The AKC and the Gene Pool

A closer look at the American Kennel Club's mission.

By | Posted: Fri Jul 23 00:00:00 PDT 2004

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 When presented with convincing evidence, the AKC has, on rare occasions, allowed new dogs into the stud book. In 1988 they approved the registration of offspring from tribal Basenjis imported from Zaire. At that time, it was estimated that the AKC Basenjis descended from fewer than a dozen foundation dogs, and approximate ly 70 percent of the current Basenjis were estimated to carry a gene for a serious condition called Fanconi syndrome. The African imports were free of this problem. With approval from the Basenji Club of America, the AKC approved the opening of the stud book to imports from two expeditions to Africa.

Like Basenjis, Salukis can still be found in their native lands. Their Bedouin owners can recite pedigrees for generations, but have no registration papers to prove it. In 1945, the AKC allowed descendants of two Salukis bred by King Ibn Saud to be AKC registered, but in subsequent decades no further exceptions were made. Yet such imports were becoming increasingly popular with Saluki breeders interested in performance, as the "desert-breds" proved themselves formidable competitors at non-AKC coursing trials. The Saluki Club of America petitioned the AKC to accept for recognition Salukis with three generations of ancestors accepted as Salukis by the Society for the Preservation of Desert Bred Salukis. The first of these dogs have now been registered and are competingsuccessfullyin the show ring.

The AKC recognizes several other domestic registries that can provide a needed influx of new genes for several breeds. Besides the SPDBS, the AKC registers dogs recognized by the Field Dog Stud Book (which is used by all sporting breeds except Irish Setters), the International Foxhunter's Stud Book, the Masters of Foxhounds Association, the National Beagle Club of America, and the National Grey-hound Association.

Not all breeds seek AKC recognition. In the case of Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Jack (now Parson) Russell Terriers, original non-AKC breed clubs have sometimes opposed AKC recognition so vehemently that only a small proportion of the breed are initially AKC registered. For example, when the AKC recognized Border Collies, most Border Collie people refused to register their dogs with the AKC, choosing instead to continue registering them with the non-AKC American Border Collie Association. Only about 6 percent of Border Collies are registered with the AKC, placing the AKC Border Collie at risk because of its extremely small gene pool. The AKC will sometimes reopen the stud book to give breeders a second chance in such cases, but even then it is rarely utilized fully. Breeders opposed to AKC recognition may then look at the AKC population and accuse the AKC of ruining the breed, but in fact they are partly to blame for promoting the splintering of the breed in the first place.

Allowing dogs of the same breed but from different registries is one thing; what about allowing crosses to dogs of a different breed? Early in the creation of breeds, crosses to other breeds were commonplace. For example, modern Shih Tzu descend from seven dogs and seven bitches, one of which was not a Shih Tzu, but a Pekingese. This cross occurred in 1952, long before AKC recognition of the breed.

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