Copyright © 2010 by Jean Carroll Wright
There is an axiom in dog breeding that says: “Let the sire of the sire be the grandsire of the dam on the dam’s side.” This principle became a truism because it is the most oft used method for accomplishing a rather safe form of “line-breeding” in purebred dogs. Using this, or any other breeding method stands firmly on the ability of the breeder to accurately research and interpret a pedigree.
A Pedigree Handbook for Breeders
What's in a Name? A Pedigree Handbook for Breeders by Jean Wright
Pedigrees offer an organized list of the ancestors of an individual whether he or she be a domesticated animal, canine or person. It lists ancestor names in rank order depending on the closeness of the ancestor to the individual about whom the pedigree is written. In people this is sometimes called a “Family Tree”. In dogs and most animals like horses and cattle it is called a Pedigree. Usually written graphically in rank order from left to right, it can list all sorts of information about the ancestor. Registry information, birth date, sex and color are just a few of the bits of data that can be found.
The most obvious answer to this question for the Tibetan Spaniel owner is the Tibbies.net database and this answer will be explored later in more detail. However, most breeds of dog do not have such a wide open research mode available to them. Other means are available with considerably more depth of inquiry, and considerably more effort expended. Good sources include The AKC Stud Book Register, the AKC Pedigree Service, private Pedigree Services, Foreign Country Stud Book registers, Breed Club Year Books both foreign and native, and private collections of pedigree records.
Published monthly, the AKC records the names and immediate lineage of each and every AKC registered animal used for breeding within the United States and abroad. Each approved application for litter registration sent to the AKC and containing the name of a previously unpublished sire or dam generates an entry into the AKC Stud Book. With subsequent use of this same dog or bitch, there is no further listing of the animal. However, this stud book entry location is recorded on the individual registration forms of all resulting registered get. This appears as a hyphenated number in parentheses following the name of the sire and dam listed in that registration. This number represents the month and year date of the issue of the AKC Stud Book Register where that parent is listed together with the names and registration numbers of his or her own sire and dam. That sire and dam are listed along with the same paranthesed date of their parent’s Stud Book entry. Thus a long list of pedigree entries can be gathered by simply adding up the entries to form a pedigree of nearly any length dating back to the original acceptance of foundation dogs accepted by the AKC as root stock sires and dams of that breed. For the Tibetan Spaniel, these are the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America’s Stud Book of foundation dogs accepted into the AKC Stud Book Register in January of 1984 and published in the December 1983 AKC Stud Book. Once becoming a permanently Registered AKC Breed, Stud books are closed except for foreign registry animals added upon importation of the individual from another acceptable import country or the breeding of a previously AKC registered animal to a foreign registry animal. Some breeds, like the Australian Shepherd registry, go through a period of time with open registry books capable of accepting new registry applicants. This is most often done when the country of origin or the breed is one with foundation stock still being gathered from various other native or foreign registries but purebred status is not in question.
The American Kennel Club maintains an information exchange relationship with multiple countries of origin of the breeds it registers. The trick here is that the foreign registry must maintain records that meet the AKCs exacting criteria for accuracy and breed integrity regulations within it’s own record keeping practices. As a result some county’s registries are not eligible for a pedigree exchange with the AKC. Another problem arises when similar breeds are registered under differing breed names in the foreign registry. In the early days of the 20th century the English Kennel Club considered Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu the same breed, and several Shih Tzu were bred into Lhasa lines in that country. Many American breeders considered these bloodlines tainted and compromised by the few breedings made between the breeds during that time period.
Researching a pedigree is not terribly difficult until one runs into foreign registered stock imported to the USA. Foreign registry animal’s pedigrees are only maintained through the AKC on a three to four generation basis, so any heritage beyond that lineage is sometimes hard to locate and sometimes not available at all. Dogs like the Tibetan Spaniel Indian import, Tashi Dordje, have more “Unknown from Tibet” beyond their parent’s names than any other entry. Research of this kind is time consuming and requires access to multiple issues of the Stud Book Registers of multiple countries. Thus, researching a pedigree by ones self can be a daunting task.
The pedigree represents that portion of the mated pair not seen in the phenotype of the individuals to be bred. Knowledge of the both the phenotype and genotype of the breeding pair is represented by the pedigree. It is influenced by the breed type, conformation and temperament of all the individuals that make up the pedigree, and sometimes dependent upon the repeated influence of an individual (or individuals) appearing within that pedigree as well as where he, she or they occur within it. Each mate contributes 50% of their DNA to the breeding and the 100% is reassembled in the get, but each littermate is an individual with differing genetic makeup depending upon which portions of the parent’s available progenitor genes are combined in that specific progeny.
Percentage pedigrees usually encompass four to six generations of heritage and 32 to 48 individual progenitors. When looking at the whole pedigree, each time an individual appears that individual is given percentage points of influence within the pedigree. How many percentage points can vary depending on ones point of view. Some percentage methods just divide 100% by 32 or 48. Other methods reduce the influence by 50% for each individual because each parent only contributes ½ his or her available DNA to the breeding mix. Which method to use can be decided by the individual doing the calculations. This author tends to use the simpler 32 or 48 divisible method because it is the whole dog supplying his or her look to the mix. Coefficient pedigrees discussed next do the job of reducing percentages within a pedigree quite well so this author considers that sufficient mathematics to explore on her own. Occasionally the amount of influence of one background individual can be considerably higher than any one of the immediate parents or grandparents, and this is sometimes responsible for that surprise puppy. Sometimes the breeder says, “Where did he come from?” And, the answer is clearly, “From the Pedigree.”
Generally speaking, the closer a progenitor is to the first 3 generations of immediate pedigree, the more influence he or she can exert on the get of the litter, but this does not always follow. If a single grandsire appears as the sire of both parents, usually the breeder had better like him because that individual may well have provided close to 50% of the inheritable features of the mated pair and, as such, is becomes as powerful in the breeding as the actual sire of the litter. Couple this incidence with even a single repetition of one of his parents from another source within the pedigree, and influence is again, slanted or statistically skewed. A form of this type of line-breeding is called backcrossing. This author once bred a Boxer litter seeking an improvement in shoulder layback. However, neither parent actually displayed good layback phenotypically. But the ‘doubled-up upon’ grandsire had exemplarily layback. In the resulting litter, four out of the eight pups all had the good layback feature sought in the breeding. In fact, breeders often make this kind of decision. Using the pedigree to provide information necessary to take this kind of calculated risk is one of the factors that makes breeders unique, and puts the excitement into breed development.
Using a statistical mathematics formula, percentage pedigrees are often turned into what is called a Coefficient pedigree. This ratio type format assigns a numbered ratio of influence to the repeated members of an individual’s heritage. This ratio is particularly important in calculating the amount of “inbreeding” in a potential mating. The coefficient of any breeding can be done by the breeder by hand or done by computer program. However, it is a mathematics task many breeders find a bit daunting. Many breeder computer programs do this for breeders and provide handy calculations for the pedigree student. Inbreeding is usually considered any Coefficient over 0.25 or more. This number is far more accurate than considering the relative relationship of the mated pair because each canine born into a litter actually represents an individual birth. Each littermate has an individual placenta and his or her own genetic pattern. Sometimes littermates are actually no more genetically related than some distant cousins within their breed. Thus, using the ‘brother to sister’ formula for close inbreeding does not always calculate accurately or realistically.
The most integral portion of any breeding program is the Pedigree. Programs for line-breeding and inbreeding are firmly imbedded in the importance of pedigrees. Even outcross programs staunchly rely on the pedigree of a breeding to tell the breeder whether each mating is actually an outcross or not. Pedigrees are the basis of all breeding programs. Several good all breed references for study and research of various breeding systems and methods are available, and some are included in the bibliography of this article.
Creating a breeding relationship from unusually close members of the same family is called inbreeding. Done consistently, it will push the breeding coefficient well above 0.25, and It is done to concentrate the DNA of like members of the same family usually within in a type or breed of canine, livestock animal or even some wild animals.
When occurring within a wild population, inbreeding usually happens when isolation is coupled with successful survival skills. The ponies of the off shore Islands in the eastern USA or Western feral wild horses and Australian Dingo dogs are examples of this type of adaptive success in the wild. Limiting the inbreeding factor in wild populations is accomplished by expelling young bachelor offspring from herds or packs. In canine groups, the alpha male and female are the only mated pair. To accomplish mating lower ranked dogs or bitches must leave the pack and establish their own family group pack. Inbreeding is controlled or eliminated altogether. Monitoring the assemblage of a breed’s pedigree closely is the way breeders of domesticated animals accomplish the same task and become the alpha dog of their own pack.
Inbreeding often creates breeds from general types of dogs with particular talents or attributes that serve the needs or spark an intimacy issue with their human companions. Excellent noses for game, a talent for gathering or moving livestock or guarding the goods and property of men and their families are all reasons for mating one individual with another dog good at the same task. Then breeding the sons and daughters of those same base animals together and back to their parents can create more animals good at these tasks and eventually forming a breed entity.
Inbreeding done with purposeful intent and careful selection is not always harmful. It brings harmful and defective genes to the surface where they can be seen, assessed and avoided in future matings. But it should never be done by breeders unless strictly controlled, limited and carefully planned. Often breeders will make a close breeding to locate the source of a defect that popped up unexpectedly in a previous outcross breeding. Breeders who routinely use line-breeding methods may make an outcross, pick up something they did not anticipate, and then want to find out from where it surfaced. They may inbreed to locate that portion of the pedigree thought to harbor the progenitor of the defect, or to eliminate current breeding prospects from an available progeny of the breeding pair where the defect arose.
Most examples of productive inbreeding are seen in commercial breeding programs dealing with laboratory animals or livestock. For the past fifty years or more laboratory mice and rats have been bred from the same strain of brother sister mated animals, and the same bull may father entire herds of related cattle in countries all over the world using banks of enhanced collected sperm. In dogs, cryogenic sperm storage and enhancement is one of the fastest growth areas in serious dog breeding industry. In Tibetan Spaniels that technology has become useful. Recent breedings of the deceased stud dog Tashi Dordje by his owner Marguerite Perkins Garrick produced several get from the 35 year old stored sperm. An important inbreeding among Tibbies took place when brother and sister Bimbo and Dido produced what became the progenitor of a whole line of BIMs Tibbies in the 70s USA. In fact nearly the entire future of Tibetan Spaniels happened because of the inbreedings among of several original imports into England in the mid to late 40s. Many breeds owe their current status as recognized breeds to inbreeding. The Boxer breed in the United States is based on breedings among the get of only four major stud dog imports of closely related German stud dogs from the Von Dom line.
Line-breeding is the breeding together of loosely related members of family groups within a breed population. It uses multiple forms of the axiom breeding, “Let the sire of the sire be the grandsire of the dam on the dam’s side.” This is the most frequently used form of inter-family mating. It is relatively safe in that it does not encourage a large number of birth defects, and if well done, it can produce quick improvement in multiple aspects of breed specific conformation and temperament development.
Within the line-bred system, balancing the family relationship relies heavily on very close study of the pedigrees within the line. Conformation improvements and regression of line characteristics are all controlled by continually balancing the relationships of family members to keep the familial relationships static or rebalancing those relationships to eliminate or accentuate desirable conformation and temperament features. Line-breeding improves consistency of type within the littermates and enhances traits considered valuable within that bloodline in most instances. When defects arise, they must be dealt with by rebalancing the line and breeding away from the defect.
Equally balanced family relationships on either side of the pedigree shared between the mated pair serves to maintain the status-quo of the line-bred family. It introduces few new genetic factors and reduces the influence of breed characteristics not already carried within the bloodline. Only when an undesirable character or defect enters into the get and requires correction need that balance be interrupted. Too close line-breeding may reduce breeding vigor within the line after many generations, but this can usually be readily re-established with occasional outcrosses to another line.
Backcross line-breeding is a technique sometimes used to bring out superior characteristics of one or more ancestors within a line. This system takes even more careful pedigree study and percentage calculation by the breeder. However, skillfully done it is the most productive form of line-breeding to bring out exceptional improvement in multiple get of a single breeding. In backcross breeding, one or more ancestors are singled out and emphasized by duplication within the pedigrees of the mated pair. Backcross breeding tends to bring forward the phenotype of the ancestor in the immediate get of the litter, but the breeder must be able to spot that type within the litter and then select for that type in subsequent breedings to make this a successful technique. Backcrosses sometimes require two or more rebalances of the cross with subsequent mated pairs to attain the desired results.
When breeders speak of establishing “Their Line” within a breed, they are not often referring to a line-bred breeding system. Most frequently they are discussing establishing their personal kennel name on a family group within their breed, purchasing foundation blood stock, and startup of a breeding practice no matter to which breeding system they ultimately subscribe. Unless the individual has tons of experience in breeding, they do not usually set out to create a workable long range developmental plan at inception of establishing their “line”.
Within an established breed, the mating of pairs with no duplicate family relationships for five to six generations of pedigree behind them is called a totally outcrossed breeding. A relative outcross can also be considered at the four generation level. This is considered the safest breeding system for totally novice breeders to follow if they have no assistance (mentoring) from more established breeders. However, finding totally unrelated blood stock within the confines of a breed with small numbers nationwide, may be a trick of it’s own. Once a breed has developed in numbers of available bloodstock in a Country, finding outcross stock of outstanding quality is not such an insurmountable problem. However, it still requires constant replenishing of import brood stock, and with each injection of new blood comes the threat of new defects, inherited disease and resurgence of problems eliminated from the bloodlines of the original root stock in past years.
Many breeders, finding serious heath problems within their “line”, choose to eliminate the members of their family groups perpetuating the problem, retain a few selected blood stock not displaying the problem, and then go well outside their bloodline or even the country to import stock thought to not display the defect. This approach saves face among other breeders since no announcements of trouble are needed, and it can occasionally resolve the immediate problem. However, in the long run, the problem continues because it is now spread among brood stock provided to a number of other breeders forming their kennel stock from that derived from the discarded line. Even duplicating the original breeder’s outcross may not do much to correct the cropping up of that original defect in remnant populations.
Outcross breedings in line-bred systems are useful to maintain hybrid vigor. Since inbreeding tends to reduce size of the individual get and litter size, maintaining a habit of using outcrosses to a new line can be a prudent choice for line-breeding advocates. However with each outcross, the breeder takes the chance of adding problems inherent in the new line to his or her own family population or reintroduction of problems already eradicated or reduced in the breeder’s own line.
Phenotype becomes of astronomical importance in outcross breeding systems since it is the only way the outcross breeder can maintain breed integrity and quality in the brood stock. Pictures, videos and personal observations of prospective sires and dams and the recording of details of these observations become important to the pedigree studies and breeding progress. These can partially be provided by online sources like Tibbies.net pedigree data base because pictures breeding details are included in many of the entries online.
Most breeders in many breeds need to gather pedigree information through paid pedigree services like the AKC and/or private services, breed books and foreign registries, then convert this information into private multiple database formats. Computation of breeding coefficients can be done by many computer programs installed on home computers and today this is a central reason for establishing a data entry system in their own home. To do this takes time, effort and sometimes money, but it can be done. Before computers became available hand done breeding books where the top half of the page recorded potential or actual sires and the lower half recorded dams were developed. The pages were then split longitudinally and cut in half to allow the user to realign the sires and dams into potential breedings. Sometimes extended pedigrees were just laid upon the floor atop one another. This author can remember many trips to the carpet with pedigrees to study before a special bitch was ready to breed.
Then, along came computers and eventually the Internet. Today the only time this author refers to her private breeder program is to calculate breeding coefficients on her own breedings and to provide signed pedigrees for puppy buyers. The remaining pedigree research tasks she accomplishes through the free services of the Tibbies.net Pedigree Database.
The amount of research data available on Tibbies.net is truly astronomical and encases a world of information for newbie and experienced breeder alike. This free service can put a new breeder on the same footing as an experienced breeder in very short order.
With numbers growing daily, over 26,200 animals form the Tibbies.net pedigree service data- base. No other massive collection of pedigrees exists in Tibetan Spaniels world wide and that includes many individual national stud books. Ease of use is the earmark of this database.
A four generation pedigree is at the tip of the reader’s fingers on any animal in the database. Extended pedigrees can be generated by entering the name of any of the sires, dams and/or grandsires and making a printout of each progenitor. Private database breeder’s programs that determine breeding coefficient calculations can be augmented by easy data entry from this one source, online service.
Valuable breeding information including names and numbers of sire and dam, siblings and breeding records detail each entry. Trial pedigrees allow the reader to assess potential mates and bring up pertinent information about the prospective mates in that potential pairing.
Sibling information available on the website is important to gauge the overall quality of the litter, sexual vigor and whether or not alternate sires or dams of the same pedigree may be available. Multiple champions in a litter, opposite sex siblings and (if others are recorded individually on the website) the possibility of pictures and colors of other littermates are all bits of available data relating to the dog or bitch about whom one is seeking information.
Knowledge of previous breeding successes is also pertinent. How many puppies in each litter can reveal a lot about the sexual vigor of a stud dog or brood bitch. How many champions the dog or bitch has already generated and with what mate? What is the pedigree of bitches with whom the stud dog has been productive is a very pertinent question, particularly if the reader is contemplating a similar pedigree breeding. These are all questions a prospective breeder can get answered using the Tibbies.net pedigree database.
All in all pedigree research is an important and fascinating aspect of dog breeding as a whole. In Tibetan Spaniels it is vital and exciting. There is no good or bad breeding system, nor is one system good for all purposes or useful with all breeds. Breeding systems and pedigree research are all simply inherent parts of the workings of this most happy hobby called the Purebred Dog Fancy.
- Frankling, Eleanor (1961) Practical Dog Breeding & Genetics; Arco Press, NY.
- Robinson, Roy (1990) Genetics for Dog Breeders, 2nd Ed., Pergamon Press, Oxford.
- Ruvinsky, A. & Sampson, J., Editors (2001) The Genetics of the Dog, CAB Int., NY.
- Willis, Malcolm B. (1989) Genetics of the Dog, Howell Book House, NY.
- Genotype: The inherited genetic material of an individual, ½ of which will be seen on the individual and ½ of which will be recessive and perhaps, unseen but carried by the individual.
- Phenotype: That visible portion of the individual seen through body type, conformation and temperament.
- Progenitor: That individual who came before and lent genes to the makeup of a puppy.
- Progeny: Any or all litter member(s) resulting from the mating of a sire and dam.