It’s one gene pool; we should be sharing it!

This week’s “Countryman’s Weekly” newspaper features an article by Keith Edmunds (Hazelglade Dachshunds) titled: “Working breed conservation in practice”. He starts by commenting that there are pressures on all sorts of working breeds and that many now have new “jobs”, often primarily as pets.

Working breed conservation (4)

We’ve always had a strong, albeit quite small, working Dachshund community in the UK. Brenda and Trevor Humphrey, with Nick Valentine, set up the UK Teckel Stud Book Society 20 years ago. Teckels are much prized for their working ability which has mostly been to assist deer stalkers by tracking fallen game.

Keith argues (and I agree) that it is important to ensure that a proportion of a breed’s population continues to fulfil its original function. However, he notes that the exclusive working blood silo becomes increasingly smaller as legislation and changing lifestyles puts ever more pressure on this group. I could make a similar argument for show-bred dogs as we have seen declining entries at dog shows for a long time and, in varieties such as Smooths and Longs, registrations have been on a downward trend for at least the past 15 years. The popularity of Smooths has, however, picked up in the past couple of years, probably on the back of the exponential growth in Mini Smooth popularity. In reality, most Dachshund owners neither want to work nor show their dogs; their role is to be a family pet. That is the one key reason that their temperaments are so important. Strong prey drive, sharp or nervous temperaments are not appropriate for the average pet Dachshund (and we certainly don’t want to see poor temperaments in the show ring either).

The article goes on to describe how show lines have “infiltrated” working lines but it’s equally true that working lines have “infiltrated” show lines. That has to be of benefit to all of us.

When we brought in our first import, Silfaskugga Salka (from Iceland in 1998), I traced her pedigree back to the 1920s. Going that far back demonstrated she had many Smooth Dachshunds in her lineage and, more recently, a mixture of Scandinavian show and working dogs. So, despite the fact that both working and show communities might argue that their lines were “pure”, the reality is that we’re all swimming in the same gene pool. And, of course, that also means all 6 varieties of UK Dachshund have the same origins. It’s just that the Wires were created by adding a judicious bit of terrier and schnauzer, and the Longs probably had a dose of spaniel.

Keith ends by saying “Working breeds will not be saved through rose-tinted rumination of the good old days nor will they be saved by the continual berating of pet or show owners. Like it or not, working breeds will have to adapt to survive – so too will working dog owners”. 

This is a 2-way street; show and working communities should be cooperating. We can learn from each other and, more importantly, by working together we have a far better chance of preserving the breed for the future (whatever its function – pet, show, work). Of course, that also applies to other breeds that have discrete working and show communities.

I am grateful to Keith and Jane Edmunds for sharing the Countryman’s Weekly article.

You may also be interested in my article on “Breeds as genetic pools

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