How Swedish breeders can substantially increase the genetic gain for the English Setter’s hunting traits

Last changed: 17 May 2013

Arvelius P. & Klemetsdal G. 2013. J. Anim. Breed. Genet. ISSN 0931-2668

Abstract: In both Sweden (Swe) and Norway (Nor), the English Setter is used for hunting. Similar field trials are arranged to give breeders information on the dogs’ hunting abilities. Our main objective was to study if a joint Swe–Nor genetic evaluation can improve accuracy compared with estimation of breeding values on a national level only.

Genetic parameters for six hunting traits were estimated in univariate (within country) and bivariate (across country, of equivalent traits between countries and joint pedigree) analyses utilizing 3620 Swe records from 685 dogs and 94 414 Nor records from 7175 dogs. A mixed linear animal model was used, including fixed effects of sex, type of trial, year, month and interaction between age and class of trial, and random effects of animal, permanent environment, judge and residual.

Heritabilities ranged from 0.07 to 0.13 for Swe and from 0.08 to 0.18 for Nor. The accuracies were higher in the bivariate analyses, especially for dogs with Swe trial results with an average increase of 19%. If comparing selection based on a joint genetic evaluation over phenotypic results alone (which is today’s method), the potential genetic gain in Swe was almost doubled.

Our results suggest that a joint genetic evaluation is especially advantageous for a population with limited information, such as the English Setter population in Swe. However, it should also be beneficial for Norwegian breeders because it makes it easier for them to select Swedish dogs, potentially resulting in faster genetic gain and lowered inbreeding rate.