Ignorance Is Bliss
by Lisa Dube Forman
The shrinking of certain breeds’ gene pools is not a new topic. It has been widely discussed and debated with countless articles, research papers, and dissertations written on the subject. Not long ago, an authoritative report was published in my breed’s national magazine written by Dr. Silvan Urfer, DVM, researcher and author of several studies on inbreeding depression and longevity along with age-related cataracts to name just a few. He has performed clinical work in Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and has been a Veterinary Officer in the Swiss Army. His postdoctoral research was at the National Human Genome Research Institute and the University of Washington in the USA. Presently, he is officially attached with the University of Washington, Medicine Pathology, in Seattle, Washington.
His report was regarding Popular Sire Syndrome and Genetic Bottlenecking in our specific breed. In the limited space available I will not detail either subject though suffice to say that the popular sire syndrome discussion was highlighting genetic contributions of a particular individual(s) with further discussion of heavily used sires having a universal influence on the breed. In summary, Dr. Urfer attempted to educate breed fanciers by stating simply, “In order to get a bottleneck, not only does one need a popular sire, but also one whose offspring are frequently, and more important, widely used.” Dr. Urfer explained crucial factors in genetic bottlenecking and the fundamental differences of the impending bottlenecking versus previous bottlenecks in the breed.
Remember the maxim, don’t shoot the messenger? Well, the reception that both this science and its message received is likened to the good doctor sanctioning the sacrifice of our first born. The resulting uproar is both startling and disturbing, especially since I sense that some of it has been manufactured. Such irrational riposte is not unique to my breed as I know there are or has been similar backlash in other breeds when such matters are discussed. The reactionary behavior has been downright hostile with rumors circulating that one or more persons are going to file a civil suit against the good doctor.
Such retaliation should not be surprising, though simultaneously, I admit that people never cease to amaze me. One furious, inexperienced breeder was supposedly ranting, exclaiming the author did not tell her what to do! It appears that this novice may be particularly exposed to the genetic bottleneck due to the multiple appearances of that particular, heavily used sire in her pedigrees. Nonetheless, I was bemused and amused by this because many of our purebred dog breeders today lack maturity in numerous aspects of our field. For the moment we set aside the fact that she and other breeders placed themselves in these precipitous binds, therefore they need to take responsibility. It is equally preposterous that this apprentice breeder damned the science and shot the messenger because the author did not include a written action program for her. This is both inconceivable and sad. This distorted sense of entitlement by this and other neophytes is enormously frustrating to seasoned, mature breeders. Their delusional claims and demands are, unfortunately, commonplace today as they feel it is their right to have an authority, in this case the Doctor, instruct them on what to do in place of their devoting time and attention to acquire knowledge under a mature breeder. Instant gratification is a familiar desire of today’s society, and when it involves purebred dog breeding, is most definitely negative with potentially grave consequences. A rational approach to the deeply concerning and imminent crisis such as this would be to step back, look at the situation with a fresh perspective, seek out wise counsel, commit to an enhanced study program, and create your own action program.
Alas, this most likely will not occur as almost all fledglings are empowered by their champions and satin ribbons. It is appropriate to conclude with what I consider a portent by Dr. Urfer, “In retrospect, the breed had its next bottleneck coming from the time prevailing breeding practices shifted from line-based to show-based breeding.”
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