Friday, June 9, 2017

Why Don't We Outcross?

A discussion that comes up a lot nowadays when discussing the preservation of 'purebreeds' is the idea of outcrossing, or an open studbook. This is especially true when dealing with rare breeds that have very small gene pools (and genetic issues for instance). So, I thought I'd explain why that is very unlikely to happen here in Japan.

NIPPO, the preservation society, was founded to preserve the breeds and remove the influence of western breeds from the gene pool. The Nihon Ken was interbreeding with the newly imported breeds, so NIPPO is very big on removing any all traits associated with non-Japanese breeds (like tongue spotting which they think was a sign of interbreeding with Chows). So I don't see outcrossing being allowed here in Japan any time soon. It would basically be against the mission statement of NIPPO.

Also the breeds are officially designated as national treasures. The term is actually 'tennen kinenbutsu' which would translate to 'natural monument'. It's a designation given to wildlife and fauna that is native and particularly valuable to Japanese culture. This is something along the lines of say a national bird like the bald eagle in the US. You can imagine the uproar if it was decided to start breeding them with a Chinese eagle to increase genetic diversity. Trump might have something to say about that.

All jokes aside, there is an issue we have here in Chiba prefecture where the native macaques are interbreeding with a non-native introduced species, the rhesus monkey. There's been a lot of discussion about this because they've now reached a wildlife park where the monkeys are 'tennen kinenbutsu'. They've immediately put a cull in effect because basically hybrid offspring are no longer a native species, and so lose their official designation as a national treasure. I believe this same thinking would probably be used in any discussion regarding opening the studbooks for the Japanese breeds. NIPPO works closely with the Japanese government, always has, because of this official designation that the breeds have. The awards given at the grand national for best of breed are from the education minister, and the best in show is from the prime minister.

I realized that from an outside perspective it may seem that there's just a bunch of conservative old dudes shutting down new ideas, and to a certain extent there is that happening, the Japanese breeds have a lot more going on because of their official status.

1 comment:

  1. I get outcrossing the modern "created" breeds that are riddled with health problems, such as the Dobermann or Boxer, which were created from a mish-mash of deliberate crosses not very long ago, as what we would nowadays call "designer breeds". An outcross every so often does not hugely impact their value. But very ancient breeds, landraces and types that carry a huge cultural legacy, I have a harder time accepting that outcrossing these is anything other than wanton destruction of carefully-preserved aeons-old cultural art.

    It's like someone saying "Hey, the Mona Lisa needs eyebrows. We know better now than the stuffy old guy who created her, because we have modern technology on our side. So let's draw some on. Doesn't she look so much better now? While we're at it, she is very dull and brown. How about we ratchet up the saturation on her colours by using modern acrylic paints? Lovely!" Maybe she is more pleasing with her eyebrows "fixed" and her colours brightened. But she is devalued immensely and it is a disrespect to the master who created her to "improve" his work with foreign material. She is no longer the Mona Lisa but a version thereof. Her cultural legacy is destroyed irrevocably.

    I know that one could argue that the Japanese breeds, particularly the Shiba and Akita, are a long way away from their ancestral forms due to the trends of the show-ring. I accept this. But this is a matter of style and aesthetic taste in selections made in the last ~30-40 years. This is not an alteration of the fundamental *type*. If I take my Shiba bitches to, say, a Buhund stud every 3-4 generations the breed type is lost. It is no longer recognisable as a Shiba. The Shiba nuance and sparkle is lost and the dogs become generic spitz types. I am not interested in dogs like this. The point of it all is lost if I do this.