The Genetic X Factor
by Master Breeder,Barbara "BJ" Andrews
The real secret to breeding top winning, top producing AKC champions in any breed is the genetic "X" factor...
The X-Factor was born and bred in the genes of the 3 All-Time Top Akita Sires, Sachmo, BigSon, Widow-Maker, and generations of Chilean Champions by Maurizio MorettoLong before there was a TV show of the same name, 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 until you understood the sentence. 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 genetics 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, so I told you that but but I'll bet you don't really know why.
Meet the Editor and Author Barbara J. "BJ" AndrewsI 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, 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. Update - Having judged 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
For some people, 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 all show records and a few set new ones which still stand over two decades later. The "power of the dam" has 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 unlesshe 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 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 program. 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 have to make up terms. It seemed right though since the X chromosome is actually much larger than the Y (male) chromosome. Perhaps that is why it carries such a heavy genetic load. The female or X 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 finally confirming.
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 is a person able to do both. The sport is healthy because there are 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.