...By Amy Greenwood Burford
There has been a lot of interest expressed as of late with the definition of a breeder and the definition of a bloodline. Even outside of the dog world, there is much talk of ones bloodlines.
A few weeks ago, I was commenting to a young mother about the personality of her pre-term infant. I commented, "She is definitely a feisty one." The mother replied, "Oh, she comes by it naturally. It's in her bloodline." In reading an interview that was done by a rap star, he spoke with affection concerning his wife and said, "She is my bloodline." There is also a music company that specializes in rap called Bloodline Records.
Technically, the breeder of a litter of pups, is the owner of the dam. It is the owner of the dam who decides that this bitch is worthy to breed and goes about to find the proper stud to breed her with, to produce the litter. This is not etched in stone and we have seen in about 10% of the case when a litter is submitted into the registration office, the owner of the sire is listed as the breeder. This is an issue that can be decided between the owners of the sire and the dam. This is a technical definintion, but for a person who is deciding to become a "breeder" of American Pit Bull Terriers, or to establish their own bloodline, there is much more of a commitment expected.
We can look to the history of the breed and use those breeders and bloodlines that have held up as the finest examples to use in formulating our understanding of what it takes to be a breeder and what a bloodline is. One of the more notable examples of this was Howard Heinzl and the Heinzl bloodline. The Heinzl bloodline was established based on three well known bloodlines of the era- the Corvino, Tudor, and Colby lines. A "standard" was set in each breeding that was done, only the pups that met the "standard" were retained in the breeding pool. Howard studied pedigrees and investigated the individual dogs in the pedigrees of the dogs that he was using as brood stock. He had a vast knowledge of the principles of genetics and talked with other breeders of dogs as well as horse breeders and breeders of other livestock. Howard had a written plan of future bleeding’s that he wanted to make, always keeping his "standard" in mind. Howard used line breeding, inbreeding, and out-crossed breeding among the three quality lines within the formulation of his bloodline. Throughout his career, fanciers could always count on the quality that the Heinzl line was based on, when acquiring a Heinzl dog. These qualities included beautiful athletic conformation, soundness, health and beautiful heads with strong teeth. The Heinzl dogs were known for wrestling ability, being long winded and possessing endless endurance. His family of dogs, after his many years of selection, all had these qualities. This is what constitutes a bloodline. the dogs breed true for the trait or traits that the breeder is aiming for.
Now all coins have a flip side, and so it is with dogs. There are also undesirable traits that are apparent in some dogs. There are certain bloodlines that have become known in the American Pit Bull Terrier fraternity that breed true for some of the more undesirable traits such as shyness, structural problems or health issues.
So what can we learn from looking at the Heinzl dogs as an example of a bloodline and Howard Heinzl as a breeder of American Pit Bull Terriers?
1) A bloodline can be defined as a family of dogs that breed true for certain traits that the breeder sets as his "standard". A breeder's standard should always start with breed type. Those physical characteristics that were established in the breed that reflect the history and original purpose of the breed and enable a breed to be distinguished apart from other breeds. These include temperament, overall proportions, balance, soundness and health.
2) A breeder has to start with quality stock from somewhere. A through research into the dogs in the background or the pedigree of the dogs is ESSENTIAL to learn about the traits that they possess as well as how they were developed. Such as line breeding, inbreeding or out-crossed breeding. As in the example of Howard Heinzl, many successful breeders usually start with two or three outstanding lines to serve as the foundation of their bloodlines.
3) The principals of genetics and the ways to breed, (i.e., line breeding, inbreeding and out-cross breeding), and the strengths and weakness of each needs to be understood.
4) Accurate records of the breeding made and the pups produced need to be kept . Follow-up in the evaluation of the pups is essential, as is the selection of quality brood stock for future breeding. A breeding may look great on paper, but the evaluation of the offspring is essential to confirm what works and what does not. The pups that do not measure up to the breeder's "standard" should be spayed and neutered and go into responsible pet homes, so as not to muddy up or spoil the name of the breeder by producing sub-standard dogs that carry on the name of the breeder.
A bloodline can be based on a breeder, such as in the example of Howard Heinzl, or it can also be based on an individual stud dog or brood bitch. In this case, it is usually a prominent dog that genetically throws such quality, that a high percentage of its offspring all breed true for this quality. An example of this is Crenshaw's (Jerry's) Champion Honeybunch. Honeybunch was a bitch from the Carver and Boudreaux bloodline which genetically possessed such quality that, when bred to five different stud dogs, produced top dogs from every litter. There was no wrong way to breed this bitch. She produced quality from all five breeders. One of her sons, Crenshaw's Champion Jeep, is given credit in some circles for being one of the greatest producing studs of modern APBT history, You hear of fanciers, that credit Jeep with establishing a distinct "bloodline" of his own. We can argue that, Jeep is really a dog from the Honeybunch line or 25% Carver, 25% Boudreaux, 50% Loposay cross, depending on how far back in his pedigree you want to go or to whom you want to give the credit.
For a person who wishes to establish a quality bloodline of dogs, accurate record keeping is essential to record breeding’s, pups produced and establish accurate pedigrees. Each breeder or person wishing to establish themselves as a breeder must recognize and value this fact. If they do not, the predictability of the quality in the offspring that they produce is really a crap shoot and not based on the genetic laws of probability. Tell me which person wants to devote 20 years of time and money to develop a line of dogs that will not breed true because someone hung papers on an unknown dog for a quick buck? When you hear of someone claiming not to care about this or touting, "so and so did it, so I'm not so bad", you can quickly determine their quality of commitment to their breeding program and to the future of the breed.
Becoming a breeder of high quality American Pit Bull Terriers and establishing a "bloodline" of which to be proud, is no small feat. It is certainly more than putting a few litters on the ground. We salute those breeders of the past and those today that remain committed in producing the finest quality APBT's for future generations to come.