Visualising inbreeding

Paying attention to inbreeding levels is important for breeders, breed bodies and buyers.

Kennel Clubs worldwide recommend low inbreeding levels. They want to combat genetic diseases and inbreeding depression in breeds. Recommendations vary a bit. We find the recommendations of The Kennel Club to be quite sensible with some adjustments.
[…]where possible, breeders should produce puppies with an inbreeding coefficient which is at, or below, the annual breed average and ideally as low as possible.
The point being made is that we need to breed below current levels in order to not increase inbreeding in general. We believe a one year perspective might be a little low as it’s vulnerable to fluctuations based on just a few litters, and have chosen to work on the last ten years instead. We also find the idea of just working with national averages a bit outdated, and have chosen to use the whole world for our baseline data.


We struggled a bit on how we could show inbreeding understandably. Could we use a diagram? Maybe a combination of line and bar graphs? Maybe use a table?

Graph showing a sample litter and the level of inbreeding compared to the breed average
We chose to provide a “speedometer” type dial to show levels of inbreeding. If the arrow points to the green area, the inbreeding levels are below average. Yellow is around average values. The red is above average values. The max-value is the highest recorded coefficient of inbreeding in that period. It should thus be quite easy to see if a dog is more or less inbred than the average. We also provide a description, stating what average values are at.

We’ve previously created a handy table on inbreeding in the Irish wolfhound population.

Reading healthchecks

We have added quite a lot of health data to the database. These are public records containing results from screening programs. We are making progress in opening up for user-submitted data, but aren’t quite there yet.

Types of data

Most of the screening results fall into one of four categories:

  • Hips or Hip Dysplasia (HD)
  • Elbows or Elbow Dysplasia (ED)
  • Heart/Cardiac
  • Eyes

In addition there is some data on Patella Luxation (PL), Spondylosis, Thyroid levels, and some other problems, but the bulk of our data fall into one of the top categories.

Hips and Hip Dysplasia

There are numerous ways to annotate data on hip dysplasia. If the result is seen as a single letter, it’s the worst grade of the two hip joints. The scale is as follows:

  • A: No signs of Hip Dysplasia
  • B: Near Normal Hip Joints
  • C: Mild Hip Dysplasia
  • D: Moderate Hip Dysplasia
  • E:  Severe Hip Dysplasia

This scoring-system is used throughout most FCI-countries. However, in the US, Canada, Switzerland, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand other systems are used. The US and Canada use the OFA-scoring mode, whereas the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand use what’s called the BVA/KC-scoring mode. In Germany a more finetuned version of the FCI-system is used. You may read more on these different scoring modes in this excellent article.

For comparision, we’ve put together the following table:

FCIUK, AU, NZSwitzerlandUSA (OFA)
A0-30-2Excellent and Good
B4-83-6Good and Fair
C9-187-12Borderline and mild

In some older screening systems, the grade NR is also recorded, meaning No Remark, which would be similar to A or Excellent.

Elbows and Elbow Dysplasia

For elbows and elbow dysplasia, systems have become much more standardised over the last few years. While Elbow Dysplasia can mean a number of different things, the systems used throughout the world grades elbow dysplasia according to this:

  • Grade 0 = normal elbows (no enthesophyte formation)
  • Grade 1 = Mild ED (<2mm thickness of new bone formation)
  • Grade 2 = Moderate ED or a primary lesion (2mm to <5 mm of new bone)
  • Grade 3 = Severe ED (5+ mm of new bone formation or ununited anconeal process)

Some countries will grade both elbows separately. You will then see scores for each elbow (0/1 for example), while others only list the worst elbow without further information (2 for example). You may occasionally see NR used on older elbow-tests as well. That means No Remark, transforming to grade 0.

The Orthopedic Foundation For Animals has an excellent article on Elbow Dysplasia here  which also explains terms used.

Heart and Cardiac

While there are established systems in place for hips and elbows, the territory for heart problems and the cardiac system is more unclear. First off, there’s numerous ways to examine a canine heart. Most breed bodies recommend a composite check, consisting of ausculation, ElectroCardioGram (ECG) and EchoCardioGram (Cardiac Ultrasound). There are several methods to evaluate these results. There’s some consensus across Europe to use the Vollmar-protocol for evaluating results, except for Great Britain where a separate UK-scheme is used. In the US, the screening results recorded by OFA are more varied, but to our knowledge, full tests are done when results are marked with Cardiologist, Echo.

Most screening programs will use a 3-step grading:

  • Normal
  • Abnormal
  • Equivocal

The Irish Wolfhound Health Group has an excellent article on heart disease in the Irish Wolfhound on their website.


You will know there are a number of eye diseases that can affect a dog. The screening result will display what disease (if any) was found. For checks of type Eyes (CERF) and a result which is a number, the number indicates which year the eyes were certified to be fine. If there are any remarks here, they will explain what was wrong.

Status on pedigree-data

The Irish wolfhound database is by no means complete. Although our goal is to record the pedigree of every Irish wolfhound ever, we are not able to reach that goal. The main reason is that we don’t have access to all Kennel Club registers, and not all Kennel Club registers are complete. If you are familiar with the wolfhound population in one of the countries where our coverage is less than complete, we would be very grateful if you would help us by sharing your data.

Here’s the status on countries where we have registered irish wolfhounds as of december 2017:

  • Argentia
    Probably complete
  • Australia
    Complete through 2019
  • Austria
    Complete through 2019
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
    Complete through 2018 with some missing data from the 70s
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany
    Complete through 2018
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
    Complete through 2018
  • Japan
    Complete through 2018
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
    Probably complete
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Namibia
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
    Complete through 2018
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
    Complete – but missing parental information on a number of hounds
  • Zimbabwe

Private notes

Private notes and annotations is a new feature of It’s main use is for annotating pedigrees with information that may not be public or doesn’t fit in the framework.

What kind of info fits?

Different people will use private notes for different things. It all comes down to what’s important for you. Here’s some ideas as to what info might fit you:

  • Show results
  • Your own impression of the dog
  • Temperament
  • Known diseases and treatments
  • Confidential information like age and cause of death if not known in iwdb
  • Veteran-status
  • Semen-storage

The list could be made much longer, but we do hope you get the idea.

How is the information protected?

We take your privacy very seriously and acknowledge that private information is just that: Private information. To ensure that, all information you enter is encrypted with a special key that itself is also encrypted. Without the original key, information is gibberish. We are using state of the art encryption techniques, which means the information is safe from most intruders. Security is always a compromise between practicality and security however, and no information entered online is completely safe.

How do I add and edit info?

To use this feature you have to be logged in as a registered user of If you are, adding and editing info is easy through the small text labeled Add Private info underneath each dog’s listing. Click it, and an inline editing window will show up. When you’re done, just click save. You are free to use formatting and HTML in these listings.

If you’re not a registered user, we suggest you become one. It’s free and easy. Just click the button Register/Login, choose register and enter details. You will receive a confirmation-mail which asks you to confirm. Once done, you are logged in and may start using private notes

How to read a pedigree

There’s a neverending discussion as to what can be read from a pedigree. We don’t have any definitive answers, but would like to give some insight into what we have chosen to show in pedigrees at, and  a general primer into the practices used around the world.

The pedigree itself lists ancestors of the dog in question. It’s the blueprint which may tell you what to expect when it comes to how the dog looks and behaves, but also which diseases you may expect and what longevity you may reasonably hope for. Pedigree-information is the most important tool you have for breeding quality dogs.

In there’s also tons of information that will help breeders do breedings that’s good for the breed instead of damaging it’s genetic distribution.

Why pedigrees?

Why do we need pedigrees at all? We sometimes meet with people who don’t use pedigree information in their breeding and some don’t see the point in pedigrees or indeed pedigree dogs. So we had a long thought about the whole point of pedigrees and creating things like

A dog’s blueprint

The pedigree is the blueprint from which a dog is created. With proper knowledge of the dogs appearing in the pedigree, it’s quite possible to have a good mental approximation of what the final result of any mating are likely to be. That goes for looks, mentality, potential for longevity andrisk of diseases.

Of course, nothing’s certain when it comes to genetics. Everything’s governed by probabilities, but at least you have a good chance of altering the odds in your favour by using good pedigree data.

Combating genetic disease

Pedigrees are essential to combat genetic diseases when they spring up now and again. Maybe the best example is in how the breed tackled PRA (Progressive Retinal Athropy) when that first started showing up.  Liz Thornton has an excellent article about how we worked together to lower the risk of PRA-offspring. The point here is that it wouldn’t be possible without information on pedigrees.

The article also mentions Anne Janis’ free and excellent risk assessment. She uses pedigree data extensively together with information – often given to her in strict confidentiality to calculate the risk of diseases like PRA.

Documenting our history

Did you know that the Irish wolfhound is being considered for enrolment in UNESCO’s World Heritage list? Many of us believe the breed is a vital part of the Irish heritage and as such the world heritage. Yes, it’s that important. Without pedigrees, we wouldn’t have any history to point at, and the Irish wolfhound would just be considered any big dog. With pedigrees, we can all trace the history of our dogs back to the few remaining Irish wolfhounds in the mid 19th century. Most dogs in has pedigrees going back that far. These data are an enormously important part of the breed history.

Making sure we are on the right track

Geneticists can tell us what we should do (Don’t inbreed, keep the effective population size high, breed for health and longevity). Without pedigrees, there’s no way we can actually do that. Think of as the Icelandic dating app which will help you make sure your bedpartner isn’t genetically unsafe. We provide tools that help breeders do what’s best for the breed and breed bodies to keep an eye on what’s happening. Without pedigrees, it would all be impossible.

All these things are equally true for other pedigree breeds as well. They may not have as good a tool as we have (although some have), but we are getting there. There’s also inititatives going on between the various international kennel clubs to make an international, all breeds, complete database. That probably won’t happen in the next few decades, though.

The IWDB Companion site

Welcome to the IWDB companion site. We complement our Irish Wolfhound Pedigree database at This is a repository for help on the main site. It’s an educational resource on pedigrees. It’s a blog with things we find interesting. We aim to provide useful information for users and researchers alike.

Private Info

In, you may enter private info on any dog in the database. It’s basically anything that’s of interest to you and isn’t available in the database already. No limitations.

The info you input is encrypted with state of the art encryption tools, and is only available to you when you are logged in with your account and password. All info is stored in encrypted form in our databases and not accessible to others.

Reasonable Ancestor loss

In we are showing ancestor loss for our dogs. The ancestor loss shows how many individuals are “lost” due to repeat occurences in the pedigrees. The more unique animals available, the more genetically diverse a dog is likely to be. This is generally considered good for it’s health and for the breed’s health.

Due to genetic bottlenecks in the breed’s history and historical breeding practices, we don’t have any dogs with all unique ancestors, not even going just 10 generation back. For 10 generations, the highest recorded number of unique ancestors at the time of writing is 967 (out of a possible 2,046). The average number of unique ancestors for the litters recorded in 2015 is 583. For the breed’s genetic health, it’s a good practice to breed with more unique ancestors than the breed’s average.