The Genetic X Factor
by Barbara "BJ" Andrews, AKC Master Breeder
The real secret to becoming a top breeder of top winning, top producing AKC champions is the genetic "X" factor...
before there was a TV show on this theme, I explained in breeding seminars,
my Akita video, and in many magazine articles
“The strength of the sire is the power of the dam.”
The genetic truth is in that simple sentence but you won't get it until you
know why and how it works.
If this were a genetics textbook, it would lead you with step-by-step lessons but student or master, here's a shortcut lesson to an amazing discovery.
You could buy dozens of dogs and try all the fancy methods but unless you understand
and apply the X factor you might as well go back to knitting or whatever creative
thing you previously enjoyed. You can study
until you are conversant with terms like genotype, phenotype, and
homozygous. You'd be convinced that you knew all there is to know about
breeding great dogs. A lot of dog breeders have read genetics books and use all
the right terms but before you get too impressed by their rhetoric or writings, check on how many great dogs
they have bred.
Hopefully, you already know that a great male
brings a breeder glory but it is the bitch that sustains a breeding program. The
strength of the sire is the power of the dam. Okay, I'm regularly
quoted on that but I'll bet you don't really know why it is true.
I used the phrase on our Akita “demo tape” during the eighties and some said it helped them realize where the famous
Akita sires actually came from. Once they had viewed legendary dogs like Sachmo, BigSon, and Widow-Maker (pictured above, courtesy Moretto film company), they replayed
the tape and thought about the message. It was repeated in my books
and I'm flattered that it has been so widely quoted. After judging
the Top Twenty at the 2010 Akita National, it was especially gratifying to see that
so many great breeders really "got it"!!! I didn't have to look
at pedigrees to know who understood where the power was.
Proving Genetics Statistically
I know the premise
seems too simple. For those who rely on
statistical data; Bill and I are owner-handlers who don’t “network,” have no
dogs at public stud and keep fewer than four breeding age bitches, yet we’ve had
over half of the Akita Hall Of Fame Producers including the All-Time #1 and #2 Sires, and
two of our bitches are tied for the #1 Dam All Time. Many of our
Top Ten Producers broke existing show
records and a several O'BJ dogs set new ones which still stand over two decades later.
The "power of the
also enabled us to produce top winners and/or producers in three other breeds so
it is not just a trite saying; we know where the power is and how to use it. You
can do likewise.
In the sixties, we noticed that
most “dominant sires” (Dobermans, Rottweilers, etc.) produced greater numbers of outstanding bitches than they
did sons. My mentor, Dorothy Gooch of Skyraider Dobermans, planted a seed
that grew into a belief. Questioning other breeders, I became convinced it was indeed the dam
of a great sire who passed on genetic prowess.
Taking it a step further, I noted that a stud was only as good as the bitches
he served unless he was extremely dominant in which case, it was his daughters
that would earn him a reputation as a great sire. Sachmo is still the Top Sire of
all Working Breeds from only 41 litters. Thirty
years later, some savvy people remember him for the long list
of ROM bitches he sired rather than for his 101 AKC Champions.
Now, through genetic science, we are able to prove what top breeders previously only “knew.”
It isn't that the bitch influences a litter because she nourishes the pups,
there's a purely genetic reason why the dam contributes so much to a breeding
I’ve always been fascinated by differences between dog breeders and livestock
producers. The latter have exhaustive data on hardiness, weight, and
reproductive ability because cattle, pigs,
chickens, etc. are an economic crop. Companion animal breeders have to muddle about without
the economic incentives that spur great scientific advances.
The Real Genetic X Factor
Now from the Thoroughbred Industry comes a genetic revelation. It is soon to be proven that the female passes on intelligence and physical
attributes through something I nicknamed the “X Factor” because
as a lay person, I can make up simple terms. It seemed right though since the
X chromosome is actually much larger than the Y (male) chromosome. X carries a heavy genetic load. The female
chromosome is responsible for most of the highly desirable characteristics for
which breeders strive. If a mare gets the magic double X, she is
even more empowered to reliably produce outstanding progeny, including great sires. What we dog breeders have learned from each other, geneticists are
So knowing that, how does one reach the pinnacle of success in dogs? There are
two roads. The shortest route is buying and campaigning a great male. The other
is buying a great bitch out of a great bitch, and using her wisely. It depends on whether one wants
instant or long term gratification. Both goals are equally important, especially
when it takes a sizeable budget to mount a successful campaign. A person
may have to choose which goal is most satisfying because rarely can you do both.
The sport will remain healthy because if dedicated fanciers
who campaign outstanding breed specimens created by the most talented of
breeders. It is a wonderful partnership.
If you have discovered that your forte’ is study, nurturing, and
creativity, then put your money and time into a great bitch that comes from a
line of great bitches. She should become a ring star herself before being bred. You will
have to think carefully if she is of a late maturing breed. The question of
whether to breed or show her first is always a tough one. But one
thing is as certain as anything ever is when it comes to genetic formula, if she
is from a line of powerful bitches, she’ll give you males that not only
win, but with a little luck and planning, those sires can pass on her qualities
to your next generation.
That is why “The Strength Of The Sire Is The Power Of The Dam.”
Shucks, we always knew that, we just needed the geneticists to confirm it.
reprinted from Mrs. Andrews' 2002 ShowSight Column
If you found this information helpful, be sure to see What Is A Breeder? (reprint rights freely given)
and be sure to visit Akita Information & Reference if you have Akitas or
need information on Akita judging seminars.
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