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Some of the world’s most popular dogs are products of selective breeding: Dalmatian, English Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Vizsla. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, selective breeding is the process of choosing only plants and animals with desirable characteristics to reproduce. There are many aspects to consider when purchasing an animal that comes from selective breeding. I am here to shed light onto the many effects that are overlooked with regards to the overall life of each animal.

The sweet face of a Dalmatian. Image “Daisy Dalmatian” by Mark Berbezier on Flickr.

Dystocia is the difficulty of giving birth. A common known example is the selective breeding created English Bulldog. The English bulldog breed as a whole suffers from many health issues due to their compositional build. Their modified bodies have a very small pelvic canal and when pregnant a deep position of the uterus. When one combines that with the fetus’s large head and broad bulldog shoulders the situation for the mother becomes much more serious. The overall rate of dystocia in all dog breeds is about five percent  (Tjdschrift, 4).

Soon after the birth of multiple English Bulldog puppies. Image “Luna 001” by dh Reno on Flickr.

However, when looking at the English Bulldog breed the dystocia rate rises to almost one hundred percent (Tjdschrift, 4). During the birthing process, the birth usually includes a caesarean section. This specific type of surgery involves a particularly harsh healing time for humans and animals. When an animal is considered to be selectively bred generally the price and demand for these types of animal increases greatly. Although the animal may have a home there are generally many health issues that come up throughout their lifetime. Before a family adopts these animals, they must be fully aware of the future financial responsibilities that these animals require in medical care. Many selective breeding animals suffer from long term hip dysplasia. This is the term for a hip socket that does not fully cover the ball portion of the upper thighbone. Dalmatians are known for eventual deafness. Boston Terriers are known for brachycephalic syndrome, which is abnormalities in the trachea. Many of these animals suffer with cataracts for much of their life. Selective breeding creates the pathway to many life difficulties with animals.

My English Bulldog Molly White. You can see her squished nose. Photo by author. 

There are many consequences to selective breeding when it comes to looking through genetic diversity. Selective breeding essentially is whittling down the gene pool until only those traits counted as desirable remain.  As humans are choosing mates for their animals they are generally searching to create a pure breed. Researchers have found a shockingly low genetic diversity among many dog breeds. When people are breeding for good health or temperament the results are generally good (Pettit, 2). However, it is when people start breeding animals for looks that it become problematic.

Take show animals for example, each year the gene pool gets smaller and smaller. The term “popular sire effect” is very relevant here. It occurs when an animal with desirable attributes is bred repetitively. It causes undetected and undesirable traits to spread rapidly within the gene pool (Lazhariachir, 3). Now imagine this with multiple generations of dogs. One would end up with tremendous issues. When most members of the breed share very similar genes, the greater the chance is that the fetus will have some form of a major health defect. This can be compared to humans participating in incest and the child having major health problems. This means that the breeders carry much responsibility when it comes to the health of these animals.

A photo of a dog show in action. Image by “Grayer” by Deb on Flicker (CC.BY2.0 )

 

There are many pros and cons when considering selective breeding. The initial internal battle comes with the debate of natural versus selective breeding. Natural breeding is allowing nature to run its course. While selective breeding is the human intervention when it comes to the animals choosing a mate (Pettit, 1). Humans have not only the ability to choose the specific type of dog that they want, but they can remove undesired traits within the dog. A few examples of selective breeding traits would be a hypoallergenic dog, hens that lay big eggs of a particular color, or cattle that produce lots of meat.

This chart explains the growth of chickens over time due to the process of natural selection. Image “Activism” by VeganEA on Reddit.

 

The idea of selective breeding has many views associated with it, but the fact is there are pros and cons to every situation. When taking control of an entire species breeding one is taking on much responsibility. Before any human should consider selective breeding on any animal there are a few things that must be considered, possible health issues, the future quality of life of the animal, and the path of genetic diversity for the breed.

Although the it is certain they will endure a hard life; they are just so cute.
Photo by author.

 

Works Cited

  1. Tjdschrift V. 2013. International Breeding Inquiry into the Reproduction of the English Bulldog. [accessed 2018 Sep 5]. http://www.vat.ugent.be/sites/default/files/art82106.pdf.
  2. Lazhariachir. 2007. What does Selective Dog Breeding Mean?. [accessed 2018 Sep 5].https://breedingbusiness.com/selective-dog-breeding/.
  3. Pettit H. 2016. Inbreeding has destroyed the English Bulldog’s genetic diversity. [accessed 2018 Sep 5] https://www.newscientist.com/article/2099278-inbreeding-has-destroyed-the-english-bulldogs-ge netic-diversity/

 

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