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Crossbreeding

by Rev. John Parks

Crossbreeding is the mating of unrelated individuals. According to this definition, most of the human population is the result of “crossbreeding.” As I have stated previously, this is the safest way to keep abnormalities from appearing, because “new blood” is constantly being brought in and it “covers up” most flaws that are present. However, there is less uniformity in crossbreeds. That’s because the constant combination of new characteristics brings together quite an assortment of traits.

Hybrid corn is a good example of crossbreeding. In producing hybrid corn, two unrelated strains are crossed with each other. Often these two strains are inbred for several generations first to “purify” them before the cross is made.

My son-in-law, Delbert Turner, raises hogs on a farm in east-central Indiana. He likes crossbred hogs because he can bring together the good qualities of two or three different types of hogs. He also feels that crossbreeds gain weight faster than most purebreds.

The reason that crossbreeding is so popular with animal and plant breeders is that when two strains, or bloodlines in the case of Beagles, are crossed to make a hybrid, a phenomenon called “hybrid vigor” usually results in the first generation after the cross is made. The technical name for “hybrid vigor” is heterosis. In the first generation after a hybrid cross is made, many superior qualities do often come to the surface. I have never fully understood why this is true, but I know it is because I have seen it happen. Hence, when you breed to a stud from a completely unrelated strain or bloodline, you usually get good qualities showing up in the first generation of puppies; but look out for the next generation for the very opposite often happens!

Let me give you an example to show why this is true. Let’s just consider one characteristic (out of multitudes), say all versus short in corn. We’ll use T as the symbol for tall, and s as the symbol for short. So you cross TT with ss. The first generation you would get Ts, Ts, Ts, Ts. Since tall (T) is dominant over short (s), all of this first hybrid generation would appear to be tall individuals. In fact, they might be taller than the tall parent (because of hybrid vigor).

Now let’s move on to the next generation and cross two of the first generation hybrids with each other. The cross would look like this: Ts crossed with Ts. The resulting offspring of this second generation would segregate out as follows: TT, Ts, Ts, ss. In other words there would be one pure tall offspring (TT), two hybrid tall offspring (Ts, Ts), and one pure short offspring (ss). Three-fourths would appear tall, but actually only one-fourth would be the pure tall offspring.

Any future crosses of the tall (TT) individuals or the short (ss) individuals with each other would result in pure tall or pure short offspring, while any future crosses of hybrid tall (Ts) individuals with each other would result in the same segregating out to the one-fourth, one-half, and one-fourth ratio. This would go on to infinity.

Now do you see why the second generation after a crossbred mating is crucial and some unexpected undesirable traits show up?

The only way to keep “segregation” from giving you a conglomeration of different puppy types is to keep crossbreeding unrelated individuals, and that is nearly impossible within the Beagle breed, because there just aren’t that many absolutely “unrelated” strains of Beagles.

I believe it was Lew Madden who once said that if you were to have a “reunion” of all the Beagle hounds with Card’s Blue Cap way back there somewhere in their pedigrees, very few hounds would have to stay home! Old Blue Cap, as well as Yellow Creek Sport, Gray’s Linesman, and some other more recent famous studs such as Wilcliffe Boogie, Pearson Creek Stub, or Wind Creek Limbo are found in most hound pedigrees more than once, hence the hounds are not “unrelated.”

So I can hear some of you breeders say “I still just want to go along breeding a “good one to good one”. That reminds me of the 102 year old man who was being interviewed and the reporter said “I bet you’ve seen a lot of changes in your day, haven’t you?” “That’s right, Sonny and I’ve been against every one of them.”

Well, the breeder who crossbreeds “good ones” might think that the future superiority of his kennel would be assured as long as only “good ones” are being used, but actually his hounds would lack uniformity and the quality would not really improve much. Also, that breeder would not be able to predict the results of a mating at all. So constant crossbreeding is not the route to better Beagles.

Having said that, I should hasten to say that an occasional outcross after a lot of linebreeding or inbreeding might be good in order to get certain qualities that your line lacks. However, outcrosses (or breeding “out” to at least a partially unrelated line) should only be made with a purpose in mind.

Daglish was once asked when an outcross should be made and he answered, (in Lloyd Brackett’s book, Planned Breeding on page 15). “To ask when an outcross should be made… is like asking on which days of the week one should carry an umbrella.”

Some have the belief that new blood should be brought in every once in a while as a matter of routine, but that just isn’t true. It should be done only when the line “needs help” to correct a fault or faults which may have appeared.

Even then, the introduction of new blood will necessitate some “culling out” of other characteristics that come along following the outcross. There are always “invisible” factors that are introduced with new blood that produce wide variations in the stock. It’s kind of like an extra shuffling of a deck of cards.

You will remember that in an earlier article, I gave the nation of Israel as an example of a people with a closely related parentage? Well there was one occasion when some “outside blood” was brought in. This “outcross” was made when the tribe of Benjamin was threatened with extinction and four-hundred virgins were brought in from Habesh-gilead to repropagate the tribe. (See Judges: Chapter 21 in the Old Testament.)

Well, that’s the story on crossbreeding. Its okay for some breeders, I guess; but not if you are earnestly striving for better Beagles in the future. These quality hounds may be hard to come by in two or three generations if you rely on random crossbreeding alone.

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).