Beagle X Labrador Retriever puppy, “Klondike” now 9 months old is one of the first pups in the world to be born from a frozen embryo. He is a happy, healthy and very typical puppy, well developed and full of playful energy and the curiosity regarding just about everything, as puppies inclined to be!
Whilst his parents breeds are not endangered ones it is hoped that the technique used to produce Klondlike will also, in the future be used on and to preserve endangered and rare canine species, for example, the red wolf.
The technique in question is known as cryopreservation, a process that involves collecting and freezing, in this case scenario, fertilised eggs. Fertilisation occurs when as with Klondlike’s surrogate mum – a beagle, the female dog is able to become pregnant, and the embryo transferred to her. This is known as artificial insemination. Timing is vital as she will only “come on heat” once or twice yearly, so the window of time in which canine pregnancy can occur is very limited.
““Reproduction in dogs is remarkably different than in other mammals. We’re working to understand these differences so we can tackle issues ranging from developing contraceptives to preserving the genetic diversity of endangered animals through assisted reproduction.” Alex Travis, who worked on the project and is director of Cornell’s campus-wide Centre for Wildlife Conservation.
Mongrels (mixed breed dogs) do not generally display extremes in temperament or behaviour. Consequently they tend to be more flexible and are better equipped to adapt to a wider variety of households and lifestyles and can make for great family pets. They are not expensive to purchase and many are eagerly awaiting loving homes in rescue centres.
Most mongrels have good genetic diversity, (combination of unrelated genes carrying many different traits) and usually have robust general health and vitality. They are also likely to be of a more natural build rather than some of the more extreme examples of todays “man-made” breeds which can be linked to increased health-related issues.
However adult size and appearance is unpredictable and certain health problems cannot be ruled out as it is not possible to test mongrel’s parents for breed specific issues. Mongrels are not the best choice if they are required for a particular skill e.g. herding. In such circumstances specific pure-breeds or purpose-bred cross-breeds would be far better equipped for the task.
Crosses between two pure-breed dogs of different breeds – increasingly known “designer dogs” usually show physical and behavioural traits similar to both parents in varying degrees. Depending on the genetic combinations this can lead to some very unique litters. They usually make great pets if trained and socialised properly to bring out the best traits in behaviour and temperament – as with any dog. Careful cross breeding may lower the chances of passing on a particular health condition if only one parent is the carrier. It could also lead to some of today’s cross-breeds evolving into the pure-breeds of tomorrow. E.g., “The Cockapoo,” “Sprocker” and “Sprollie.”
But the exact personality type a cross-breeding might produce is not predictable and neither is size, especially if noticeably different sized dog breeds are crossed. If both parents are carriers of the same particular gene hereditary breed-related health issues are very likely to appear in the cross breeds. Many cross-breeds are currently selling for two or three times as much as a pure-breed due to all the interest in “designer dogs”.
Pure-breed dogs have many physical canine characteristics including size and some temperament and behaviour traits that are predictable. Food bills, grooming requirements and amount of exercise will be easier to estimate. Knowing the original purpose of a dog’s breed can make training and understanding the dog much easier and help build a very close bond between dog and owner.
But pure-breed dogs are not GUARANTEED to develop the expected traits. Some do not “conform to the norm” for their breed. They often display the working behaviours they were bred for and these could be difficult to live with if the dog is to be purely a companion or family pet.