Thursday, 11 November 2010

The UK's first GM Dalmatian - and she's a winner!

Fiona (or Fiacre First and Foremost as she's more properly known) may look like any other Dalmatian but this spotted girl is a revelation - the first Dalmatian in the UK that is not homozygous for the gene that can cause the painful (and sometimes lethal) build-up of sediment in the urinary system cause by high uric acid levels (ubiquitous in the breed).  Better still,  and at her first outing last Sunday, Fiona won Best of Breed at Coventry Open Show against several "normal" Dals under an all-rounder gundog judge who was probably unaware of what she was and how very controversial this dog's appearance was in a UK showring.

Fiona is a product of the Dalmatian Backcross Project, pioneered by visionary scientist/dalmatian breeder Bob Schaible who, in the 1970s, crossed a Dal with a single Pointer in order to introduce the low-uric acid gene into the breed. Fourteen generations later, thanks to careful selection, the descendants of this one-off outcoss still carry the healthy gene and are indistinguishable from standard Dals except that they are not predisposed to the crippling problems that "purebred" Dals suffer from.

What not to like, eh?

But when I first broached the subject of these dogs with Dal breeders at Crufts 2007, one British Dalmatian Club official told me that she would rather have a suffering purebred dog than one of these "mongrels". Opinion is softening a bit here in the UK (although the British Dalmatian Club fought their recent acceptance by the Kennel Club) although I hear mobile phones ran hot ringside on Sunday when Fiona won.

Meanwhile, breeder Julie Evans (Tyrodal) tells me that she has a long waiting list for Fiona's future pups with the interest mainly coming from pet owners.  Hurrah! If more pet owners demanding healthier dogs, we'd be in a better place.

I hear that the situation in the USA regarding the LUA Dalmatains (as they are known) is also under review. Predictably, the Dalmatian Club of America (which not so long ago even banned discussion of these dogs) is fighting their acceptance but it may be a battle it will soon lose.  I understand the AKC has put the case out to an independent panel comprising vets and scientists. If this is true, it can only be a matter of time. The only objection to these dogs is on the grounds of breed purity, which of course is a nonsense argument. Time to shed these outdated notions.

If you're interested in the history of the backcrossed Dalmatians, check out this great article by guest writer Ron Zimmerman on the Terrierman blog.


  1. Aren't the breed clubs supposed to be the protectors of the breed? Aren't the kennel clubs supposed to be "for the dogs?" They act more like they're protecting their own financial and political "interests" rather than being concerned about the dogs! (She actually said she'd "...rather have a SUFFERING purebred than one of those mongrels????" You mean, like the "mongrel" who went Best of Breed over all the "suffering purebreds" last weekend?)

    A big THANK YOU to the UK's Kennel Club for allowing these so-called "mongrels" to prove themselves in the show ring. Some US Dal Club members are much too afraid to let that happen and they are fighting AKC registration in every way possible (including corrupt & unethical means). What are they so afraid of? They're afraid that the puppy-buying won't want their "suffering purebreds" and will choose a low- or normal-uric acid (LUA / NUA) Dalmatian puppy instead? (Hey, if they can't sell their pet puppies, they can't breed their "next big winner in the show ring!" and after all, that's the bottom line for many breeders, isn't it?) And they're afraid their stud dog fees (and motorhomes & pricey professional handlers) will dry up and go away!! I agree with Dr. Susie Hughes (DVM & "former" Veterinary liaison to the Dal Club of America -- I believe Dr. Hughes has resigned her membership in the DCA, as have many others) when she said the American Dal Club's stand on this issue is "wholly unethical."

    The AKC Board should not only APPROVE registration of the LUA Dalmatians, they should also sanction the Dalmatian Club and kick 3 anti LUA-Dalmatian enthusiasts out of their own "inner sanctum" ... associating with them makes the AKC appear to be just as corrupt and unethical. Such action may even have a favorable effect on the AKC's declining registrations (and therefore, $$income$$). Let's watch to see if the AKC REALLY cares about the health of the dogs and about their breed parent clubs being run ethically!

  2. Just to put the record straight the SLEW(LARGE NUMBER) of dalmatians was an entry of 14 of which 6 were absent leaving 8 one being the BOB AND ONE BEING A 6 MONTH OLD PUP HARDLY A slew!oF WHICH NONE LOOKED TO BE UNHAPPY OR SUFFERING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. What appears to be lacking from this article was the fact the judge asked to judge Dalmatians, not a breed judge either and the original group judge was taken ill, it was stage managed with photographers in tow, and was only an open show

  4. Anonymouse said..."Just to put the record straight the SLEW(LARGE NUMBER) of dalmatians was an entry of 14 of which 6 were absent leaving 8 one being the BOB AND ONE BEING A 6 MONTH OLD PUP HARDLY A slew"

    You forgot to mention one was a res CC winner!!!

  5. Jemima, I don't think that the above poster was suggesting that the win was fixed. It sounds to me more like they are suggesting that the original judge would have fixed the competition if they had been there!

    Personally I suspect that the lady who did judge the competition would be quite offended to hear that some people consider her opinion to be worthless because she is not a specialist Dalmatian judge!
    Equally, I suspect the judge who fell ill would also be horrified to her that people expect her to discount a competitor based on its heritage rather than on its appearance and temperament!
    And finally, I am sure that all of the judges and competitors would be quite upset to hear that their opinions/victories on the day are not worth anything because it "was only an open show".

  6. Yes the competitors were pretty upset, due to the fact they wasted their money on a foregone conclusion, never mind another day and another judge

  7. Congratulations to Fiona and her owner. I hope this is the first of many wins.
    I read about a Dalmation dog who died while in boarding kennels. He was found one morning lying dead in a pool of blood and urine. What agony he must have suffered.
    How can anyone believe such a risk is acceptable?

  8. I attended this show and had a very nice day out thanks to everyone who helped put it on, i did not see the Dalmatians judging so can not comment however i did see the puppy in the best puppy in show line up and she looked loverly and happy

  9. My apologies Jemima, evidently there are people out there who actually believe that Fiona's owner possesses the resources to fix a show! I would be intrigued to learn how Ms Evans arranged for the original judge to be ill on the day - poison perhaps? And then to replace the original judge with one of her own choosing? I guess she must have bribed the officials arranging the show?
    No, I think these people are just showing how paranoid they are about the presence of NUA Dalmatians in their midst.

    The sad reality is that while Fiona was lucky enough to go up against an unprejudiced judge on this occasion she will not be so lucky in the future. There will be many judges who will not even consider her simply because they know that she carries the NUA gene. Sad isn't it...

  10. it was the group judge who was changed, not the breed class judge. the breed class judge was the original as per the schedule. Fiona won under the breed class judge but got no further in the group under the replacement group judge.

  11. I was one of the "other competitors" and certainly didn't "waste my money"! Actually really enjoyed my day out at a local, well organised Open Show, where I stayed to the end to watch the Dalmatian Puppy in the Best Puppy in Show Line up!

  12. Well anything that stops an animal suffering must be a good thing right?

  13. Great Article Jemima....would love to see this with the many other breeds who are facing such deadly and debilitating genetic issues. Opening of the stud books or changing of faulty (health/soundness/longevity/functionality compromising) cosmetic traits in breed standards should be a more readily accepted and available option when a breed's gene pool has become so severely compromised. That which promotes better health, soundness and/or longevity for a breed IS the definition of "for the betterment of the breed".

    JL Wortham-Morgan
    Blessing's CSP

  14. It's good to see that there are breeders who are putting health before "purity". I would rather have a mixed-breed that is healthy ANY day than one prone to health problems. Even if they don't have the inherited problems- breeders should try to prevent problems before they occur- not just treat them once they've shown up!