OF PEAS AND PUPS
One of the most worthwhile expressions of man's great and natural desire to develop and improve is the breeding of dogs, and nowhere is the challenge greater or the problems more numerous, than in the breeding of the GERMAN SHORTHAIRED POINTER/RETRIEVER (and others of the Versatile Breeds). This is so, of course. . . . .because the Breed is bred for so many more factors.
The purposeful breeding of dogs is both "Art and Science"....It is art because it requires skill and taste based upon aesthetic principles........It is science because it demands the application of accumulated knowledge which has been formulated in the general laws of Truth or Theory.
Through art alone it is possible to reach our goal, if we live long enough, but the path is narrow and tortuous. We will, certainly never live long enough to reach this ideal through science alone...It is only when Art and Science work hand in paw, that the results can approach the ideal of perfection...We can mold by our own efforts, through successive generations, the image and likeness of our dreams.
TRUE ART in the breeding of dogs is an inherent gift...sharpened by long experience and keen observation....It is the single most important attribute the breeder must possess if he is to succeed...Even with this gift (but more especially without it) the breeder must rely heavily on complete testing for 'EVERY FACTOR' he wishes to embody in this, his "Ideal GSP". This Ideal upon which the breeder aims his sights is a measure of the artistic portion of his Art-Science concept.
Let it be made perfectly clear at the outset that the author makes no claim to be the possessor of this rare artistic gift and so will make no effort to discuss it in detail....This artistic phase, which is the more important, will be left to those more eminently qualified. In so far as is possible, we will separate the art from the science and concern ourselves here with the scientific phase.
Most of the knowledge contained here is not new. It is available to anyone who has access to a modest library....a willingness to 'dig for the facts' and an 'elementary knowledge of biology'.....The facts presented here are just that, "facts". They leave no room for controversy...In the case of Theories or the Application of Facts to Practical Problems, there is considerable latitude for discussion....THE PRIME SCOPE OF THIS DISCUSSION THEN. IS THE SCIENCE OF HEREDITY....'GENETICS'.....I HOPE TO LAY BARE THE BASIC AND FUNDAMENTAL FACTS.....WHAT THE BREEDER DOES WITH THEM IS UP TO HIM....IF ONE BREEDER OF THE SHORTHAIR, BY APPLICATION OF THESE FACTS, BREEDS A BETTER SHORTHAIR THAN HE OTHERWISE WOULD HAVE....I WILL FEEL THAT MY EFFORTS HAVE NOT BEEN IN VAIN.
GENETICS is that branch of Biology concerned with heredity....the Heredity of all living things. Its name comes form the GENES (Greek-birth, life).
The genes, which cannot be seen, are minute particles in the nuclei of all cells. It is believed, upon substantial evidence....that it is the chemical action of these genes which determine the reaction of the organism to its environment and these genes (in the chromosome) are passed from parent to offspring in a regular and predictable way they are passed from parents to pups that I wish to talk.
Genetics is a Statistical Science as well as a biological one. The laws of heredity are based on probabilities. These probabilities approach certainty as the numbers involved become great enough....Flip a coin four times and you should get tow heads and two tails because there are only two ways the coin can fall. Don't stake your life on it but its a good bet. You may get 3 heads and 1 tail. Four flips are not enough to permit the law of averages to come into play. Flip it woo times and you may get 46 heads and 54 tails. Flip it 500 times and you will probably come pretty close to 250 heads and 250 tails. Knowing the odds for a given event helps one decide (using judgement) the path to follow....It does not of itself assure success but it increases the chances for success. Some feel that this element of uncertainty make the laws of heredity of little practical value to man. This is an ill-considered deduction...If the affairs of men waited for absolute certainty before acting...little of value would every be accomplished....A disregard of these statistical laws is what causes the poker player, who draws to inside straights all night, to go home broke! A good poker player, one who knows the odds he gives in each instance, can, with moderately good cards, win consistently over the man who holds better cards but disregards the odds....And, so it is that the Breeder who starts with moderately Good Stock and the Knowledge of the genetics' odds he faces, can, in time, produce finer dogs, than he who starts with good stock and disregards genetic laws.
LESS than a century ago, an Augustinian monk of Brunn, Austria, reported to the Brunn Society, in 40 brief pages the results of a simple experiment carried on with common garden peas in a 20' X 120' monastery garden....At the conclusion of the reading (it took two meetings) GREGOR JOHANN MENDEL sat down and the meeting adjourned...There was no discussion...no questions..no comments of any kind...One of the greatest contributions to mans understanding of the basic laws of nature, had fallen on deaf ears. In spite of the fact that the proceedings of the Society were published and sent to more than 120 libraries, universities and societies around the world...not one person grasped the significance of this great discovery...and so it lay sleeping for almost 35 years.
At the turn of this century, three botanists working independently
WHAT DID MENDEL DISCOVER? He discovered GENES...He did not call them that but referred to them as DETERMINERS. However, the laws he propounded for his determiners follow exactly the laws which govern the genes. Unlike earlier workers, Mendel realized that to unravel the laws directing heredity in a complex organism...he must concentrate on one factor or characteristic at a time. Other students had failed because they tackled the organism as a whole...and had been over-whelmed by the complexity. (The GSP breeder will do well to consider the soundness of this procedure and concentrate on the improvement of one factor at a time as will be discussed later.)
With consideration Mendel chose simple garden peas for his experiments. He set up plainly discernible and contrasting pairs of characteristics to study; such as, shape of ripe seeds (round or wrinkled) color of seed coat...the position of the flower on the stem...length of stem, and the like, seven pairs in all.
His object was to cross (outcross) one variety with another and observe the Hybrids* of such matings through the following generations in an effort to discover how these characteristics were passed from one generation to the next. An explanation of the results of one of these experiments will pretty well indicate the results of all of them.
He crossed peas having smooth, round seeds with peas having wrinkled seeds...It made no difference which of the parents were round or wrinkled...all of the Hybrid "children" were round-seeded. All of the hybrids had round seeds like the round-seeded parent.....They were of the same PHENOTYPE (appearance).
The next year when the hybrids were self-fertilized (inbred), the harvest yielded round seeds and wrinkled seeds in a ration of 3:1 respectively....Although all of the hybrids looked the same, they were not of the same GENOTYPE (genetic make-up) because 25% of the offspring were wrinkled. Mendel rightly deducted that the wrinkled characteristic lay dormant in the smooth-round-hybrid-seeds....He called the dormant wrinkled characteristic the RECESSIVE determiner, and the round characteristic, which showed though, the DOMINANT determiner.
Without knowledge of just what took place in the plant during reproduction...he correctly theorized that these determiners, one from the sperm and one from the egg, were brought together in pairs at fertilization and remained together during the life of the organism....separating only when the time had come to produce sperms or eggs.
Of course today, we know that is precisely what happens....It happens in peas, pups, pansies, parakeets and paupers, to mention a few, but to reason this fact from the ratio of round to wrinkled seeds appears to be, a deduction of highest of the highest order....The genes are paired and the pairs separate in the formation of the germ cells to be reunited at the time of fertilization.
The Dominants he represented by capital letters, a practice still followed by geneticists today....In the case of the round seeds, or the SOMATIC CELLS (all of the cells of the body except the germ cells) would be represented as RR....the germ cells as R and R....For the wrinkled cells this would be rr and r & r, representing the recessive genes.
The RR seeds are pure and dominant and all seeds like them have the same phenotype and genotype...the rr seeds are also pure, and recessive, and all seeds like them have the same phenotype and genotype....the hybrids are all Rr. They have the same phenotype, round, but they are not of the same genotype......Other terms used to denote the genetic make-up of the ZYGOTE or fertilized cell, are HETEROZYGOTE, Rr, and HOMOZYGOTE, RR AND rr....HETERO-different; HOME-same....Diagrammatically the round wrinkled mating looks like this......
With only one type sperm and one type egg, there can be but one type off-spring (for a given characteristic)....The resulting hybrids are all phenotypically alike but heterozygoteous....Mendel then permitted the hybrids to self-fertilize, as is natural with peas, with these results....
The hybrids produced two types of sperm and two types of eggs, R and r, because the ALLELES (the pair of determiners) are different. Thus there are three possible ways to unite...RR, Rr and rr.....They produce two phenotypes, round and wrinkled, in a ratio of 3:1.....They produce three genotypes....one Homozygous Dominant, RR; two Heterozygous Dominant, Rr; and one Homozygous Recessive, rr.....The ratio is 1:2:2 or 25%-50%-25%.
Here our laws of probability come in again....All of these ratios are probable, not mandatory...In this case rather than flipping a single coin, we illustrate by flipping two coins....With MONOHYBRIDS (hybrid for one characteristic) there are two types of eggs and two types of sperms, thus the two coins....Each coin has an equal chance to come up heads or tails. The chances of heads for a single toss is one in two or ½. We will make heads the dominant R....The same odds favor tails, 1/2, r....To determine the chances of getting two heads at the same time (RR) would be ½ X ½ - 1/4, 1 chance in 4....Two tails, rr, would also require 4 flips, on the average. To obtain the "hybrid" Rr, a head R and a tail r, we must add the 1/4 for a head to the 1/4 for a tail...and we come up once in two flips, 1/4 plus 1/4 equals 1/2....Thus when we flip the coin four times we should bet 1 RR, 2 Rr and 1 rr....of course it won't work out that way every time but with a significant number of flips there will be statistically insignificant error. In breeding small numbers, only approximate ratios can be expected...Puppies resulting from inbreeding hybrids, where the ratio should be 3:1, we are pretty safe in assuming that there will be more "round puppies" than "wrinkled puppies". Actually Mendel harvested 5474 round seeds and 1850 wrinkled seeds. To be exact, he would have had to harvest 5550 round seeds if he picked up 1850 wrinkled ones. He was off 76 round seeds out of 5474.
MENDELS CHOICE of peas for his experiment was wise and thoughtful. For one thing, "round" and "wrinkled" are easily recognizable and highly contrasting characteristics, and they are controlled by a single pair of genes....The dog is, of course, a far more complex organism and the characteristics we seek are, for the most part, not so easily recognized.
This is where the Art comes in. This is where the grading or testing comes into the picture. In order to help us recognize that which we seek in our dogs, we must rely on keen observation - complete testing and accurate records. The records are just as important as the testing, if the improvement is to be breed-wide rather than just strain-wide.
CONTROLLED BREEDING METHODS coupled with complete testing and accurate records have brought a phenomenal jump in the butter fat production of modern dairy herds; it has increased litter size and growth rate in pigs; it has added speed and stamina to race horses; boosted corn yield 1000%....To say that the use of these same genetic principles could be of no value to the Shorthair is ignorance....No one would say that the dog and the cow had a great deal in common, yet, the Genetic Laws operate exactly the same in one as in the other....The fact that our GSP is bred for so many more factors is what makes the testing so difficult...the records so important...and the breeding so much more complicated...If we test solely for upland game proficiency, and breed only from the results of such tests, eventually, the multi-purpose attributes of the Shorthair will disappear. We must test for A:: that we wish to breed!
ROUND or WRINKLED
So now we have the whole secret of breeding better Shorthairs....if, we want them round or wrinkled. But nowhere in the Standard do we find "round" or :wrinkled" so of what value is all of this to the practical breeder?....Well, it just might prevent a situation which developed here recently....A local quarterhorse breeder had an outstanding and experienced stud horse....having become interested in genetics, he thought that an interesting cross might be made between his stud and a zebra mare. After considerable difficulty he located a zebra mare and brought her to his corrals. He left the two together, returning from time to time to see if any progress was being made....After several days without action, he pulled his stud over to the corner and asked him why he wasn't breeding....The stud whispered back, "Hell, boss, I can't even get her to take her pajamas off."
SERIOUSLY, does this round-wrinkled bit work?....Does it work with Shorthairs?...The answer to both questions is an emphatic Yes!...IF the name of our dog was the "German Pointer-Retriever" we could then have a |Shorthair and a Wirehair of the same breed (the Griffon could also be included). We would then have a German Pointer-Retriever with Shorthair and a German Pointer-Retriever with wirehair (in Dachshunds we have the smoothhaired, longhaired and wirehaired...same breed, different coat)...we add the term "retriever" to the name, as is done regularly in England, to indicate his versatility and to differentiate him from the old German Pointer. As near as can be determined the GWP differs from the GSP in no more than two or three genes out of millions....Let us take on of these genes, W, which gives the dog its name and appearance. W for wirehair is dominant to w, smooth hair. When the GWP is mated to the GSP all the puppies are apparently Wirehairs. When these puppies (hybrids) are mated together we get 3 wirehairs to every one smoothhair....WW, wirehair; 2 Ww wirehair; ww, smoothhair. Now if this one smoothhair is also shorthaired (it can also be long as will be discussed later) that pup is just as much as GSP, genetically, as any listed in the stud book. This procedure is not being recommended nor is it being suggested that we change the name of our breed in spite of the logic of such a proposal.
Some may recall the furor created by the inclusion of GWP news in the GSP News some time ago. In view of the minute genetic difference in the two dogs (I will not use the word 'breeds') this was indeed a tempest in a teapot.
GOING no further than Mendels first and second filial generations in the peas (Fig. 1 & 2) we can gain much of a practical nature to help us. We can see that the units of heredity, the genes, are separate and distinct....We see that the appearance does not necessarily tell us the genetic make up;....that Likes do not necessarily beget likes....Like genes beget like genes or, even more accurately..Like genes beget like potentials....It is not altogether correct to say that like genes beget likes because, we are the assuming that the genes are the sole determiners of the individual dogs. Wich They Are Not.....Genes determine the reaction of the organism to its environment.....The peas must have good soil, sunlight, water, etc.,...the pups must have proper food, exercise, care, etc....Like genes will not produce like individuals whether they be plants, people or pups, IF the environment is not also the same.
GENETIC PURITY....THE GOAL
We also learn that only pure parents produce pure offspring...Our dogs of course, are not genetically pure and never will be, but whatever minute contribution we can make toward that goal of genetic purity, will be to the everlasting advantage of the breed in the generations to come....
We can see that (in most instances) hybridizing or outcrossing , whether it be of breed or strain or type, complicates our genetic arrangements.....Ideally, we want HOMOZYGOSIS or the homozygous state for every allele. This is a dream not to be realized unless this old world spins a lot longer than it has already.
The dog has 78 Chromosomes (man has 46, peas 14, fruit fly 8).....How many hundreds of Genes are contained in each Chromosome has yet to be answered. No gene has ever been seen.....it has been estimated that it would require some 350,000,000 to cover the human hair....This gives some idea of the magnitude of the problem and the remoteness of the complete solution. This however, is no cause for despair......Each breed already has a great many of their genes properly aligned....homozygous. They breed true for hundreds and hundreds of characteristics.
AN EXAMPLE...is the never seen black GSP. In the early days of the breed, we had black Shorthairs. Black is dominant to our brown or liver....a dog cannot be both brown and black or liver....a dog cannot be both brown and black for exactly the same reason a pea seed cannot be both smooth and wrinkled or part smooth and part wrinkled. When the early Standards decreed that the Shorthair should be liver and that black was not an acceptable color, you can readily see how easily it was possible to eliminate these blacks. The elimination of the black Shorthair made it more difficult for us to get dark-eyed dogs but we can go into that later.
It is enough to emphasize that it is not necessary to know the action of every gene the dog possesses before we can use to advantage the general laws of inheritance and sooner we realize this and make use of these laws the sooner the Shorthair will approach that distant and never-to-be-reached ideal of perfection. Merely because perfection is unattainable is no reason that we should not come as close to it as possible.
THE SHORTHAIR is progressing. He is progressing in spite of genetic laws, not because of them. We are moving ahead...we can move further faster with a greater knowledge and use of Genetic Principles. Mendel shows us the way with simplicity, with common garden peas....Dominants show themselves singly.....Recessives must come in double doses to be recognized......We consider most, but not all, of the characteristics we want in our ideal GSP to be dominant. This has its advantages as well as its disadvantages.....Its helpful aspect is that if either sire or dam contribute one dominant gene to the fertilized cell, that characteristic will demonstrate itself in the pups, as it did the peas.....That is fine for that individual pup and we must have improved dogs before we can improve the breed......
The disadvantage lies in not being able to tell the genetic make up from the appearance without further breeding....On the other hand, when the Recessive characteristic (as the liver color mentioned above shows itself, we know the Genotype is Homozygoteous.....If we wish to perpetuate it we merely breed to another dog who exhibits the same Recessive Factor and every pup will have it too.....If we wish to eliminate it, we eliminate the dog or merely prevent its mating.....
We would like to be able to line up our Genotype from appearance for dominants too. This Homozygosis applies to Dominants as well as Recessives (both Alleles are the same) either Dominant or Recessive....Thus, the prepotent sire or dam, which is of such great value to any breed must be Homozygous for most of the characteristics we seek in our ideal .....In this event of course, it would make no difference what bitch he was bred to...all the pups would be superior too....With a poor bitch, the next generation (unless bred back to their father) would produce a hodge-podge....with a decent bitch, the next generation (unless bred back to their father) would on the average, tend toward the mean of the breed. Ignoring Genetic Fundamentals, this prepotent "blood" is usually permitted to become diluted throughout the breed, although it may raise the level or average of the breed minutely...it could have done so much more. By concentrating these prepotent genes the whole breed can be improved...The prepotent dam, because she is capable of producing so few pups in a life time, compared to a sire, demands even more careful selection of mates.
Copyright 2001. Dr. James G. McCue, Jr. All rights reserved. Postscript: And his legacy lives on in the German Shorthaired Pointers of today. May they always be healthy and bred with forethought and planning.