We have been breeding top quality pedigree dogs at Kimberlenes for over 55 years
My mother, Jessie Kimbrell, began breeding dogs here in the late 1940s, with Poodles and West Highland White Terriers. For several decades she was active in the showing world, producing several dogs that qualified for, and were shown, at Crufts, including class winners there. She has a lifetime of experience and to this day is always on hand for advice, and is actively involved in raising our puppies.
When I ‘came of age’ (over 35 years ago!), and involved in a variety of country sports, my interest lay with Labradors. Initially with my mother’s guidance, I established my own ‘line’ of breeding, predominantly based on Sandylands progeny. I loved the classic Labrador look of these dogs but soon realised that I needed some good working dog influence to improve the agility of the line and turned to Ben of Mallowdale, a well known field trial champion.
The Labrador mothers of our first generation puppies are all Labradors that I bred from this line.
During the 1990s I became increasingly aware of mounting problems with pure breeds generally. Articles were being published about the growing number of genetic diseases and disorders affecting pure breds and I felt that we had been extremely lucky not to encounter more problems. But what to do?
Breeders had been encouraged for several years by then to test and screen their dogs for conditions most associated with their particular breed. We had been hip and elbow scoring for over 20 years, as had everyone else, and yet I could see no difference in the Labrador world as to the prevalence of hip or elbow dysplasia. It seemed clear to me then that this scheme was not being effective in ‘breeding out’ these inherited conditions in all breeds.
Indeed, the BVA Mean Hip Score for Labradors in 2007 (15) is exactly the same as their mean score in 1998. Breeders are discouraged from breeding with dogs whose hip scores are higher than the mean score in the hope that this will lead to a general improvement in the breed – an improvement obviously not apparent over the last 9 years.
I started doing some research into this and my understanding now is that it is not possible to ‘breed out’ the genes responsible for inherited conditions, and that the only way forward was to ‘breed in’ alternative genes that would prevent the ‘rogue’ genes from being expressed i.e. physically present. What was needed was serious out crossing to revitalise the gene pool, but what was actually happening was that by only using breeding stock that had ‘significantly lower scores’ than the breed average, the gene pool was being decimated.
Having deduced that hip and elbow scoring was at best ineffective, and at worst counter-productive in the long term, and having been convinced by the out crossing argument, I started to pursue this. This is when I learnt about heterosis, or ‘hybrid vigour’ as it is more commonly called. This occurs when two unrelated species reproduce and is :
“the increased sturdiness, resistance to disease, etc, of individuals whose parents are of different races or species compared both with their parents and with the offspring of genetically similar parents.” – From Concise Medical Dictionary
In exploring this it wasn’t long before I discovered the Labradoodle and decided that this really was the way forward.
Sounds easy – but you try taking your beloved, highly prized Labrador girl with great hip scores to meet… a Poodle! Nearly 30 years of hard work had gone into producing her and here I was happily throwing it all away!
Well, of course, the rest is history. I have never had a second’s doubt that I did the right thing. We have had many litters now and every one of them has been an absolute delight.
To monitor the success of our breeding programme we have all of our dogs hip scored. The fact that every one of them has been well below the Labrador Mean Score, and that we now have four home bred dogs below 5, including a score of 1 and the perfect 0, is evidence that both ‘hybrid vigour’ and our breeding programme is working. This has been all the encouragement we need to move forward with confidence.