Selective Breeding Gone Bad

Don't worry, he's a purebred with a pedigree full of champions!

I wonder when, if ever, dog culture will catch up to science and embrace our new understanding of how harmful bogus notions of purity are.

The philosophical foundations of the kennel club system started much more in line with then modern movements, namely Eugenics, which billed itself as an “applied science.”  The kennel club hasn’t changed that now-repudiated philosophy, choosing instead to stagnate by abandoning any dialogue with the scientific community preventing any evolution in practice and attitude.

If we truly believed that our methods were “improving” dog breeds, we would expect that science and academia would be looking to purebred dogs as exemplars of genetic theory.  Instead, they are highlighted as disasters.

The following passage comes from the textbook Human Heredity: Principles & Issues, by Michael R. Cummings:

Spotlight on Selective Breeding Gone Bad

Purebred dogs are the result of selective breeding over many generations, and worldwide, there are now more than 300 recognized breeds and varities of dogs.

Selective breeding to produce dogs with desired traits, such as long noses and closely set eyes in collies and the low, sloping hind legs of German Shepherds, can have unintended side effects.   About 70% of all collies have hereditary eye problems, and more than 60% of German Shepherds are at risk for hip dysplasia. It is estimated that 25% of all purebred dogs have a serious genetic disorder.

The high level of genetic disorders in purebred dogs is a direct result of selective breeding. Over time, selecive breeding has decreased genetic variability and increased the number of animals homozygous for recessive genetic disorders.

Outbreeding is a simple genetic solution to this problem. In the world of dogs, this means mixed-breed dogs, or mutts. For example, crosses between collies and German Shepherds or between Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds combine the looks and temperaments of both breeds but reduce the risk of offspring that have genetic disorders.

We know what needs to be done, science knows what the easiest answer is, the only question is who will have the vision and the will to do it?

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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.