The Hidden Pedigree
by Steven Liversedge
Stelron Bull Terriers & Shih Tzu
South Africa

Reprinted with the permission of the author

Have you ever heard the expression, "what you see, is what you get".
If you had to look at the way breeders' approach their selection of breeding partners you would think this statement applied to breeding with there being no exceptions.

Think about it, most of us choose our breeding partners based on what we can physically see with our eyes and occasionally look at pedigrees to see if we will be line breeding to a family of dogs or a specific animal. Yet the physical animal you see in reality is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the animal's genetic code and how this will influence the offspring.

A dog with a bad specimen for a sire or dam can be as destructive to your planned breeding as using the bad specimen itself, yet too often we as breeders continually mate animals with little consideration for the genetic pedigree or hidden pedigree as I prefer.

The genetic pedigree is perhaps more important than the physical dog or bitch you are going to use, however most of us completely ignore this fact, simply because genetics sounds like something that requires years of study. This may be true, however it is something we should always try to consider and understand.

Now we have all heard the expression "you are what you eat."
Well the same message can be applied to breeding,

"Your success will be based on the dogs you use and the animals behind them."
It is important to take into consideration the animals behind a dog or bitch; making note of their faults and virtues as it is to consider the faults and virtues of the mating pair.

Next time you decide to breed, change your thinking process. Instead of planning the mating based on the matching of two animals, base your selection on the concept of matching six animals. The sire and dam and their sires and dams. For example instead of looking only at the head qualities of the bitch and dog, imagine you are adding six heads into the gene pool and out of that gene pool will come the different combinations of your puppies heads.

As an example lets look at just the head profile and consider we have a bitch that lacks profile that we want to mate. We find a dog that has the profile our bitch needs, however by expanding the matching selection to six animals as opposed to two, we find that all four grand parents have mediocre profile qualities.
This means we are hoping the one good profile in the pedigree is going to override all the other profiles in the gene pools and give the puppies good profiles. It can happen, however the odds are not in your favour, and luck needs to be on your side. What you will probably find is one good head if you are lucky and the rest mediocre. You may say, one good head is all you need, but what if that good head is on a bad fronted animal? What options do you have now?

If the dog's sire and dam had good profiles as well, this would improve your chances of producing more good profiles in the puppies. Remember the more virtues you pack into the breeding the better your chances.
The same sort of planning is needed when considering every aspect of the planned breeding. Fronts, toplines, hindquarters, mouths, bone, movement, size, quality, type, etc. By looking at each aspect of the Bull Terrier and considering the six animals in the hidden pedigree, you will have a better understanding of what to expect in the puppies.

If the dog you select has bad hindquarters, with straight stifles and his sire in turn has the same bad hindquarters and this fault is found in the sire and dam of the bitch, guess what? You will probably see a high percentage of bad hindquarters in the pups, no matter how good the dam's hindquarters are.
If you decide to use an animal with a bad fault such as poor hind movement, understand that it is not only going to effect the current breeding but generations to come. When a dog with a bad fault is used extensively by breeders, (normally occurs with top winning animals) it is not uncommon to see this fault appear time and time again, as people line breed to the dog or family of dogs. This is simply due to the fact that the fault is being packed into the hidden pedigree.

This does not only apply to obvious faults, but issues, which are not so obvious, such as partial deafness, slipping patella or a lack of type, lack of head length, or roundness of eye etc.
Just ask yourself,  "How often do we see small oblique eyes as demonstrated by Ch. Ormandy McGuffin?"
With time we have slowly let this virtue disappear.

Whether it is crazes or fashion, you just have to look around the world and you will see how some virtues are being lost to the breed in these regions. Australia for one is breeding head profiles that look absolutely great, but where has the depth and strength of under jaw gone? The USA on the other hand are breeding great heads, but have ignored a correct mouth to the point that good heads with a correct mouth are becoming rare.

Words from the legendary Raymond Oppenheimer come to mind,
"Any fool can breed one without the other".
This applies to every aspect of a Bull Terrier and as breeders we should be looking to move the breed forward to a point where eradicating common faults such as bad movement, long backs, poor profiles, out mouths etc. is the goal world-wide.
In SA we had great movers 10 years ago who could not only move, but had outstanding balance, however we have slowly lost this virtue in our pursuit of head qualities. Yes, we needed to improve the finish of the heads, but not at the expense of other virtues.

Next time you are looking to breed, remember, you are breeding with more than two animals and that breeding with physical animals alone, without consideration for the hidden pedigree only increases your chances of pot luck breeding.

Contents & Graphics Copyright DaneLinks.com 2004-05.
No material from DaneLinks.com may be republished in any form without written permission.
DaneLinks.com seeks to provide insight into various subjects regarding Great Danes.
 We approach a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral and other judgments to the reader. The opinions of the various contributors to this web site are their own opinions and are not necessarily the opinions of the webmaster.
We reserve the right to monitor, refuse or remove any information that is in serious conflict with the over-all integrity of this web site.