Breeding to Establish a Bloodline
by Patrick C. Ormos
I have been showing dogs since the early 1960's, and breeding dogs since 1968 - Cardigans since 1980. Cathy Ochs-Cline and I bred our first joint litter in 1984. Since then we have produced many champions, and achieved some success in our breed. Do we have a bloodline yet?
There are several steps that are vital to the establishment of a bloodline. First and foremost is a clear picture of what you are aiming at. Can you describe clearly the perfect dog in your breed? Do you have a picture of that dog in your mind's eye that you can hold before you as a yardstick to measure every other dog against?
Granted, that picture will change over time as you become more and more educated about the breed. It may change slightly, or it may change radically - but eventually, if you are to be successful in establishing a bloodline, it must settle down and become firmly fixed in your mind's eye.
Your second task is education. You must educate that eye by filling it with as much visual information as possible. In other words, go see a lot of dogs in this breed. Get a chance to see a lot of different dogs from different places and different bloodlines. Look at photos and films of dogs from other countries so that you can begin to understand what the concept "type" means in this particular breed and then as you begin to refine that concept, you will begin to understand what "style" means within the boundaries of type.
Ch. Parmel Dambuster was a wonderful style of Cardigan, way ahead of his time. Ch. Brymore's Taliesin was another great style of Cardigan. They epitomized the sense of long and low. Many of the Kentwood dogs have a very similar style within themselves, but it is a different sense from the long and low dogs that came from Parmel or Pantyblaidd. The old Dilwel dogs also had a sense of style within themselves, but again, it was different. Which do you prefer, and why?
If you look here in North America you will again see some strong differences. Look at the Rhydowen dogs before Luc and Pogo, and after Luc and Pogo. Look at the Pluperfect dogs. Look at the Aragorn dogs. They all have different styles. What makes them different? That is the key question for an educated eye - and therefore a key question for the establishment of a bloodline.
Having begun to educate your eye, then you go on to procure the best bitch you can find. This has been spoken about so much in so many different places that I will not repeat it. This is key. I began with Kentwood Lyneth and Twinroc Honey of Demondo.
Then begins the second phase of the education project - learning about the strengths and weaknesses of different bloodlines, and of the foundation bitch that you have. What needs to be corrected, what is strongest, what breeds on, what will disappear in the next generation, how do the puppies develop - slow, fast, moderate? When do the puppies go through their ugly stage? Some of this can be learned from other breeders, and some must be garnered from the school of hard knocks. Cathy and I agreed to neuter and place some of Lyneth's first litter at 2+ years because they were still immature - at 3 and a half, we discovered that we were VERY wrong! Unfortunately you can't glue on what you took off! Lyneth's pups matured much more slowly than we had seen before.
The next phase is the actual breeding. This requires a much longer sense of planning than most people are willing to do. What do you want to see in five generations? Most people seem to think only of the immediate generation in front of them, and the next one after that. I firmly believe that you need to think several generations down the road. How are you going to get there? Where do you anticipate the need to be flexible? How are you going to weave together your different lines to produce a tapestry?
Aragorn and Pluperfect both used very close line breeding to weave that tapestry. Rhydowen discovered an interesting "click" when they bred Luc and Pogo progeny to each other, and began weaving those two lines with their preexisting ones to achieve a new blend. Phi-Vestavia began weaving a broad base of Kentwood Arnallt, Joseter Mudwin, Brymore's Taliesin and Eastwyn Miss Friendly together. During the development years, some bloodlines were discarded, some took sharp turns, and others were added (Kennebec Ice Anchor). Always the image of what a Cardigan could be remained sharp in our eyes.
Perseverance is the final key. You've got to be willing to stick by your guns when everyone else thinks you're nuts. (And you've got to be flexible enough to admit when you've gone astray!) Breeding Twinroc Honey of Demondo to Talbot's Steer 'Em Right Billy was considered fairly nutty by many people. But it produced both Phi's Flower Power and Phi-Vestavia Nautilus' grandmother! Without that key breeding we never would have had Phi's Amazing Grace ap Ronel (Hillary, Percy's dam) who has become a key bitch in our breeding program, and in many others' through her descendants. That breeding produced Flower Power who was a completely different look than either of her parents and much, much closer to my ideal of a Cardigan. She had sufficient leg length to move, lovely elegance and a stunning head piece. She also had some, dare I say it, faults - but, that's what the next generation is for. Unfortunately she never bred on. We tried breeding her to Pat Santi's Pogo and that didn't take. So - here's the flexibility factor - we went back to her litter sister and bred her to a closely related stud - and got Hillary. The rest is history.
Over the years we've had almost every disaster happen at one time or other. My first litter of German Shepherds died from faulty distemper vaccines (back in the 60's), and the surviving male went blind in one eye. My first two litters of Cardigans, born within a week of each other, got Parvo and we lost all but four pups! We've sold pups who were subsequently killed in accidents of all kinds, had dogs stolen, had dogs disappear, etc. We've had wonderful litters planned to have only three pups born, or never take. Gloria's first litter was carefully bred, and then she whelped a week early - in her crate - we lost four of them! Disasters happen... do you have perseverance?
There are NO quick formulas to
producing a bloodline - only hard work. You don't produce a bloodline in a few generations
- it takes a long time. The point of a bloodline, as I've written elsewhere, is that your
dogs become recognizable as a subset of breed type, they develop a style all their own. It
takes a good eye, knowledge of genetics, depth knowledge of breed history and bloodline
history, and luck. When all of those work together, then you have a bloodline - a style.
Have we got a bloodline yet? I think Phi-Vestavia dogs are just now becoming recognizable,
but it's taken 12 years and 5-6 generations - and, truth be told, I don't think it's quite
there yet. But, we'll keep working on it.