“Whenever two or three Beagle breeders get together, the topic of breeding techniques usually comes up, and linebreeding may be mentioned somewhere in the conversation. There is a lot of confusion about this term, so the first thing I want to do is define both linebreeding and inbreeding and then go on to discuss them separately.
Loyd C. Brackett, in his book, Planned Breeding (on page 3), defines linebreeding as “Mating animals that are closely related to the same ancestor, preferably one whose type it is desired to obtain in the resultant progeny” (or offspring). In other words, the mating is intended to keep the descendants closely related to an effect, bred “inline” to that common ancestor.
So then, when a breeder says that his dog is linebred, one should immediately question “Linebred to what?” The answer to that question enables us to somewhat evaluate the wisdom of having used this type of breeding because the ancestor in question is usually well known or perhaps even famous. If the breeder claiming linebreeding cannot answer you naming the common ancestor that appears more than once in the pedigree, then that breeder doesn’t really have a linebred stock.
Some breeders define linebreeding as a sort of “mild” form of inbreeding – closer than outcrossing but not intense inbreeding either. In my mind, this is not linebreeding. Linebreeding must be carried out with a particular common ancestor in mind. Unless this is done, true linebreeding is not being practiced.
Linebreeding can be done in order to concentrate the blood of either an outstanding male or female, it doesn’t matter which one. However, it is practiced much more often with an outstanding male in mind – maybe even one that is dead, and our mating one of his sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, etc. keeps his influence alive in the line.
Inbreeding, on the other hand, implies a much closer relationship between the mating pair than does linebreeding. Brackett says regarding inbreeding (again on page 3), that “…it is generally understood to have to do with only four relationships – son to mother, father to daughter, brother to sister, half-brother to half-sister (both having the same sire and different dams, or the same dam and different sires).” It should also be noted here that mating individuals from two different litters, each have the same parents, is mating full blood brothers and sisters. That too is inbreeding.
Advantages of Linebreeding
Now let’s turn to linebreeding and talk about its advantages and disadvantages. First the advantages:
- The main purpose of linebreeding is to perpetuate the characteristics of a great individual. The generations of Beagles come and go very quickly. Linebreeding is a way of “keeping that great one around” a little longer, even after he’s dead and gone. Linebreeding is choosing which ancestors shall influence your line in the future, and which ancestor shall have a diminished effect. This system of breeding puts you, the breeder more in control.
- Not only perpetuating certain characteristics, but actually improving your Beagles is also possible. The upgrading of your stock can be done with judicious linebreeding. What actually happens is that the pedigree is narrowed to a few closely related lines of descent. This “purifies” the pedigree and enables the breeder to have a little more control on the outcome of a mating. As Brackett puts it (on page 3 of his book) “It discourages variability and reduces it to a minimum.” I usually say that the “pulls” are more often going in the same direction.
- Another advantage of linebreeding is that results can be more easily predicted. The breeder can thus do more than mate a bitch and hope for good results. He can expect a greater percentage of good hounds to come from the mating.
Disadvantages of Linebreeding
The disadvantages of linebreeding would be conversely:
- If the “great individual” you are perpetuating has some bad traits, they will also be perpetuated, perhaps even magnified. Thus it is possible to strive for one set of good characteristics surfacing that you did not know where there. So you had better know all you can about that great one you are trying to perpetuate.
- Another disadvantage of linebreeding is that it simply may not work. Some lines just do not perpetuate well. They tend to be “swallowed up” by whatever they are bred to. You have to be prepared for this, although it happens in only a few cases.
- Finally, linebreeding (and inbreeding) necessitates “selection” or culling out of undesirables, which many breeders just will not do. They become “kennel blind” and can see no wrong in their hounds, or they fall in love with every one they own and cannot part with them. (I will have more to say on this subject later in a separate article.)
If you decide to practice linebreeding, you may want to breed your bitch to two different sons of a great stud that is dead, or you may want to breed a grandson back to a great brood bitch of yours (to perpetuate her blood), or a granddaughter back to a grandfather, etc. These are common examples of linebreeding.
The pedigrees of old-time hounds had certain males reoccurring in them two or three times or more as the breeders the influence they were having on the breed and practiced linebreeding. I could name a famous stud in each past decade that appears in most Beagle pedigrees, somewhere more than once. (I won’t be that specific though.) Now, with the resurgence in popularity of the “gundog” or “rabbit hunting” Beagle (away from the brace or non-hunting Beagle), there is a conscious effort to back to some of the more traditional bloodlines and forget contemporary strains. Here again, there may be some linebreeding going on to accomplish this.
Linebreeding is choosing which ancestors shall have their influence conserved and spread and which ancestors shall be allowed to diminish in importance with each generation. Different breeders may have different ideas as to what hounds shall be carried on into the future and what hounds shall not. That’s probably good. That way the breed doesn’t completely evolve to one or two popular bloodlines.
There is a continual influx of beginners in breeding Beagles too. These are people who have never before mated one hound to another or made any study of the subject. In their ignorant “bliss” they believe that the mating of any two hounds will do just fine. That’s all there is to it. These are Beaglers I am trying to reach, for they represent a great influence in the future of either good or ill. I happen to believe that they might need a little guidance, but armed with good information they may surprise us with what good hounds they turn out.
Start studying up on what sires offer the opportunity for you to do some linebreeding and then plan your matings accordingly. Remember though, that not every spectacular performance is a producer.
Scientists agree that mating is purely a fifty-fifty proposition – with sire and dam both having equal “input” on shaping the offspring. Linebreeding that favors a particular bloodline or family may just pay off for you eventually by “tipping the scales” in that direction. If it is done right, linebreeding can’t help but improve your line and enable you to breed better Beagles.”
If you are a Beagle breeder or just want to learn more on this interesting subject, please order yourself a copy of Rev. John Parks book titled “Breeding Better Beagles.” John is of the most knowledgeable Beagle breeders in the world.
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