A recent article outlining the results of a genetic study of the English bulldog is getting a lot of attention from both the scientific community as well as concerned animal lovers. The English bulldog is popular for both its distinctive look and sweet personality, but will the unique characteristics of the breed end up being responsible for its downfall? Scientists say that a lack of genetic diversity and serious health problems could lead to a sad end to this beloved dog breed.
Researchers studied over 100 registered English bulldogs and found a very low level of genetic diversity in the breed, caused by both a small founder population (only around 68 individuals) and “genetic bottlenecks” created by our extreme manipulation of the breed. The English bulldog suffers from significant health problems caused by changes made to its physical appearance over time.
Brachycephalic syndrome (breathing problems due to airway obstructions) is the most significant health issue faced by the breed. English bulldogs also suffer from a type of skeletal condition called chondrodysplasia (abnormal development of bone and cartilage), prognathism (underbite and associated dental problems), and skin conditions caused by excessive skin folds. Lack of genetic diversity has also led to heart and eye problems, autoimmune diseases, allergies, and cancers. Experts also note that the breed routinely requires reproductive interventions like artificial insemination and caesarian sections.
Results of the study indicate that the significant lack of genetic diversity and the extreme physical characteristics of the English bulldog may make it difficult to save the breed. It could be possible to correct some of the worst abnormalities by selectively breeding English bulldogs with the most diverse genetics...and even outcrossing with other breeds. But the authors note that this is difficult if breeders and their clients are not on board. They report that current trends favor smaller English bulldogs with more wrinkled skin and uncommon coat colors. They conclude that the future of this breed will be grim unless we place their health first and act to improve it now.
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