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Hip Dysplasia in Bernese Mountain Dogs

SINCE HIP scoring began for all breeds in 1983 the Bernese has been one of the most supportive breeds. Around 30% of all dogs registered are scored and to date (23/06/00) we have scored 3001 BMD with a breed mean of 16.01 which, of the 76 breeds with 40 or more dogs scored puts the breed in 26th place (first is worst). Only seven breeds have scored more animals than the BMD and all are numerically larger breeds. Of the animals scored 2007 or 66.9% are bitches and 994 (33.1%) are males. This breakdown of about two thirds females, one third males is seen across most breeds and probably reflects the fact that breeders tend to keep more females.

The females average 16.74 and the males 14.54. This slight increase for females is seen in most breeds and though it does not reach significance does suggest that, as in humans, females are more prone to the problem. The proportion of animals in each score range are shown in Table 1 for males and females separately. Note that groups are over 5 points in the lower levels and over 10 in the higher.

In Table 1 are given the number of animals in each score range, this expressed as a percentage of the total for that sex and the cumulative percentage. Only a tiny fraction (0.7% overall) score 0/0 but almost 10% score 5 or better and half the males and 44% of the females score 10 or better. A score of 10 or better is an excellent score and the overall figures look good for the breed to this point. Two thirds of the breed score 15 or better and 78% score 20 or better.

If breeders put an upper limit of 25 for breeding stock then they would be discarding only 16% of the breed on hip grounds while only 12% of the breed score in excess of 30 and only 7% are above 40. Very high scoring BMD are something of a rarity but the highest bitch scored 102 and the highest male 98.

In reality some 11% of males are used for breeding and 33% of females assuming breeding to mean one or more litters. If hips were the sole criterion one could be using males scoring 5 or better and females scoring about 8 or better. Of course more than hips have to be considered and breeders should look not only at the hip score but also other features of the dog.

Table 1: Distribution of scores by sex (BMD)

Males   Females   Combined
Score No % Cum   No % Cum   No % Cum
Range     %       %       %
0 11 1.1 1.1   10 0.5 0.5   21 0.7 0.7
1 - 5 110 11.1 12.2   152 7.6 8.1   262 8.7 9.4
6 - 10 386 38.8 51.0   724 36.1 44.1   1110 37.0 46.4
11 - 15 225 22.6 73.6   445 22.2 66.3   670 22.2 68.7
16 - 20 77 7.8 81.4   204 10.2 76.5   281 9.4 78.1
21 - 25 58 5.8 87.2   137 6.8 83.3   195 6.5 84.6
26 - 30 35 3.5 90.7   79 3.9 87.2   114 3.8 88.4
31 - 40 42 4.2 95.0   96 4.8 92.0   138 4.6 93.0
41 - 50 16 1.6 96.6   75 3.7 95.8   91 3.0 96.0
51 - 60 11 1.1 97.7   33 1.6 97.4   44 1.5 97.5
61 - 70 13 1.3 99.0   24 1.2 98.6   37 1.2 98.7
71 - 80 6 0.6 99.6   14 0.7 99.3   20 0.7 99.4
81 - 90 2 0.2 99.8   10 0.5 99.8   12 0.4 99.8
91 - 100 2 0.2 100.0   2 0.1 99.9   4 0.1 99.9
101 - 106 0 0 20.1   2 0.1 100.0   2 0 100.0
TOTAL 994   100.00   2007   100.00   3001   100.0

The effect of scoring does not appear very marked over the 17 years of the scheme but this is because some of the most widely used sires have not been among the best hip producers. In table 2 are shown the mean scores by period of birth. The first group relates to animals born prior to 1980 and thereafter groups are on a five year basis. The mean figures are rather up and down but in no period have they exceeded 18.

Table 2: Scores by year of birth (BMD)

Period of birth   Number of dogs   % of total   Mean score
pre 1980   68   2.27   17.51
1980-84   389   12.96   13.63
1985-90   926   30.86   16.27
1991-94   884   29.46   17.32
1995-99   734   24.46   15.28

The way to seek to improve hips is to hip score all breeding stock and as many siblings as feasible. The fact that a dog is not used for breeding does not mean that its hip records would not be useful information to the breeder. Having scored breeding stock one should seek to mate suitable animals that are as low as one can get, without sacrificing character and conformation. Then, as progeny become available, one should modify one's use of a sire(or dam) in the light of what progeny are doing. Table 3 shows the results for sires believed to be alive and which have at least 10 progeny scored. Reliability increases with progeny number and those with 20+ progeny are more reliable than those around the 10 mark. Look for a low progeny mean and a high percentage in the low categories of score and low percentages in the high categories. In table 3 the * indicates that I have a score sheet for the dog. Progeny relates to progeny scored and dams to different dams with Best and Worst being the progeny range seen. More detailed progeny test data are published at intervals but this listing shows the range in progeny that can be seen.

Table 3 Progeny Test data (BMD)

Sire Prog Dams Best Worst   Mean    
  No   score score 0-5 0-10 >30 %
bernfold halloween rudy* 10 6 4 9 5.7 40 100 0
jaybiem joe bloggs* 16 6 4 12 7.9 12 87 0
annealdon dark dazzler* 11 5 4 16 8.7 9 73 0
jaybiem billy the kid* 14 6 4 23 9.8 14 64 0
kernow masterpiece* 21 10 4 29 10.5 10 62 0
hayfell dugald/drum'neth* 12 5 6 22 11.7 0 67 0
fero v buetigen* 73 29 2 65 12.4 11 53 7
jaybiem dickie beau* 10 3 7 36 13.5 0 60 10
snoanda st louis blues* 10 5 5 47 14.6 10 40 10
cotesbach dexters cassidy* 17 9 3 39 15.7 12 36 12
buganeezee lochnivar/b* 25 9 6 6 16.1 0 28 4
mavanne right on target* 10 7 4 37 16.2 10 50 20
rivenbern lillebjorn* 10 2 8 53 16.2 0 60 10
annealdon emperor* 39 8 2 82 16.2 6 54 12
dustiny dominic/ursine* 16 8 4 55 16.4 6 31 6
bari v waldacker/coliburn 14 8 0 45 16.7 21 42 14
heiko v scheimatthof* 24 10 4 64 16.8 9 43 16
fordash fearless/glanzberg* 17 9 7 47 17.7 0 18 12
fortonpark country lover* 19 10 7 70 18.2 0 37 15
bosco v bachlisacker* 11 5 7 53 18.9 0 9 9
alex v buhlikofen/hildrek* 33 14 5 60 19.3 3 30 15
durrbach laurels boy hardy* 10 4 6 64 19.4 0 15 10
fernpark monduic/oldberne* 14 5 7 53 20.1 7 36 28
duntiblae midnite morse* 16 7 9 74 22.9 0 6 18
enzo de montmelon* 11 8 8 72 26.3 0 18 18
private ben/meadowpark* 13 8 7 86 28.1 0 54 23

Dogs Worldwide.com - This article has been reproduced courtesy of Dr Malcolm B Willis

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