Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I had a discussion about this with a friend of mine who was saying that designer breeds are healthier because of a bigger gene pool. While mixing two unrelated breeds together dogs give them a larger gene pool, it does not automatically equal healthier dogs. I had to think about this issue when breeding my Shikoku x Kishu, but then again, these dogs are a 1 generation and done deal. They're not going back into either the Shikoku or Kishu gene pools.

I'm all for genetic diversity and healthier dogs. I've had this conversation about introducing outcrosses to the Japanese breeds, with many people, and while I would be stoned for doing it openly here in Japan (mind you the breeds have been mixed here behind closed doors before), I have no problem with the concept. Perhaps this is because I am very involved in hunting, and have a great interest in preserving working lines. I am one of very few hunters left in Japan who still hunt big game using purebred Nihon Ken. Almost all of the other serious big game hunters (not the I-walk-the-mountains-with-my-dog-and-sometimes-it-chases-stuff type of weekend hunters) I know use 'Ji-inu' which translates to 'local dog'. These are based off hunting lines that were local to different areas of Japan, but they were and are, evolving breeds. They are selected for function, not form. The Nihon Ken were originally born of these hunting dogs that were being bred by hunters in mountain villages.

From the book 住古日本犬写真集

All the Japanese breeds were born from a small handful of dogs, so I'm pretty sure (guessing here!) that the genetic diversity in all the breeds is fairly low. There are health issues in all purebred dogs, and of the Japanese dog breeds, for some reason the Akita seems to stick out like a sore thumb when it comes to health issues. There was a discussion regarding outcrossing on the Nihon Ken Forum in this thread http://www.nihonken.org/forum/index.php?p=/discussion/8823/pedagree-dogs-exposed-3-years-on#Item_7
I'm hoping that before it comes to out crossing to a different breed, that enough research has been done, and data collected, to show that it is actually necessary (or when a genetic issue is so entrenched in the breed that an outcross is the only way out, ie the Dalmatian http://www.dalmatianheritage.com/about/nash_research.htm).

In the case of the Japanese Akita, I hear that issues such as hip dysplasia, and sebacious adenitis (among other issues), are seriously impacting the breed. However I have to add to this that most of what I have heard on this issue is from kennels and owners in Europe. This is not to say that the breed is healthier here, because there is just no data on the dogs in Japan, and I am not involved enough in the breed to have any sort of overview. It seems to me however, that there are a very small number of kennels in Japan that have exported a very high number of dogs overseas. There could still be new blood to help fix issues, without something so drastic as out crossing to another breed. To my knowledge there are over a thousand more Akita pups born in Japan than any of the medium size breeds (@1200 Kai, @1200 Hokkaido, @700 Kishu, @300 Shikoku).

If I were not already up to my neck in the medium sized breeds I'd branch out to try and help with the Akita, but unfortunately my time and finances are already maxed out.

I think we kennels and breeders are by nature a conservative lot, so emotions can get pretty heated when talking about the future of our beloved breeds. Let's try and keep things positive, and move in directions with clear goals, and strong facts to back up the decisions we make in our breeding programs.

Ahhhh there's always so much more to learn, and not enough time. I really need to get around to learning about genetics. Since I never went to school, I'm self taught in pretty much everything I know, and biology is a huge gaping whopper of a hole in the encyclopedia of my brain.


  1. http://www.chimerakennels.com/caninegenetics.htm
    good read

    1. Terrific link. Thanks! I'm reading through it now.