What does it mean to add genes?

  • Starting a new thread to continue the discussion of the importance of genetic diversity in the breed. It often comes up when discussing the addition of Native Stock that the breed needs "new genes" in order to survive the test of time. Here is my post on that subject.

    Are you really adding genes if you are just going to quickly breed away from what is added?

    In order to have a significant impact, new dogs have to make significant contributions, percentages, of pedigrees in a breeding program. If what you are adding has so many faults that your next few steps is to breed to away from it to fix those faults then you are not truly adding anything new, it will be washed away quickly in the next couple of generations.

    It is in the best interest of the breed that we select dogs to add to the studbook that are most likely to be used by many different breeders in different combinations. Though we have now on several different occassions added new founders, we seem to whittle them down so that only a few have signifcant impact on the breed within 20 years time. Look at the 87/88 imports and see how many of those are no longer represented in the modern population. We need to add dogs with traits that we want to keep, otherwise we get the feel good sensation of doing something right without the actual benefit.

  • I don't really think adding only a few good dogs and using those in many different combinations will fix much. What would be better is adding 200 new bloodlines, and just mix those in with the rest, after testing to make sure you don't spread new diseases in the population. Problem you will have, is that the exterior will likely change a bit, so that the breed standard may need to be updated. And that will be a problem for a lot of breeders. But breeds change all the time. The basenji now, doesn't look like the first imports anymore. So first step in trying to add a lot of new genes, will have to be to convince most of the breeders that it is needed and will be good for the breed.

  • Adding genes simply to add genes is not preserving the breed, if it were then why not just go pick some basenji-ish looking mutts out of the shelter and use them? The goal should really be to increase the number of founders for our breed and that means selecting dogs with traits that people will want to breed down from. It is far better to select 15-20 really good dogs that people will use and will seek out then it is to add 200 dogs that people want to breed away from as soon as possible because they have nothing of value to offer. In 5 generations, according to genetics studies, all significant contribution of an individual will be washed away genetically if there isn't selection to maintain traits.

  • I think you hit the first big issue… if the dogs brought in are very different than what the ideal is, we won't use them much. But looking at the 1/4 dogs, the ones I see look like a Basenji to me and my untrained eye wouldn't know if not told. That said, with breeding coefficients, yeah even 1/8th African does make a difference in the total amt of different genes. And considering ..

    Okay lets go to a breed I know well. Rottweilers. Huge amt of dogs compared to Basenjis, right? However, you pick up any 1000 pedigrees, even those foreign born/registered, and in reality the gene pool is not so big. We have an ever increasing problem with heart issues, bone cancer and now diabetes. You can't find lines without those in them. Well you can find people who claim it, but there is no testing to back them or there is testing to prove they lie.

    So really I support that the more genes, the healthier any breed. Obviously if we bring dogs that aren't used, it won't help. But then again, if they are overused, it also won't help-- not that it is likely to be an issue.

    How unhealthy is the breed? I don't know. You breeders may know. But one positive point is the growth in DNA testing may one day allow us to test them all so that we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater and simply breed carriers with recessive disorders to clear and be fine with things like Fanconi. (Back to Rotties... before we removed long coats from the pool, no matter how spectacular they were otherwise, over a look not related to health. NOW we have a test, a do it yourself at home one in fact!, to test for the gene. Voila, we can keep them in the pool through selective breeding.) But who knows what will rear it's head... just as diabetes is with Rotties and seemingly CUPS is growing in Basenjis. Sorry, I am not for the elimination of breeds, but I am for expanding the gene pool in whatever ways can be healthily done without sacrificing the basics of the breed.

    I find it a bit interesting that you have a breed such as this that wasn't originally developed by someone's kennel, yet we act like they MUST be thus and so. I mean, look at my reaction to the African pics posted. I am equally guilty in my "what they should be like." It isn't the new genes that had me salivating over Dr Jo's puppy, it was the utter basenjiness of it.

  • @lvoss:

    In 5 generations, according to genetics studies, all significant contribution of an individual will be washed away genetically if there isn't selection to maintain traits.

    There is a difference, a huge one, between traits and genes. You might, in 5 generations, breed back to the desired look, but you still have a significant portion of new dna in that dog.

    The popular sire issue is one reason for the Rotties issues… nearly all our dogs in the show world go back to a small amt of studs. It also resulted in the loss of color in Scottish deerhounds, with grays becoming dominate. And most likely for the Cavalier heart issues.



  • Debra, that is not so. I attend many seminars given by well respected geneticists. One that I attended dealt exactly with gene preservation and loss and how much of a contribution a single outcross event would have. The scientific answer is after 5 generations a single outcross event is no longer genetically significant. This of course can be influenced by selection of traits though such as the crossing pointers to dalmations to have non-stoneformers. In 5 generations the dogs are once again dalmations genetically except for the preservation of the selected for trait of non-stone formation. The selective breeding to maintain the non-stone forming trait allows it to be preserved if there is no selection for a trait the genes are likely to be lost over generations.

  • I think this is a fascinating and very important topic. "Diversity" gets thrown around a lot but I'm not sure the impact of it is really going to be seen unless there is a conscious effort by the fancy as a whole to embrace it. Otherwise you are just "diversifying" individual breeding programs not the breed as a whole. One approach might be to line breed the more desireable imports so you can set the desireable traits (genes). That would allow others to then incorporate the "new genes" more easily into their breeding programs down the road. But I think the import would need to be of sufficient quality to do that, you wouldn't do it with just any dog.

  • Diversity really means having distinct choices available. Right now, if you look at pedigrees you will see that we have a lot of different combinations of a relatively small number of dogs and only a handful of breeders actively working with what can be called distinct lines. This is bad for the breed and for diversity. A large part in this trend, IMO, is popular sire syndrome and people's desire to breed to top winning or top producing stud dogs instead of working on a long term breeding program.

    When you look back at the 87/88 imports and the impact that each of the dogs have had on the breed today, you will see alot of their success has to do with the overall quality of the individual. People are more inclined to use dogs that have more to offer their breeding program then just the pre-fix Avongara in their pedigrees. The dogs that produced quality offspring will show up in pedigrees more than once rather than some who seem to have been used simply for their stripes and then never returned to. Another factor in success is that they were successfully preserved in the Avongara breeding programs because they contributed traits that breeders found appealing. Those small pockets of Avongara help to continue to provide diversity for those us who would like to have something different but do not breed enough to do it all by ourselves.

  • Whoa - aren't we just going down the road of producing mongrels? Surely before genes are introduced they should be proven Basenji? Yes temperament and health are important but so also is the conservation and preservation of the breed in my opinion. If this isn't so I and breeders like me have just wasted our lives.

    When our premier club (Basenji Club of Great Britain) was founded one of it's aims was to protect the native ideal, meaning at that time the Basenji that had come to us out of the then Belgian Congo. Now we're talking about including dogs which are similar just to introduce new genes. Is it no longer possible to produce a healthy breed without introgression? (if that's the correct term)

  • But then, what is a Basenji? It's name, translated means nothing more then village dog, and the original Basenji's where nothing more then some random species of those village dogs found in the Congo. Seeing at old pictures, I see a lot of differences between the first imported Basenji's, and the modern Basenji's. So which one are the real Basenji's? The ones that are modified and bred to have a perfect curled tail, are a bit larger and wider then the ones you still find in African villages, or the ones that are a bit more diverse and still being used to hunt gambia rats and other small game?
    In my eyes, the Basenji we breed as a pet, according to breed-standards, isn't the same dog anymore as the native ideal. So in that aspect, I would say that the attempt to protect the native ideal, was a waste of time indeed. They took a few dogs, and decided that the breed should look like those few dogs. But starting with just a few dogs isn't really respresentive for a breed. And only breeding to a breed-standard that is based on just those few dogs, will, no matter what, result in dogs that don't look that much at their ancestors anymore.
    Doesn't have to be a bad thing, after all, that's how most of the different breeds we have now have started, but question is if keeping that breed-standard so tight, is really a good thing. Getting some new imports may change the looks of the breed a bit, but will ensure a healthy evolution of the breed. And all breeds evolve, and so should the breed-standard. Sticking to the same breed-standard for decennia, without allowing the breed to evolve, will cause problems, garanteed. That's one of the main reasons so many breeds have so many problems.

  • I disagree somewhat, Voodoo, the original standard set up in the UK was formulated by a panel some of who were familiar with what we call Basenjis in their native habitat. It wasn't just based on the few imports. There were indeed several different types (although not nearly as many as we have now) and this was also taken into account. I have always tried to breed to those types and indeed when we took two of our Basenjis to visit with Michaela Denis who'd travelled in the Congo in the 50s and had native dogs then she told us that they were exactly like those she'd seen.

    This breed was unchanged for 100s of years and has been acknowledged as the oldest domesticated breed so has obviously not produced major problems for lack of diversity.

  • This thread will teach me so much. Thanks for starting it.

  • There are so many breeds that are said to be acknowledged as the oldest domesticated breed… Look up 30 breeds and at least 10 will claim to be one of the oldest or the oldest breed. Paintings where found with dogs simular to Basenji's, but if that means that it where Basenji's? Podenco owners think it are Podenco's, Xolo owners claim it are Xolo's, Greyhound owners also claim it are Greyhounds... No one who can tell what dogs it really where, maybe one of the breeds we still have today, maybe a breed that was simular but has been extinct for a long time.

    That the Basenji was unchanged for 100s of years is also a myth if you ask me. A Basenji is nothing more then a mongrel. All the dogs in those villages run loose, interbreed, dogs from different villages are exchanged, an occasional other breed is mixed in... Cause the people there prefer a certain size of dog, most of the dogs found there are of simular size, weigh and appearence. You find that all over the world. But that the breed is unchanged? I wouldn't dare to say that. It's still the same type of dog, but will have evolved over the years.

    And you will find dogs over there that are simular like the ones we have over here. But you also find a lot that don't have a curly tail, or don't have 4 white feet. Aren't those Basenji's then?

  • Patty has touched on something in this thread and the other, something that is an important point for me. Any African village is not where basenjis historically came from. With a couple of exceptions there is geographically defined area where the african dogs we call basenji came from. I do think geography matters when weighing whether a dog is a basenji. I also feel that there is a distinct but related breed called avuvi that come from different geographic area in Africa. I hve seen pictures of avuvi dogs owned by people outside the US and have observed a distinct breed type in the dogs that is different from basenjis.

    When talk of the opening the stud book again began several years ago, one person said that when it comes down to it the only real tool we have is "the duck test", if it looks like a duck, walks like duck, sounds like a duck, and comes from where ducks live then it is probably a duck. I sometimes feel that people want to skip parts of this and say well it looks kind of like a duck and I really want a duck so lets just call it a duck and hope it isn't really goose.

    We don't often see much discussion on where do we really think the geographic range of the native basenji is. Not just where it was but realistically what can we expect it to be now. If there was more information and discussion about this would that change how people voted on some of the dogs put forth? I don't know but I know it is something I always consider when looking at dogs brought back from Africa.

    How many people have seen Native Stock in person? How many have seen Native Stock from several importation areas? As someone who has seen Avongaras, Ntombas, Jengis, and Avuvis all in person, I can honestly say a carefully selected picture submitted with an application does not tell the whole tale.

    Does that mean the whole system is meaningless? I don't think so but I do think that people need to really think about the whole picture instead of one thing.

  • Do you all think the "pressure" of knowing the stud book is closing, is making some folks submit dogs who should not be submitted? Just a general question, not thinking of any specific dog/group with this question.

  • From my personal observations based on the other threads and other discussions out on other lists, it seems like there is a wide perspective in the fancy of what a "basenji" is, particularly with regards to native stock. And a much wider perspective that I would have thought being new to the breed. I'm willing to keep a relatively open mind and hear different perspectives. And I think lvoss and Patty touched on some of the issues which are really relevant. A basenji is an African village dog but not all African village dogs are basenjis.

    After reading the Coppingers book, a paragraph really stuck in my mind regarding natural breeds with a main sentence here"…I would never expect to find an ancient breed of dog in the sense that the present population represents the gene frequency of its ancient ancestors." The selective pressures are different now than they were back in VTW's day. Even if we stick the historic geography with all of the refugee movements (and their dogs moving with them per Mike Work's interview in the Bulletin) the available gene pool is changing. Looking into the future, the dogs of VTW's day are probably well long gone, except perhaps in very isolated areas. Even those dogs will continue to change over time if they aren't used in the same manner for hunting as in the past. So the choices breeders make now will be very important moving forward. We may not get another chance to open the stud book and even if we do it will be even more difficult to find native stock worth breeding. Personally I'm not even sure we should try to open it again. If we can't or don't know how to effectively use the native stock we have already, what's the point of getting more?

  • Wouldn't the point of "being" able to add more,to allow folks who have gone to Africa or new folks to go, to check out "different" areas that maybe aren't open now?

  • As someone else so put it to me…and very well put

    "We want new and diverse BASENJI GENES. And every African village dog that "sort of looks like" a Basenji ... isn't one, never has been one, and for a great many of us, never will be one. What we need to add are Basenji-genes, not "Any Ol' Village Dog" genes. There's no evidence that "Any Ol' Village Dog" was ever a REAL part of the "mix" that went into creating the gene pool outside of the Congo"

    And to carry that further, as Lisa stated... it is not just using these dogs once and the for the next 4 to 5 generations using all domestics.. that does not expand the gene pool... We need imported genes with "Basenji Type"... not just local village dogs that sort of look like Basenjis.

  • @lvoss:

    Debra, that is not so. I attend many seminars given by well respected geneticists. … The scientific answer is after 5 generations a single outcross event is no longer genetically significant.

    Okay let's try math.. although I don't think anyone said you would ONLY outcross once, but let's go for it.
    G1: offspring 1/2 outcross
    G2: pups carry 1/4 genes
    g3: 1/8
    g4: 1/16
    g5: 1/32

    Small but there. And the more closed that non-outcross gene pool is, the more significant that impact can be. Or if the outcross carries a dominant gene that causes some significant change, like your example.

    But trait and gene are not the same thing. You can breed that 5th generation to look precisely like the main group, but you did NOT remove the genes entirely.

    But we can certainly agree that it takes a lot more than 1 outcross to make much difference.

    And when you have a limited gene pool already and then do a lot of line breeding, it gets even more limited.

    Although to be honest, having seen a inbreeding coefficient worked on on a Rottie who had NO common ancestors in 4 generations, but more and more the same dogs from 5th to 10, it was frightening to realize how actually limited the genes are in dogs that are seemingly "barely" related.

    On to the where the basenji come from… do you really think that most the dogs aren't very closely related and that the different looks expressing conditions/regional selection etc rather than genetics? And if there are dogs who look much more basenji in certain regions, why didn't BCOA limit dogs to those from those areas?

    I like you duck/goose analogy, btw. Because when I looked at some of those show pics, I thought they looked Basenji-ish, but not truly Basenji. Yet how many generations would it take to make them look Basenji and isn't the gene pool issue worth that effort? Or would they be so little used it wouldn't help as someone pointed out (you?)?

    Great post Nemo, but why not, then, fund a big project to bring in as many as we possibly can while there are hopes for getting as many left as possible? And of course, that goes back to my original question for breeders about the health of the breed and if bringing in more dogs is helpful. Because I really don't know. Yet what rings in my head is the comment to new people posting for the newbie to tell where they got their dog from as most here are related. It really is truer than seems comfortable to me.

  • Pat,
    Isn't that what the BCOA board and the eval's are for? We know there are folks breeding village dogs. Those dogs have not been accepted, so aren't basenjis. For those dogs who are evaled and accepted, allowing them to be called basenjis and be used to expand the gene pool to those who want to use them, that is the goal yes? I don't think we will get "show" quality b's from the wild. BUT I do think some are very basenji like. Again, my uneducated opinion. I am learning a lot with this thread.

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