Shikoku considered as possible outcross for the Wetterhoun

edited June 2017 in General
This is a discussion from a pro-outcrossing facebook group that I'd like to share and get your opinions on. Parts in quotes were directly taken form that discussion.

Summary of the Project
"Over the course of 15 years, 8 outcross litters will be bred in order to try and restore the genetic health of the Wetterhoun population. 2 outcross litters have already been bred: wetterhoun x labrador and wetterhoun x standard poodle. Both litters turned out great and the F1 pups are now old enough to continue the breeding program. Last month, a wetterhoun bitch was bred to an F1 labXwetter stud, an F1 labXwetter bitch was bred to a wetterhoun stud, and a wetterhoun bitch was bred to a F1 poodleXwetter stud. It is still too early to determine if any of the breedings took.
In a couple of months the next outcross litter will happen, this time using an Airedale terrier. :)
I'm very excited! No news on the Shikoku outcross yet (during the last breeder vote, 2 breeds were chosen for the next outcrosses: Airedale terrier and Shikoku.)"

Most of the discussion questioning the inclusion of the Shikoku focused on the lack of genetic diversity present in the Shikoku breed. As someone who is training a Shikoku to water retrieve birds, my thoughts are the Shikoku has many traits that aren't just different from the wetterhoun, but are actually undesirable in a waterdog.

Here is the justification for the Shikoku's inclusion from that discussion.
"What mattered was temperament, overall health and the fact that they are genetically far removed from the Wetterhoun which assures an increase in heterozygosity."
"Who cares about the diversity if the breed is used in a totally different breed?
You only get half of the gene pairs and as long as those are different it's fine ;)
Shikoku is from a different genetic cluster which is why we chose this breed. The breeders asked for a spitz and here it is :)"
"The breeds are more or less similar in temperament: they are one-man dogs, loyal, laid back, good workers and trackers, hard on themselves but gentle in training and character. At least the ones I met are like this (about a dozen) and the wetterhoun is also like this. I think they will meet quite nicely quickly."

I have to admit the Shikoku's inclusion puzzles me as well. They are mainly large game hunters. They do not have soft mouths. They have the worst same-sex dog aggression among the nihon-ken and like most nihon-ken they are not natural swimmers. They generally aren't afraid of water, but they refuse to go any deeper than chest height. My dog is the first dog that I've ever had to teach how to swim. Bad hips are very common, and they have too high of a rate of LP for a medium sized dog. The wetterhoun project is Dutch and perhaps the local kennel is breeding some dogs with outstanding temperaments, but I don't think that I'd describe most Shikoku as "laid back." Finally their own low diversity has resulted fertility problems and small litter sizes (3-5 is normal) and I could go on. If I had to choose a spitz, I would pick a west Siberian laika with retrieving in its line over a Shikoku and I love Shikoku. A single out-crossing to a Shikoku isn't going to make that big of difference in the long run, but even if you are insisting on a spitz there seems to be better options. I really can't speak to the temperament of the wetterhoun, but I question if what they really want is the typical temperament of the shikoku. Thoughts?


  • I say no, and I think you've covered enough important points.
    I think for this project I'd vote for a Kai over a Shikoku (if you're determined to use a Nihon Ken).
  • edited June 2017
    Why anyone would want a Shikoku for an outcross is kind of baffling. I'm not as worried about the diversity (since Shikoku and most European breeds are going to have very different genetic material), but the temperament. It seems so out-there for what they want in their dogs.

    Like, all I keep thinking is that the first generation of those dogs is going to fail in this project and they're going to be unhappy with the results, due to the temperament incompatibilities, unless they have a single particular dog they are looking at that happens to BE a Shikoku.
  • I agree- it seems very weird that if the requirement was "we need to mix in some kind of spitz!" that anyone would choose such a narrow, snarky breed with so many health problems.

    Could the factor be the typical Shikoku Fascination, or maybe the convenience of someone with a shikoku volunteering their dog?
  • It doesn't seem like they really understand the Shikoku breed well enough, and that's a scary thing to think about when trying to improve another breed. I can see outcrossing to improve the health and diversity of the Shikoku breed, but can't see how a Shikoku would actually improve a retriever breed. Sounds more like they want to add that rare breed aspect and that the Shikoku is what they can get access to. Heck, even a Siberian Husky would make a better choice given their friendly personality and overall good health.
  • I can see outcrossing to improve the health and diversity of the Shikoku breed
    Just curious has this ever been considered?

  • I can see outcrossing to improve the health and diversity of the Shikoku breed
    Just curious has this ever been considered?
    I think it has been, but quickly dismissed due to the Japanese club being obviously against the notion.
  • NIPPO, the preservation society, was founded to preserve the breeds and remove the influence of western breeds from the gene pool. The Nihon Ken was interbreeding with the newly imported breeds, so NIPPO is very big on removing any all traits associated with non-Japanese breeds (like tongue spotting which they think was a sign of interbreeding with Chows). So I don't see outcrossing being allowed here in Japan any time soon. It would basically be against the mission statement of NIPPO.

    Also the breeds are officially designated as national treasures. The term is actually 'tennen kinenbutsu' which would translate to 'natural monument'. It's a designation given to wildlife and fauna that is native and particularly valuable to Japanese culture. This is something along the lines of say a national bird like the bald eagle in the US. You can imagine the uproar if it was decided to start breeding them with a Chinese eagle to increase genetic diversity. Trump might have something to say about that.

    All jokes aside, there is an issue we have here in Chiba prefecture where the native macaques are interbreeding with a non-native introduced species, the rhesus monkey. There's been a lot of discussion about this because they've now reached a wildlife park where the monkeys are 'tennen kinenbutsu'. They've immediately put a cull in effect because basically hybrid offspring are no longer a native species, and so lose their official designation as a national treasure. I believe this same thinking would probably be used in any discussion regarding opening the studbooks for the Japanese breeds. NIPPO works closely with the Japanese government, always has, because of this official designation that the breeds have. The awards given at the grand national for best of breed are from the education minister, and the best in show is from the prime minister.

    I realized that from an outside perspective it may seem that there's just a bunch of conservative old dudes shutting down new ideas, and to a certain extent there is that happening, the Japanese breeds have a lot more going on because of their official status.
  • I think it makes sense if one views dog breeds as cultural, not biological constructs. Which, imo, is more accurate and sensitive/respectful to the people who created them.
  • edited June 2017
    West Siberian laika sounds like a good alternative .... even the Finnish spitz. Perhaps it's as was suggested and they have easy access to a well-tempered shikoku so are just doing what is simplest for them? Hard to say... but I'm full of curiosity on the justification now. xD
  • edited June 2017
    @TheWalrus, @Crispy, @WrylyBrindle, @Calia, @Kaja: My thoughts are the same and I do suspect a bit of Shikoku fascination might be a factor. My main concern was that that their description of Shikoku temperament was very different from how I would describe it. It is possible that breeders outside of Japan are selecting for a very different temperament, one focusing on being a good pet, than what is selected for within Japan. If their justification is based on temperament, heath, and genetic distance, I would only give the Shikoku high marks in genetic distance.

    @TheWalrus: I wonder how much of an argument could be made in support an outcross within the Nihon-ken themselves. If you take them as a group, even if you consider just the 4 medium sized breeds, I think there is enough diversity to fix their respective problems. Get some better hips on the Shikoku from the Kishu get the Kishu some better color from the Shikoku, etc. I remember a post on your blog along the lines about going through old hand-written pedigrees and finding evidence of the "a dog from Kishu" being mated with "a dog from Shikoku". I think the breeds would have to be in truly dire straights before NIPPO would ever consider that and if they did allow an outcross they would require it be within the Nihon-ken breeds to begin with. I think the danger a Nihon-ken outcross within the Nihon-ken would be the potential to lose the individual breeds types. My understanding is all four medium sized breeds are judged by the same written standard. That would seem to put them at greater risk of melding into one. How are the subtle differences between the breeds' characteristics, like head shape, judged at the NIPPO shows, particularly at regionals when the medium sized dogs are all competing against each other?
  • @Ajax well the Nihon Ken are one land race and were considered as such in the early days of the breed. Breeding between dogs of different regions (ie Kishu Shikoku) happened and the dogs from these breedings were actually registered as I've mentioned before. But now that they're separated, I doubt they'll be breeding them back to each other. There has been unsanctioned and secret interbreeding on occasion to fix certain traits in the breed, so I've heard anyway.
    The NIPPO standard covers all six of the breeds, so while the base that they're judged by is the same for all, there are differences written in for each of the breeds (ie all Kai have to be brindle), and the judges also know what to look for in type for each breed (even if it's not written into the standard). This comes from years of experience, study, and having mentors that teach up and coming judges. Also, the judges are either Shiba, Kishu, or Shikoku specialists. The Shiba judges judge Shiba at the regionals and national, and while Kishu and Shikoku judges will judge all the medium size breeds at regionals, at the national they are split again. Since there's hardly and Kai/Hokkaido/Akita in NIPPO shows, there are no specialist judges for these breeds, so they are usually judged by the medium size breed judges.
  • I'm late to this, and can't really add much that hasn't already been said about "why a Shikoku?" ... But, something that irritates me a bit in the crossbreeding world is this idea that the resulting cross will be healthier due to it's genetic diversity.

    It is true that the resulting offspring will have a more diverse genotype, but that doesn't guarantee health. For example, using a Shikoku with HD in that cross would still give the offspring a 50/50 chance of having HD no matter how diverse the offspring's genotype is.

    That may seem like an obvious statement, and it is, but it's a concept that seems to be lost in a lot of the crossbreeding talk. HD is an issue in the Shikoku, a growing issue, so I would probably use a healthier breed, like the Laika, for such an outcross so that I don't introduce new problems.

    Also, as soon as you cross breeds like that, all the fancy refinement seen in either breed will devo quickly. So the Shikoku's fancy smaller forward facing ears and their round short muzzle will likely not show up in the offspring. So choosing a "fancy" refined breed like the Shikoku seems a bit silly. You might as well chose a less refined breed since you'll end up producing less refined offspring.

    Another thing that I find kinda annoying about the Shikoku breed fancy is their opinion that the Shikoku is a more "wild" or "close to nature" dog than other (NK) breeds, and that's just not the case. If anything, they're probably the most inbred and refined NK breed of them all. Their flashy wolf-like coat is the result of selective breeding (inbreeding) and not that of some "close to nature" distant relative.

    Point being, if they're choosing the Shikoku because of this "close to nature" hyperbole in the breed, then they're drinking the wrong koolaid.
  • @TheWalrus Thanks for the explanation on the judging. It's been something that I've been wondering for a while. I've tried to find details on of what to look for in-regards to the differences between desired head type between the breeds, but the only explanations I've seen in writing have been from unofficial sources (like this forum) and I always see the same general nihon-ken illustration. I would imagine that if some of the aspects of judging type are biased on experience and expertise and not in a written standard, in some ways that makes pedigree event more important than if the standard was very strict. It was nice to see the female Hokkaido at the Aomori exhibition place within the top 3 females even though there are so few shown in NIPPO.
  • For some reason, I was thinking back to the topic of genetic diversity and outcrossing. Theoretically what percentage Shikoku or Kishu would a dog have to be to be considered "purebred" again?
  • Outcrossing is highly controversial and it's acceptance varies greatly based on registry/kennel club. NIPPO would be unlikely to accept any outcrosses while others like the Finnish KC supports outcrossing. In Finland breeders can apply in advance to be able to mix and Finnish Kennel Club gives their approval for every litter. The pups are then registered in EJ-register ( not for breeding) and can be lifted to ER register after Breeding Club approval. They can then produce new litter with original breed producing 75%/25% mixes. They can and should be shown at official Dog Shows. They can become Finnish champions but not International Champs before 6th generation (FCI rule).
  • ^and ofcourse there must be detailed plans for outcrossing litters, dogs to use and reasons to do it. It's not something like "I want to mix these two and see what happens" or "oh no, accident litter". And before any pup can be moved to breeding register they are evaluated for health, temperament, looks and how well the breeding turned out and does it fit for the bigger plan. It's not an easy route to produce a litter.
Sign In or Register to comment.