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The publication on the net of Part 4 of the British Dog World series on the bob-tailed Boxers, without the detailed background on the earlier work on Dr. Cattanach’s experiment contained in Parts 1- 3 of the Dog World story, clearly shocked many people used to the association of pedigree with purebred. For this reason I have collected here in BU Bruce Cattanach’s subsequent posts to the Showboxer-L (an e-mail list for serious boxer breeders/exhibitors), which show the whole picture more clearly. If you haven’t read the beginning of the story in the October BU, you might want to start reading there first. Dr. Cattanach has granted BU permission to reproduce the following posts from the Showboxer-L. Virginia Zurflieh, editor


Post Publication Notes on Bob-tail Boxers

by Dr. Bruce M. Cattanach

Harwell, Didcot, Oxon OX11 0RD, UK

 Post #1

OK folks! I have been looking in on your thoughts upon my article. There seems to have been a lot of knee jerk reactions but then I suppose this surprise reproduction of only Part 4 of the series on bobtails must have been a bit of a shock. Most of your questions and criticisms would have been answered if you had had access to the earlier more detailed parts of the story, or if you knew of me.

First, Henning Lund and others have said some complimentary things about me and my Boxers but let me add a little background. Following the famous C.C. Little, I am a mouse geneticist. My specialty has been the causation and analysis of genetic defects. I started in an Edinburgh lab (1959), which provided the first evidence that chemicals could cause such effects in fruit flies. I got the evidence in the mouse, took this to Oak Ridge Tenn. (1962-64) where equivalent work with radiation was in progress. Later was invited to a post in California to continue (1966-69), but then returned to work in Oak Ridge's sister lab in the UK at Harwell, where I ultimately finished up as Director of the Medical Research Council Mammalian Genetics Unit. I "retired" a few days ago, although I work on.

Before leaving California where I had attended a number of shows, I visited Cherokee Oaks Boxers and brought a bitch back to the UK where she was to found the present generation of Steynmeres. The beginning of Steymere started back in 1945 when my parents bought a bitch for breeding and showing. I took over in 1949 until I left home for University and working in the States. In the recent generation I have made up 9 champions and had several other CC winners. Throughout, I have intermixed American, British and Continental lines.

Showing rather gave way to dog defect genetics starting with Boxer PA in 1982, and I have since been involved with problems in other breeds. Showing has become increasingly half hearted in recent years, although I have been trying, unsuccessfully I'm afraid, to breed my own idea of a stunning Boxer, rather than someone else's.

So much for my CV. Now to bobtails and the first few answers. I recognize that cross breeding is an anathema to many present day dog breeders but I have always envied the pioneer dog breeders who created all our different breeds - usually by cross breeding! Many, many forms of livestock were created in this way, the narrowing down by selection, inbreeding just adding the refinements and reducing the variability. So when I saw the writing on the wall concerning docking some 10 years ago I thought the time was ripe to reintroduce some creative breeding. I had always hated docking anyway and had actually tried many years earlier to breed on from screwtail dogs that occurred within the breed. Bred together these only produced normal tail pups - as typically happens in mice too. There was no viable option there.

Why Corgis? The reason was that I knew something about the genetics of this tail type already having been asked by enthusiasts within the breed to ascertain this for them. The Corgi bobtail was clearly inherited as a single dominant gene. Therefore I knew that it would be possible to transfer it into the Boxer. But I also knew that I would have a hard time convincing the modern day purist dog breeder who has forgotten his routes that this would be acceptable.

That's about enough for the moment but let me leave you with something of the current problem in this part of the world. Docking is almost the least of the worries. There is a European Convention on Pet Animals which appears to be being followed to the letter in some European countries. This not only vetoes docking, but it also attacks the Boxer/Bulldog undershot jaw, the Dachshund long back, the absence of coat of the Mexican hairless, etc, etc as abnormalities that should all be banned. The Bulldog is banned in its entirety, as is even the Merle gene that gives the gray colour in Collies, and the Harlequin coat of Danes. Even inbreeding in all forms will be banned if the proponents of the Convention have their way. Basically it seems that the aim is a Eurodog without breed characteristics, just basic dog. Slot my bobtails into this scenario and I think you will agree that they are very small fry in terms of the battles that lie ahead.

And following the example of restriction of smoking in public places that you already have, you can be sure that all this will be coming your way. Be sure that this is a no-win situation; all one can try to do is minimize the damage. Have I at least got your attention now?

Post #2

Question: Why not Bostons or some other similar breed? Answer: I knew nothing of the inheritance of the screw tails and all the old literature is pretty thin. Moreover from my early days in Boxers in the '40s and '50s, screw tails commonly occurred, possibly from the Bulldog ancestry. (Editor’s note: We had a screw tailed pup in our second litter, back in the 70s.) Altogether a messy inheritance was likely. I preferred to try something I knew about in the Corgis where the gene was segregating, normal and bob, and able to show the inheritance.

In the light of the results which suggest few major genes differentiate the Corgi and Boxer (they are both dogs, after all), it has not mattered that I used the very different Corgi. From 16 pups bred in the second generation, first backcross, I got my white Jane. She looked like a Boxer and bred like one, although getting the head right is clearly the hardest part - always is, even within the breed, in my experience. The big asset was that virtually all the features that I did not want were effectively dominant. Therefore once lost, they are gone forever. There will be no short legs, for example, turning up in later generations, even with inbreeding. (Just like breeding together two reds which have brindle parents; no brindle pups can be produced.

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"Bruce Cattanach with the selected second generation crossbred, Jane, showing bob-tail, Boxer construction and coat, and Boxer white color."

Why start with a white? Simply economy - for what was only an experiment. Why use a valuable show bitch? The white bitch was still a Boxer and, without starting a whole parallel debate on the inheritance of whites, this one gene was insignificant. I can choose to lose it or keep it AS CAN ANYBODY IN BOXERS - just lose the flashy animals which produce them. The only real worry for me with the whites was that my choice animals for tails might be white, and deaf. The white second generation bitch shown in the photograph was indeed white, unfortunately, but at least she was not deaf. Mated to a solid dog, all her pups were flashy, as shown; and in the current generation I have kept solids, so whites will no longer be an issue.

Criticism of the show quality of the dogs in the photographs! Well, this is a bit rough. Two points to think about. First, you see the whole litter, warts and all. There is is no validity in comparing them with your selected show stock. But some were of reasonable show standard - pretty good for part Corgi!!! Second, why assume that the faults you see derive from the Corgi (longish backs)? Actually I obtained dogs of similar makeup with almost the same but pure Boxer breeding.

Ears! Sorry but I much prefer the ears up (cropped). I suggest that the head is designed for erect ears to give that elevation and enhance that desired rise of skull. Flop ears need a finer skull to look right but this surmise is based on the effects seen with the big bitch Continental breeding with ears dropped. So, I would love to get naturally erect ears. The Corgi offered the opportunity as the stiff ear is clearly dominant and one of the first generation actually had erect ears. But they were bat ears - all the wrong size and carriage. To get erect ears, which are normal to all animals after all, looks to be very easy but getting the fit right will be harder. Many years ago I applied to the KC, together with a famous Bull Terrier person, Raymond Oppenheimer, to do this cross and introduce erect ears into the Boxer by backcrossing, etc, etc. (Whoever bred the flop ears into Boxers when they wanted them up even from the start? A bit careless!) The KC turned the idea down at that stage, suggesting that we first do it and then reapply. We did not bother I should add here that the famous German breed expert, Otto Donner, told me last year that in Germany they tried to introduce erect ears into Boxers some time back. They also tried a cross - with a Spitz breed of some sort. But they intercrossed and everything got mixed up. Nevertheless, they had the right idea and were not averse to crossing to attain what they wanted.

Oh yes, back to other effects of the cross. It has in fact been rather sad to see the beneficial effects of the cross disappear with the repeated backcrossing to Boxers. Beneficial effects? The first cross were delightful dogs, at least the bitches I dealt with were. Friendly, happy, stable, tough. They had Boxer eyes and temperaments (by the way I am very careful on temperaments in my Boxers) but the rest was near Corgi (Beagle type for sure). But at whelping, 7 and 9 pups from the two bitches and all appeared with scarcely a sign within about 2 hours. Pups reared as fat slugs with no help and late weaning, and never a mess to be seen. One bitch had her litter in the main room of her house (she did not stay with me), at Christmas time with kids' parties all around. No problems. Jump out to see visitors and then back to the pups with a wag of the tail. In subsequent generations everything has slipped back to Boxer standard - OK but slow. The one thing I have been lucky enough to keep, but this may only be due to the Continental breeding, has been large teeth. I have in this generation, across the board, the best Boxer mouths that I have ever had, and with evident repandous chins (the hardest combination to get).

Enough for just now? I'll come back in a couple of days with a number of added bonuses in terms of useful information deriving from the cross. And then there are the real potential problems which no one has yet brought up, but will have to be resolved.

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"Plain fawn male and flashy fawn bitch - fourth generation bob-tails at 9 - 12 weeks of age. The plain fawn male will be shown soon."

The Bobtail Series will continue with Part III in the February/March BU. In the meantime, here s the latest from Bruce and the bobtails in the showring!

A Small Bobtail Brag

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"Fourth generation eight-month-old bitch that made the cut! By third generation "George" ex purebred boxer, Steynmere Set the Fashion."

At the huge Midland Counties General championship show yesterday the oldest of the pups of fourth generation breeding was pulled out in the last 8 of the Working Group Puppy Bitch Sweepstakes class under Britain's most qualified all-round judge, Terry Thorn. When I confessed to him afterwards, there was a moment's pause, and then he smiled broadly and animatedly shook my hand saying, Well done.

If nothing else I think this confirms my statements about the appearance of these dogs. She not only looks like a Boxer but has some star appeal. Untrained other than to sit, reared as a pet, needing her nails clipped and whiskers trimmed before going into the class, she had to be free shown - but it worked. After some 8 years of effort and a lot of hassle this was a moment to savor...and to celebrate. And I did.

Bruce Cattanach


Willy, The Rescue
Farewell to Audrey
Cultural Differences
Breeding to Improve
Bobtail Story Part 2
Don't Buy that Puppy
Canine Cuisine
Osborn Saga
Boxer Bytes
Bear Speaks

Editor: Virginia Zurflieh
Webmaster: Pat Mullen

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