Information in English

INFORMATION IN ENGLISH

From the Breed Specific Breeding Strategy - RAS for Field Spaniel 2023–2027:
”Overall breeding objectives for the breed
As the breed is very small in numbers, with an extremely small gene pool, genetic variation is the most important priority.
For several years, therefore, there has been a dialogue about making an outcross. In 2022, the plans have begun to materialize.
In order to maintain genetic variation, breeders should plan their breeding based on:
as low an inbreeding rate as possible in each individual combination.
Use as many breeding animals as possible, preferably unused and from as many different families as possible.
Import breeding animals with a low degree of relatedness to the existing breeding animals.
Prioritize breeding animals with unusual pedigrees.
Male dog owners should avoid neutering their dog, other than for medical purposes, as it needs to be considered a potential breeding animal for the survival of the breed.
The male should not be overused in breeding.
Older breeding animals are preferred as it prolongs the generation interval and delays the loss of genetic variation." (translation from https://docs.google.com/viewerng/viewer?url=http://fieldklubben2022.se/onewebmedia/RAS%2520field%2520spaniel%25202023.pdf)


Outcross project regarding increased genetic variation in the Field Spaniel


Project plan (english version)

Information April 2024

For several years, there has been discussions within the Swedish Field Spaniel Club to draw up an application to do an outcross project to help with the Field Spaniel breed's fertility problems and low genetic variation, and now, happily, the SKK's breeding committee has approved the club's application and project plan. The project plan is prepared together with breeders and members within the club as well as in collaboration with the Swedish Spaniel and Retriever Club (SSRK) and the Swedish Kennel Club (SKK). The breeds chosen to be used as donors are the English Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel and Welsh Springer Spaniel - three breeds with good fertility and temperament similar to the Field Spaniel's i.e. Spaniel mentality. The three breed clubs have been contacted and have responded positively to the project. Broadly speaking, the project entails that a number of Field Spaniels will be bred to dogs of the donor breed, and they will then be bred back to Field Spaniels. The puppies born within the project are registered as Field Spaniels, however, not in SKK's normal dog registry but in the special registry the X-registry, and they can participate in all activities within the SKK organisation. Only in the fourth generation can they be registered in SKK's regular SE registry, in accordance with international FCI rules. In the end, the hope is that these Field Spaniels will contribute with new healthy genes to the rest of the population


From the SKK/AK nr 2–2024, 2024-03-22:
”Application for an outcross project regarding increased genetic variation in Field Spaniels

SKK/AK already noted at the previous meeting that the club has worked in a meritorious way with the issue and submitted a well crafted application, but as since SKK centrally did not have a ready approach regarding the handling of outcross projects, the matter has been tabled. SKK/AK discussed the issue and noted that since the previous meeting, the Central Board, CS, confirmed SKK/AK's conclusion that the offspring in an outcross project are not registered in the regular stud book (SE registry) but in the so-called X registry (an annex registry where the offspring from an outcross receives the prefix SXX in its registration number). The Outcross Project Working Group (Arbetsgruppen för inkorsningsprojekt) reported that the application was reviewed once more prior to this meeting and that the group had no additional comments. With that as a background, SKK/AK decided to grant the application for an outcross project regarding increased genetic variation in Field Spaniels." (Translated fromhttps://www.skk.se/globalassets/globala-filer/protokoll/avelskommitten/2024/avelskommitten-2-2024.pdf)



Information November 2023

Now the notes from the Swedish KC Breeding Committee Meeting 2023-09-14 has been published:
“Application for an outcross project regarding increased genetic variation in the Field Spaniel
The Field Spaniel Club has submitted an application for an outcross project regarding increased genetic variation in the Field Spaniel. SKK/AK decides to postpone the application (…) The committee will resume the application when it has been centrally decided on an approach to handling future outcross projects.” (2023-11-14: https://www.skk.se/globalassets/dokument/protokoll/avelskommitten/avelskommitten-4-2023.pdf)

“Outcross project - why, how, when, and where are we now?

The Field Spaniel is a wonderful breed but over the years there have been breeding difficulties that have occasionally made life miserable for the breeders. Among other things, we currently have many males that are infertile and both males and females with low sex drive that are unable to mate. In 2021 and 2022, not even half of the Scandinavian mating attempts led to actual litters.
The breed has a low genetic variation and high inbreeding rate - at DNA level the average inbreeding rate is 38.6% (Bannasch et al 2021), which is high compared to other breeds.
Genetic variation is a prerequisite of both breeding work (artificial selection) and natural selection (evolution). The genetic variation decreases through genetic drift, inbreeding and through breeding with few individuals. Genetic drift causes certain gene variants to become rare or disappear from the population by chance, while others become more widespread. The effect is greatest in small populations.
The Field Spaniel breed have never been large in numbers, and all today's Field Spaniels after the Second World War are descended from only four half-sisters, a male closely related to them, and an English Springer Spaniel that was used into the breed in the 1950:s.

As the degree of inbreeding increases, so does the risk that recessive defective genes will double and that there will be reduced variation among genes that have to do with general health, which can for example lead to a weakened immune system, shorter life expectancy and fertility problems, so-called inbreeding depression.
You can spread the risks and try to maintain the diversity that exists, by making combinations where the degree of inbreeding is as close to zero as possible (according to the Swedish Kennel Club, a benchmark is to never breed dogs that give an inbreeding coefficient higher than 6.25% which should be seen as an upper limit and is not a desirable level), but mainly by limiting the influence of individual dogs by using as many different individuals as possible when breeding, instead of using the same dogs over again. The breeders of the Nordic countries have been good at this as well as trying to solve the problems by going abroad for matings and by importing dogs from many different families in many different countries. Despite this, the problems remain.
Unfortunately, we have ended up in a situation with very low genetic variation where all Fields are very closely related to each other and where we no longer have sufficient variation to be able to solve the problems within the breed.
Genetic variation is created only through new mutations and through gene flow between populations. The only way to increase the genetic variation and produce new gene variants in a breed with a closed stud book is by out crossing to other breeds. The SKK's Registration Rules for example state:
“In both numerically small and large breeds, breeding can lead to the loss of important traits for the breed or to unwanted traits becoming widespread. The breeding must then focus on a reconstruction of the breed. Outcrossing with another breed is a method of reconstruction that can be used to increase the genetic diversity at an inbreeding depression or in the event of loss of important functions for the breed.” (translated from SKK registration rules 2023-06-21 https://skk.se/globalassets/dokument/uppfodning/registreringsregler_r42.pdf)
Outcrossing to help the breed's fertility problem has long been discussed in the breed, and in the fall of 2020, about twenty breeders from Sweden and a handful of other countries submitted a joint application to the Swedish Kennel Club (SKK) to be allowed to outcross to other breeds. See that application here
The SKK's breeding committee agreed that something needed to be done for the Field Spaniel and commissioned the Field Spaniel Club (FSK) and the Swedish Spaniel and Retriever Club (SSRK) to work further on the issue.
“SKK/AK has received an ambitious request to cross other gundog breeds with the Field Spaniel in order to increase the breed's genetic diversity. The Field Spaniel is a numerically small breed where there is a need to, for example, increase fertility and litter size within the breed. The Breed club and Special Club has submitted an opinion on the matter and agrees that measures to help the breed need to be taken. The clubs and SKK's Breeding Committee believe that this work should be carried out within the care of the breed club.
SKK/AK decided to instruct the clubs to continue working on the issue and return with an application when support has been established within both the Breed Club and Special Club. The committee would then like the application to be supplemented with which breed(s) the clubs consider most suitable to use for outcrossing with the Field Spaniel.” (translated from SKK Breeding Committee 2023-06-21 https://www.skk.se/contentassets/99983890ac954e5c9f77b318f920537e/avelskommitten-protokoll-1-2021.pdf)
Information about this first outcross application was published in SSRK's club magazine Apportören no. 2-2021, see link.


In November 2021, FSK held a first Breeders' Meeting where a possible future outcross project was discussed, and all participants agreed that this needs to be implemented.


In the spring of 2022 at the Breeders Meetings it was among other things discussed which breeds could be suitable, and we came for example to the conclusion that we do not want breeds with major disease problems or a temperament that is too independent. A Project Committee was formed to prepare a project plan/application. The Project Committee investigated the proposed breeds, looked among other things at health statistics and the Breed Specific Breeding Strategies, and came to the conclusion of the English Cocker Spaniel, the English Springer Spaniel and the Welsh Springer Spaniel - three breeds with good fertility and temperament similar to the Field Spaniel, i.e. Spaniel mentality. The three Breed Club’s have been contacted and are all positive about the project.
In May 2023, the project plan/application was sent for referral to FSK's members (see referral letter below) and a meeting was held where the Project Committee, members from FSK's Board, SSRK's Breeding Officer, a member of SKK's Breeding Committee and SKK's Geneticist discussed the plan/application. Based on member responses and meeting notes, a final project plan has been drawn up, has been approved by the Board after minor changes, and now on 2023-06-29 has been sent to SSRK for approval and then for forwarding to SKK's Breeding Committee. (translated from Korsningsprojektet – varför, hur, när, och var står vi nu?)

Referral letter to the FSK members May 7th 2023 regarding project plan/application outcross project

”Information from the Field Spaniel klubben

We can probably all agree that the Field Spaniel is a fantastic breed, but it also struggles with serious problems - problems that threaten the breed's existence. We have a gene pool that is too narrow. This means that there is too little genetic variation within the breed, there are too few gene variants to choose from.
Although the vast majority of Field Spaniels are healthy, we are affected by this narrow genetic breeding base in ways that make the survival of the breed uncertain unless we act now.

It's about the Field Spaniel's ability to reproduce. Our males have poor semen quality and often become sterile at a very young age. The males have also become ignorant of mating and lack sex drive – a necessity to be able to mate! Our females allow themselves to be mated at the wrong time so there are only a few puppies, or are very difficult to breed so a tie does not occur.

The breed has had health programs in which reproduction has been included since 2013. The breeders in Sweden have worked hard to broaden the gene pool here, both by carefully selecting unrelated breeding partners, but also by often trying to use males from abroad and by importing many dogs (several all the way from the USA and Canada) to try to add new blood to the Swedish population. We have talented responsible breeders who do their best, as everyone wants to keep the Field Spaniel breed for many years to come.

Despite this, reproduction has become increasingly worse (also internationally) and if the breed is to survive, there is only one way out: outcross to another breed, a so-called outcross project. Such an outcross project will probably start in the summer, and we are currently in the final stages of designing the project plan before it is sent to the Swedish Kennel Club (SKK) for final approval. It will be a collaboration between the Field Spaniel Club, SKK, the Swedish Spaniel and Retriever Club (SSRK) and geneticists. Outcrossing projects are made from time to time and have been done successfully in a number of other breeds, such as the Clumber Spaniel in Sweden and the Norwegian Puffindog in Norway (ongoing).

Roughly speaking, a number of Field Spaniels will be bred to another breed/s, and then the offspring is bred back with Field Spaniel again. The breeds that may be relevant should preferably be as far from Field Spaniels genetically, have a broad genetic breeding base in their own breed and they should also match reasonably in size and not differ too much in mentality. The puppies from the first crossing are registered as Field Spaniels but in SKK's X-registry, as well as the following two generations. They get pedigrees and can participate in tests and competitions and obtain Swedish championships like any Field Spaniel, but not international ones. In the fourth generation, they are registered as regular Field Spaniels in SKK's regular S-registry and are also internationally counted as Field Spaniels. Ultimately, it is hoped that these Field Spaniels will spread their new healthy genes to the rest of the population.

This is, as has already been said, a project with all that it entails. All offspring will be followed up meticulously and there will be a great responsibility laid on the breeders, but also on the people who buy these puppies.

The next step in the project is a meeting with SKK's geneticists to get answers to the final questions and input to the project plan.

We therefore appreciate all members' opinions and thoughts about the outcross project! We therefore encourage anyone who wishes to read and comment on the project plan to do so by May 15, 2023.
This is done via the link: https://forms.gle/KdEsSLbcjZG8TD2E9

You can give input on different parts of the project plan, leaving the parts you don't have opinions on blank.

Input from the meeting with SKK's geneticists as well as input from all members will be the basis for the final revision of the project plan before it is submitted to SSRK and SKK for final approval.” (translation from the Field Spaniel Klubben members fb-group 2023-06-21: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1697874747337529/permalink/1727211397737197)

The Swedish Kennel Club's rules regarding outcross projects

”Breeding work is a creative and constructive activity aimed at maintaining or developing the characteristics of the dog. In both numerically small and large breeds, breeding can lead to the loss of important traits to the breed or to unwanted traits becoming widespread. The breeding must then focus on a reconstruction of the breed. Outcrossing to another breed is a method of reconstruction that can be used to increase the genetic diversity at an inbreeding depression or in the event of loss of important functions for the breed. (...)
The X-registry is SKK's instrument, among other things, to use outcrossing under controlled conditions when breeding. (...)
The X-registry


Rules
1. An application to be allowed to do outcross breeding for the above purpose may be submitted by breeders, breed club and specialty club. The application is submitted to SKK's Breeding Committee and must be submitted in good time, preferably no later than six months before the intended mating. Permission for an outcross is given after hearing with the breed club and special club. Approval is not granted retrospectively to crossings carried out without a permit.
2. Offspring from an approved outcross are registered in SKK's X-registry." (translation from SKK registration rules 2023-06-21: https://skk.se/globalassets/dokument/uppfodning/registreringsregler_r42.pdf)

”Offspring from an approved outcross are registered in SKK's X-registry. An X-registered individual can be used in breeding provided that it meets the registration requirements for the breed in question (origin breed). Offspring of an X-registered dog are registered in the X-registry. After three generations of re-crossing to the original breed, the individuals will again be registered in the regular studbook (SE-registry), this in accordance with FCI's guidelines.
X-registered dogs can participate and qualify in SKK's exhibition, test and competition activities on the same terms as the breed in question. However, a dog that does not have a complete three generation pedigree cannot be awarded any of the international certificates (exhibition, test, competition) and consequently cannot obtain any of the FCI international championship titles.
X-registered dogs can also get health results and results from mentality descriptions (MH and BPH) registered in SKK's database in the same way as other dogs in the breed. This possibility is important for the outcross animals to be evaluated to guide the continued breeding work." (translation from SKK's Quick reference guide regarding projects for increased genetic variation 2023-06-21: https://skk.se/contentassets/a34b1f9c4f214ff9a1f301a5d58ca0a1/lathund-iavssende-projekt-for-okad-genetisk-variation.pdf)

”• When an outcross project is approved by SKK's breeding committee, the individual outcrosses made within the framework of the project do not need to be approved by SKK/AK centrally, but can be handled by the breed club itself according to established criteria. (...)
• The breeder needs, together with the registration application, to submit approval for the outcross from the breed club so that it is clear to SKK's office that the outcross is approved." (translation from SKK Breeding Committee protocol SKK/AK nr 1 2023, 2023-06-21: https://skk.se/globalassets/dokument/protokoll/avelskommitten/avelskommitten-1-2023.pdf)

SKK's Quick reference guide regarding projects for increased genetic variation
See original version here, google translate into english here.











Information video from the Finnish Kennel Club about outcrossing
See here.

Links to some planned and to some already Kennel Club approved outcross projects in different countries
In Norway eg Norwegian Puffindog here, in Finland Nederlandse Kooikerhondje here, Kromfohrländer here, German Pinscher here, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and French bulldog here, in the Netherlands Wetterhoun here and Saarlos wolfdog here, in Sweden Clumber spaniel here, Smålandsstövare here, Gotlandsstövare here, Swedish lapphound here, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel here.


From Apportören 2-2021