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BOB Collie at Westminster sired by a double merle

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It is my understanding that a dog with an undescended testicle is at very high risk for testicular cancer. And that the surgery to locate and remove a retained testicle is quite expensive. If this is so, I would think it very important to avoid using dogs that have this condition or dogs which can pass this condition on. I don't think the fact that the dog can live a happy and useful life with this condition means that it should be allowed to pass it on.

 

I have heard the name Winston Cap mentioned as being behind a large percentage of the Border Collies of today. What if Winston Cap had had one undescended testicle and had not been allowed to breed? Would any trait that is vitally important to the working Border Collie of today have been irrevocably lost? Can the removal of any one dog from the gene pool negatively affect the usefulness of the breed as a whole? Is the trait of undescended testicles, true monorchidism or cryptorchidism so prevalent in the breed that the quality of working Border Collies would be negatively impacted if none of them were bred?

 

It seems that there would be no overall decline in the quality of working ability in the breed if no merle Border Collies were ever bred. At least, no one has come up with an example of a merle that was not only a top-quality worker, but reliably passed on this trait. Is the same true for CEA affected dogs?

 

Of course selecting for working ability should be the top priority in breeding Border Collies. But if two dogs are of equal ability, and one was a merle, or had an undescended testicle or was CEA affected, the choice would seem to be clear - one should choose the dog without the trait with the potential to cause harm to its descendants or the breed as a whole.

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Wiston Cap (not "Winston" Cap) was a truly exceptional dog it seems. He seems to have been prepotent and passed on admirable traits to his offspring. And, he was used extensively for breeding and so has had a large impact on the breed as a whole. And, had he possessed a defect, even a recessive one, it would have impacted the breed as well since he was used so very much - as in the case of Impressive, the American Quarter Horse who was used extensively and passed on a very serious defect that was recessive.

 

I think there are times that a defect could be acknowledged and breedings could be done for an otherwise very exceptional animal - but we do have a large enough gene pool that I don't think it's justified. There are just too many suitable dogs and bitches without known defects that can be used to justify breeding from those with known defects.

 

And, were you to use an animal with a known defect, you might make sure that that animal's offspring went to knowledgeable homes - but you could never guarantee that all future breedings would take that into account as those offspring would no longer be under your control. Eventually, there would be less-responsible breedings and we know where that will lead.

 

With defects like CEA, where there is now a genetic test, even an affected but exceptional animal could be used for breeding with DNA-clear mates. And unaffected carriers can be used for breeding with DNA-clear mates. It would make things much simpler if we had genetic testing for other defects and could then make breeding decisions based on knowledge. But there would always be those who would not be governed by the same ideals.

 

I guess I am rambling...

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Wiston Cap (not "Winston" Cap) was a truly exceptional dog it seems. He seems to have been prepotent and passed on admirable traits to his offspring. And, he was used extensively for breeding and so has had a large impact on the breed as a whole. And, had he possessed a defect, even a recessive one, it would have impacted the breed as well since he was used so very much - as in the case of Impressive, the American Quarter Horse who was used extensively and passed on a very serious defect that was recessive.

 

I think there are times that a defect could be acknowledged and breedings could be done for an otherwise very exceptional animal - but we do have a large enough gene pool that I don't think it's justified. There are just too many suitable dogs and bitches without known defects that can be used to justify breeding from those with known defects.

 

And, were you to use an animal with a known defect, you might make sure that that animal's offspring went to knowledgeable homes - but you could never guarantee that all future breedings would take that into account as those offspring would no longer be under your control. Eventually, there would be less-responsible breedings and we know where that will lead.

 

With defects like CEA, where there is now a genetic test, even an affected but exceptional animal could be used for breeding with DNA-clear mates. And unaffected carriers can be used for breeding with DNA-clear mates. It would make things much simpler if we had genetic testing for other defects and could then make breeding decisions based on knowledge. But there would always be those who would not be governed by the same ideals.

 

I guess I am rambling...

Thanks for pointing out my error re: Wiston Cap. :)

 

I guess what I'm thinking is that there is no way to be sure that people 2 or more generations down the line from a dog with a genetic defect will test for that defect or avoid breedings which will cause the trait to be perpetuated.

 

My question was, if Wiston Cap had never been used for breeding, would the Border Collies of today be of lesser quality overall than they are? If that were the case, I would think it might be a reason to consider breeding a dog of star quality that happened to have an undesirable inherited trait.

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My question was, if Wiston Cap had never been used for breeding, would the Border Collies of today be of lesser quality overall than they are? If that were the case, I would think it might be a reason to consider breeding a dog of star quality that happened to have an undesirable inherited trait.

 

Geonni: I'm not trying to knock Wiston Cap, who was apparently a superb working dog. But in answer to your question about his impact on the Border collies of today: you might be interested to note that he himself was quite inbred. Apparently J. M. Wilson's Cap's name appears sixteen times within seven generations of Wiston Cap's pedigree.

 

According to this website, several undesirable traits have been attributed to Wiston Cap's descendents: undesirable character, epilepsy, and CEA. I'll leave it to others more knowledgeable about pedigrees to comment on the accuracy of this statement. If it is true, it's an example of what can happen - both the good and the bad - if one dog (itself inbred) is used extensively for breeding.

 

It's hard to find a Border collie that can't be traced back to Wiston Cap. Virtually all ISDS dogs born since the mid-970s have him somewhere in their pedigree: see this link. Maybe if you had a dog all of whose British ancestors were imported before then...

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(warning, novel ahead!) Well the thread seems to have gone from color to testicles but I thought I'd toss in some information about the former. I've studied this quite a bit since my breed of choice (hangin' tree cowdog) has a lot of merles in it but the dogs are bred for working ability and there is no conformation judging of any sort on the dogs. (there is a working requirement for permanent registration which is needed to be able to produce pups eligible for registration themselves) but anyway.

 

I see a lot of confusion here about the merle coloration/dilution and I think people should be a little more educated about the genetics behind the 'color' before you throw the baby out with the bathwater. I've read in here that merle x merle produces all merles, or that merle is a dilution of tri color, or that only red dogs may be cryptic among other things, none of which are true.

 

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The merle gene causes a dilution of a dog's base color and is not really a color itself. Base color being red (red merle) or black (blue merle). Red and black can also be diluted by other genes that affect color (i.e. the genes that cause lilac or slate I think it's called?). Merle is a dominate gene, in other words if a dog carries the merle gene they will ALWAYS be merle colored with one tiny tiny exception. The exception being in what is termed a 'cryptic merle' or a dog in which the merle coloring isn't so obvious, (but it will still be there somewhere) the dilution might be just a very tiny patch on what appears to be an otherwise solid colored dog. Click this link to see examples of cryptic merles.

 

Tri-color is a gene totally unrelated to the merle gene. Tri-color causes the tan markings you might see on a dog's muzzle, eyebrows, legs, and often base of the tail on dogs who carry that gene. Black dogs can carry the gene and so can red dogs. Dogs with the merle dilution can also be tri-colored.

 

A dog that is merle and who has one solid colored parent would be classified as M(dilute)m(solid) so that merle dog can produce either merle puppies or solid puppies because they carry both genes. If you cross a Mm dog to a Mm female (both dogs are merle but both carry the solid gene also) you can get some solid (these don't carry the merle gene at all) puppies, some merle (Mm) puppies, and some double merle (MM) puppies. (I say "can" in the previous sentence because there's no guarantee of any percentage of pup colors in a given litter, they might all be solids, or maybe solids and MM, or all merles, or whatever combination).

 

Because a MM puppy inherited the dilution from both parents the pup will generally wind up with a lot of white on it (sometimes being all white), sometimes these excessively white pups have hearing or vision defects but not always. What causes deafness is these pups is that the hair cells in the inner ear don't have any pigment and when they don't have pigment the nerve cells die for some reason resulting in deafness. This is why you see deafness in dogs who are not merles but who have a lot of white or who are white headed, it's not the merle gene itself that means deafness but the lack of pigmentation which can be caused by a variety of genes that cause white and not just the merle gene. You can't tell whether a pup with white on the outside of it's ears will have pigment in the inner ear just by looking at them, the pups ears on the outside may be white but they may still have pigment inside and be able to hear just fine. I don't have a very good understanding of what exactly it is that causes the eye defects in some MM puppies, just taking a guess I'd say that it's the same nerve damage that happens in the ear also causes the pupils not to form correctly or the eyes not to grow to normal size as some of these pups are born with abnormally small eyes. But! Based on my experience I'm not sure that the eye issues necessarily correlate with lack of pigment, more on this later.

 

When you breed an MM dog to a mm(solid color) you will get all merles but all of them will be Mm. In other words, they will all carry and be able to produce solid colors when bred to a mm or Mm.

 

In summary: MM does not mean a puppy will always have eye or ear problems, it's just a higher chance of them because of the higher chance a pup will have more white on them. You take these same chances of deafness breeding white factored dogs together.

 

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That's it for merle facts, the rest of this post is just me rambling about my experiences with merle crosses and opinions whatever.

 

I really don't have a problem with people who choose to make a merle to merle cross with working ability in mind. There are a number of working breeds of dogs who have a high percentage of merle dogs within their populations: Catahoulas, Leopard Curs, Aussies(well, some still work), Hangin' Tree Cowdogs to name a few. I do have a problem with people who make that cross but don't take responsibility for pups born with hearing/eye problems and instead pawn them off on people for money or dump them to rescue, those pups should be put down not foisted on someone else.

 

I've raised two merle to merle cross litters. Sire was merle with traditional border collie markings, white blaze down the face, big ring around the neck, white feet. The dam was merle with minimal white, just toes and chest. The first litter was two solid pups (One of which is my Queen) and five merle pups some of which were MM. Only one of those pups had any problems and that was obvious at 4.5-5 weeks old when I put the pup down. The rest are over five years old now and no hearing or vision problems and most turned out to be great working dogs. This is Katy, MM female, from that first litter and the only one of those I have a current photo for besides the one I own. The second litter (same sire and dam as first) was about half and half for number of merle and solid pups. Had one blind merle pup in that litter which I didn't realize till they were six or so weeks old and I'm not sure he was completely blind but he definitely had impaired vision. He seemed to hear fine, and could keep up good with the other pups when I took them for walks which is why I didn't realize he couldn't see well at first, just thought he was rather clumsy. He was put down also. Rest of the litter had normal hearing/vision.

 

I had a friend who made a merle/merle cross, both parents were merle but had only a bit of white on chest and toes, all pups were normal looking merles with no white other than chest and toes also. Most were fairly dark colored merles also. None of these pups appeared to have hearing issues before they were sold and I only know the owner of one of them at that dog is fine at four year old, don't know who owns the rest. One pup I remember seemed to have smallish eyes and not much brow (his head somewhat resembled more of a lassie collie type head rather than normal but it didn't stand out as terribly abnormal looking). I don't know whether that pup's vision was affected or not, it didn't seem like it was when I messed with him. Hence why I said earlier that I'm not sure the eye issues are entirely related to lack of pigment or are only partially related. Maybe Mark would know more about this if he managed to read this far.

 

In the deafness/blindness issues with merle I kinda think some of the issues are also tied with white factor genes as well. In other words, I don't think it's so much the merle to merle that causes deafness but the way white marking genes (irish and piebald spotting like what most border collies, aussies, lassie collies, shelties have) interplay with the merle dilution causing white. Lots of catahoula people make merle to merle crosses but these dogs mostly have no white or very little (toes and or chest) but you don't see so much of the merle pups from those litters having excessive amounts of white even in pups who are genetically tested to be MM and very little hearing/vision issues in these dogs. Here's a very interesting article about merle in Catahoulas and how it's thought to affect deafness. The person in that article says the thought is there are modifiers of the merle gene in catahoulas that cause less deafness but I think what it actually is is there's not so much of the true irish spotting/piebald found in the breed to have the effect with white caused from merle.

 

Anyway, carry on then.

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I think the issue is that in breeds where there is absolutely no reason to breed merle to merle other than to guarantee the production of more merle pups, even knowing that there is a good likelihood that pups will be produced with defects (blindness, deafness, vision issues), doing so is really inexcusable. It is saying that pups are disposable in the name of arbitrary breeding for color.

 

In breeds where there may be a justification to breed merle to merle (either the issue does not exist or is very rare or the population is merle and purpose-bred for a job), then that may be justified.

 

In the Border Collie, there is no justification to deliberately court producing defective pups in the name of producing a particular color or pattern.

 

JMO.

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Because I too hate to have words put in my mouth... This is what I said:

 

The merle gene is incompletely dominant. Red dogs can be Mm without showing that pattern at all. Usually in that case, the merle pattern is barely visible at birth and fades with time. The point is, you can conceivably have a red dog with the merle factor without having any visible indication that the dog is Mm (a cryptic merle) .

[/Quote]

 

I don't see "only" anywhere in there. I have seen cryptic merles. I've also seen a blk/tan dog with a patch of merle on her head. I wouldn't call her a cryptic merle. The merle pattern was clearly visible, if only on one relatively small area. I was using red as an example I've seen myself.

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I think the issue is that in breeds where there is absolutely no reason to breed merle to merle other than to guarantee the production of more merle pups, even knowing that there is a good likelihood that pups will be produced with defects (blindness, deafness, vision issues), doing so is really inexcusable. It is saying that pups are disposable in the name of arbitrary breeding for color.

 

In breeds where there may be a justification to breed merle to merle (either the issue does not exist or is very rare or the population is merle and purpose-bred for a job), then that may be justified.

 

In the Border Collie, there is no justification to deliberately court producing defective pups in the name of producing a particular color or pattern.

 

JMO.

 

I agree with this completely and I don't see that merle to merle crosses are ever going to be popular (or be a problem) among the working border collie population. There are not that many merle dogs in the working population to begin with. How many merle dogs do you see at trials being sucessful? I can only think of two. Or well, one for sure, maaaybe two. I don't think you really even see that many red dogs at trials. Or at least trials that I've been to. Maybe if the Alistair McRaes of the world start running merle dogs you might see others running out an buying them but how likely is that to happen?

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Because I too hate to have words put in my mouth... This is what I said:

 

The merle gene is incompletely dominant. Red dogs can be Mm without showing that pattern at all. Usually in that case, the merle pattern is barely visible at birth and fades with time. The point is, you can conceivably have a red dog with the merle factor without having any visible indication that the dog is Mm (a cryptic merle).

 

I don't see "only" anywhere in there. I have seen cryptic merles. I've also seen a blk/tan dog with a patch of merle on her head. I wouldn't call her a cryptic merle. The merle pattern was clearly visible, if only on one relatively small area. I was using red as an example I've seen myself.

 

You don't mention black dogs anywhere in that quoted post which implies it's only possible in red dogs. You do not mention that it was a dog you had personally seen or otherwise clarify it until this latest post... implying it's only possible in red dogs. Anyway ;D

 

In this photo (taken from the article I linked about Catahoulas) this black and tan looking pup was DNA tested and is a merle despite having no visible blue coloration: merleid.jpg

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You don't mention black dogs anywhere in that quoted post which implies it's only possible in red dogs. You do not mention that it was a dog you had personally seen or otherwise clarify it until this latest post... implying it's only possible in red dogs. Anyway ;D

 

In this photo (taken from the article I linked about Catahoulas) this black and tan looking pup was DNA tested and is a merle despite having no visible blue coloration:

 

While failling to mention all possibilities might make my post unclear, it is hardly "implying" anything of the sort. I'm sorry you didn't understand my post.

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While failling to mention all possibilities might make my post unclear, it is hardly "implying" anything of the sort. I'm sorry you didn't understand my post.

 

If I read it that way then likely others did too.

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If I read it that way then likely others did too.

 

Okay, that's fair. But since I didn't mean it that way you read it wrong, even if I "might" have some culpability in that. I was speaking from what I had seen. I hope I've clarified.

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After all the discussions of merle that have occurred on this forum, I would find it hard to believe that anyone would think merle or cryptic merle applies only to one color (red). Ever hear of speaking in shorthand? Many of us actually do understand the genetics (at least as far as the genetics are understood in the scientific community) of merle, as well as white factored, tri (and brindle), red, dilute, etc. You know, I bet there are even people here who understand the difference between bb red (liver/chocolate) and ee red (Aussie red/yellow).

 

And while we're pointing out how people's post could be misconstrued, consider that when you mention dilute in the same context as merle you'll likely confuse folks who think of dilute as the gene that pales out an entire color to create "lilac" or "blue," despite the fact the the incomplete dominance of M is apparently what makes it dilute in patches rather than overall.

 

People (generally, and especially in a show/conformation context) breed double merles (MM) so that the dog who is a double merle will *always* contribute a merle (M) gene to offspring. That's the reality among the people breeding for color. As you point out and as I've also pointed out in the many discussions that have gone before, there are exceedingly few good working merles. There would be no reason, nor any excuse, to purposely create double merles in the working border collie.

 

What was that quote I shared on FB? I'm only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand. <--For you, Terrecar.

 

J.

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What was that quote I shared on FB? I'm only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand. <--For you, Terrecar.

 

J.

 

I'll take it!

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I've raised two merle to merle cross litters. Sire was merle with traditional border collie markings, white blaze down the face, big ring around the neck, white feet. The dam was merle with minimal white, just toes and chest. <snip> one of those pups had any problems and that was obvious at 4.5-5 weeks old when I put the pup down. <snip> The second litter (same sire and dam as first) <snip> Had one blind merle pup in that litter <snip> He was put down also.

 

Nicole, you had to put down a pup from an Irish-marked merle to a minimal-white merle cross. You then repeated the cross, and put down a second pup. But you believe that merle x merle isn't that bad, it's all in how much white factoring there is? Did I misunderstand what you're saying? This makes absolutely no sense to me.

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Nicole, you had to put down a pup from an Irish-marked merle to a minimal-white merle cross. You then repeated the cross, and put down a second pup. But you believe that merle x merle isn't that bad, it's all in how much white factoring there is? Did I misunderstand what you're saying? This makes absolutely no sense to me.

 

I'll gamble on it for a cross that produces good working dogs.

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I'll gamble on it for a cross that produces good working dogs.

 

You said earlier that your breed has a lot of merles in it. There are no good working solid color dogs to breed to? Is there reverse discrimination against the solid color dogs in Hangin' Tree dogs, the way most working Border Collie folks would usually take a solid color dog over a merle?

 

I don't mean my questions to sound rude, I'm just having a hard time with this idea, probably because I am not that familiar with HTCs.

 

Thanks,

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I guess if you take a casual (or cavalier) enough approach to culling then the fact that you have to kill "only one" from a first MM litter isn't going to have much impact on your decision to repeat the breeding. Perhaps there is yet some carryover from the days when dogs were considered livestock.

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You said earlier that your breed has a lot of merles in it. There are no good working solid color dogs to breed to? Is there reverse discrimination against the solid color dogs in Hangin' Tree dogs, the way most working Border Collie folks would usually take a solid color dog over a merle?

 

I don't mean my questions to sound rude, I'm just having a hard time with this idea, probably because I am not that familiar with HTCs.

 

Thanks,

 

There is no discrimination against solid color dogs vs. merled dogs. But the gene pool is extremely small compared to that of the border collie. Pretty much every good dog I can breed to is related in some way to each other or to the bitches I own. So when you take into consideration I can drive 3.5 hours to breed to an extremely nice (merle) dog, or 9 hours to breed to a pretty nice black dog (did this once, pups produced were very inconsistent workers), or 12 hours to an extremely nice (old) black and white dog that hasn't managed to sire a litter in years (tried this once while I was out there for a trial anyway, dog didn't get the bitch bred), or 18 hours to a really nice b&w son of the aforementioned dog (I am going to do this breeding next year...I'm moving 12 hours closer in a few months). And I can keep naming dogs at these distances and farther away. I suppose you could say I should invest in having semen shipped but I haven't had much luck on that so far. Spent a lot of money on that all down the drain.

 

A merle to merle cross will still produce solid colored pups as well so you're not necessarily breeding yourself into a bottle neck of only having merles. I almost always choose a solid colored pup to keep as my own (and I always keep one more pups from every litter) simply because of the color deal and not having to mess with merle in as much as it limits breeding possibilities down the line (I wouldn't ever want to keep a MM dog or bitch as a breeding prospect unless they were extremely nice) but I'll not cross it off as a possibility. Like I described in a previous post it's possible to take a MM dog, breed to solid color, you get all Mm puppies out of that (100%), you take that and breed to mm or Mm and you'll wind up with solid color pups again. I'm planning on getting a pup, and would already have it if the breeding had took, out of Katy which is a female I raised and is owned by a friend. Katy is MM, the planned sire is mm, so all pups will be merle but Mm. The last litter I raised out of Queen (the red mm sister to Katy) I wound up with a merle pup that I kept because all she had was two and both merle. So sometimes your choices are limited.

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Just curious... Can you breed a HTCD to a Border Collie and register the pups? Would that not help with the limited gene pool?

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Just curious... Can you breed a HTCD to a Border Collie and register the pups? Would that not help with the limited gene pool?

 

No you can't, you can only get appendix papers on pups out of parents who are both registered with the Hangin' Tree Cowdog Association. On one hand when you look at the majority of dog's close up pedigrees a lot of them appear very close, when you go back farther (three generations or more of pedigrees of dogs still living. I can't think offhand of any dog still living with a foundation ancestor closer) you find dogs of different breeds (and different lines within those breeds) which makes the genetics much more diverse than they originally appear. So it's really hard to say whether we will eventually get "too inbred" or whether we can continue to call it line breeding (if you've heard that saying) LOL.

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So it is a closed registry? Is there a reason they wanted closed stud books?

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So it is a closed registry? Is there a reason they wanted closed stud books?

 

Yes the registry is closed. I would suppose the main reason being the man who started the HTC is up into his 80s and no longer raising and training dogs, his son who helped him with the project has passed away, and he is not able to control what would be used as foundation dogs. So with the idea of protecting his vision of what he thought the dogs should be he is preventing everyone and his brother from crossing up some dogs and calling them HTC. Probably a good idea. Tho I still run across breeder ads on various sites or craigslist of people advertising crossbred dogs and calling them HTC because they have some of the base breeds in there used to start the HTC... altho they have no actual HTC blood in them. So unless a dog or pup comes with a set of papers from the HTC Association you can't always go by what people tell you.

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