California – Scientists have found that the English bulldog’s genetic pool has deteriorated to an extent where it might not be longer savable.
The new research, made by a team from the University of California’s Center for Companion Animal Health and published in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, shows that the English Bulldog has reached a genetic ‘dead end’. This means that the breed will undoubtedly die since breeders won’t be able to generate an ‘improved’ version of the companion dog.
However, centuries of inbreeding animals with extreme physical traits debilitated the genetic pool even more. In the end, the breed’s genome has been altered to an extent where the genes cannot function properly anymore.
The biggest alterations appeared in recent decades. In the past couple of years, breeders have tried to ‘wiggle’ with the little diversity that is left. Nonetheless, the majority of English Bulldogs still come from inbred parents.
The situation has become so unstable that would be cruel to keep forcing new generations of English bulldog to endure the many health problems associated with the breed.
The lead author, Professor Niels Pedersen, has claimed the breed’s popularity ‘can’t justify the health problems’ anymore. For Pedersen, choosing individuals without ‘problematic mutations’ will only result in a more reduced genetic pool; and trying to ‘add’ new characteristics like ‘unacceptable’ coat colors or more wrinkles won’t help either with the issue.
“Improving health through genetic manipulations presumes that enough diversity still exists to improve the breed from within,” claimed Pedersen, “and if not, to add diversity by mixing it with other breeds. We found that little genetic ‘wiggle room’ still exists in the breed to make additional genetic changes.”
Pedersen and his team studied 102 English Bulldogs from a different country. These specimens were then genetically compared to other thirty-seven Bulldogs, which had the serious health problems so typical of the breed.
The study aim was to determine if these health issues were the result of ‘puppy mills,’ founding instead that it simply had to do with centuries of forced inbred evolution. Recently, some Swiss breeders decided to mate the English Bulldogs with a new American breed, the Olde English Bulldogge.
A favorite companion
The English bulldog is a medium-size breed, related to the French bulldog, the Leavitt Bulldog, the American Bulldog, the extinct Old English Bulldog and the new American breed, the Olde English Bulldogge.
The kind is hugely popular worldwide, but in particular on the United States, where they were the fourth most popular purebred in 2015.
The English bulldog, according to the American Kennel Club, has to have a short coat with colors of piebald (pigmented spots on a white background), brindle (also known as ‘tiger-striped’), white, red and fawn.
They have to weigh an average of 18 to 23 kilos and have an unusually wide head and mandibular prognathism, wide-set eyes and folded skin. In short, they look boxy and cute in an angry-looking way. However, all these characteristics, a product of inbreeding have diminished the breed’s health exponentially.
The average lifespan for the English bulldog in only six years, and during that short time they often suffer from cancer, respiratory problems, hip dysplasia, allergies, heart problems, cherry eye (protrusion of the inner eyelid) and inter-digital cysts.
Also, the pregnant females have to be monitored, since the litters are often delivered by caesarean section since the huge heads cannot pass through the mother’s birth canal.
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Their nasal cavities are so small it prevents them from being cool, which means they have to be carefully looked after during summer, to prevent overheating and death by hyperthermia; and their face folds need to be cleaned daily to prevent infections.
English Bulldogs are not the only breed with genetic problems. All the purebreds’ dogs come with a series of health issues product of the constant inbreeding to keep the breed ‘pure’.
The health problems are not the only critique against breeding dogs. The establishment known as ‘puppy mills’ have been under tremendous backlash in recent times. In puppy mills (of where there are an estimated of four thousand only in the United States) are ‘fabrics’ of dogs, where the females are bred every time they are in heat until they are no longer useful and are euthanized.
Almost half a million puppies are born in the establishment, and they often face, neglect, living in cramped spaces, are poor socialized and underfed, suffering from mange, heartworms, infections.
The cruel conditions of the puppy mills and the ever growing population of stray animals have led many animal rights groups to support the adoption of rescued mutts.
Source: New Scientist