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  • Writer's pictureKarina Whittington

Let's address some misinformation!

Yell it for those in the back so they can hear! Ancestry/breed testing does not define a dog's status as a purebred dog!!! For all that is Holy in Purebred dogs and the Pyrenean Mastiffs in particular, let's set the record straight. So, hold on to your reading glasses !

 

I am 100% for FACTS and distribution of CORRECT and complete information. It has been brought to my attention that there is and potentially more than 1 breeder of Pyrenean Mastiffs in the US sharing extremely inaccurate information on the topic(s) I am about to address.... potentially to garner buyer preference, though I don't know the actual reason for the misinformation. So, grab your popcorn if you like learning I promise some great reading material.

 

Here is our agenda for our series this week of "Information brought to you by a research junky Pyrenean Mastiff breeder". (With cited sources)

 

1.      Ancestry/breed testing vs Purity

2.      Farm dog lines vs Pedigreed PM lines (this is a whole thing we did a deep dive in an external article) https://www.estrellapolarpyreneanmastiffs.com/post/about-the-farm-dog-initiative

3.      What the actual population of Pyrenean Mastiffs consist of in the US. (I like to track pedigrees of almost every dog in North America especially those being used or potentially used in the breeding population. I like to stay informed)

4.      What does Estrella Polar Pyrenean Mastiffs do on this topic vs others and why!

 

Then we have our girl Karankawa who is from a pedigreed father and a Farm Dog mother imported from Spain (She just took home a Best in Open Show!) and her daughter Nyx.

Stick with this because its informative!!! I know its long but expand your knowledge, I promise it’s worth it!

 

Ancestry/breed testing vs Purity

 

PMAA has touched on this and you can get some preliminary reading here: https://www.pyreneanmastiffassociation.org/post/ancestry-vs-purebred-dogs

 

Purity is a man-made term by REGISTERING AUTHORITIES! Breed/Ancestry testing like Wisdom and Embark, etc. have zero play on status of purity. These tests are based on a selected dataset by the companies to try to match similar DNA strands of dogs to the data panels. These tests were intended for DNA companies to market their products to people with dogs of unknown origin to give some potential insight into health and behavior of dogs from unknown origins. Data panels are not a complete view of a breed population and can easily be skewed depending on the dogs they deem fit to be a part of the panel. I think my own Ancestry test has changed well over a dozen times since I had it done, the same goes for Dog Ancestry/Breed testing. A dog tested 8 years ago may have different results if tested now.

 

Now while I absolutely love Embark and have tested almost 100 Pyrenean Mastiffs with them the Ancestry portion is the bane of my existence as a Pyrenean Mastiff breeder, I am sure breeders in other breeds may feel the same! Here are some reasons why!

 

1.      We don't know what dogs are used in the data panel and if it is diverse enough. Embark will not work with breed clubs to see if the data panel is diverse enough.

2.      Even dogs with 10+ generations in their pedigree could come back with a little something off. (Common breeds in PMs we may see but not limited to are Saint Bernard, Great Pyrenees, and unresolved. Which is a duh since we already know from the Dog Genome project that the PM is related to the Saint Bernard and Great Pyrenees ancestrally). An article from Embark here: https://embarkvet.com/resources/can-a-registered-purebred-dog-appear-as-mixed-breed-on-a-dna-test-2/

3.      It can confuse puppy owners thinking a dog is a mixed breed dog despite known lineage. Breeders who are ignorant or try to use their dog’s breed/ancestry test results as a means to demean other breeders or make their programs look better isn’t okay.

 

Some background I never thought to address that gives valuable perspective.

 

The United Kennel Club, the first ever Kennel Club, in the UK wasn't founded until 1873. RSCE, the Kennel Club in Spain, was established in 1911. The 2nd and 3rd Pyrenean Mastiffs were registered with RSCE in 1913 and in 1920. The first Pyrenean Mastiff standard was written in 1946, this standard was interesting as it called for a shorter coat than today's standard, if you ever get a glimpse of it some of the differences are interesting, I have a PDF breed study on the Pyrenean Mastiff that includes some of the differences, happy to share it or you can download it here, it is in Spanish sorry, the amazing benefit of being bilingual for me (https://www.academia.edu/90930669/Evoluci%C3%B3n_y_situaci%C3%B3n_actual_de_la_raza_canina_Mast%C3%ADn_del_Pirineo).

 

In 1977 CMPE, the Spanish Pyrenean Mastiff Breed Club, was established. In 1982 the current edited version of FCI breed standard was approved by RSCE. This second edition is what led to our modern Pyrenean Mastiffs. The early days of the breeds recovery efforts in the 70s are the dogs who are in the lineage of today's Modern Pyrenean Mastiff. So, while the Pyrenean Mastiff has roots to ancient times in the region, today's modern Pyrenean Mastiff is only about 50-60 years old. Now after this little history recap back on topic, I tend to info dump....

 

As you can see the "Modern Pyrenean Mastiff" isn't that old. Well, if it isn't that old, how did they find the dogs that were first added to the stud book as Pyrenean Mastiffs you may ask? If we want to talk about "traditional" breeding of the Spanish breeders.... these first dogs were dogs that were taken from the origin mountain regions where the land race version of the Pyrenean Mastiff dogs were bred for a job, livestock guardians. They found dogs who fit the traits and phenotype of what they were looking for and then added them to the early breeding programs, if you read our article from our website you will see how the dogs get added to the stud book via the procedures for initial registration. The Pyrenean Mastiff is what we call a land race. It is a type of dog (selected by people/humans) in the rural regions of Aragon Spain. But do you truly think these old school farmers cared about "breed"... no they wanted a dog who could do the job of guarding, protecting, etc. This is why they are known as a land race because the "old" or “primitive” Pyrenean Mastiff was bred for a specific role that was needed not for the title of a breed name, it was a TYPE of dog in the region.

 

I love this article on landraces so I'm linking it here but it's linked in one of the other links I've shared, but I think it needs its own call out. https://africanis.co.za/the-difference-between-a-landrace-and-a-dog-breed/


In the 1970's these dogs were selected by Rafael Malo Alcrudo and a few others based on their traits. They were then evaluated and approved to be added to the official stud book of RSCE. These selected dogs are some of the earliest Pyrenean Mastiff names we have on record, some examples are Dula and Thor that I shared yesterday. Now you see what I am getting at? In the 70s there was no breed testing, there was nothing telling them what these dogs actually were, heck hardly anyone even knew what a Pyrenean Mastiff was. So all they could go off was looks. This is where PURITY is man made, purity in dogs is a dog who is deemed a Pyrenean Mastiff or a dog whose parents are deemed Pyrenean Mastiffs. I hope you are still following me because I have a lot to say based on research. A great blog article on open and Closed stud books: https://www.pyreneanmastiffassociation.org/post/open-vs-closed-studbooks


Now let's talk about that dang data panel thing with breed/ancestry testing. So, say 200 Pyrenean Mastiffs have been tested. They may select 10 dogs that best represent the diverse gene pool of dogs tested thus far, we don’t know how many they actually use. Well now there are dogs tested and they have a small portion of DNA strands that cross with the Saint Bernard data set and aren't in the Pyrenean Mastiff data set then you can get a dog with 10+ generations of pedigree data with a smidgen of something else in ancestry solely because that percentage happens to not be in the Pyrenean Mastiff data set defined by the company. Then there are random oddities where an offspring of a dog like that comes back with even more mixed up results. A good example, Parent A is 100% PM ancestry and Parent B comes back with 97% PM ancestry and 3% Saint Bernard. Puppy A has 6% Saint Bernard and 94% PM. Puppy B has 90% PM, 4% Saint and 6% Great Pyrenees.... wait that doesn't make sense? Companies like Embark claim it has to do with genetic recombination (think of the shuffling of DNA). But how can a puppy have more of a breed than the parents and another have an additional breed neither parent has? It makes zero sense to be honest which is why it is the bane of my existence. Luckily understanding and well-informed puppy buyers and breeders know that this breed/Ancestry testing isn't an exact science, and breeders can only go off pedigree for breed status.

Full siblings can even be different when they have pedigrees of 5+ generations. I know of 2 sets of siblings where 1 sibling shows 100% Pyrenean Mastiff and another sibling tested a different day has a little something off... exhausting and the one thing I dislike with Embark because breeders use it to cause conflict or claim they are the only ones with 100% pure Pyrenean Mastiffs..... happy to say it, but we all have "pure" Pyrenean Mastiffs based on registering authorities.

 

We have talked some about this before  and if you read our published article on our website, you already have a good concept.

 

Farm Dog vs Multigenerational Pedigreed dogs

 

Now the not as controversial topic as some may lead you to believe. Farm Dog lines, what the heck does this mean.... Farm dog or perro de campo is a coined term to describe a dog in the last few decades, and even the founding dogs in majority of cases, who were pulled from the origin region of Spain based on their traits and evaluated to be added to the Studbook in Spain as a Pyrenean Mastiff, sounds familiar doesn't it? It's how the Modern Pyrenean Mastiff was made. I have a dog who is the daughter of a "Farm Dog". I have a great article on my website if you want to learn more information if you haven't read it yet: https://www.estrellapolarpyreneanmastiffs.com/post/about-the-farm-dog-initiative

 

But the gist of it is that Farm dogs were bred for a job, not pedigree, who needs pedigrees in rural Spain... , they were bred to be guardians that whelped litters naturally, had great instinct as guardians, etc. Then based on their phenotype (what they look like) they get added to the stud book after being evaluated by a breed specialty judge to help add genetic diversity to the gene pool as well as their other traits to help revitalize the breed. Remember this is exactly how the founding dogs of the Modern Pyrenean Mastiff were selected!

 

When you have a closed stud book you have a closed gene pool which means dogs get more and more related to each other each generation thus causing more recessive traits and diseases to potentially come forward. Farm dogs as they have been named help to add new genetics to the gene pool so we do not bottle neck our gene pool. We are incredibly lucky to have this genetic reserve of dogs we can pull from just like other breeds that started from landraces.

 

Now some more facts. Embark ancestry can range from 60-100% PM on these dogs added thus offspring can have the mixed ancestry/breed testing results. Majority of the farm dog lines that have been imported in the US are grandchildren or great grandchildren of a farm dog and have tested 100% or just shy of 100% on breed/ancestry testing. Only one daughter of a Farm dog has been imported and tested less than 90% on breed/ancestry testing. Again the offspring of a dog who isnt 100% on this ancestry/breed testing can end up even more wonky on testing when a parent doesn't even have a percentage of a breed to offer but somehow magically the offspring has it, similar to what we have seen even in a pedigreed dog with a slight offset on these tests. Just because their ancestry/breed testing isn't 100% doesn't mean they aren't "pure" these dogs have legitimate registration as Pyrenean Mastiffs and like we mentioned before "purity" is a man made term by registering authorities and ancestry/breed testing has ZERO connection to what is considered a purebred dog.

 

A multigenerational Pedigreed dog is a dog who has multiple generations of pedigree data compared to farm dogs who have no recorded pedigree data considering they came from rural farms in Spain. The breeders who select these farm dogs have done research and met the parents of the farm dogs etc owned by these rural farmers. Often times the breeders who do add these Farm dogs are some of the breeders who have been around for decades in the Pyrenean Mastiff. They are not novice breeders. Majority of Pyrenean Mastiffs will begin to see gaps in their pedigrees around 8-10 generations. By gaps I mean dogs who have no pedigree data, majority being farm dogs pulled to kick off the Modern Pyrenean Mastiff just to give some perspective.


Now to address what the actual population of the breed is in the US.

 

I am currently the only breeder who has a product (daughter) of a Farm Dog in North America and she came from the son of a man in Spain who has deep roots in the breed and was there in the very early years of the breeds recovery efforts..... can't get more traditional than that.... Have I placed breeding prospects off of her, yes because those new potential breeders know the value of genetic diversity and what Farm Dog lines mean for the breed.

 

I am very proud of Pandora, she has a wonderful temperament, she is happy-go-lucky and friendly. She can do Therapy dog events or guard her goats at home fiercely. She has beautiful movement and structure, from an early age she took home a Reserve Best in Show puppy at a UKC show and most recently she has taken home a Best in Open Show at an AKC show. She is an incredible all around dog and exactly what I feel a Pyrenean Mastiff temperament should be. I am not ashamed or in hiding regarding Pandora and anyone who has gotten one of her puppies knows everything about her.

 

Now, are breeders "required" to use these lines, absolutely not. I have multiple lines that are not from my Farm Dog line and up and coming breeders who have gotten a puppy from my Farm dog line also have females from non-Farm Dog lines. My Farm Dog Daughter has only produced 2 litters and many of her offspring are working as LGD or are wonderful companions. Only 2 have gone to up and coming breeders in the US, I have some offspring from Pandora as part of my program. There are 2 other farm dog lines, 2 brothers who are studs I co-own and great grandsons of a Farm Dog. 1 with another breeder who has a granddaughter of a farm dog (different farm dog than Pandora but same as my co-own studs). Farm Dogs are Pyrenean Mastiffs through and through despite breed testing because purity is defined by registration not ancestry/breed tests. That is why despite someone trying to use Embark to revoke Pandora's, my daughter of a Farm Dog's, registration it didn't work. These dogs are granted official export pedigrees from Spain’s Kennel Club, RSCE, which is a recognized registering authority to AKC. We can register these dogs with any Kennel Club in the world. Farm Dogs are added to the stud books following appropriate procedures and processes of FCI and RSCE and AKC honors those pedigrees period. These dogs aren't some random dog just bred into the population, they are carefully selected and 1 or 2 are added every few years over the last few decades.

 

I am always happy to share on this topic if for any reason someone has questions.

 

The rest of the US breeding population is from dogs who have multi-generational pedigrees that have been imported from various countries to include Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, Spain, Poland, and more. There is a very diverse population in the US when it comes to breeding prospects or current breeding dogs and the mass majority have 100% Pyrenean Mastiff on their Embark. Some are insisting that the majority of breeders have Pyrenean Mastiffs that are only 60-80% Pyrenean Mastiff on Embark, this is a very incorrect statement.

 

More coming tomorrow! Pictures of Pandora and some of her offspring

If you couldn’t tell already regarding our stance on Farm Dog lines, we are for them. Of course, with everything it is done in moderation as we still very much aim to always breed toward the breed standard in every aspect and while working to keep genetic COI’s on the lower end we still want to also maintain the traits of the Modern Pyrenean Mastiff.

 

Why did we choose to use Farm Dog lines is the big question. There are a number of reasons why we opted to use a daughter of a farm dog in our breeding program and part of that was to really incorporate strong guardian instincts, at the time that we imported our girl Pandora we didn’t have livestock to really work our dogs around and focused our early generations on showcasing the breed’s versatility in other avenues while also trying to maintain aptitude for their original purpose. By bringing in this line we could help bring in a healthy dose of instinct into our program while continuing to work on aptitude in our puppies before we had more livestock on property. It was important to us to showcase all aspects of the breed at any time from being a livestock or property guardian, to being a companion and showing how intelligent they were in a variety of aspects that involved training.

 

Early on we had some complications with whelping and or mothering instincts and wanted to bring in strong lines that were wonderful moms and had an incredible instinct regarding caring for their puppies plus being great natural whelpers. While we will never risk our mother’s health for a natural whelp, if we had mothers who handled natural whelps better it would be a huge pro.

We have always been conscientious of genetic diversity and while we always aimed to make pairings that were with the utmost care to bring traits forward while also not causing coefficients of inbreeding to rise drastically in a generation we knew there was more that we could do in the Pyrenean Mastiff to better support the breed population in the United States by bringing in a Farm Dog line that had genetics that couldn’t be found in any other line in North America. A great perspective on this is prior to Farm Dog lines coming to the US the lowest genetic COI we had recorded was 12%, Pandora is 4% and the lowest to date in the US and a granddaughter of a Farm dog is 8%. This means many more generations for us in the US to slowly work on the breeding population without causing a bottle neck of genetics as quickly.

 

Based on the COIs of 154 dogs whose owners have reported genetic COIs the breed average is 18% including any Farm Dog lines tested. Without the Farm Dog’s included in the average, 132 dogs, the average is 19%. Of the 22 dogs who are off of Farm Dog lines at various generations, their average is a 10% genetic COI. It is important to remember that this is the general population and is not specific to the breeding population of Pyrenean Mastiffs.

 

For me the goal is to slow the increase in genetic COIs so that it isn’t a rapid increase. It is bound to increase in a breeding population like dog’s but to slow it allows us to properly work to weed out potential health issues along the way vs causing recessive diseases to pop up exponentially. I do this by having a daughter of a Farm Dog and also careful selection of breeding pairs in dogs who have complete pedigrees as well. I am always working to bring diversity to the breeding pool in the US. I never repeat pairings to create variety, import semen, use my studs and studs of others outside my program etc.

 

For me I have loved having Pandora as part of my program, she has been an all-around dog who is capable of so much while also being a wonderful companion. She was my first female to naturally whelp 2 litters thus far with zero losses of puppies at whelp. Of 7 females I have bred over the last few years only 2 have naturally whelped with zero losses. For me this is proof that Pandora does bring wonderful natural qualities to the table for the breed regarding natural whelping with limited losses.

 

I am always open to questions, discussion etc! Never hesitate to reach out.


Photos with captions below them.


Katy and Graz - 1987 photo credit Rafael Malo Alcrudo.

Here we have pictured Thor and Dula with a young Rafael Malo Alcrudo photo taken in 1978 photo credit Rafael Malo Alcrudo

Thor - 1976 - photo credit Rafael Malo Alcrudo


Estrella Polar's Harmonia da Noite and Karankawa (Our Spanish import who is a daughter of a farm dog)

Rusbel - 1978 - photo credit Rafael Malo Alcrudo

Khan - 1976 - photo credit Rafael Malo Alcrudo

Babieca de la Tajadera del Tío Roy - 1982 - photo credit Rafael Malo Alcrudo

Carolina - a Farm Dog from 40 years ago or so - photo credit Rafael Escar Tabueña

Luna owned by Torre de Justo - 1983 - photo credit Rafael Escar Tabueña

Batan - a farm dog line from 40 or so years ago, son of Carolina - photo credit Rafael Escar Tabueña

Linda owned by Torre de Justo - 1981 - photo credit Rafael Escar Tabueña

Francisco Les, Batan, and Linda - circa early 1980s - photo credit Rafael Escar Tabueña

Rafael Escar Tabueña and Luna circa early 1980s - photo credit Rafael Escar Tabueña

Breed relations found via the Dog Genome Project.


Jose Masip and Daniel Llorens with the first Champions of Spain in 1977 - photo credit Rafael Malo Alcrudo

Sultan 1977 photo credit Rafael Malo Alcrudo

Rex 1976 - Photo credit Rafael Malo Alcrudo

Cuqui 1975, his offspring were added to the stud book. One of his daughters was Talapieza. His owner was Mr. Joaquin Isturiz. The first CMPE logo was designed from his head. Photo credit Rafael Malo Alcrudo

Yogui born in 1978 - photo credit Marisa Hidalgo de Caviedes Santias

Cabezudo de Cantalobos son of Katy and Graz pictured in this post. 1992 - photo credit Rafael Malo Alcrudo.

 

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