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Health, Ethics, and Genetics:
If you missed RealSports with Bryant Gumble’s report on the ethics of breeding AKC dogs last night on HBO, fear not! Border-Wars worked with the producers over the last several […]

Watch RealSports “Unnatural Selection” on AKC Dogs

If you missed RealSports with Bryant Gumble’s report on the ethics of breeding AKC dogs last night on HBO, fear not! Border-Wars worked with the producers over the last several […]

Be sure to catch HBO’S Real Sports with Bryant Gumble tonight as they are doing a segment on the health and ethics of pedigree dog breeding for which Border-Wars was […]

HBO Asks if Dog Breeding is a “Real Sport”

Be sure to catch HBO’S Real Sports with Bryant Gumble tonight as they are doing a segment on the health and ethics of pedigree dog breeding for which Border-Wars was […]

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 […]

Latest Dispatches:
13

Watch RealSports “Unnatural Selection” on AKC Dogs

Unnatural_Selection_dog_breeding_RealSportsBryantGumble_cover
If you missed RealSports with Bryant Gumble’s report on the ethics of breeding AKC dogs last night on HBO, fear not! Border-Wars worked with the producers over the last several months to document the issues in pedigree dogs with images and scientific studies and the result is a very compelling segment. Of course the issue deserves its own full length documentary, but this is pretty solid for 15 minutes.

The complete segment with Soledad O’Brien can be viewed right here:

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Be sure to check out the Bryant Gumble’s FB post and Soledad O’Brien’s FB post for some amazing levels of denialism from AKC apologists.

Bryant, Mary Corillo, and Soledad also did an “overtime” discussion on the dog breeding situation, also not to miss!

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You can see the AKC’s “response” video, too, it’s sadly unconvincing.  Count how many times the apologist says “Happy Healthy Dogs!”
Unnatural_Selection_dog_breeding_RealSportsBryantGumble_happyhealthy

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This AKC Veterinarian claims that she sees a lot of healthy bulldogs as a reproductive specialist! Note, 80-90% of Bulldogs can not whelp naturally and surgical intervention is required to deliver their puppies. How on earth can anyone who cuts open bulldogs day in and day out to do what most other breeds do without intervention claim that they are healthy?

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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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4

HBO Asks if Dog Breeding is a “Real Sport”

border_wars_real_sports_bulldog_pedigree_abuse

Be sure to catch HBO’S Real Sports with Bryant Gumble tonight as they are doing a segment on the health and ethics of pedigree dog breeding for which Border-Wars was interviewed extensively over the last several months for background information, references to scientific papers, and fact-checking.

Unnatural Selection
Producer: Jason Samuels

The Westminster Dog Show is one of the country’s oldest sporting events, and certainly the most adorable, but more than 20,000 dog shows are held nationwide each year. While the sport’s growth is a boon for fervent dog lovers, it may not be as rewarding to some of the dogs themselves. During competition, animals are judged on how closely they represent the “breed standard,” and some critics say this leads to the questionable breeding of dogs for beauty over health. Soledad O’Brien leads this REAL SPORTS examination of the world of competitive dog shows and the sport’s repercussions on dog health, in and outside the show ring.

While I won’t be on camera and haven’t seen the final cut, the producers asked the right questions and seem to be focusing on the most obvious abuses of conformation like the Bulldog and the rampant brachycephalism caused by their conformation and the fad to breed them with ever shorter snouts and more profuse skin.

You can even join in the fun with the AKC apologists on RealSport’s Facebook Page.

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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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3

Happy Easter! Enjoy the Hunt.

Since Easter is about hunting and finding hidden prizes, here are a few topical finds from around the blog. I’ve saved you the trouble of digging for them:

From Happy Easter, Bonnie – you can see a bunch of photos of me and Bonnie Belle growing up, starting with her introduction to the family as an ad hoc Easter Bunny in 1992.

Easter_1992_BonnieBelle_Chris_Ears

From Celeste Killed the Easter Bunny – you can admire Celeste and her fresh rabbit kill.  Don’t miss the story which goes along with the photo.

Celeste killed the Easter bunny.

From The Easter EGGEs – you can enjoy video of my dogs going nutz playing with a hard plastic egg.  Consider this before you get either a Border Collie or an Egge.

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And from Grandma Wants Candy – you can admire my photo-editing skills with some old lady abusing a rabbit to get it to poop out jelly beans.

I hope you spend the day like they have since pagan times: celebrating life, family, a little fun, and good food.

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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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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.

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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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