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Hip Dysplasia in Border Collies

MOST PEOPLE believe that, as a working dog, Border Collies do not have much wrong with them. This is, of course, a mistake. They suffer from deafness in some lines and they also have had eye disease like PRA for some time.

In the days when Border Collies were run by the International Sheepdog Society (ISDS) there was a determined and successful effort to reduce the incidence by insisting on eye testing and controls on registration. Since the Border Collie became a KC registered breed and seemingly the breed of choice for obedience and agility the degree of control has been much less. The ISDS may still be using controls but the KC do not insist upon them and, increasingly, Border Collies are not being registered with the ISDS. Individual breeders can and do insist upon testing but the lack of control centrally means that progress is much less.

Whatever the eye problem, it is true that many ISDS members believe that hip dysplasia (HD) is not a problem. Some years ago, I spoke to the ISDS in Cumbria, and shortly after that an ISDS member approached me because he had a sale abroad and the dog turned out to have HD, even though it appeared clinically sound.

So far, we have scored almost 4,000 Border Collies and Obedience register working sheepdogs, some of which are both KC and ISDS registered. On the first 3,914 animals, the range in scores goes from 0 to 89 with a mean of 13.70 - which puts the breed about 41st (first is worst) in the 76 breeds that have had 40 or more scored. Only four breeds have scored more dogs (Labradors, GSD, Goldens and Rottweilers).

On the surface, the record looks quite good. Table 1 shows the distribution of scores for 3,915 Border Collies.

Table 1: Distribution of Border Collie hip scores

Score Range   Number of scored dogs   % of total   Cumulative percentage
0   53   1.35   1.35
1 - 5   269   6.87   8.22
6 - 10   1,318   33.67   41.89
11 - 15   1,376   35.14   77.04
16 - 20   406   10.37   87.41
21 - 25   141   3.60   91.00
26 - 30   108   2.76   93.76
31 - 35   64   1.63   95.40
36-40   51   1.30   96.70
41-50   67   1.71   98.42
51-60   34   0.87   99.28
61-70   19   0.49   99.77
71-80   5   0.13   99.90
81-90*   4   0.10   100.00
Total   3,915   100.00    
* there are no dogs in the range 91-106

Some 42% of the breed score ten or better, which is an excellent score and should be suitable for breeding purposes anywhere. Some 77% score 15 or better which is also a suitable score and at which level few if any dogs should experience clinical problems. If breeders put 20 as the upper acceptable limit then only some 13% of the breed would be discarded on hip status although out of the 87% acceptable, there would be many dogs that did not measure up on other traits like conformation, eyes, character, etc, which must not be lost sight of in any breeding programme.

Above a total score of 30, there are only some seven per cent of the breed and thus very severe HD is not normally seen or such dogs are not submitted. Of course these figure are cumulative values drawn up over the whole period and not just recent animals.

Table 2 shows the breakdown by period of birth. The number is less than 3,915 because a few animals have not birth data given.

Table 2: HD Scores for Border Collies by period of birth

Period of birth   Number of dogs   % of total   Mean score
pre 1980   59   1.51   7.92
1980-89   1,610   41.19   12.90
1990-95   1,486   38.01   14.72
1996-99   754   19.29   13.83
Total   3,909   100.00   13.70

Superficially, it would appear that things have worsened from the 1970s. This could be a misleading interpretation. The scheme actually began for all breeds in 1983 having started for GSDs in 1978, so the number of Border Collies born prior to 1980 and submitted was small and it was likely that the sample was biased downwards as people sent in dogs they knew to be good. Since 1980, the figures are more representative and there is little evidence of change. There was a slight increase from the 1980s to the first five years of the 1990s and then a decline (improvement) in the recent years. During these periods, there has been an increase in the influence of New Zealand animals but it is not possible from the data to assess this. Nor is it feasible to compare ISDS animals with KC animals, since such data are not always given on the forms.

It is certainly true to say that Border Collies, while pretty good in hip status, certainly cannot allow breeders to be self-satisfied about this. Breeders do need to ensure that poor producers have their usage curtailed.

HD is an important trait in any breed, but more so in one that purports to work or is used for agility and working trials where jumping can have a marked effect upon both elbow and hip status and where, ideally, only good hipped dogs should be used. However, breeders must not start breeding by numbers. Just because a dog has good hips does not mean that it is suitable for breeding.

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

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