Due to centuries of selective breeding, and the efforts of breeders to keep the breed “pure,” the English bulldog has become so inbred it cannot be returned to health without an infusion of new bloodlines, a genetic study says.
The study, appearing in the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, reached the stark conclusion that health issues created by human manipulation of the breed could lead to its doom.
“We tried not to be judgmental in our paper. We just said there’s a problem here, and if you are going to decide to do something about it, this is what you’ve got to work with, said co-author Niels Pedersen of the University of California, Davis.
“If you want to re-build the breed, these are the building blocks you have, but they’re very few. So if you’re using the same old bricks, you’re not going to be able to build a new house.” told the BBC.
Pedersen and colleagues from the Center for Companion Animal Health at UC Davis examined the DNA of 102 registered English Bulldogs and found an alarmingly low level of diversity.
That, they say, is the result of a small initial pool of founding dogs, and “bottlenecks” caused by breeding for “desirable” traits like a big head and a short snout.
Those traits have led to many of the breed’s health problems — difficulty breathing, poor mobility and reproductive issues among them.
The researchers say efforts to return the breed to health by using existing bloodlines alone are “questionable.”
Introducing new bloodlines, from outside the breed, are likely the only solution, but many breeders are resistant to that idea.
“The fastest way to get genetic diversity is to outcross to a breed that looks similar but is genetically distinct… Trying to manipulate diversity from within a breed if it doesn’t have much anyway is really very difficult,” Pedersen said. “If all your dogs are highly related to one another, which ones are you going to pick?”
One possibility suggested by the researchers is the Olde English Bulldogge, a 1970s attempt by an American breeder to recreate the healthier working bulldog that existed in England during the early 1800s.
“The English bulldog has reached the point where popularity can no longer excuse the health problems that the average bulldog endures,” Pedersen said in a statement.
The features of today’s English bulldog are the result of hundreds of years of breeding, but changes to the breed’s traits — flatter face, shorter nose, stubbier legs, more skin folds — have become particularly rapid in recent decades, Pedersen said.
Posted: July 29th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, appeal, bloodlines, breed, breeders, breeding, bulldogs, diversity, dna, dogs, english bulldogs, genetics, inbreeding, mixing, niels pedersen, outcross, pets, physical traits, selective breeding, study, uc davis