Yesterday, the public radio show Science Friday featured a segment on the Bulldog in response to the publication last week of a paper which detailed the lack of genetic diversity in English Bulldogs. (See last week's blog on this here)
The show pitches the paper's lead author Professor Niels Pedersen against another scientist, Peter Photos.
Photos is scientific advisor to the Bulldog Club of America and he has a PhD in biomolecular engineering, so it should have been lively.
Instead, Photos clings to the old mantra that the breed standard is a template for good health when adhered to by responsible breeders and blamed ill-health in Bulldogs on irresponsible breeders.
No, says Pedersen... the Bulldog's ill health is due to simply being a Bulldog. Dogs, he says, were never meant to be flat-faced dwarves with deep wrinkles and a genetically-compromised immune system.
Photos also claims that Pedersen's own work shows that Bulldogs are not that badly off in terms of genetic health compared to others.
No, says Pedersen, the UC Davis team has only found one other (as yet unnamed) breed with less diversity than the Bulldog.
Have a listen here. It's fab.
By the way, whenever I hear scientists sounding like they've drunk kennel club kool-aid, I always go hunting for their kennel name.
And it is no surprise to learn that Peter Photos, along with his partner Blake Hamman, is a breeder of French Bulldogs.
But, boy, I'm so sick of this. Do dog breeders and kennel clubs have any idea what it looks like to an outside world when the default response to research findings they find uncomfortable is to go into full-on-denial... to challenge peer-reviewed science ... to accuse the researchers of some kind of anti-purebred dog bias? (There has, sadly, been plenty of that on bulldog social media in the past week.)
If you are truly dog lovers please embrace the science - it is you and your dogs' friend.
There has, by way of example, been a good response from Poodle breeders following Professor Pedersen and his team's analysis of the genetic diversity of that breed (see here). They are using the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab's test to breed Poodles with stronger immune systems and less chance of disease.
The correct response from the Bulldog breeders isn't to retreat behind a wall and wail that its not fair. It is to pull together internationally and submit swabs to UC Davis's VGL to get a broader picture of the genetic diversity in the breed; perhaps also bring on board a population geneticist to advise the breed. This might give you some more wiggle room. And if it doesn't then you need to do what's right by your dogs - outcross to a different breed to enable you to build better Bulldogs.
You love your dogs enough to do right by them - don't you?