Reasonable Ancestor loss

In iwdb.org 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.

Development of Inbreeding

There is ongoing discussion about using a low number of generations when calculating coefficient of inbreeding and whether that gives an accurate assessment of the measure of inbreeding. Some people will claim that the genetic bottlenecks in the breed as well as the low number of founders means all Irish Wolfhounds are highly inbred. It’s a known fact that using a higher number of generations when calculating inbreeding means an increase in the coefficient of inbreeding. Continue reading

The situation in Victoria, Australia

In Australia, there’s been an ongoing situation since 2006 when two litters were registered as purebred irish wolfhounds when they apparently were not of the ancestry claimed.

In june 2016, DNA evidence was accepted by the court as showing that an unregistered dog of unknown parentage, by the name of “Murphy” was the sire of the dogs in question. The magistrate ordered the registration of the the two bitches in question cancelled.

At iwdb.org we are grateful for the efforts of our friends in Australia to set things right. Especially Loretta van Nunspeet and Graham Jacobson have fought a long, expensive battle on behalf of our breed for close to ten years.

We believe in protecting the pedigrees. The trust Kennel Clubs put in breeders have clearly been broken in this case. We are still awaiting removal of the dogs in question from the registers of the Australian National Kennel Council. We have asked the Australian Irish Wolfhound Clubs for advice, and although not all of them have been able to give a reply yet, the message has been clear: Please remove the dogs in question.

The trustees of iwdb.org has decided to remove the two bitches who are now proved to have a sire of unknown origin. We have further decided to remove all their full siblings and all their progeny from our database. All in all, 86 dogs have been removed as we believe they are not proven to be purebred Irish Wolfhounds.

We have kept the list and will consult it for future registrations as long as the dogs are kept in the registers of the Australian National Kennel Council.
Dogs Victoria’s statement on the issue may be read here: http://www.dogsvictoria.org.au/MembersArea/LatestNews.aspx

Measurement of inbreeding

How do we measure inbreeding? For many years, the Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI) has been used as a measure for how inbred a dog is. COI is not without it faults, though. First of all, it only gives a number on how likely it is that offspring will inherit the same gene-combination from both the sire’s and dam’s side. Don’t misunderstand, it’s good to know how likely this is. But it really says nothing about the genetic diversity in the dog’s background. Because of this, we’ve chosen to also include ancestor-loss values. This is a better tool to see how many dogs are in a given dog’s pedigree, and thus how genetically diverse the dog is likely to be.

In the future we may add other measures of diversity as well. A common tool among researchers is the mean kinship values. We do find it quite hard to understand, and values aren’t easily interpreted.

We would also love to create a tool where you could trace a dog’s ancestry all the way back to the breed’s founders and see how the different lines are mixed. That will have to wait for a later version of iwdb, though. The same goes for a tool which will allow you to find dogs without a given individual in their pedigree. It would be useful, but will have to wait until a later date.

Which dogs are entered?

Unfortunately, many irish wolfhounds aren’t registered in any kennel club. Especially in the US, it’s quite common that irish wolfhounds stay unregistered, even with reputable breeders. One question we had to ask ourselves was how we handle those irish wolfhounds.

Our position is quite clear; If it isn’t registered, we can’t verify it’s origins or existence, and therefore it’s non-existent as far as the database goes. Kennel club registries are very useful for keeping track of dogs and their pedigrees. They are also useful for establishing and maintaining breeds. We would love to see all irish wolfhounds registered, and encourage breeders and owners to make sure that happens. In the meantime, we’ll have to live with estimates and breed statistics being inaccurate.

Recognised registers

We are recognising the same registers as FCI does. For some countries there are various alternative registers, which, in our opinion, doesn’t have the quality assurance we would like to see. We are not registering dogs which are on these registers.

How many wolfhounds are there?

How many irish wolfhounds are there in the world? We sometimes meet with that question, and it’s a tricky one. In order to calculate it, we would need to know that all registered dogs are in the database, and we’d need to know how many of those are still alive. We are certain we don’t have all live dogs in our dataset yet, and we are quite certain that our data on longevity is too incomplete to actually draw any conclusions on average lifespan. At the time of writing, we have date of death for 915 of the 125.000+ dogs in the database. The average longevity in our dataset is 5.77 years, whereas several studies into irish wolfhound longevity indicates a mean longevity between 6.2 and 6.7 years. If we exclude those animals that died during their first year, we end up with an average longevity of 7.25 years. As this is the way most longevity-studies work, these numbers are the official ones right now.

For those interested in statistics, the median longevity-value for all dogs with registered date of death in our database is 7.15 years.

So how do we calculate the number of irish wolfhounds alive now? By guessing and approximation. First of all ,we’ll have to exclude the previous year from calculations as a lot of those born last year won’t be in the database until yearbooks are published. We could count those who have been shown and their siblings when available, but it would still be a small amount compared to what’s actually born. Then we’d hope there’s no surge or drop in irish wolfhounds born last year compared to the previous year. We should also allow a margin for those dogs that we couldn’t find in any of our sources. We are estimating that we currently are recording around 90% of all registered irish wolfhounds.

As many animals who die young are never registered, it’s probably not fair to calculate all of those into the equation either. We believe using the median age-value of 7.15 years makes most sense.

After all this math and arguments… what’s the result? Approximately 19.500

Missing Titles

Are you worried because your dog’s titles doesn’t appear on iwdb.org? There’s no cause for concern.
A lot of our sources are yearbooks. These have information on animals being born and their parent, but at the time of publication, the dogs have no titles. It’s not our top priority to research titles either. We do understand that proud owners and breeders would like to have titles on their dogs, and will add them once we are informed of them, so please feel free to add them using the correction form on our website.
We are only recording prefixing titles, though (Mainly champion and winner-titles), so sorry if you want to add one of the many affixed titles there are out there.

Identifying dogs

There’s just so many frustrations when assembling data from many sources to create a pedigree-database of this size. One of the major stumbling blocks we’ve hit is the problems with identifying dogs.

The root to the problem is that dogs generally don’t have a universal registration-number. Irish wolfhounds have travelled the earth for many years, and these days it’s quite common to import dogs from other countries or show dogs in other countries. In some cases the dog will retain it’s original registration number. In other cases, it will get a new one. So how do we know whether it’s the same dog or not? In most cases we can check date of birth and parents to get a conclusive answer. Although it’s time consuming, it’s possible. It’s quite another thing when we inherit someone’s database with tens of thousand of entries. Having one registration number that followed the dog would make this much easier.

There’s no foolproof method of handling this. Commercial pedigree software like Breedmate will use the dog’s name as an identifier. However, that’s not a good practice either. We have several generic names which appear lots of times in our dataset. For instance, we have 14 Bran, 9 Tara and 9 Wolf in the dataset. Which of these 14 Bran is the sire to a given progeny? It gets increasingly hard to tell in these days when we also have Artificial Insemination.

Is the use of duplicate names something we used to have, but is gone in these days of Kennel Names? No. The last of our 14 Brans was born in 1994. In addition some breeders seem to recycle names, so they can have two dogs with a kennel name and the same given name over a period of less than ten years. This obviously creates problems when it comes to finding out what the pedigree of a given dog actually is, especially when they are both bred from.

Another problem we’ve run into is a question of grammar. Many kennel prefixes are used with the genitive s, like in Pitlochry’s. In English, this is correct grammar. In many other languages, the apostrophe isn’t used, so Pitlochrys would be the correct term. Breeders aren’t language experts and neither are Kennel Club registrars, so sometimes things go wrong. Thus dogs are recorded both with and without the genitive apostrophe in different sources. Some well-meaning keepers of databases try to change this double info into what they believe is correct, which leads to further problems. Adding to this, there’s no established practice, even for the same breeder in how to handle genitive apostrophe. For some litters, we will see two dogs listed with a genitive apostrophe, and two without.

The same goes for obvious misspellings. There are many dogs out there which are unfortunate
enough to have their name misspelled by their breeder or the person registering it. This problem gets even worse when we try to transcribe from other alphabets into a standard latin alphabet. Well-meaning show-secretaries and keepers of databases try to correct the spelling, resulting in two distinctly different names, making it hard to see whether the dog is registered previously or not.

Back to where we started. All these problems would be gone if we had a common registration system with kennel clubs respecting other KC’s registration numbers. We are grateful that this is being worked on, and have to live with these problems for the time being.

So how do we identify a dog once it’s input into the database? By using standard practices in database design. Every dog has a unique identifier in the database. When selecting sire and dam, we add their unique identification number to the dog in question. So the relationship is expressed solely in numbers. A dog is thus represented like this:
ID: 18457, SireId: 10620, DamId: 18464.

When we discover a duplicate in our dataset, all references to the duplicate is changed into a reference to the correct dog.

When creating relationship-statistics and looking up a dog’s pedigree, we only ever use these numbers.

Sex distribution in Irish Wolfhounds

Sometimes litter after litter is born with one sex being domninant in numbers. Genetically, it’s all a lottery whether a newborn puppy is male or female, so over time this should all even out.
Our data shows a small difference. 51.07% of the animals in the database are bitches and 48.93% are males. This gives a sex ratio of 1.04:1 in favour of bitches.

There may be several reasons for this difference, and they might be combined to show this bias. Let’s do some guesswork.

Need for registration

Whereas a dog can sire many litters, even many years after his death, a bitch has a limited timeframe to produce offspring. In our data, we have almost twice as many bitches as dogs producing offspring. In order to have a litter registered, both parents has to be registered as well. So it’s more likely that a bitch gets registered, just in case, than a dog. This is especially true in countries where breeders don’t register whole litters.

Early death

Although we should see an even number of males and females being born, those who are stillborn or die early on in life aren’t registered anywhere. We don’t have any data supporting this, but one theory might be that males have a higher risk of being stillborn or die early, which might contribute to this difference.

Not a 50/50 chance

As can be seen in other populations, nature has a way of sorting out problems, In humans, more men than women are born, although equal birth-rates for both sexes is the most rational evolutionary distribution. In humans, it is generally believed that the higher average lifespan of women compared to men could be a valid reason for more men than women being born. In dogs we have the same situation, only more pronounced.

All in all, we don’t really know the reasons for the sex-bias, but it’s there, although it’s slight.

Ownership-structure

A few words on our ownership-structure.

iwdb.org is created and maintained by breed-enthusiasts. Some are very central within breed-clubs, others are not. When we started out on this adventure, we wanted to create a resource for the whole breed. It’s very important for us that one individual can’t close down the whole thing or decide to keep the data private for whatever reasons. Free and open for all is what we are aiming for, both now and in the future.

To make sure we had a model which would secure this, we looked at several different models for ownership. In the beginning we wanted to offer the database to the breed-bodies for ownership and maintenance. What we didn’t consider was how different breed-bodies may have different aims and policies. We were afraid that such an ownership-structure would lead to chaos, endless discussions and a situation where nothing would be done. This would not be favourable for the breed or for the database.

We then came up with the idea of creating an informal trust to run the database. We had previously set up a core group of volunteers, but needed to take ownership issues out of that group and into the hands of a group of trustees.

The trustee group is self-recruiting. If one trustee leaves the group for any reason, the rest elects a new trustee. The group of trustees are all founders of the system and have been with us since we started the project. They have all proven their interest in the breed and their unselfishness in this work.

The current trustees are Per Arne Flatberg (Norway), Maura Lyons (Scotland), Edita Bérésova (Czech republic), Jean Timmins (England) and Pernille Monberg (Denmark)

You will probably notice that we are all based in Europe. Simultanously we are stressing that this is an international initiative. We do have contributors on all continents (except Antarctica, where we don’t know of any Irish Wolfhounds). However, the initiative for the database was done in Europe, which is probably why we elected all trustees from that continent. We don’t think there’s any risk of a European bias, though. Data-collection is done through all possible sources, and if anything we have been more concerned about getting data from continents where we don’t live than from Europe.