English bulldogs are at a genetic dead end, study finds
Researchers have found evidence to suggest that English bulldogs – a breed known for short snouts and tiny, wrinkled bodies – are so genetically similar to one another, it’s impossible for breeders to make them healthier.
This ‘genetic dead end’ means that breeders will likely have to breed bulldogs - the fourth most popular breed in America - with different breeds if they want future generations to continue without major health issues.
“The English bulldog has reached the point where popularity can no longer excuse the health problems that the average bulldog endures in its often brief lifetime,” team leader Niels Pedersen from the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement.
“More people seemed to be enamoured with its appearance than concerned about its health. Improving health through genetic manipulations presumes that enough diversity still exists to improve the breed from within, and if not, to add diversity by outcrossing to other breeds,” he said. “We found that little genetic 'wiggle room’ still exists in the breed to make additional genetic changes.”
The team examined 102 English bulldogs - 87 from the US and 15 from elsewhere around the world - and made genetic comparisons to a set of 37 other English bulldogs that were brought to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine because of health issues.
They found that the bulldogs lacked that genetic diversity needed for breeders to selectively breed individuals with healthier phenotypes, which means there’s little hope for breeders to create a healthier bulldog unless they crossbreed them.