Closing the Seppala Stud Book. Is your dog’s name written in “The Seppala’s Great Book of Life”?
As I have discussed in other articles, The Seppala Siberian Sleddog has undergone two genetic bottlenecks over the past 100 years. When such notable Seppala legends as Doug Willet and Jeffrey Bragg rescued the breed from the brink of extinction, they both came to a realization: In order for our breed to be genetically healthy, we needed to outcross to bring the COI (Coefficient of Inbreeding) down.
The COI is what gives various breeds their characteristic health issues. We all know, for example, that German Shepherds are prone to hip dysplasia. Beagles are prone to epilepsy. Boxers are prone to cancer. Dobermans and heart condition. Poodles and glaucoma etc… you get the idea.
In this, our breed stewards were ahead of their time. The Canadian based Seppala club adopted the use of Russian imports to add genetic depth. The American based Seppala club adopted the use of racing Siberians to add genetic depth. As has been elsewhere stated, these two solutions split the breed.
The American based Seppala club (The International Seppala Siberian Sleddog Club) uses a percentage system to breed the outcrosses back up to 93% Seppala before considering them a Seppala again. The Canadian club simply added the Russian imports to the gene pool and treated all their offspring full Seppalas. Here is the beauty- the great opportunity- we have inherited from these two great breed stewards who have passed on the torch. We can heal the rift and bring these two approaches together- thus doing more than either could do separately to reduce COI and ensure the genetic health of our breed. This is precisely what we have done. The International Seppala Siberian Sleddog Club has agreed to accept the Russian import solution as wellas our own, into our studbook. My own kennel’s recent K litter- used a Canadian line Seppala stud with some Russian import blood in his pedigree, and an American Seppala line bitch with its small amounts of Siberian Husky blood. The result? We have produced a Seppala litter with the healthy COI of 13%!
The percentage system for tracking outcrosses back to 93% has served us well for two decades. But it has also come with it’s own set of problems. Despite geneticists telling us that 93% was a good line- many have accused us of “making an arbitrary line- where a 93.1% Seppala is considered a full Seppala, and a 92.8% Seppala is not.” Further it has led to several unscrupulous breeders selling Siberian Huskies with- say 75% Seppala blood (and often FAR less) as a “Seppala”. To bolster their sales claim, they present the buyer with a certification from our own Continental Kennel Club, that states the Seppala percentage of the dog. Finally, the AKC Siberian crowd chides us- stating that the percentage system only proves that there are no more breeding pure Seppala litters. This despite the fact that current genetic surveys being done are proving that our Seppalas are far more pure than most AKC racing line Siberian Huskies. For these reasons I propose that the International Seppala Siberian Sleddog Club and the Continental Kennel Club close the studbooks. This is how that would work. We decide what the cutoff is on the current proven outcross lines. Those that have been researched and proven, such as those we see currently at Deer Creek Kennels in Wyoming. This percentage cutoff may be lower than our current number of 93%. And then, we close the studbook. Thus eliminating once and for all the debate of “What is, and what is not a Seppala?” Then when we, as the breed club, feel another outcross is needed, we can take future studs into consideration and add them on a case by case basis. This is how Harry Wheeler did it and how Bragg did it.
Or, perhaps, (as is now the case) someone has a Chukchi import stud that she feels would be ideally suited as a genetic infusion into the breed.
We would ask some simple questions, as a club.
Do we need a new infusion of genetics from a similar dog on the outside of the studbook?
What does the DNA say of that prospective new stud?
Is his morphometrics in the parameters of our breed?
Is his performance and temperament within the parameters of our breed?
Does he produce a litter with a Seppala bitch with uniform pups consistent with the parameters of our breed?
If the answer to all the above is yes, then the board can vote to include that stud into the studbook. Those pups would not be treated as second class Seppalas, but as Seppalas. As the forefathers of our breed have done. Except it will not be the decision of one person, as it has in the past.
In conclusion then; Closing the studbooks in the way I am laying out here, would serve the breed in two ways.
First, it would once and for all settle the question of “What is and what isnt a Seppala?”
IF your dog is in the Continental Kennel Club registry- it is a Seppala- if it is not, it is not.
We are the only Seppala breed club, and we work with the only Seppala breed registry. A closed studbook would also go a very long way in giving race organizations a better reason to accept the Seppala in their purebred class as a breed, distinct from the Siberian Husky.
Secondly, Our partnership with the Continental Kennel Club in judicious future additions to the studbook, would allow us to avoid the breed specific genetic defects that have been the pitfall of so many other great working breeds.
I realize this is a lot to chew on. Especially for those of us who have been working within the percentage system for the past twenty plus years. But I believe it is the greatest decision we could make at this stage in our breed preservation.
I look forward to hearing your feedback.
Thanks for your thoughtful consideration.
-Jonathan Nathaniel Hayes
Board member, ISSSC