I know certain breeds of dogs are predisposed to having certain conditions but I had never given it much thought as to why.
A new study from researchers at Imperial College London shows the extent of inbreeding in purebred dogs and how this reduces their genetic variation.
Inbreeding in pedigree dogs arises because certain dogs, prized for exhibiting the characteristics desirable for that breed, are used to father many litters of puppies. When dogs from these litters come to be mated, some will be paired with dogs having the same father from other litters. Over generations, more and more dogs across a particular pedigree are related to one another and the chances of relatives mating increase.
The researchers’ analysis showed that, for example, Boxer dogs were so closely related to one another and had such little genetic variation between them that genetically, 20,000 dogs looked like a population of about 70. In the Rough Collie breed, 12,000 dogs looked in genetic terms like a population of about 50.
For those of you that get the BBC One, the researchers will discuss the study on “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” which airs on Tuesday 19 August 2008 at 21.00 BST.