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What the records show
Bruce Cattanach BSc PhD DSc

(Written in 1978 for the South Western Boxer Club "Blue Book", Boxer '79)

Between 1939, when Ch Horsa of Leith Hill became the first Boxer to gain his title in the UK, and 1978 a total of 309 Boxer dogs and bitches have become British champions. A glance at their photographs in the British Boxer Club Record Book and later Year Books shows them to be a rather mixed group. They represent a wide range of types, they show the varying influences of successive importations of Dutch, German, American, and other bloodlines and, of course, over the years they have changed considerably, as has the breed, from the thicker stockier animals of the early days to the leggier, more elegant present-day versions. Clearly, too, at any point in time some champions have been much better than others, but despite all the diversity it can probably be claimed that within this select group of dogs are the best there have been in the breed of whatever type, bloodline or generation. In this article we look at the background and breeding of these dogs with the object of finding out if there are any common patterns to the way they have been bred that could be applied in the future with some hope of similar success. We look at general rules or guidelines for successful breeding.

1. Parents of champions

Let us begin with the study of the parentage of the champions. Table 1 lists nine different categories of parentage, distinguished on the basis of champion, non-champion and imported sires and dams, and indicates how many of the 309 champions investigated fall within each category.

Table 1    Parentage of British champions 1939 – 1978
Both Ch
Ch Sire
Ch Dam
Both Imp
Imp Sire
Imp Dam
Imp.Sire x Ch.Dam
Ch.Sire x Imp.Dam
Non Ch.
No's of Champions

It may be seen that the great majority, 198 (176 + 12 + 10) had at least one parent who was a champion, a total of 68 (46 + 12 + 10) had at least one parent who was an import and, finally, only 65 had British non-champion parents. This last figure seems remarkably low when one considers that:

  1. there were no champions to breed from in the early days;
  2. the contributions of such eminent show dogs as CC and RCC winners are included in the non-champion parent category;
  3. a very small number of the top-producing males who were neither champions nor CC winners produced quite a large number of champions; and
  4. the numbers of non-champions in the breed has always vastly exceeded the numbers of champions.

Therefore, what do these results mean? Two interpretations can be offered:

  • the champions represent the best of the British-bred Boxers in the country, the imports historically at least have been superior to the British-breds, and therefore the results show that the best specimens of the breed are the most likely to produce the best progeny, or
  • since the biggest influence of the champions and imports as parents has been achieved through dogs rather than through bitches (Table 1), the results only mean the champions and imported dogs get most of the stud work.

Which of these interpretations is most likely to be correct? Short of access to a suitably programmed Kennel Club computer to check on the distribution of stud work, there is no good direct way of finding the answer. However, one can approach the problem in another way by restricting our study to bitches. A champion bitch is surely unlikely to produce more pups than a non-champion show bitch. Therefore, we can investigate how successful the champion bitches have been in producing champions.

2. Production by champion bitches

Referring again to Table 1 we can see that 39 (20 + 7 +12) of the 309 champions had champion dams. A total of 17 (4 + 3 + 10) had imported dams. And the great majority, 253 (149 + 39 + 65) have been the progeny of non-champion British dams. Does the small contribution by the champions (and imports) mean that they are generally poor producers? Surely not! Rather the opposite must be true since there have only been 150 champion bitches in the breed compared with perhaps thousands of non-champions bitches that have produced pups destined for the show ring. Despite being a tiny minority of the breeding population, the champion bitches have produced more than one-in-ten of the champions. As a group they have therefore been far better producers than the non-champions and it should be expected that this performance should be at least matched by champion dogs. The predominance of champions with at least one champion parent observed in the parentage study (section 1, Table 1) can therefore most reasonably be interpreted to mean that generally the best specimens of the breed produce the best progeny, but the greater use of champion dogs is surely also partly responsible.

3. Levels of inbreeding of the champions

Our inbreeding investigation is limited to the 195 champions that have been made up over the years 1960 – 1978 because only for these dogs have we been able to obtain complete 4-generation pedigrees. Inbreeding levels have been calculated for each dog using a formula developed for farm animal breeding but, to allow these values to be appreciated in conventional dog breeding terms, the following may be used for reference:

Brother x sister
Half-brother x half-sister
Father x daughter
Son x g’daughter
G’son x g’daughter
G’g’son x g’g’daughter

The advantage of the calculated values is that they allow quantitation of the inbreeding in complex situations such as when animals are multiply inbred to a number of different ancestors.

The results are shown in Table 2 from which we can see that almost half of the champions (87/195) were derived from matings that were effectively complete outcrosses. A rather smaller proportion (75/195) show some moderate degree of inbreeding, but relatively few of the champions (33/195) can be considered as closely inbred. Generally, there is a clear trend towards fewer champions as inbreeding increases.

Table 2    Levels of inbreeding of champions, 1960 - 1978
1 - 4.9%
5 - 9.9%
10 - 14.9%
15 - 19.9%
Nos of Champions

Inbreeding levels have been calculated on 4-geration pedigrees. 1% includes less than 1%; 20% includes over 20%

What do these results mean? Does the high proportion of outcross champions simply mean that breeders avoid inbreeding? Well, we all know that this is far from the case and that the reverse is true; the standard practice is to inbreed. Therefore, could the imports be responsible for the high number of outcross champions? Again, this is not true. Of the 76 total outcross champions (i.e. those with 0% inbreeding) only 21 have been progeny of imports. Most of the progeny of imports show some degree of inbreeding because of the custom of mating daughters of Dutch imports to other Dutch imports, daughters of American imports to other American imports, etc. It would therefore seem that inbreeding as commonly used is not the key to success that it is claimed to be. So why are so many of the champions derived from outcrosses? Why does inbreeding sometimes work, yet presumably most times does not? Some answers are provided by the results of the following study.

Continued >>>>>

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