Amazing articles on just about every subject...


Pedigrees Of Breeding Animals

( Originally Published 1912 )



Experience and science each afford abundant proof that rigidness of selection must apply no less to ancestors than to the present individual. We must judge of the hereditary material not alone by its accomplishment in a single instance but by its various sources and behavior in other instances of its existence. It must be clearly recognized that as a basis of estimate of breeding powers nothing can compare with actual test, and where the progeny of a possible purchase are to be seen, individuality and pedigree both become at best secondary factors. In judging the results of a breeding test, however, it is necessary to have careful and full regard for the character of animals with which the individual was mated and the opportunity for development afforded the offspring. The parentage of increase of a. fair degree of merit under limited opportunities is not satisfactory assurance of the ability to produce excellence when accorded the most favorable opportunity. It is but rarely, however, that an animal of proved excellence as a breeder is offered for sale, and selections have mainly to be made from untested stock on the basis of individuality and pedigree.

It is idle to discuss the relative importance of individuality and ancestry. One may be as valuable as the other in indicating what an animal will transmit; neither can safely be ignored or slighted and no breeder of note has ever failed to be a close student of both. "Individual excellence by inheritance" is the watchword of those whose stock gives them the most uniform excellence of increase.

In as much as each parent contributed to the offspring equal amounts of hereditary material and also received equally from their parents in turn it is necessary to place equal emphasis on the paternal and maternal lines of descent. It is quite possible that the hereditary material bequeathed by one parent may be stronger for good or for bad than the contribution of the other. This may be due to more careful selection of that parent's ancestors, but it cannot be associated with either sex, and this further emphasizes the necessity of an examination of all the lines of descent. In arranging such lines of descent on paper for intensive study it is imperative that what is commonly known as the tabular arrangement shown in Fig. 8 be followed. Other forms of writing may be more economical of space and show a longer line of descent on one side, but for actual use in estimating breeding usefulness no other form is comparable with the tabulation which shows clearly every line of descent.

In studying an untested animal, represented by A in Fig. 8, whose individual make-up and qualities are approved, further evidence is needed regarding what may be contained in and transmitted by his hereditary material, because we know that any quality or character represented in A's germ plasm may appear in his get whether or not it was exhibited by him-self. Crudely, A may be thought of as a composite or as an average of his ancestry, but from our knowledge of the facts of the preparation of the germ cells we recognize the possibility of having scanty or no inheritance from D, E, F, or G. It is also conceivable that there might have been handed down to him the impress of H or I or another in the same line much more strongly than from a nearer ancestor, all through the uncertainties of combinations of chromosomes or the seeming caprices possible in the formation of germ cells. It is therefore necessary to consider each ancestor as being represented in A unless tangible facts justify the conclusion that inheritance from any certain individual has been eliminated. Since it is manifestly impossible to understand the ultimate source of the germ plasm which A has inherited so variously, a study of what it has done in its more recent phases promises the greatest enlightenment in regard to its potentialities.

Since A is equally indebted to B and C we are naturally first concerned regarding those two animals and to them we may apply the tests we would prefer to apply to any animal in the following order : first, character of offspring; second, individuality third, origin or breeding. The first named is usually practicable for parents and much greater value may be attached to the pedigree of an animal whose sire and dam are both proved to have produced offspring of merit. In considering the first produce of a sire or dam conservatism would at least suggest awaiting an opportunity to inspect subsequent progeny, which is usually no hindrance where sires are concerned. A few extra good and a large number of mediocre offspring would show the presence of potentialities for inferiority and compel the recognition of the possibility of a dormant inheritance of inferiority even in the more pleasing ones. Here, too, however, fair regard must be had for the opportunity for production of superior progeny afforded in their develop-ment and the choice of their other parent. Where the breeding test can be used it may properly outweigh all other considerations ; in fact, some of the most noted matrons that have been frequent breeders and good mothers are far from attractive in appearance in their advanced years.

When it seems desirable to still weigh the merits of an animal one or both of whose parents cannot be spoken for by their fruits, a full opportunity to study individuality cannot be foregone. In studying individualities of parents it becomes imperative to insist on their being at least very similar in type. Nor would even championship honors in close competition be sufficient assurance, because it is quite possible that under different judges or in different situations both male and female may have been accorded highest honors and yet represent types unsuited to each other. The progeny from such unions should certainly be required to first prove themselves capable of transmitting the blended excellence of their parents if indeed they have the unusual good fortune to exhibit a harmonious union of their divergent parental types.

Showyard decisions at best constitute a very doubtful basis for the estimate of individual merit as a guide in breeding unless the selection is made by one sufficiently familiar with his work to be able to make necessary allowance for official opinions and subsequent changes of form. In most classes of stock the show records of the progeny of individuals in the pedigree under study will need to be relied upon to furnish evidence of their rank as breeders. A show record may do more or less than justice to a single animal, but applied to what his offspring have done in the ring it is almost sure to represent his actual standing in his breed. Due consideration must be had for probable variations in opinion of judges and for the inequalities of competition on different occasions and at different places. Then, too, in weighing the achievements of the progeny of a particular sire or dam undue stress must not be laid upon a single offspring of phenomenal record to the exclusion of others of no note.

Inheritance from a sire most of whose get could earn even fourth or fifth position or even honorable mention in harder competition would be much preferable to that from an animal siring one champion and no others of more than very local repute or of fame borrowed from their kindred. Also in many instances a second premium is practically as honorable as a first in spite of the fact that nearly all the general acclaim is accorded the holder of the end position. The prizes for get of sire and produce of dam awarded in our shows are the most valuable of all for showing the pre-potency of parents.

Strange as it may seem, not one of the breeds has any official register of the results of showyard trials. One very laudable attempt was made by a Hereford breeder to establish a "star list" which was arranged to show with a minimum of searching the achievements of every winner and producer of winners in the larger shows. Such publications, to fully meet the wants, must be prepared by persons who cannot be thought of as having any interest in any animal, herd or strain. Some of the beef cattle herd books have appended lists of awards at leading shows, but so far these are not arranged to encourage even an anxious inquirer to attempt to procure the record of a particular animal. For the most part, information of this character must still be obtained from the history as ,recorded in the agricultural journals and periodicals and from association with persons in whose memories the facts have been preserved.

With dairy cattle and race horses the records are much more useful. While showing is popular, merit is proved chiefly by actual test of function. A record of having produced 20 pounds of butter in a week, or of having trotted a mile in 2:15, requires no consideration of errors in judgment or unworthy competition. The standard is an absolute one and can be applied at any time or place. It is possible that such records may not fully represent the capacities of. the individuals because of limited opportunities, and especially with the cows a knowledge of food consumed during the test is desirable, but there can be no gainsaying that fact that under conditions surrounding the trial the animal possessed the ability to perform as recorded. Such trials also render it easy to state the achievements of the progeny of any sire or dam. The information made available in the "Year Book" for trotting horse breeders is of the greatest service in selection and study of ancestry and is doubtless in large measure accountable for the remarkable accomplishments in breeding for trotting speed. Tables similar to those in the "Year Book" may be forthcoming for dairy breeds as soon as official testings have been in use for a sufficient time. Although the significance of showring prizes is less dependable than test records it would seem that a great help would be afforded breeders of other classes of stock by preserving and publishing well arranged show records and compiling tables showing sires and dams with lists of names and achievements of their progeny that had been exhibited.

The question may properly be raised, is it safe or fair to withhold our esteem from progenitors, which though worthy, were allowed no opportunity to make a show career or to take a record? Doubtless some animals of extraordinary capacities have been allowed to live and die in comparative obscurity. Such individuals must necessarily have been the property of men not active nor prominent in the affairs of the breed handled; otherwise the merits of their stock would have been made known. If such an animal were unrightfully retained in obscurity with no opportunity to justify himself through his offspring, the probability of underestimating any valuable inheritance from him is very small because his excellence must have died with him.

Animals without offspring to speak for them, besides standing on their individuality must also lean in turn upon their parents, and even when no such lack exists the grandparents must be well scrutinized to afford a fuller knowledge of the inheritance and possibilities that may have been imparted to the descendant. Grandsires and grandams must be measured by the same standards as were set up for the first parents, namely, character .of offspring, individual merit, and ancestry. Here there will always be opportunity to learn what has been achieved under actual breeding test and this consideration will outweigh the other two. It is necessary, though, to be assured that grandsire or grandam, as the case may be, has transmitted the good features, and if undesirable ones do exist, that they have been counteracted in the selection of mates and are at least less prominent in the succeeding generation. The third section of our standard carries us into another generation and the question naturally arises as to how far we must carry this study. It is altogether reasonable to place greatest emphasis on the more recent progenitors and correspondingly less on those more remote. The study of pedigree is an effort to understand through an examination of its various sources the nature of the accumulated hereditary material. The further back we can trace the course of its flow and the more exhaustive our scrutiny of the various tributaries or sources of supply, the more dependable and complete is our information. A long line of ancestors with records of having produced the minimum of inferiority-and of having continued to produce uniformly in accordance with their own type is the strongest possible and only conclusive proof that the hereditary material has been fully purged from all impurities by careful selection exercised by the breeders of those former generations in their elimination of all ancestors exhibiting or producing undesirable qualities.

A breeder is likely to meet with two other types of pedigrees, one in which the first three or four generations show animals of merit as individuals and as breeders but in which the back lines show few familiar names and represent obscurity if not inferiority. The other kind of breeding is more common, that in which the fourth and more remote lines show many animals of fairly earned distinction but in which the nearer generations have not come to fame and seem to rely more on their descent than on themselves or their performances. Either one of such pedigrees must be considered much less valuable than one in which all lines are of proved superiority, but of the two, the one with obscurity surrounding near relations is inferior to the one with distinction in close lines and obscurity in remote lines. The esteem in which this latter style of pedigree is sometimes held has prompted some well meaning writers to decry as a snare and a delusion the whole matter of pedigree. Certainly in its abuse it does pre-sent an insidious danger which has brought loss and disappointment to many. Z in the tabulation shown in Fig. 9 typifies the kind of breeding under discussion.

A may be taken to represent a sire of earned popularity and of whose sons A 4th proves to be able to beget stock of more than ordinary merit. This fact when properly advertised by his owner, creates a strong demand for his offspring. In the haste and eagerness to secure such stock, individual merit of the purchases is ignored, or else it is hoped that the offspring of A 13th will resemble A 4th rather than their own sire. At other times it is expected that the continued popularity of the strain will continue to unduly attach itself to the descendants and enable them to sell in spite of their defects, In the desire to profit by the popularity of A 4th his owner may mate him to inferior females and retain such offspring, of which A 13th may be one, that show plainly that they inherit more deeply of the defects than of the excellencies of their sire, or they may show that the female Q was not well adapted to mating with A 4th. The same blind adherence to U, an inferior descendant of the really meritorious B 3rd, gives X a double infusion of the inheritance from what should have been the rejected off-spring and misrepresentatives of really good breeding individuals. Confidence placed in Z solely because of his kinship to A and B 3rd ignores the fact that less than one-quarter of his inheritance comes from these two animals while the remainder is from others inferior by inheritance. While it must be admitted that such as Z will often find buyers, and it might be possible to justify traffic in the kind because others erroneously overrate them, yet the probabilities of. his transmitting the characteristics of his few distant ancestors of note are too trivial to justify regarding his use as other than a random experiment. Real or pretended faith in the value of such a pedigree represents the abuse rather than the use of a study of the ancestry and is damaging because it ignores the absolute necessity of first applying the tests to the members of the nearer generations. The appearance of the name of the most distinguished animal in the fourth or fifth line signifies very little. Earned popularity as a sire attaches to sons and grandsons, the inferior as well as the better ones being sought for by less discriminating buyers. All the sires in use in any breed at a given time trace to a surprisingly small number of predecessors. Consequently almost any animal will trace once to a well known individual, and if the attention is allowed to centre mainly on the remote lines practically all animals will be found able to boast of distinguished ancestors in common. "A worthy son of a worthy sire" expresses the principle that cannot safely be lost sight of.

Unusual performance under test or extraordinary showring success often causes a very eager demand for the offspring of the animal so elevated, or for others so nearly related as to have promise of producing similar excellence. Such a strain or family then becomes fashionable and rightly so, because the fashion proceeds from incontrovertible merit. It is only when there is an indiscriminate acceptance of unworthy representatives of worthy families that the fashion becomes a blind craze, with the deteriorating influences referred to in the pre-ceding paragraphs. The reference to fashion at this time, however, is made for the purpose of introducing the matter of family names. It is the custom, particularly in some breeds of cattle, to lay stress on family names. It is argued that among so many herds and varied strains of breeding there is need of such names as shall furnish some information regarding the line of descent. In the human family names are usually preserved through the male line. A person bearing the name of Smith may have scores of ancestors of other names and nationalities for one of the Smith family, and it is but rarely that different families of the same name have much more than the name in common unless they are otherwise akin. Nevertheless, the use of the name is a necessity whether or not it is any suggestion of family characteristics. The claim is made that a similar system is desirable for use among animals and since the name of the sire attaches to so many individuals the name of the dam is used instead. The right of use of any particular name is accorded only to those whose ancestry traces exclusively through females to the foundress of the family.

It seems likely that family names came into use more through incidental causes than as a designed compliance with an actual need. When the breeds were being formed and when a very few herds included all the bet-ter stock some females were especial favorites with their owners because of their excellence as breeders. It was much more definite to refer to a calf as a son or grand-son of the cow Duchess than to designate him as the off-spring of a sire whose get included a large number of individuals of various maternal ancestries. Certain females transmitted particular and valuable qualities and it naturally became advantageous to own animals closely related to such foundresses of families. While a son might be equally as valuable as a daughter for perpetuating those qualities it was to the advantage of the owners to apply the family name only to descendants through the female line. It was thereby practicable for them to retain in their own herds as many as they chose of such descend-ants, while the males leaving the herd would share the prestige of the family but could not add to the numbers of those entitled to the family name. At the time referred to herd books were not established and no printed pedigrees were available, so statement- of membership in a particular family was useful even if only partial in-formation regarding breeding.

In America it is customary to recognize imported females as originators of family names. So long as the descendants exhibit the characteristics that popularized their family name they are rightfully entitled to any preference attaching thereto, but when it amounts to the blind or unintelligent scramble for the discards of those families and becomes purely a matter of name, only injury can result. The animal Z in the tabulation of page 103 is a member of the P family, even should another female appear a half dozen times in the same line, because the female descent is unbroken only to P. On the other hand, light esteem or prejudice is sometimes attached to descendants of females blacklisted by owners of contemporaneous stock, or by an unfounded suspicion, in spite of the fact that the animal regarding which the question is raised cannot at most deriver per cent of its inheritance from the defamed progenitor. That family names are not a real necessity is made clear by the continued advance made by most of the breeds in which no preference attaches to direct descent from one matron over that' ac-corded to the same possibility of influence through intervening male ancestors. In such breeds as retain the custom it is not the rule for the animal's recorded name to contain any part of the family name and it seems entirely probable that use of family names will soon be altogether abandoned. With officially recorded names and numbers for each animal and easily obtained complete pedigrees the need of indicating descent in a name no longer exists, though it is a useful practice to give immediate off-spring of a well known male or female such names as will suggest their parentage.

The matter of judging pedigree, like that of judging the animals themselves, is much more simple in theory than in practice. Even were it possible to obtain all desired information regarding a pedigree, there is no possible form of expressing in abstract terms the measure of its value, but to one who has a wide and impartial knowledge of recent and current happenings it is quite an easy matter to arrive at a safe opinion of the total value of the ancestry of any animal as presented in a well written pedigree. But it is in securing such information as is sure to be desired that one of the practical difficulties arises. Applying the triple test of character of progeny, individual merit, and breeding, to each ancestor appearing in the tabulated form, it may often happen that some ancestor near enough to be of importance will be unknown except for the name of its breeder. Impressions of outstanding individuals, and of many less notable but more familiar, are easily retained. A practical way of supplementing such knowledge is by studying the breeders.

Any breeding enterprise, sooner or later, will have a rating in public esteem in accordance with the soundness of the principles actually adhered to by the breeder. One may know nothing of a particular animal, but if he learns that it was reared by a man who is known as having always exercised the most careful discrimination in the selection of sires and the culling of females he will be assured that there is at least a preponderance of inheritance for good. If it is known that the third, fourth, and successive dams were bred by the same breeder whose achievements had brought him the esteem of his contemporaries and who would not retain an inferior female in his herd, then the standing of the herd attaches to its descendant. In such a case the breeder's methods are a guarantee that none but good sires were used, but if in addition we learn that those sires were from other herds of the best repute then there is good reason for placing a high valuation on an animal of such descent even though the particulars regarding the ancestors are very meagre. The custom of naming animals so as to include the name of the breeder or of his farm is a very great help in this connection, though it must be observed that it is quite common to continue to give such names to the descendants of such animals bred by other parties who do not exercise equally careful selection. It is not impossible that a third or fourth sire or dam valued for reasons just discussed was discarded for failure to represent the type and features sought for by the breeder. If direct evidence as to individual merit of such is not at hand it will be necessary again to place dependence upon the standing of the breeder who owned the animal at the tune the offspring concerned was bred. In the absence of direct information the most conservative procedure will make the standing of the breeders the main part of the basis of opinion of the value of more distant ancestors.

While it may not be easy to gain full acquaintance with the past, the study of current events in shows and sales is a very interesting and profitable investment of time. Generations of animals come and go very quickly and a man conversant with one or two seasons' affairs soon finds the subjects of his study appearing in the fourth and fifth lines of pedigrees and his knowledge ample for the nearer and more important ancestors. The association with men whose knowledge antedates one's own is a most useful means of studying breed history.

In a few rare instances breeders have been known to represent an animal as being the offspring of a parent much superior to the actual one. With the magnitude and character of the business no possible means can be employed to verify the representations of breeders in these matters. No more reprehensible form of dishonesty can be conceived than that which would cause a breeder to stake his judgment and the value of even a single crop of young stock upon an animal whose descent is not as represented. Carelessness in keeping of records may lead to unintentional errors, but the proportion of thoroughly careful and re-liable breeders is so great that there is no necessity for dealing with any party who allows any question to exist regarding the honesty or correctness of his representations.



Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com