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The history of dog breeding

  To go farther back, somewhere around the year 1500 B.C., we find that the dog was not held in very great esteem. At the time in which Deuteronomy was written, the "price of a dog" was considered an unworthy offering to be brought to the altar. Indeed, under the old law of Mose s, the dog was considered to be an unclean animal, but as time went on he was gradually accepted into the family circle. We see this in the references in the New Testament to the shepherd and his dogs, and to "dogs feeding on the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." In passing it might be mentioned that not only dogs but also fleas were known in the time of David. When Saul was jealous of David we find him saying: "After whom is the King of Israel come out? After whom dost thou pursue? After a dead dog, after a flea?" So even as long ago as that, the poor dog had his worries!

  In 1865, the Augustinian abbot, Gregor Johann Mendel, discovered certain laws for the inheritance of characteristics from one generation to another through the cultivation of the common variety of garden pea. He studied the relation of true-breeding types within a species, giving his attention particularly to the way in which sharply contrasted pairs of characteristics are inherited. He kept accurate pedigree records, and in each case found the results to be the same. The first cross or breeding showed only one of the two characteristics which had marked the parents. Mendel called the characteristic which came out most strongly the dominant member of the two, and the other, the recessive.

  These plants were then allowed to become self-fertilized; the seeds were kept and sown separately. This second generation consisted of plants having the dominant characteristic, and also others having the recessive. In every four, on the average, three showed the dominant and one the recessive.

  When the same experiment was carried out with the plants of this second generation, it was found that every one which had shown the recessive characteristic bred true, while of those which had exhibited the dominant, only one out of three bred true. In other words, the characteristics inherited by the second generation come from a chance combination and can only be predicted on paper.

  Let us apply this to dog breeding for a moment and see what we get. Suppose a spaniel bitch that you own is well up on the leg, short in the body, with a good back line and tail set, but a little weak in head development. Obviously, if you can procure puppies which combine a strong head with the good points of the bitch, you will have made a noteworthy advance.

  Your next problem is to find a dog stud whose dominant feature is a strong head, and whose body characteristics and blood lines approximate those of the prospective dam as nearly as possible. Then, provided a good body is a dominant characteristic of the bitch, and a strong head of the stud, the resulting puppies should combine these features. However, should these characteristics of the sire and dam be second-generation characteristics, the likelihood of the puppies inheriting them will be a chance combination.
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