Sunday 2 September 2018

Crazy in Croatia: breed's country of origin bans healthier Dalmatians

The Croatian Kennel Club has just announced that it will no longer register LUA Dalmatians - citing that science is on its side.

The problem? The dogs are not pure!

LUA stands for Low Uric Acid - and it relates to a line of Dalmatians bred down from a single cross to an AKC champion English Pointer 40 years ago. The outcross was done to introduce a healthy version of a gene lost in purebred Dalmatians and it prevents the dogs from suffering from a painful and occasionally life-threatening health problem.

(For the historical lowdown, see this clip from Pedigree Dogs Exposed: Three Years On)

In their refinement of the breed, breeders of Dalmatians managed to inadvertently lose the healthy version of a gene that codes for uric acid production - the only breed of dog in which this has happened. As a result, there was no way to reinstate it in Dalmatians without an outcross.

Thus, the Pointer cross has simply restored an allele (gene variant) that exists in every other breed of dog. Indeed, after 20 or so generations, it is likely almost the only thing to remain from the original one-off cross. The added bonus in the LUA breeding programme is that the dogs have been well-documented/monitored by very health conscious breeders.

There are now hundreds if not thousands of LUA Dals being bred and shown, with both the American Kennel Club and the UK Kennel Club among those who have recognised and registered the LUA Dalmatians (albeit after an almighty campaign, including by this blog).  Via a reciprocal agreement with the FCI, these dogs have now been bred and shown across Europe and elsewhere for some years now - including in Croatia.

It is true that there were issues with the breed's all-too-important spots not being perfect enough for the show-ring in earlier generations, but today's top dogs are indistinguishable from 'normal' Dalmatians and are winning well in the show-ring, with the added bonus that they do not suffer from the painful and at times life-threatening bladder stones that effect at least 10% of 'normal' Dalmatians. Affected Dalmatians have to be fed a low-purine diet and find it difficult/painful to pee. At worst they can die from a blockage/burst bladder.

Now, the breed's country of origin has taken the insane step to ban them.

On the Dalmatian Club of Croatia's Facebook page they state:
"...we want to improve the breeding, breed healthy dogs and there's no place for mix breed... We just wanted to all let you know that LUA Dalmatians are huge NO in Croatia, mother land of Dalmatians."

Motherland. Fatherland. Vaterland...

Any similarity to German wartime rhetoric is of course, entirely coincidental.

The scrap is being played out on Facebook here and, rather amusingly, having stated that the dogs are 'inferior' and not to the standard, it turns out that one of Croatia's top breeders and judges gave one a great critique at a recent show.

No, no response yet to this proof offered two days ago..

Sadly, Bulgaria has also recently taken the retrograde step to ban LUA Dalmatians.

Let's be clear.  There is zero scientific rationale for not accepting these dogs - and considerable scientific and ethical reasons why the decision by the Croatian Kennel Club is retrograde madness.

Does it matter?  After all, aren't Bulgaria and Croatia minor Kennel Clubs?  Perhaps we should just let them be and get on elsewhere with breeding beautiful, healthy Dalmatians?

Well yes it does matter. Croatia IS the official breed's country of origin (disputable in fact if you really dig into the breed's history) and there is real and genuine concern that this anti-science nonsense could spread.

The fight to get the LUA Dals recognised was a long and fractious one, particularly in the USA. Unfortunately there are still those in the breed outside of Croatia who believe these dogs are mongrels and unwelcome. (Still no mention of the LUA Dals on the British Dalmatian Club website either....)

What we need now is a virtual scientific delegation to write to the Croatian Kennel Club asking them to reconsider on scientific and welfare grounds - and in particular to counter the extraordinary supporting statement written by a Croatian biologist called Krunoslav Brčić-Kostić.

You can read that here and frankly I don't know where to start. The man should be ashamed of himself. But basically, these are the reasons for advising that allowing the LUA Dals would be a bad thing.
  • the high probability that the LUA population possess Pointer genes closely linked to the SLC2A9 gene, and among them are breed specific genes responsible for the development and quality of spots
  •  the possibility of introducing some deleterious alleles from Pointer
  • and the well known fact from population genetics that it is very difficult to eliminate deleterious recessive alleles.
I've already addressed the spotting issue, above. Re the possibility of introducing some deleterious alleles... well nothing has popped up yet and the outcross was done 45 years ago.  And finally, if he was a conservation biologist worth his salt, he would know that there is no need to "eliminate deleterious recessive alleles" - every living thing has them and they really are just fine unless you increase the chance of them meeting up by inbreeding inside a closed gene pool.  For a start, these alleles are rarely discrete entities that only code for one thing (eg the mutation for sickle cell anaemia also confers protection against malaria). 

Nope. This has nothing to do with health and no one should be fooled.  It is all about purity at all costs.  

And as for this...
"The Dalmatian Dog breed was not established in 1975 nor in 2005. It is a historical breed which traces to a distant past, and this should be respected. The formation of the Dalmatian breed was accompanied with the acquirement of genetic load for deafness and metabolism of uric acid. This was the only option since without that the Dalmatian breed would not be possible."
Makes my skin crawl. The reasons so many Dalmatians are deaf is because of human selection for a dog that is too white - and a specific requirement that they should not have coloured patches on their ears (which would be protective against deafness.) Plus it's perfectly possible that it is relatively recent selection for ever more perfect spotting that resulted in the the HUA gene in normal Dals becoming fixed. Historical images show a very different-looking dog.


Brenda Bonnet and the team at the International Partnership for Dogs would be well-placed to do this - perhaps with the support of Danika Bannasch who did so much of the original gene research on this issue, plus any veterinary associations willing to add their name?

Hopefully it will be possible to get this decision overturned.

Further reading:


  1. I can't help thinking that if the original outcross to the Pointer had been done in a clandestine manner, with the paperwork being fudged and a "false paternity event wink wink nudge nudge" having taken place, the Dalmatian would have been better off and the clubs would pretty much never have even noticed. It's been done in many breeds, pretty much an open secret half the time. Heck, one of the earliest British Boxer champions was a Dogue de Bordeaux.

    1. I never knew that about the Boxer, although I will admit I never had the incentive to look it up. I do remember one of the founding studs of another breed being a cross or different breed, but forget which (it was a large mastiff type, forget which. Maybe Saint Bernard???), where the modern fanciers would pop a blood vessel if anyone were to bring it up nowadays. What was the name of this champion?

  2. De Kroaten in de bocht..... En voor wie denkt "ach, laat die Kroaten lekker lullen".......... Zij zijn het land van origine en kunnen de FCI standaard aanpassen, mochten ze daar brood in zien - dicht gestikte smoel smiley -

  3. The lady mentioned above judged my LUA dog. She knew he was LUS, gave him BOB with a lovely critique and asked for mating him to a bitch from her kennel. At the same moment she told me that LUA was just bullshit

    1. Which just goes to show that she can recognise an LUA Dalmatian simply for being a good Dalmatian, to an extend that she will award him BOB in the full knowledge that he carries the gene. So what is the problem again? Wasn't the argument that LUA Dalmatians would spoil the type?

  4. AS a breeder or LUA Dalmatians....I can tell you that LUA is GOOD thing for the breed, and anyone who has ever watched a Dalmatian suffer through the kidney stones and the pain, and then eventually the unbearably painful death that can occur from would agree! I dont understand why people are soooo utterly STUPID as to not want a healthier breed! Obviously we have few generations of dog breeders and ACK judges and rule makers that need to hurry up and retire/die off and let some new younger SENSIBLE people into the ring!

  5. The Croatian Dalmatian Club has lost its grip on reality.

    First, like so many breed clubs, they have forgotten that, as “guardians of the breed” they are guardian of actual, living, breathing dogs. A breed is not some abstraction that exists only on pedigrees. It exists in the physical and behavioural characteristics of the dogs themselves—and this includes their welfare. No breed of dog should be required to suffer.

    The Croatian Dalmatian Club has decided that all “Dalmatians” in its jurisdiction must live with a genetic mutation that leaves them highly prone to the development of urate stones and crystals. About one in every five males with a double copy of that mutated gene will suffer from painful, life-threatening urinary blockage.

    The Croatians should at least put it in their breed standard: “Clear spotting, good movement, and a strong tendency to form lethal urate stones and crystals.”

    Purity in breeding is only of value insofar that it helps retain a breed’s characteristics of form and behaviour. The behaviour of agonisingly straining to pass urine should not considered essential to the Dalmatian.

    To add further delusions to their argument, the Croatian Dalmatian Club claims “It's our native breed no matter how other countries want to have it as their native breed. FCI accepted it as origin of Dalmatian and that fact won't change. Never.”

    Fact? Their main argument is based on the name and the existence of a fresco and an altar painting that include a Dalmatian in churches in or very near Dalmatia. No other record or dependable folk memory of Dalmatians in Dalmatia exists. The artworks date back to about 1630, and the Croatians claim they are the earliest paintings of the breed known.

    This ignores the existence of very similar dogs in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings and on classical Grecian pottery where they accompany charioteers on the hunt. It also ignores wonderful paintings including hunting Dalmatians done by Paul de Vos (1591-1678), Jan Fyt (1611-1661), Rubens (1577-1640), Charles le Brun (1617-1690), Frans Snyders (1579-1657), and Justus Sustermans(1597-1681), who painted a portrait of Francesco di Cosimo II de’Medici (1614-1634) with his Dalmatian sitting at his side. If artwork is deciding the issue, Belgium wins!

    I cannot discover who created the two Dalmatian works. Was it a even local artist? Artists travel, take commissions far from their homes. And religious art in particular is more a matter symbolism than a reflection of reality.

    The breed name itself is no clue. It was first used in print, by all accounts, in 1790 by Englishman, Thomas Bewick, in A General History of Quadrupeds. Prior to that, an assortment of other names were used including Plum Pudding Dog, Little Danish Dog, and simply “spotted coach dog”. There is no evidence of Dalmatians in Croatia at that time. As the breed had been imported into England to hunt stag, the name most likely is a corruption of the old French name for a stag hound: Dama-chien. It might also refer to the clerical robe known as the Dalmaticus, which was trimmed with spotted ermine. This might explain its presence in the religious paintings of Croatia.

    The FCI needs to change its acceptance of Croatia as the home of this wonderful breed. As the Croatian Dalmatian Club has proved, Croatia is no home for Dalmatians.

  6. Madness. Madness and stupidity.

  7. Thank you Sarah Morgan for true facts... I wish I could write so well.

  8. A search through Christian iconography shows that black and white dogs are sometimes used as a symbol of the Dominican order based on a pun: "Domini canes" in Latin means "the dogs/hounds of the Lord" and sounds rather like Dominican. One of the artworks is not in a Dominican building, but the Dominicans were strong in the area. This, rather than an abundance of Dalmatians is the most likely reason for their inclusion in the works.

  9. You should collect critiques from when the judges who made this decision have judged LUA dogs and given them excellent qualifications, then post those to this blog.