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Undestanding The Basics of a Dog Pedigree

Jan 3, 2008
The word "pedigree" is derived from the French pied de gris, which translated means "crane's foot." Its use is due to the fancied resemblance to the long, spreading toes of the crane of the manner in which the lines of names diverge to record the ancestry of an animal.
The term "family tree" expresses the implied idea even better than does "crane's foot," for the generations of ancestry branch out from the individual as do the branches of a tree from a trunk. The trunk throws off two main limbs, analogous to the parents, each of which divides into two smaller limbs, the grandparents, and each of those limbs divide to form two even smaller limbs, the great grandparents, and those limbs may divide and subdivide ad infinitum to show the more and more remote generations of ancestry.

The pedigree of the dog is its family tree, the record of the names of its ancestors and of their relations to one another and to it. The pedigree often includes the name of the breeder of the dog, the date of the dog's birth, its own and its parents' numbers in whatever stud book they may be registered, and other data about the animal. These added data, however informative, are not properly a part of the pedigree.

Pedigrees are now usually published simply as columns of names, which in each successive column from right to left are more widely spaced. This arrangement places the names of the parents in the first left hand column, the names of the parents' parents (the grandparents) in the second column, and so spaced that the name of the progeny appears midway vertically between the names of its parents. The pedigree may include as many generations of ancestors as its maker chooses to record or of which there are available data.

It is very unusual for members of one litter to show excellence throughout, which is an earnest that the parent stock had been almost wholly purged of its undesirable genes. Up until some two decades ago a litter of any breed in which more than a single champion developed was rare indeed. Lightning had struck twice in the same place. It has now come to be well-nigh commonplace for a thoroughly well bred litter to embrace two or three dogs worthy of their championships, and sometimes four or five.

Of course, the number of possible champions is limited by the number of puppies in the litter; it is impossible to make more champions than there are dogs. And to make a champion one must exhibit a dog, frequently with a long and arduous campaign. Many bitches, especially of the smaller breeds, produce only a limited number of puppies at a single pregnancy, and a record number of champions in one litter from such bitches is out of the question.

Moreover, championship is not the final test of excellence in a dog. Although the word "Champion" before the name of a dog implies that it is one of considerable merit, there are champions and champions, some of such magnificence in their conformation and usually their style and showmanship as to make their names famous forever, and some only good enough to get by in the limited competition in which they have won.

Many fine dogs, even great ones, fail to make championships, either because of their owner's failure to exhibit them or for some other reason such as their being prematurely crippled or their early death. So it is impossible to estimate a litter entirely by the number of champions it contains.

But that number of champions is at least an indication of the merits of the litter as a whole. A multiplicity of fine dogs in a single litter is a mark of the excellence of the genes in the parental germ plasma and the consistency of that excellence. Such a dog would have a fine pedigree.
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