There are three fundamentals in breeding: sire, dam and rearing. Each will be covered individually in future articles alongside articles that connect them together: bloodlines, traits, trends and so much more. But underpinning them are some simple principles that apply to all.
The golden rule of breeding is that there is no golden rule.
That isn’t intended as a smart alec play on words. It is factually correct, in my view.
I cannot think of a single breeding statement for which I can’t then produce at least some contrary evidence.
Yes, even as something as basic as ‘pups must be well reared’. I could, but won’t, name some exceptional greyhounds who have defied logic and average rearing on their rise to the top.
Did their rearing matter so much? Might they have been even greater if they had been well reared? Who knows?
Similarly, some of the greatest trackers of all time have been the worst sires. Some of the greatest Oaks winners barely threw graders.
But don’t be put off by the lack of a golden rule because there are dozens of ‘silver rules’, all of which I plan to talk about over time
They are the very essence of breeding.
Some people might find this all a bit ‘wishy washy’; this lack of certainty. For me it is the absolute fascination of breeding.
It would hold no interest at all for me if track and stud ability were directly related. It would mean every champion would produce champions and money would inevitably rule.
There would be no chance of the life changing opportunities when nature decides to produce a diamond out of nowhere.
On the flip side, ‘completely random’ would be of even less interest. Mate any dog to any bitch and you had an equal chance of producing a champion.
You might as well breed goldfish!
Breeding is an inexact science. You cannot blindly work to scientific principles and expect success every time.
If you are still thinking ‘what the hell is this bloke on about?’, I would draw you to one simple analogy – betting.
We all know that 33-1 chances win occasionally, but if you apply all the ‘silver rules’ you can be backing short priced favourites.
You won’t win every time but you will be able to determine the difference between the two.
The only reason to group the fundamentals together for this particular article is for purpose of racing them in order of importance. Each will be covered in further detail in future articles:
3) The sire: In future articles we will talk about the attributes that make a champion stud dog and how they can affect a litter.
Some people might rate the sire as more important than rearing. I would disagree. In terms of ‘sire’ v ‘dam’, this is one of the absolute fundamentals of breeding.
To simplify the thought process: you have the choice of a litter by the leading open race sire out of a bitch producing middle graders or a pup by an average sire out of Skate On, Ballymac Razl or Sizzling Sarah – and there is no decision to be made.
The stud dog will affect the honesty and stamina of the litter to a significant effect, but less so, the overall quality.
Although his influence on the overall ability of the litter is less than the dam, it shouldn’t be completely undermined. Dogs like Droopys Sydney or Droopys Jet cost the most stud quids for a reason and it had little to do with their racing ability.
2) Rearing: This would seem the simplest of subjects, ‘throw them in a five acre field for a year. Job done’.
What a huge insult to breeders. Pups will inevitably suffer sickness and injury. There will be bullying and fights. They need consistent care and attention.
They need to be well fed in order to thrive and not take fragile skeletons to the track. They need to be handled, and in many cases, have their hunting instinct sharpened if they are going to chase.
Don’t underestimate the latter – in the top breeding kennels, there is no such thing as non-chasers (maybe a few fighters from time to time!).
That isn’t the case with all rearers though – as you would know if you’ve ever visited a schooling track.
As for the myth about ‘space solves everything’. If you simply leave a litter alone in a five acre field and they will spend most of the day sleeping, wrestling or eating grass.
In a future article, we will look at different rearing methods. They vary quite considerably – thank goodness – given not everyone can afford five acres for a single litter for a year.
Many litters are reared in long paddocks, others are exercised on ‘borrowed’ farmland, beaches and golf courses. There is ‘free range’ and ‘factory’ reared and both work.
One final point on rearing – a personal ‘rule of thumb’.
When it comes to assessing the qualities of a rearer, even an average rearer can occasionally produce a great greyhound. But never a great litter.
3) The dam: I have tried to improve on an analogy I made in In The Blood and haven’t been able to do so: The dam will determine whether you produce a litter of Fiat Pandas or Ferarris.
The stud dog can add a turbo and fuel injection. (Though even Droopys Sydney can’t add a turbo to a Fiat).
The great broods aren’t those who produce a champion; they produce series of champions, litter after litter.
The great broods come in all shapes, sizes and abilities, though almost all the truly great ones were quality racers (or had the potential to be) in their own right.
One final brood bitch point at this stage. Some of the greatest Irish dams of recent decades spent their racing careers in Britain – including the mum of this year’s Irish Oaks and Derby winner.
I just know that there are many others out there waiting to be discovered. . .
Conclusion: To breed successfully, you have to tackle ALL THREE fundamentals. If you are not striving for the best in each, don’t waste your time.
There is no cost saving in breeding mediocrity
I have news of two Category One winners who are on the brink of joining the stud ranks.
Peter Stevens tells me that he and the rest of the Gaskin Greyhound Partners are looking for someone with a breeding interest to adopt Newinn Jacko.
He said: “He has made a good recovery from his broken hock and we would like to make some plans for him. I want to make this clear, we are not ‘offloading’ Jacko. We keep all our ex-racers, but would be really keen to see Jacko cover some bitches. He is fabulously bred and he already has his first litter.
“We hope that somebody, perhaps with their own bitches, would take a chance on him. I would even be willing so support him in terms of some advertising.”
The Monmore Puppy Derby/Olympic winning son of the deceased Laughil Duke out of Coolavanny Pearl (Aero Majestic-Little Flutter) is a litter brother to Newinn Session, Doolin Duke and Newinn Liz. In her previous litter, Pearl threw Clona Blaze and a string of lesser minor open race winners.
It is a dam line with which Pat Rosney enjoyed so much success notably with Newinn Yolo and Newinn Rocket. Yolo’s sister Newinn Expert is the dam of Irish Derby winner Newinn Lester.
I also understand that the brilliant Kilara Lion has returned to Alex Hopkins with plans for an eventual stud career.
A brilliant winner of the Kent & East Anglian Derbys, the Blue Riband and runner-up in the English Derby, the fabulous brindle is a litter brother to Irish Derby finalist Kilara Icon.
They are by the deceased Droopys Jet out of Kilara Lizzie (Hello Deejay-Kilara Belle). Lizzie previously threw track record breaker and Cat One winner Brinkley Poet and is descended from PJ Fahy’s (Tyrur) Pinhead damline.