The Hidden Pedigree
by Steven Liversedge
Terriers & Shih Tzu
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.