Chaos Theory, Top Sires and Butterflies

There is a phenomenon in nature called "chaos theory". The best way to understand chaos theory is to imagine focusing in on a small area of a leafless tree. The small area will be filled with tiny branches, attached at what look like random positions at angles to larger ones. Step back 10 feet and look at a larger area and you'll notice the medium sized branches repeat the pattern. From 100 feet, the major branches will be doing the same as they approach the central trunk.

The same thing happens if you look at a bit of beach front from 20 feet above. The pattern of waves will eat a jagged pattern in the shoreline. Move out 200 feet, and you'll see the same type of jagged pattern. Move to a mile and you'll see that the coastline looks a whole lot like that small portion did. Only the scale is changing.

These are known as "fractals" and are one of the easier ways to illustrate chaos theory. Small patterns repeat to build larger ones, and they remain consistant as they join to grow larger. The shoreline from 20 miles does not begin to look like a tree branch, it continues to form the same patterns on a larger scale. Chaos theory also applies to difficulties in weather and stock market prediction. The "butterfly effect" is an often used example - the butterfly wings in your back yard and others set into motion small turbulences that change the genesis of a tornado a thousand miles away.

Chaos theory also applies to patterns in dog breeding.

In the 1970's breeders found themselves in a corner. They had bitches of CJC clear status, who had impeccable pedigrees, but few males to breed them to. So many dogs were gone from the gene pool. These bitches had survived the test breeding program and were loaded with the genes of powerful producing sires of the past. The dogs who would be chosen for their mates benefited from that genetic quality and their sons were powerful producers with genetic power on both sides of their pedigrees.

Sky Rocket's Uproar and Upswing and other great names of the day were bred to a great many of these top bitches. Son after beautiful son came along out of this male line for a time, including Blue Spruce, who produced 55 champions, his producing ability greatly aided by the power behind his dam, Silver Lining - who was heavily linebred to Melmar's Jack Frost. His double grandson Target arrived, with his 78, due in no small part to his grandmother's sire, Poppin Fresh and more Jack Frost. Today, no top producing male lines survive from Jack Frost, and the male line could well be extinct.

In a very short period of time, the breed had become loaded with quality daughter lines of Blue Spruce.

There are not a lot of true lines in the breed. Outside a few notable families kept more or less intact, the vast majority of show breeders use brief periods of linebreeding, with frequent crosses to dogs of lesser ralationship, resulting in quite a broad mixing of contemprorary sire lines. This has also been driven by the discovery of health problems and the desire of breeders to take their risk bitches to sires who are percieved as "safer". The problem became exacerbated when modes of inheritance are unknown or the defect is late onset. Breeders begin to look for dogs they consider lower risk on basis of pedigree and best guess.

When looking for alternatives to breed to, they passed by the closely related sire lines - most had the same or even higher risk levels. In the 1990's the Blue Spruce/Target line males found themselves with fewer chances to mate really good bitches - and therefore, most never had the chance to "produce" as well as their famous ancestors - fewer champions, fewer sons to carry the lines on. Breakaway produced 27 champions for example - but still has no top producing sons.

The 1990's beneficiary of the Blue Spruce - Target daughter lines was Rep, along with three other lines coming from the Irrenhaus Blueprint branch, and to a lesser extent, Shooting Sparks. Today the breed is loading up with bitches who are carrying heavy concentrations of genes from Rep-Cornerstone, Newsprint, Hallelujah. Anyone who is looking for an outcross is going to have very few dogs to choose from. Those who want to linebreed will be selecting from high numbers of closely related males, and those males will find it increasingly difficult to compete for really well bred bitches.

The net effect is that the branch from Blueprint is going to head into contraction in the next decade or so. Male lines will begin to disappear. Most of the tail male lines from these powerhouse sires will end.

It isn't possible to predict what new sire line is about to emerge. That's why it's called chaos theory. The Delegate branch is probably going to grow as more people pull in Penlan based sires for these bitches, but the discovery of any dna test for a common breed problem could swing interest in different directions overnight.

Check the Ruffian branch.
Ruffian Part 1
Ruffian Part 2
Look at the overall pattern first. Few dogs become top producers unless they come from a nearly unbroken line of the same. Now, count how many current sires trace to Uproar and through what dogs. Note how many of their male lines have ended. 35 champions and today, only the Shorlaine Dynamic Flash and Bound To Win branches are adding to their totals. Look especially at Blue Spruce. With the exception of our small Banner branch, he continues through two sons. Target is travelling down in male line through only two of his sons.

Now go to the Delegate, Tribute and Diplomat pages.

These sire lines are barely holding their own, outside the Penlan family, and all those trace through Paragon. There really is no more "Delegate" branch so far as male lines are concerned. It should be called the Paragon branch.

The Ruffian branch has become the First Stage line. There is virtually no Tribute branch at all - if the Hot Ice line does not resurrect, it will be inherited by Bonus. Diplomat has become Masterpiece. Tribute and Diplomat are in danger of being lost in terms of tail male producers.

The top daughters of the previous generations of top dogs invest a new line of sires with strength, and it inherits the kingdom. For a time.

The problem is that we have a finite gene pool. There is no unending supply of sire lines.

This is where breeders like Le Tousey and others like her come in. Le has a male line continuing directly from Blue Spruce that does not go through Blue Print. I have done something similar in preserving the Banner line, and three males still carry that on here in Canada. It shouldn't surprise anyone that we've crossed to each other's sires with our best bitches.

A few others out there are doing the same - preserving different branches of sire lines that are more distantly removed from current top producing sires, shoring them up with more of the same with linebreeding and inbreeding, despite known risks. It means that once in a while, you may even have to bite the bullet, and accept a bit higher health risk to try to preserve the genes of less popular dogs. Had that been done with Jack Frost, Hughcrest Hugh Heffner and Master Spy, the Ruffian branch may have been held in check by the other branches and we'd have more to choose from today.

Those of us who have good bitches have to remember to consider our lesser used males from time to time. Our breed's solid, alternative males need access to a few good bitches in their lifetimes, even if means buying or leasing a bitch from another family of known producers to give him an increased chance of producing a new son to carry the line forward. They cannot do it on their own, and giving them lesser bitches is not going to help - their sons need power on both sides of their pedigrees if they are to carry on as top producers.

We also have to make an effort to keep a few more boys. We are all told that the strength in a line comes from its bitches, and we concentrate on the girls, and let others promote and advertise popular males, but those best girls had fathers! We need to get those boys in coat and out to the specialties once in a while, get them in the stud issue, even if they bring no stud fees for a few years. Place them where they can be used. Remind people they're out there. Think twice and three times before neutering the last son of the last son.

The patterns that are revealed in the SS stud issue of narrowing lines of male descendancy are not due to superstar producing on the part of Paragon, Upswing, Blueprint - they are the result of outcrosses to avoid the superstar sires of previous generations, of breeding away from CJC, away from PRA, away from problems small and large, well known and not so well known. While curing the disease, we are killing the patient.

Many breeders, thinking and acting alike, neutering this son or that, avoiding that health problem or this, breeding only for their next litter and losing sight of the big picture that is forming from a distance. Most have no idea what branch they may be helping to build or extinguish. These are the fractals - the small breeding decisions that are building the large pattern of sire line extinctions.

Those alternative sires in the small breeding programs are butterflies. We cannot afford to waste them.

Background information on the Display sons Ruffian, Tribute, Delegate and Diplomat.

Background information on foundation bitch lines in America

For more examples of fractal patterns