The analyses of phenotype and temperament and genetic improvement
Américo Cardoso dos Santos Júnior
In 1981, therefore, more than 40 years ago, I use to write for bulletin "O Fila", the text reproduced below. It shows that, along nearly half a century, CAFIB has always been true to the same principles and procedures.
In addition, this article also deserves to be republished to clear up the younger cynophiles, who have not read it, so that they can learn the criteria that, for decades, we have been following; it is important to stress that these criteria need to be general and uniform, making no exceptions for cases that are considered "special".
We emphasize that our procedures have been the same for all dogs, regardless of arguments, rumors or statements from anyone.
As an example of this outright impartiality, we remind the younger generation is that, when we rescued the dog called Zumba from Parnapuan – of the "Father of the Breed" = Paulo Santos Cruz -, such a dog was submitted to a Phenotype and Temperament Analysis and, after being approved, received an Initial Register and had all its renowned "Parnapuan" ancestry disregarded as a result of it being prior to CAFIB’s work and this decision was endorsed by its own breeder, the Master of CAFIB Breeding, Paulo Santos Cruz.
These clarifications are necessary because, on so many other occasions, there have recently appeared new "absolute authorities" on Fila Brasileiro, who, barely starting in the breed, already come forward as "self-righteous", outragedly threatening boycotting and questioning judgments. They are born troublemakers, who contribute nothing, but fortunately, they have a short-term participation, although, unfortunately, they end up being replaced by other rebels who keep on popping up. In fact, one of the major causes of these arguments and intrigues is the interest in selling puppies, especially abroad.
The analyses of phenotype and temperament and genetic improvement
The intensification of CAFIB's activities, lately, has been accelerating, and nowadays it is common, in the same month, to carry out several Phenotype and Temperament Analyses in different cities and states of the country. This reveals a growing awareness, on the part of the Fila's aficionados, of the problems that the breed has been facing and the desire to insist on fighting for its improvement.
Regrettably, indiscriminate crossbreeding and the lack of orientation in breeding have left us with a discouraging legacy, and the material available to recover the breed is quite scarce, which makes it extremely difficult and delays the establishment of the characteristics we seek for the shaping up a homogeneous and high-level breeding stock.
The experience acquired in living through these problems makes us think that certain considerations are downright timely.
At the beginning of our activities, within the heterogeneity that the breed presented to us, we sometimes found some very typical dogs, but whose origin of which there were rumors of crossbreeding. This led us, at first, to think about the hypothesis of discarding such animals, not allowing their use in breeding (despite their phenotypic qualities) because we were afraid that, when breeding, they would disappoint us, revealing signs of atypicality in their products. So, we had criticisms, suspicions and accusations that tarnished all kennels, all breeding and all known bloodlines. Evidently, after a while, we learned that those criticisms, suspicions and accusations, in some cases, were made in a frivolous way, with no solid bases, and, many times, came from people who could not be trusted. Sometimes they were faulty interpretations of true facts, giving rise to distorted and unfair conclusions; sometimes they were simple slanders, motivated by grudges and personal problems; sometimes they were statements made without thinking; and, of course, quite often, in practice, they were confirmed as justified, true, having come from reliable sources.
In addition, we also noticed the absurd extent of fraud committed, involving sales of free pedigrees to owners of unregistered dogs; attribution of Certificates of Registration of Origin to puppies that had another paternity than that were mentioned in the document; use of the name of dogs that had already died as stallions as still being active, etc.
We concluded from this that the appearance, in a pedigree, of the name of a proven mixed-breed animal appearing as the ancestor of a certain offspring, would not necessarily mean lack of racial purity of these puppies, since such a document would have a great possibility of having been falsified, exchanged, sold or used for a dog with a bloodline totally different from that which its Register of Origin attributed to it.
The breeders crossed their female dogs with males of the breeds Mastiff, Mastino Napoletano and German Dane, and registered their offspring as being from a Fila sire. Later, we had confirmation (even through photographs) of a phenomenon more or less the opposite of this fraud. A dog (registered as a Fila), black, with unmistakable signs of atypicality (besides its own color), having been extremely prized and successful in the show ring, started to be widely used in reproduction, because of the great demand for its puppies. We know of female dogs that were taken to be sired by him, but ended up being sired by other males (less valued, but eventually purebreds) because that dog did not have the physical conditions to cover all the numerous females that were destined to him. Logically, in the puppies' register, the champion was that, which was the father, for obvious reasons.
Another case: an old breeder from the south of Minas Gerais always had purebred animals, but without registration. When he became aware of the increasing value of registered dogs, he came to São Paulo, bought several products from a kennel known as one of the great traders of mestizos, and took them to the countryside. When he got there, he got rid of the dogs he had bought, because he did not consider them useful for his breeding, keeping only the pedigrees to assign them to the animals he already owned. Thus, we also have cases of purebreds with mestizos pedigrees, in addition to the traditional cases of mestizos with a register of purebred dog.
Faced with such chaos, we no longer knew when, what or whom to believe. What could be done or required that we should consider the information given to us as true, or the validity of an official pedigree? Request other documents or attestations? Of what kind? Oaths, witnesses? How many witnesses?
We came to the sad conclusion that the only solution would be to start over; to start from scratch again, putting a stone over all this past. We have received criticism as a consequence of this decision, some of which were seen as drastic or unfair. Some older breeders were reluctant to accept it, as they resent the idea that, after years of breeding, their products would receive an Initial Registration again and their ancestry woulf no longer be considered. We believe that, in view of all the above, you will understand that we had no choice. The solution we adopted was not the one we thought best; it was the only one possible.
To register the breeding stock, we started submitting each animal to a careful analysis, where all the somatic characteristics were noted down in detail, the dogs were photographed, numbered, weighed, measured, and, if they were already one year old, they would undergo temperament and nervous system tests. The goal was to obtain a registry with individual records for each animal, where there is a detailed description of all the particulars of the phenotype, attributing great importance to the positive reactions in the attack and shooting tests and, of course, valuing above all, the typicality of the dog. After evaluating the results we concluded whether or not to approve the animal for breeding.
The reaction of owners to receiving this verdict, especially in the case of dogs that failed to meet the criteria established, has been varied. All those who take their animals for testing hope to be approved, and deep down they firmly believe that their dog is the best among the many there are. It is interesting to note how people's reactions sometimes vary between the theoretical exposition of the problem and the concrete result of the analysis of their dog.
When we go to several cities to perform the Phenotype and Temperament Analyses, we always do it on weekends. Usually we arrive on Saturday and, at night, CAFIB's Master of Breeding, Dr. Paulo Santos Cruz, gives a lecture to the stakeholders, in which several subjects related to the Fila breed are covered, from its origins, structure and temperament characteristics, genetics, to the practical problems arising from the miscegenation with other breeds, and the exhibition of the objectives and working methods of CAFIB. The receptivity reached by these lectures is excellent, not only because of the deep knowledge of the subject and the didactic capacity of the master, but also because they are fully illustrated through the projection of slides, films, and diagrams, making the approached topics more understandable. The reaction of the listeners is usually one of enthusiasm and full support to our struggle. On the following day, Sunday, an analysis of the dogs is made, in which some are approved and others are not. We commonly see that many of those present at the lecture the day before, who had been overwhelmed with enthusiastic praise for CAFIB, when their dogs failed, immediately start to criticize the technical knowledge and the suitability of the judges who perform the analysis. It is explainable, although completely not justifiable, the difficulty of certain people in taking our side after the rejection of that dog of theirs that the so-called "official" cynophilia had accumulated awards, titles and trophies. It is proper to human beings to look with more sympathy on those who praise and extol, even if unfairly, than on those who criticize, even if constructively.
The summary made during the analysis is scrawled by hand and then neatly typed on a suitable form, which we mail out. There have been several cases where the summary, when received by the dog owner, is not well interpreted or raises doubts.
With relative frequency, dogs with evident signs of atypicality appear in the analyses, but with excellent structure and even temperament characteristics. These animals are failed because they presented a series of details that denounce crossbreeding, such as, for example, high ear insertion, accentuated "stop", absence of dewlap, skin not so loose and thick, atypical coloring, poorly characterized movement, without the peculiar camel walk and “swing”; they may, however, present excellent proportions, muscle mass, bones, angulations, gait, dentition, bite, temperament, and nervous system. To sum up: there are certain specimens that are excellent dogs, although they are not pure Filas.
Perhaps someone would argue that, if they are excellent dogs, they could contribute positively to reproduction, passing on the qualities they present. It is easy to refute this argument by remembering that a sire must be worth much more for its genotype than for its phenotype; that in order to transmit the characteristics that it appears, it needs to have them genetically fixed, and must be homozygous due to a large number of factors. In addition, in the selection of any pure breed, it is necessary to seek the homogeneity of the copies, following the description and guidelines of the standard. All efforts must tend towards the establishment of a single type which, in the case of Fila, it is nothing more than the original type, selected and established for more than a hundred years by the farmers and herdsmen of Central Brazil, particularly in the state of Minas Gerais..
As a consequence of the hybrid vigor resulting from heterosis, the first generation mestizos (called F1) are sometimes beautiful, showy dogs, one cannot deny it; however, they will be useless as breeding stock (in a serious breeding program). To select well, producing more perfect specimens at each generation is already very difficult when working with purebred animals, of known ancestry; crossbreeding between mongrels always results in heterogeneous offspring, making it utterly impossible to predict any result in breeding.
Hopefully, these explanations will shed some light on why certain dogs, whose summaries point to a large number of qualities failure.
Now a few words about those who were approved in the Phenotype and Temperament Tests.
Of course, consideration has been given to the possibility that a crossbred animal occasionally showing no signs of atypicality in its phenotype. This is unlikely to occur in the first generation, in which the crossbreds have fifty per cent blood of another breed, and whose appearance usually betrays the lack of purity. But when the crossbreeds are mated among themselves for successive generations, some possessing a higher degree of Fila blood than others, there may eventually be cases of animals that, by a fortuitous combination of genes, do not appear, outwardly, with signs of miscegenation, and are therefore approved.
To avoid this risk, CAFIB’s approval is provisional and depends on confirmation by progeny testing. Those who prove to transmit to their offspring the type and qualities that led them to be approved will then receive a Definitive Registration. On the other hand, those who, during reproduction, denounce their lack of purity (despite not appearing in the phenotype) generating products with signs of atypicality, will have their provisional approval cancelled and their offspring will not be registered.
This criterion, besides protecting us from the eventual approval of a mestizo "disguised as purebred", also allows us a little more flexibility in the approval, an advantage that cannot be despised due to the exiguity of the stock that can be considered of high level. Thus we feel a little more comfortable to approve dogs of only regular appearance, because we open the possibility that they may eventually prove to be good breeders, but there is always the option of withdrawing the provisional approval if the chance given does not correspond to rewarding results.
These explanations must be taken into consideration by those who had their dog that failed and do not accept it, alleging to be his son, grandson or brother of a certain specimen approved in analysis, or awarded in exhibitions.
One must also consider that, not even in a better-quality breeding stock than the one mirrored by the sad picture that the Fila breed presenting itself to us today, being the son of champion parents that should be understood, necessarily, as synonymous with quality. Puppies are not manufactured in series, like identical pieces, and, in the same puppies, some stand out more than others. If it were enough that the father and mother were excellent for all their offspring to present high quality, in a short period of time there would be no more mediocre animals and any kennel could always produce only champions.
Not always the best dog is the best breeder and we have already emphasized above the importance of valuing more, in a breeding program, the genetic heritage than the external appearance. It is not rare, in the various dog breeds, the cases of animals that, although having not achieved the greatest prominence in the exhibits, have produced excellent offspring; so, furthermore, there appear, occasionally, exceptional top dogs, trophy winners, whose offspring, sometimes, is disappointing. A well-known breeding rule is that a regular dog that descends from a family of excellent dogs is to be preferred as a sire to one that is excellent but descends from a family of regular dogs.
One must remember that the process of selecting some and discarding others is the basis of genetic improvement and that, in practice, one will never reach, not only in dog breeds, but in any of the species created by man, a stage of evolution in which all dogs born can be considered elite.
In failing to evaluate these aspects many naïve breeders adopt the simplistic solution of taking their females to be mated by the dogs that win shows, relegating to a totally secondary plan, or even ignoring, a deeper study of the bloodlines present in the various lineages.
We should always carefully evaluate the positive and negative characteristics of our dogs, especially in the genetic aspect, so that we can counterbalance the eventual defects, seeking the opposite qualities in the partner to be elected for mating. We thus conclude that not always the best in the exhibition is the best sire, or the most suitable male for any female.
Still speaking of the approved dogs, there is another aspect to be clarified. We explained above that, due to the provisional character of the approval, and the scarcity of good specimens, we don't always allow ourselves, in the evaluation criteria, a great rigidity that would be beneficial to the breed and fully justified if the circumstances were different. As the number of approved dogs increases and, consequently, the quality of the available breeding stock, the rigor in the analyses also intensifies. We hope that, at some point in time, the improvement of the breeding will allow us a much more inflexible criterion, aiming at the systematic eradication of the most serious defects, such as failures of temperament and biting issues. We believe that we will soon be able to truly live up to the qualification of "elitists", which has already been pejoratively attributed to us, and which we prefer to regard.
The rigor employed in the evaluation of the animals has been much more intense in the judgment of the male dogs; not because they are believed to have more genetic prepotency than the females, as it is often popularly thought. What happens is that males are, or can be, responsible for a much larger number of puppies than females. A female dog, even if mated every time she is in heat, may have at most two litters a year; a breeder, when intensively used, may father several dozen litters in the same period.
Based on this, it can be deduced that many of the approved animals, especially among the females, although of reasonable quality, are very far from being considered excellent. Thus, we have registered in our files, dogs that can be said to have "passed smoothly" through the judges' sieve in the analyses, and whose approval should be seen more as a chance to, if well mated, eventually produce puppies of a slightly higher level. Beside these there are dogs that could receive better qualifications, and could be considered good, very good and even excellent. This differentiation is necessary, as well as the explanation of their reasons, for those who understand the approval as a certificate of excellence of quality, without taking into account the provisional character of this certificate that, in some cases, may be cancelled.
To better differentiate the approved dogs, CAFIB is elaborating a Point Regulation, like other entities in a more advanced stage of selection, such as the Brazilian Association of Mangalarga Horse Breeders. Each item to be considered in the judgment, according to its importance, will have a maximum value; from the sum of all points attributed by the judge to each detail of the dog, the final score will be obtained. This method will allow each animal to be adequately valued, according to the higher or lower quality of its phenotype and temperament, making the evaluation of the characteristics to be hereditarily transmitted more precise.
It is fundamental to have an exact and objective idea of the positive and negative characteristics of each animal, facing with scientific impartiality also the undesirable points that, perhaps, the dog presents.
Whenever we accuse, in the summaries, the defects of the analyzed animals, we usually receive, from the owners, all sorts of justifications and explanations, trying to show that those noted faults are excusable and that it would be an injustice to punish them. Thus, dogs of weak constitution and slight bones were always acquired in a pitiable state, because the breeder had neglected the elementary care of good feeding, administration of calcium and vitamins. The difficulties in movement are never due to genetic problems such as hip dysplasia or other malformations; they are always attributed to being run over by a car when the dog was a puppy, to a fracture resulting from a tumble, or to a bad way in the car when coming to the exhibit. The missing teeth are always a consequence of the remarkable ferocity that leads him to furiously bite the iron bars of the gate whenever someone rings the bell. The fear of a gunshot is a trauma caused by the sad accident of having swallowed a firecracker that exploded inside his mouth. The shyness before the attack with a stick is usually attributed to the cruelty of the former owner who beat him mercilessly.
We do not mean to deny that, in fact, many of the problems presented may have been acquired by accident or in a unfortunate circumstances. But the judge should only take into consideration what is before his eyes at the time of analysis or exposure. It is often difficult, or even impossible, to prove whether the defect is genetic or not. Disregarding the word committed by the dog's owner, who attributes to this or that circumstance the responsibility for the appearance of the defect, may not be a nice or understanding attitude, but, unfortunately, we know that there is bad faith on the part of many people who, given the chance, would have no scruples in trying to foist on us the old "stories" that justify everything and that we are tired of hearing. Within a single criterion to proceed, perhaps some will be harmed, but it would not be advisable to set precedents.
But if, on the one hand, there is bad faith that tries to cover up commercial purposes or to soothe personal vanities, there are not few the cases of people who, not being satisfied with the dog's defects, naively want to discover miraculous methods to correct them. The questions of how to improve a narrow hip, a sensitivity to the shot, a long linear type, a defective bite are common. Then follow the futile attempts to alleviate the defect: massive doses of calcium and exhaustive trots beside the bicycle or the car, to "improve the croup"; careful training, petting the dog each time firing shots at a distance that is gradually shortening; the expectation that the bitch gives birth to see if, then, "put more body"; hope that by chewing a lot of bones or chewing hard rubber toys, the jaw will go to the right place.
Bearing in mind that there are no utterly perfect dogs, the sensible attitude should be to see the animal as it really is, evaluating and weighing the pros and cons in due proportions; to fail to recognize and assume the existing defects - to try to deceive the eventual puppy buyer, the judge, or oneself - represents a lack of maturity that does nothing to benefit the breed. The defects should not be hidden or concealed; we should try to correct them in the following generations by carefully choosing the correct mating partner and by carefully selecting the puppies that will be born.
It is perfectly understandable that people who buy a dog in which they place a lot of hope, become so attached to it in the course of its development that the affective and emotional ties distort reality a little, making it difficult to recognize the fact that perhaps that animal did not deserve to be used in reproduction. But we must remember that many times, from a mating in which both the male and the female are excellent, disappointments occur; many times, when we think we have in our hands the ideal genetic material to produce a formidable litter, reality disappoints us. Breeding well is very difficult, even when working with great animals. Pretending to obtain satisfactory results from mediocre specimens seems to us a puerile attempt and a lack of scientific spirit.
So absent is the critical sense of those that, more than once, when we grant provisional approval for dogs or bitches that would need to be mated with a very well-chosen partner of proven genetic prepotency to try to produce a good litter, we come across plans that seem a bit pretentious, including "inbreeding" as the main line of the future breeding program.
Endocrossing is undoubtedly an efficient and fast method for fixing the desired type and characteristics, since it is responsible for the great homozygosity presented by the resulting products. But we must not forget that inbreeding is a double-edged sword, for whose use it is necessary to consider many aspects. One must know how and when to use it, and it can be a powerful weapon in the hands of those who know genetics, have high level animals and are prepared to eventually eliminate entire litters. The same way it fixes the qualities, it also highlights the defects and, therefore, its use is justified only when one has great dogs, whose type and qualities really deserve to be perpetuated. It is therefore not a method to be adopted as a routine, to be used by all breeders and with all dogs, as some seem to claim.
The Fila, for the notable qualities that distinguish it, has aroused the interest of many cynophiles from other countries, as demonstrated by the growing prominence given by several specialized publications, mainly from Europe, focusing, above all, on the problems resulting from the crossbreeding. The future of our breeding and the perspective of making it respected, occupying the place it deserves in the international cynophilia, depend on the honest and solidary work of the breeders in search of a common objective. It is their responsibility, above personal vanities and petty rivalries, to face the genetic improvement with the commitment and seriousness of one who studies a science, and with the talent and sensibility of one who dedicates himself to an art.
Tradução: Luciana Teixeira Gomes