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Limited genetic divergence between dog breeds from geographically isolated countries
  1. K. M. Summers, BSc, PhD1,
  2. R. Ogden, BSc, PhD2,
  3. D. N. Clements, BSc, BVSc, DSAS(Orth), DipECVS, PhD, MRCVS1,
  4. A. T. French, MVB, PhD, CertSAM, DVC, DipECVIM-CA(Cardiology), MRCVS, FHEA3,
  5. A. G. Gow, BVM&S, DSAM, DipECVIM-CA, MRCVS1,
  6. R. Powell, MA, VetMB, DipRCPath, DipACVP, FRCPath, MRCVS4,
  7. B. Corcoran, MVB, DipPharm, PhD, MRCVS1,
  8. R. J. Mellanby, BSc, BVMS, PhD, DSAM, DipECVIM-CA, MRCVS1 and
  9. J. P. Schoeman, BVSc, MMedVet(Med), PhD, DSAM, DECVIM, MRCVS5
  1. 1The Roslin Institute and The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK
  2. 2WildGenes Laboratory, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Edinburgh EH12 6TS, UK
  3. 3Small Animal Hospital, University of Glasgow, Bearsden Road, Glasgow G61 1QH, UK
  4. 4Powell Torrance Diagnostic Services, Manor Farm Business Park, Higham Gobion, Hertfordshire SG5 3HR, UK
  5. 5Department of Companion Animal Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort 0110, Republic of South Africa
  1. E-mail for correspondence: kim.summers{at}

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BREED specifications for pure-bred/pedigree dogs are laid down by the organisations that register and judge dogs, such as the Kennel Club of the UK (KCUK) and the Kennel Union of South Africa (KUSA), as well as the umbrella body the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). Reproductive isolation between breeds results because animals can only be registered as a specific breed if they have five previous generations of ancestors registered as the same breed, creating a ‘breed barrier’ which promotes genetic differences among breeds. This genetic isolation in a population of UK dogs (Mellanby and others 2013) has been demonstrated previously. The lowest heterozygosities of around 0.5 were found for breeds such as the German shepherd dog, rottweiler and boxer dog, indicative of a reasonably high level of inbreeding. Labrador retrievers and border collies had heterozygosities of around 0.7, indicating greater genetic diversity. The Jack Russell terrier is not a registered breed with the KCUK. This group had a heterozygosity of close to 0.8 and maintained a high degree of genetic variability.

The authors were interested to assess whether dog breeds in another country had similar levels of genetic isolation. Three popular breeds were chosen, which showed differing heterozygosities in the UK: the German shepherd dog, the labrador retriever and the Jack Russell terrier (Mellanby and others 2013). Breed specifications for the labrador retriever were identical for the KCUK and the KUSA, whereas the specification for the German shepherd dog in South Africa is taken from the FCI criteria rather than the KCUK criteria which are very similar. The Jack Russell is not a KCUK-registered breed (Mellanby and others 2013) but is registered with the KUSA, conforming to the breed standard of the Australian National Kennel Council. Therefore, it might be expected to show …

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