapidly changing world
Not Magic But Necessary
Minimum viable population size: A meta-analysis of 30 years of published estimates
Minimum viable populations: is there a ‘magic number’ for conservation practitioners?

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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5

Introducing the 2014 Chevy Caprice Hybrid

What do you get when you cross a Dodge Ram and a Pontiac GTO?  Either a Cheviot Caprice or a Jeep, apparently.

A rare Goat x Sheep hybrid, a Geep.

A rare Goat x Sheep hybrid, a Geep.

On a farm in County Kildare Ireland, a Cheviot sheep ewe has just given birth to a Goat x Sheep hybrid.  These rarities of nature are lovingly referred to as “Geeps” which, much like the “General Purpose” G.P. eventually became the Jeep, geep should be pronounced jeep, because Jeep sounds better than Geep, so sayeth the Border-Wars.

..

This little hybrid doesn’t yet have a name, as the part-time farmer part-time bar owner Paddy Murphy (seriously, can you get any more Irish than that? I bet his middle name is Michael or Joseph), is holding an auction to name the marvel to support a sick kid from the local village.  Paddy and his farm hands witnessed the ram goat “tipping” the ewe sheep earlier this season but didn’t think much of it as randy goats might try their best but it usually fails to produce much more than a laugh from onlookers.  But after he birthed the black Geep from his all-white flock of sheep he figured something was suspicious and the little fella’s budding horns and long legs suggest that he might be a genuine hybrid.

Sheep-Goat hybrids are rare because Sheep have 54 chromosomes and Goats have 60, although documented Geep have been found in Botswana, New Zealand, France, and now Ireland.  These hybrids of sheep and goat have been attested from both Goat rams mating with sheep ewes and Sheep rams mating with goat does.  All tested Geep have had 57 chromosomes.  Two of these Geep have been found to be fertile when back-crossed as well, one producing an offspring with 54 chromosomes which raises interesting options for cross-over genetics from the goat which could be incorporated back into sheep.

Geep with sheep mother

Note that this Geep hybrid is not an example of “hybrid vigor,” a colloquial term for heterosis, or the observation of increased health and vitality when breeding two distinct strains within a species.  This is an inter-species hybrid and the different chromosome number makes “vigor,” especially when measured by fertility an unlikely event.  Different chromosome numbers is one path toward speciation and hybrids between parent stock are very often non-viable or sterile.  This is rather the opposite of vigor.  But it’s not really the opposite of heterosis, because the lack of vitality does not come in the form of heterozygosity or homozygosity, it comes from the inability of alleles to meet up with any matching allele entirely.  So when you see people claiming “hybrid vigor only happens between species,” they’re stupid and ignorant.  It simply does not apply between species given all the other extant issues with producing viable offspring.

The fertility and other issues often found in inter-species hybrids can actually be considered a form of out-breeding depression, but of course since the mechanism is so distinct from hetero/homozygosity (which is what we’re really looking at when we’re breeding dogs to dogs), it’s not particularly informative on the issues dog breeders should be concerned with.

For etymology buffs, the Chevrolet car is named after the surname of one of the founders of the brand, Louis Chevrolet.  Chevrolet was Swiss and the surname is French/Swiss-German for goat milker from the French chèvre meaning “goat” and lait meaning “milk.”

The word “caprice” is also goat-related, coming from the French for “whim” from the Italian cappriccio which is derived from capo “head” and riccio “hedgehog” to mean head with the hair standing on end” or “a shivering” later influenced by capra “goat” to mean lively, free form, or a sudden change of mind.

The word “Cheviot” is actually where we get the term “Chevy” as in Chevy-Chase, a redundant term as chevy means “to chase” or “a running pursuit.”  The origin of this is the “Ballad of Chevy Chase” a popular song from the 15th century  which tells of a hunting party on the Cheviot hills of the borders which turned into a battle between the English and Scots in the late 14th century.

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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21

Pastoral Big Hats Are Dogmatic Bigots

Priest: Gay marriage... Sheep trialer: Sporter Collies...  It's not natural or traditional! Permitting it will destroy our historical institutions. If we allow it, worse abuses will happen and my book here says it's against the rules. No dice.  We can't stop them doing it, but demand they call it something else and we won't sanctify their behavior in our records.  Evolution isn't really our thing. Heck, we just let women join. We don't care if we're out of touch.  We shouldn't allow them to adopt or breed, lest they grow in number.  Offspring of such parents are more likely to be degenerate and are not welcome in our company. Our greatest fear is that our kin end up like that.  We wish they didn't even exist.  Trust us, we have big hats.

There’s a lot of symmetry between the Church’s dogmatic and bigoted stand against gay marriage and the sheeple arguments against breeding Border Collies for sport or any other activity save trial “work.”

Both tradition-based cultures are authoritarian and exclusionary when it comes to who gets to breed and raise the next generation.  Both keep extensive records of sex and who is allowed to engage in it with who else.  Both sanctify the new offspring of this approved sex and offer papers in testament to membership within their ranks.  Both fancy themselves as shepherds guiding their flocks.  Both are intransigent, conservative, and suspicious of change.  Both are thousands of miles and hundreds of years distant from the lands and cultures of their origin.  And both are anachronistic and increasingly out of touch with modern culture.

Both are surprisingly quiet about how recent their actual institutions are and how often they’ve over-turned their own culture or administration, instead preferring to appeal to great longevity.  The ISDS didn’t start publishing pedigrees until ~1950 and the ABCA is younger than I am coming to be in 1982.  Likewise the Roman Catholic Church didn’t settle on what books were and weren’t in the Bible until 1562 and the Protestants said to hell with this soon after coming up with their own canon, and the King James Version for the Church of England–which was ironically founded around redefining marriage–wasn’t finished until 1611.  Of course all of these shepherd schools have been revising their dogma ever since, with big changes like Vatican II ruffling a lot of feathers as recently as 1965, and new versions of the good book coming out almost continually.

Consequences of Breeding Sporter Collies. [] Plague of Locusts [] Sheep Industry Collapse [] Death of First Born [] Ruination of the Breed [] Zombie Apocalypse [x] People breed quality dogs from familiar stock to meet their needs.

Both the Church and the sheeple shun the opposing activity as unnatural and unproductive, and they tolerate it only insomuch as they can’t prevent it from happening save for cultural shaming, peer pressure, and ostracizing anyone who proclaims that it is not a sin or dare engage in those activities.  Both holier-than-thou institutions also forget just how different their governing culture is from the culture of the governed.  The Church is a male-dominated sexually segregated celibate hierarchy that draws its numbers from and ministers a doctrine of be fruitful and multiply to co-ed unions that are supposed to have lots of sex in the pursuit of growing membership.  Childless men who live with men, women who live with women and are married to invisible deities who are fundamentally opposed to men living with men and women living with women who likewise can’t produce children from their union.  Strange ironies.

The sheeple are likewise strangely ironic in their hypocrisy in that their foundational activity is agricultural improvement sport that began as adjuncts to fancy shows and now their biggest enemy is those self-same fancy shows.  Just as the vast majority of people are neither celibate priests or gay, the vast majority of Border Collies are never going to compete in a trial or pageant and the number of sport bred dogs greatly outweighs either of these other competition concerns.  And, of course, the number of “just pets” bred Border Collie dogs dwarfs all of the other categories combined.  But like the Church, the lure of dogma and institutional power makes the minority in charge of the doctrine which impacts the majority.

And in this regard both priesthoods demand that other people not be given the freedom to associate and reproduce with whom they want out of an overly-prejudicial concern for protecting their own flocks.  Mostly out of dogmatic concerns than any ability to document actual harm.  The Church lashes out at gay unions on grounds that it will damage the traditional institution of marriage with no evidence of such. The sheeple lash out at sport and show bred collies on grounds that their presence will damage the traditional institution of shepherd work and trials with no evidence of such.  The notion that people simply want the freedom to associate with and breed with others of their own choice is slandered by the Big Hats as trying to undermine and corrupt their protected group.  But we know that gays marrying isn’t going to result in a corruption of straight marriage, nor will breeding sporter collies prevent anyone from breeding a shepherding-focused dog on a ranch.

Traditional marriage has its own problems which are entirely unrelated to gays and their desire to have their unions recognized.  Trying to prevent or rebrand gay marriages as “civil unions” does nothing to mitigate those extant problems.  Likewise, true working dogs have a basket of their own problems, none of which are caused by the growing popularity of Border Collies bred for endeavors off of the farm, and bitching about calling these dogs something other than “Border Collies” is likewise a pointless diversion.

The Border Collie genie is out of the bottle, there’s no shoving it back in and it’s an undeniable truth that the majority of people own and breed and use Border Collies for pursuits that have nothing to do with sheep trial sport or professional livestock ranches.  Trying to carve these people out of the Border Collie family accomplishes about the same as ostracizing your gay children.  It’s pointless division and engenders hatred instead of inclusive and adaptive family structures that can weather change and challenge together.

As it stands today, most breeds don’t even allow you to marry outside the family, and we all know that’s unhealthy.  Border Collies aren’t much different, very few marriages are allowed outside the family and require blood tests, religious conversion, and a donation to the Church.  Actual working people aren’t so dogmatic and breed within the landrace without papers quite often.  This innovation is why the working dogs of the American West in 2014 aren’t particularly like the working dogs of the border regions of England and Scotland from the 1700s.

Despite being a popular breed, which genetically is a very good thing, the desire to create sub-species out of our breed and excommunicate a good portion of the dogs doesn’t help.  It just throws up more barriers to people like me who want to live in the city and do city sports with my Border Collies and breed them in a way that preserves their genetic diversity and doesn’t double down on the continued squandering of the gene pool.  There should be a place at the table for me and my dogs, instead most zealots think I’m Satan, or at least Judas willing to betray the doctrine of their made-up Gods for some perceived profit.  I don’t demand anyone else breed like me or breed to my dogs against their will, but freedom and choice is not the name of the game with these people.

These people are convinced that their trial-bred dogs are the epitome of working dogs, that what they do is not a sport but actual agriculture, and that the biggest threat to that endeavor isn’t the collapse of the US Sheep industry, but the rise of Sporter Collies.  And that such dogs need to be as shunned and ostracized as the show BCs.  Ignore the real problems, don’t expand the market or the gene pool, don’t even preserve what you have… divide it and double down on intransigence in the face of change.  And hey, trust us, we have Big Hats.

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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5

Spring Birthdays!

It’s the first day of Spring and also the birthday of both Christopher and Celeste.  We’ll be celebrating with Frisbees and meaty bones, which are pretty much both of our favorite things.

celeste_birthday

The Border-Wars Facebook page also turns one-year-old today with 590 likes!  If you haven’t liked us on FB yet, please join us so you can be enlightened and entertained with newsworthy and humorous dog posts that don’t make it onto the blog.

One of our fans anonymously sent in this wonderful sketch of Celeste, so thanks for that!

Reddit_sketch_of_Celeste_big
And in the same celebration of fine art paintings of my awesome dogs, enjoy this remarkable watercolor painting done of Celeste and Dublin by artist Greg Miles.  He adopted Zeke from Dublin and Celeste’s first litter.

Celeste_and_Dublin_painting_GregMiles

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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104

Wyndlair Double Merle Collie Kennel Closes

Wyndlair_Avalanche_double_merle_kennel_shuts_down_closes_out_of_business

Wyndlair Kennels has closed down.  They’re the outfit that intentionally bred Merle to Merle in order to create a double merle stud dog named Wyndlair Avalanche “Aidan” that would always pass along that color to his offspring, and in so doing knowingly risked and achieved a profoundly disabled blind and deaf double merle dog who was widely used in AKC Rough Collies.

Their “Collies for Sale” page has been replaced with this message:

NO COLLIES CURRENTLY AVAILABLE
Unfortunately, we are not currently breeding any litters. We have relocated for a new job opportunity and have placed most of our dogs in new homes.

If this is the first time you’re joining us for the Wyndlair Avalanche saga, you can educate yourself about the dangers of breeding Merle to Merle and the unethical intentional breeding of such to create a stud dog who always creates Merle puppies.

Hopefully this is the end of the Wyndlair saga and no one need ever again breed Merle to Merle or be rewarded for doing so.  I’ll close this chapter with two ironic quotes that Wyndlair Kennels posted to their public Facebook page:

wyndlair_judas_kiss
A “Judas Kiss” is when you portray an act of love but you are really betraying your ethics, morals, and relationship to the object of your love for gain.  Judas sold out Christ for 30 pieces of silver and his kiss was a sign to those who then captured, tortured, and crucified Christ.

What better metaphor for what Wyndlair Kennels did to Aidan.  They knew the risk they were taking and what gain they wanted out of it: simply a lazy means to produce a few more Merle puppies per litter.  And when Aidan was the only puppy born from their unethical and disastrous breeding plans, they didn’t learn the lesson, they used this dog to father dozens of offspring.  They not only inflicted blindness and deafness on Aidan, they then exploited his malgenics for their gain.  Any breeder should love their dogs and never betray their ethics, morals, or trust with those dogs for gain.  But Wyndlair Kennels betrayed that trust and they cashed in for their silver bowls and nylon ribbons.  Such trinkets can not restore function to Aidan, however and that is that poor dog’s cross to bear until his death.
wyndlair_pendulum
By what standard can anyone claim the Wyndlair Kennel was acting on behalf of by creating a profoundly disabled dog and then using him as a puppy machine?  What standard says that intentionally inflicted blindness and deafness is what is desired in collies.  Let alone that this state of inability and suffering is some “initial form.”  For that matter, can anyone on the planet find even one representation of an historical working Collie from Scotland that looks anything like the dogs Wyndlair produced?

I don’t think any Scottish shepherds would demand their dogs be blind and deaf, covered with excess hair and unable to enjoy the most basic pleasures in life let alone endure the work of a hill shepherd.

It’s cold comfort to hug a silver bowl and nylon ribbons will never warm your feet.  Too bad Wyndlair Kennel didn’t realize that the health and well being of their dogs was more important than chasing after awards of silver and nylon.  At least now the callous and unethical breeding schemes have ceased.  May they remain a painful memory and not simply a temporary hiatus.

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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  • Foreign Legion:
    collie de la frontera - eksteraj ligiloj - 邊境牧羊犬 - 边境牧羊犬 - ボーダーコリー - الحدود الكول -Бордер колли - בורדר קולי - ബോര്‍ഡര്‍ കോളി - Borderská kólia - border kolie