The background to breeds.
Funnily enough, Jeannie and I were speaking just recently about the creation of breeds, in particular because we were fascinated as to the breed origins of Oliver.
Oliver’s eyes are to die for!
Well a recent article on the Treehugger blog threw some light on this.
I hope it is permissible to share it with you.
Labradoodles Are More Poodle Than Lab
Study helps deepen understanding about how breeds are formed.
By Mary Jo DiLonardo
Published September 22, 2020
The Australian creator of the Labradoodle was trying to find the perfect guide dog for a blind woman whose husband was allergic to dog hair. He tried about a dozen poodles before breeding a poodle with a Labrador retriever. The resulting Australian Labradoodles became incredibly popular as a mix of two well-liked breeds.
But a new study finds that the breed that developed from that popular cross isn’t an even split of both breeds – it is primarily poodle.
Australian Labradoodles have been around for several decades and have been bred to each other and tinkered with since then. By contrast, many Labradoodles that are found in the U.S. are first-generation mixes of one Labrador and one poodle. These dogs were used as the control dogs in the study, researcher Elaine Ostrander, geneticist at the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health, tells Treehugger.
“We were interested in taking a genomic snapshot of a breed in the making—the Australian Labradoodle. The breed has only been around since the 1980s as opposed to the many breeds we see at the dog park which have been around since Victorian times and were created in Western Europe,” she says.
The Australian Labradoodle has gone through several generations, with careful and thoughtful addition of Labradors and poodles added, reflecting what breeders and owners want. We wanted to see if genomics could be used to tell what was happening to the genome of these dogs as they evolved into a breed.
The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), an international federation of many national kennel clubs, recognizes about 350 dog breeds. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes 195 breeds. The Labradoodle is not an official breed.
“We were also curious to see if the breed met the statistical definition of a breed. There are many measures in terms of genomic diversity and ability to ‘breed true’ that are taken into account when determining when a dog population is really a ‘breed’ at the genetic level,” Ostrander says.
Many of these breeds have been created through intense breeding programs focused on enhancing specific traits. When designer breeds are created, the genetic diversity is limited because there are a small number of animals being bred together. This often leads to a high incidence of disease and other problems.
Lots of Poodle DNA
For the study, researchers analyzed genetic data from Australian Labradoodles, Labrador retrievers, poodles, and a number of other breeds. The results were published in PLOS Genetics.
Ostrander says they were somewhat surprised at what they found.
“First, the Australian Labradoodle meets the definition of a breed at the statistical level. Those arguing for it to have breed status with various registries have a good argument,” she says. “What we didn’t expect was the degree to which today’s Australian Labradoodle has such a large component of its genome from the poodle. While the breed started as a 50-50 mix, it is clear that poodle traits are highly valued and many more poodles than Labradors have been added to the breed at strategic points.”
That’s likely because poodles have a reputation for being hypoallergenic, she points out, and elicit a lower allergic reaction than many other dog breeds in people with allergies or asthma.
“Owners buy Labradoodles for many reasons including their trainability, family friendly traits, and, importantly, they want a dog that won’t make them sneeze or otherwise respond,” she says. “Interestingly, the Labrador is very much present in every Australian Labradoodle we tested. Likely people are seeking the family-friendly traits of the Labrador and breeders work hard to retain that as well.”
Labradoodles weren’t the first doodle dogs and definitely are not the last. The first poodle mixes were likely Cockapoos because Cocker spaniels and poodles were two of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. in the 1940s. Today, you’ll find schnoodles (schnauzers), sheepadoodles (Old English sheepdog), and whoodles (soft-coated wheaten terrier). Poodles have been mixed with beagles, pugs, Australian shepherds, corgis, and even Saint Bernards.
The lore behind Australian Labradoodles is that English and American Cocker spaniels were mixed in with the breed early on.
“We did find some minor evidence for the addition of other breeds in some lineages of Australian Labradoodle. Likely this represents the historical relationship of those breeds with the poodle or Labrador more than anything else,” Ostrander says. “We did not see that in every lineage we looked at and where we did see it, the addition was very small and, likely, many generations ago.”
The findings are helpful, the researchers point out, because it shows how quickly genetics can be changed by thoughtful breeding.
“Imagine a breed has a significant risk for a disease. Careful breeding can reduce the incidence of those deleterious variants in just a few generations,” Ostrander says. “This is incredibly important to breeders who have taken very seriously the criticism they have received over the years regarding how established breeds are less healthy than mixes. We all want our dogs to be healthy, regardless of what breed they are.”
This deserves a very careful read and, to those really interested in the subject, perhaps this will serve as an incentive to do more research. There are links in the article to the FCI and AKC.
And I will finish with the closing statement by Elaine Ostrander: “We all want our dogs to be healthy, regardless of what breed they are.“