Is Bulldog Breed Doomed to Extinction?

Morgan Sterling
by Morgan Sterling
Say it ain’t so! The beloved breed and popular mascot’s future may be at risk – scientists blame its limited gene pool for health risks.

Bulldogs are too adorable, from their short legs and strong torsos to their scrunched up noses, there’s nothing not to love. In fact, the bulldog remains one of the most popular breeds in the US. Most of these traits did not occur naturally within the breed, as selective breeding practices favoured these traits and therefore they were passed on generation to generation. Now, what we perceive as a typical bulldog is actually a man made venture. Though the breed has amazing looks, scientists are advising that the limited gene pool of the breed may be very hazardous to it’s health as well as the future of the bulldog.

Niels Pedersen from Center for Companion Animal Health, University of California states “These changes have occurred over hundreds of years but have become particularly rapid over the last few decades. Breeders are managing the little diversity that still exists in the best possible manner, but there are still many individuals sired from highly inbred parents. Unfortunately eliminating all the mutations may not solve the problem as this would further reduce genetic diversity. We would also question whether further modifications, such as rapidly introducing new rare coat colors, making the body smaller and more compact and adding more wrinkles in the coat, could improve the bulldog’s already fragile genetic diversity.”

Related: 10 Bodacious Facts About Bulldogs

The study was conducted using DNA samples and is one of the first to use this method over standard pedigree charting. This way the genomic variance may be measured with high clarity and detail. 102 English bulldogs from varying origins had their DNA compared and charted, and the results showed many overlapping DNA markers.

Some of the risks the breed faces from selective breeding include unintentional changes to the dog’s genome. One big side effect includes changes to the genes associated with the immune system’s functioning capacity. Hope for the breed’s health must now come from cross breeding it with similar, more genetically variant, breeds that may introduce stronger genomic traits.

“The English bulldog has reached the point where popularity can no longer excuse the health problems that the average bulldog endures in its often brief lifetime. More people seemed to be enamoured with its appearance than concerned about its health. Improving health through genetic manipulations presumes that enough diversity still exists to improve the breed from within, and if not, to add diversity by outcrossing to other breeds. We found that little genetic ‘wiggle room’ still exists in the breed to make additional genetic changes,” Pedersen concluded.

There is still hope for the bulldog yet as there are already projects underway to help diversify the breed. This includes the Swiss “continental bulldog” project that hopes to help many ethically own bulldogs. There is still debate whether a continental bulldog can be considered a bonafide member of the breed, but the benefit to bulldogs at large will be great.

[Source: Science Daily]

Morgan Sterling
Morgan Sterling

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