Genetic diversity in the Icelandic Sheepdog

The genetic diversity within the Icelandic Sheepdog at this point in time (2017) consists of 2,44 unique animals. To understand what this means, I advise you to read the paragraph regarding genetic diversity first. Please find the link here.

The genetic diversity of 2,44 is measured with respect to the dogs that can still contribute to maintaining and improving genetic diversity. In other words: these are all dogs that can still produce litters. We have made a list of all females from 0 – 8 years and all males from 0 – 10 years. This group consists of 6187 dogs worldwide.

As you can also read at the end of the “What is genetic diversity” paragraph, several breeders have acted upon Pieter Oliehoek’s research in 1997, to save at that time perishing blood lines. As a result of their actions, Ulfur has been brought to The Netherlands (from Iceland) and he has been bred with here to try to maintain these lines.

Unfortunately now, through the new calculations, we see that a lot of this blood is almost vanished or has been so much diluted by making ‘wrong’ combinations, that this offspring is not able anymore to contribute to the diversity for the population as a whole. So besides knowing which dogs have important genes, we need to combine them to keep the unique genes unique. When you combine ‘unique’ with ‘less unique’, you are not able to work on the balance in the generation that follows, because you enlarge both groups. 

In order to get a better overview of the genetically important dogs and the (in this respect) less important dogs, we have divided the population into 4 groups. We have the dark green, light green, orange and red groups. In this pie chart you can see which part of the population represents one colour. As you can see, only 1/8 of the population is dark green, 3/8 of the population is light green and the same goes for orange. Finally, the red group also makes for 1/8 part of the population. Red dogs are dogs with genes that are already present a lot in the population. Orange dogs are dogs which genes that on average are quiet common in the population. Light green dogs are dogs with genes that are less present in the population. And finally the dark green dogs have genes that are particularly rare in the population as a whole.

You’ll find the spreading of the groups in the diagram below:

Unfortunately, we can see that in the last year we’ve lost some important dark green genes. It’s very important that as many breeders as possible work together to prevent it from happening again.

If you want to know the mean kinship of your Icelandic Sheepdogs you can always request this using the form on this page.

All MK-numbers are round on halves. The groups are:

  • Dark green dogs: 15 t/m 19
  • Light green dogs: 19,5 t/m 20,5
  • Orange dogs: 21 en 21,5
  • Red dogs: 22 t/m 23

When you want to breed for diversity, it is important that you try to lower the mean kinship of the whole population. Unfortunately, there is not one way to do this. Every combination is unique and with every combination all accessory factors must be taken in perspective.
Nevertheless there is one “rule”: combine dark green dogs with other dark green ones. This is the only way to keep unique genes unique. This is not needed for all combinations you are doing with your dark green dog, but should be for at least one of them.
To breed dark green dogs together, you can work on building a “dark green sub-group” in your country. This group contains dogs that can contribute on improving the genetic diversity in our breed.

Next to this dark green sub-group, it’s important to investigate what genes you have in your country. As soon as you know that, you can start searching for new genes to import.
The different new genes in your country shouldn’t immediately /only be combined with your current population. By combineing different new genes, you create a “new genes sub-group” with dogs that can be used for lowering the inbreeding and improving the genetic diversity within your national population.

Breeding for diversity is a very important, but complex task. We therefore advise any and all that wants to breed for genetic diversity, to attend the workshops for the Icelandic Sheepdog that are being organised from time to time, so you will learn to use this aspect better when making breeding considerations.

If you have a dark green dog yourself or want to contribute by buying a dog from these important combinations in order to breed with that dog, you can always contact me. You can also always contact the breeding committee of your country.

For more questions about the results you have received and what these results mean exactly, you can always contact us.