Breeding Definitions Explained

Jane with four GenerationsJane with four Generations

This section contains explanations of some of the breeding terms - family lines, in-breeding, out-crossing and line-breeding which are often used (and misused) when discussing selective breeding of pedigreed animals. But it is important to remember the names on the pedigree can only say so much. An excellent example of these terms can be seen by following this link to the Rangeaire Index.

There is no substitute for a deep understanding of everything applicable to the individual dogs whose names are on this pedigree.This includes strengths and weaknesses of the the individual dogs contained within that pedigree. Strengths and weaknesses means how closely they adhere to the Breed Standard, as well as their status for inherited diseases that may be known in your breed. Remember breeding is a creative art, selecting dogs carrying desirable genes and eliminating dogs carrying undesirable genes.

What is a Family Line?

If you think of a pedigree as a tree, then one bough represents one family line of three or more animals directly the progeny of each other. With pedigreed dogs, all the dogs on this bough must have been recorded by a recognized registration body. So a male line continues from grandfather, to father and then to the son, and a female line continues from a grandmother to a mother and then to the daughter.

Saint Bernard pupSaint Bernard pup

In Breeding

In breeding is the mating of very close relations i.e. mother-son, father-daughter and brother-sister. These types of matings are sometimes a tremendous success but more often an unqualified failure, as they bring out and emphasize the good and bad in the stock. It should never be tried unless the animals are really excellent specimens of the breed as well as having generations of animals that have been screened to be genetically free of inherited diseases.

Out Crossing

Out crossing is the mating of completely unrelated animals. This results in extremely varied animals and is of little help when trying to establish a kennel type, except if you wish to introduce a certain characteristic contained strongly in the line into which you are out crossing, and which is lacking in your own line. Again screening for inherited diseases is most important in both parents and grand parents.

Line Breeding

Line Breeding ExampleLine Breeding Example

Line breeding is the middle course or the mating of somewhat related animals with the characteristics of the common ancestor being the ones you wish to emphasize. Line-breeding is commonly used when breeding pure breed animals. This method is successful when attempting to establish a line containing particular breed characteristics or animals of a certain breed type.

Line breeding involves breeding somewhat related dogs that display certain specific excellent characteristics. So as this common ancestor then appears on both sides of the pedigree this increases the probability of the desired characteristic appearing in the litter. When many generations of dogs are line bred, the inter-relationships can be quite complex. An excellent example is the Rangeaire Map (illustrated left).

Note that line breeding involves breeding for characteristics, so it is not necessarily true that the best show dogs will be able to produce puppies that will be the best show dogs. This is because:

  • A dog can throw a characteristic which it does not necessarily display.
  • A dog can posses certain characteristic but may not necessarily throw it.

For this reason, when choosing a sire and dam, it is really important that each weakness in the sire is covered by the dam, and likewise each weakness in the dam is covered by the sire. Thus, by knowing your breed standard well, you can choose a dog which throws the characteristic(s) your bitch lacks as well as recognize your bitches' correct characteristics your possible choice of dog lacks. Then choose a puppy that has the best characteristics of both.

References and Further Reading

The above, complete with moving computer graphics are explained further in the DVD 'How to Make a Showdog' by Jane Harvey


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