Breeding a Royal Line – a cautionary tale

Posted by Stephen Mulholland January 3, 2013 0 Comment 1243 views

Click here to read the PDF article by site contributor Stephen Mulholland, Ph.D: Breeding a Royal Line: a cautionary tale.

An extract of this article is below, click on the link above for a pdf of the entire article.

The ultimate goal of most animal breeders is continual improvement of the breed through careful selection of sire and dam. The “average” alpaca in New Zealand has improved tremendously over the last 15 years through this kind of selective breeding.

When discussing breeding, the terms “bloodline” or “blood” often emerge: animals may have “good blood” or produce a “strong bloodline.” Comparisons to royalty then occur, and this kind of thinking can be seen in a quick perusal of the registry where hundreds of “kings,” “queens,” “prince/princesses,” and other such royal titles can be found.

One common tactic in breeding selection is to select the “big names,” as these famous animals, usually stud males, have a reputation for throwing superior traits. As a result, many of these famous animals have hundreds of offspring. Given a population base of only 15,000, it is not uncommon to find the same names popping up again and again in a pedigree. This is often used as a promotional point, highlighting how closely related the animal is to its famous ancestor.

This type of breeding system has a close (and very relevant) relationship to many of the royal houses of Europe before the 19th century. There, a pool of a few thousand individuals sought matings (marriages) that would provide close relationships to famous (politically powerful) sires (kings). Over a period of many generations these royal houses would seek to “improve their bloodline” by carefully choosing partners whose pedigrees had the most links to famous ancestors. This practice did not always end well….

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