Embrace Cloning

It’s been ten years since Dolly the Sheep was cloned and it amazes me that many a dog breeder believes in inbreeding (and line breeding, if you must differentiate, but realize that it’s still drunk driving with the gene pool, just at a slightly slower speed), but in general “cloning” in animals triggers all of the “ewww” factor that inbreeding in animals fails to do.

Besides the current imperfections in the cloning process that carries a residual “age” from the sample, cloning has none of the recessive disease expression that inbreeding causes, and in fact, cloning is exactly what many herding and show breeders want when they inbreed up the wazoo.

If cloning were as easy in dogs as inbreeding is, I imagine that several genetic benefits would arise. First, female dogs of quality would take steps to even up the score that popular male dogs have. Since a dog can stud many hundreds of puppies in a year where a bitch is limited to a handful, the genetic contributions of a single male dog exceed the single contributions of almost any female dogs.

It’d be interesting if there were a “popular dam” effect. It’d also be interesting to see if the ratio of male to female animal competitors at the top sheep trials (and in the breeding world in general) evens out without the pressure of producing a star male is lessened by the ability to have a fecund star female aided by cloning.

Second, the massive amounts of inbreeding to “recapture” the magic of some hot dog could be done away with and all the little wannabe’s could own one themselves! No more Wiston Cap effect. No more linebreeding on some dog you admire, you could just have to dog you admire.

Sure, most of the clones would have to be de-sexed to prevent even more rampant popular sire effect, but that’s a potentially better solution than producing thousands of inbred puppies trying to get close.

Heck, you might even get to a point where there are models of dogs within a breed like models of cars. This might sound ridiculous, but the specific applications are many.

I’m not suggesting that normal mating should be replaced with cloning, not at all. I’m suggesting that the few individuals who breed a lot (and inbreed a lot) should cease their ineffective and inefficient efforts that flood the market with their excess. The demand for pets and sport dogs and working dogs can thus be filled by breeders who don’t obsess over cloning.

The show people have a cancerous mentality when it comes to their breeds. They can’t stop building, they never progress into a maintenance phase. They feel that the breeds must be continually “improved” and that usually means massive amounts of inbreeding and whittling away at the biodiversity in the gene pool.

And “improved” from what I can see, means trying to get a very popular sire to breed with your bitch (since you can get four or five puppy prospects for the same price of buying one of the puppies from the dog’s owner) and then inbreeding the piss out of the result dogs so you can try and capture the popular brand of the successful kennel.

And what determines success and popularity? 80 year old women wearing slightly moth eaten plaid suits with white leggings and “sensible shoes.” Really, the LAST people on earth whom I’d trust to make informed decisions on health and genetics, let alone fashion and taste.

But that’s how it works. Some rich person (like Cosby or a Firestone heiress) buys into the world, the sycophants peer pressure each other into snowballing a few dogs each year that win show after show against any natural odds, and then rest of the breeders think that it all had to do with what was in the dog and in the ring, when it’s all about the people and out of the ring politic… so they chase the dog’s genes and the kennel name.

Many trialing obsessed breeders are no better. They have their own celebrity dog chasers who use the exact same methods to get their own taste of Border Collie fame and royalty.

The above chart shows how it’s been over 10 years since there has been even a single dog registered with the ISDS that is NOT related to Wiston Cap. And Wiston Cap was himself a product of line breeding, going back to Wilson’s Cap #3036 more than 30 times in his pedigree.

Wiston Cap provoked deep goofiness among breeders. The man who bred Cap repeated the exact mating over and over, hoping to get another Cap. (Geoff Billingham had one of these pups, a bonnie big thing named Wattie Cap, who died of pneumonia.) An English solicitor deliberately bred Wiston Cap’s sons to Cap’s daughters until he created a pup with “86% Wiston Cap Blood.” The pup did look like the old man, but, of course, he never amounted to much, and I shudder to think how many deformed pups were produced by those matings.

– Donald McCaig Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men, 51-55

Cloning would give these people exactly what they want. They inbreed to “set type” meaning making a homozygous dog even MORE homozygous. And why would one do that? Because you can’t clone, of course! If an animal were 100% homozygous, it would always pass along the exact same genetic information. If a male and a female were both 100% homozygous then all of their offspring would be genetically identical.

Even if the purebred horse world has already banned clones, what’s to stop anyone from doing so anyway? Even if the kennel club banned clones, there is little to nothing that they could practically do to prevent clones being shown in conformation and especially all of the out of the ring applications like having cloned stud and dam dogs producing more litters per year than could be done naturally with just one dog.

It’s rather hilarious and hypocritical for the most notorious inbreeder (horses and dogs) communities to make a stand against cloning, since it’s the perfection of their practices, whose imperfections are horribly harmful. Truly, the only thing better than cloning would be gene manipulation (another future technology) where you could select which alleles you want for each gene from a library of options or you could leave most of the genes alone and swap out a single healthy gene for a known disease gene.

Deep in their hearts, what they really want are clones. And if we can satisfy the small % of the “fancy” with some clones so they can leave the rest of the breed healthy and diverse, I’m all for it. Let them have their clones and show them too.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.