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1 Basic Genetics
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The following is a tribute to one of the greatest strains
The Colby Line
written by By Indian Sonny
Mr John P Colby was an active breeder for many years
and produced some of the best dogs of his time. Much of his foundation
stock was from the Gas House and Burke strains, as were the dogs of many
other breeders. The difference in the quality of the dogs Mr Colby
produced was the result of breeding principles he employed. Also, Mr
Colby in my opinion possessed a very important attribute, which I refer
to as a gift.
Mr Colby practised a simplified version of genetics, Best to Best,
Pictured is John P. Colby Age 20.
Best to Best does not mean performing dogs alone. It entails all aspects
of the dogs, from performance to pedigree. The most obvious qualities
would be gameness, biting power, talent, stamina and a great bloodline.
A bloodline is the result of a breeders influence.
Over the years dogs bred by Mr Colby began to exhibit physical and
mental characteristics such as conformation, colour and gameness which
distinguished them. These dogs were then referred to as Colby Dogs. Thus
we have the Colby Bloodline. People were proud to say, "This here is a
pure Colby dog". This sounds simple; and it leads people to ask; why
there were not more top breeders? I believe deciding on what is Best to
Best is the key.
I'm not sure that every dog Mr Colby bred to was Dead game; and I'm
equally sure he did not breed to every Dead game dog he owned. This is
where the gift comes in. It seems to be an in-born sense or ability. I
believe most outstanding accomplishments have been made by men who were
endowed with a gift for their respective fields.
I do not believe that man knows enough about genetics at this time to
produce great animals; and he most certainly didn't know enough in the
days of Mr Colby. Race horse people spend millions of dollars a year,
trying to produce great horses, with only marginal success. Similarly,
there is no pattern for producing Great dogs.
The most essential qualities a breeder may possess
are; dedication, a gift, a knowledge of Best to Best, and money might
come in handy. If a breeder combines these attributes he is likely to
produce, with luck, a great strain of dogs.
It doesn't take too much effort to recall the great Colby dogs of the
past. These dogs were bred from the pit and for the pit.
But all of this brings us to a very important question; When a strain of
dogs that were once highly regarded, such as Colby's, stops producing
consistently good pit dogs, is this strain still to be considered good?
I have heard people say, "I know he's a cur, but the blood is there".
While this is true in many cases, I wonder how long we can continue to
breed to curs and hope to produce game pit dogs.
What is good blood and how long will it remain good if we continue to
breed to dogs, who do not possess the qualities of their ancestors?
While great breeders can breed to dogs who themselves do not exhibit
good qualities; can the average breeder afford to take this gamble?
I have seen strains of dogs that have not produced dogs fitting this
description for many years, and people who are active in the sport refer
to them as good blood or good brood stock. Many seem to proceed under
the assumption, that once a bloodline is good it remains good forever.
Many well-meaning people have continued to breed Colby dogs exclusively,
thinking all that was necessary to preserve the quality of the strain,
was to breed to a dog that had the name Colby on his pedigree.
Pictured is Colby's Jerry 1900.
I believe that we have to continuously strive to improve the strain, in
order to keep it as good as it was or is. It's an accepted theory, that
in order for an institution to continue, it must change and continuously
seek to improve. To preserve a bloodline, there is more required than
just breeding to dogs whose pedigree shows a particular name. Change is
required in order to prevent change in the quality of dogs produced. The
Colby strain was developed by change.
I have heard people say, that the dogs of yesteryear
were gamer than those of today. Could it be, in some cases, because we
have tried to play Pat and in doing so have lost ground. The people that
have bred Colby dogs exclusively for these many years, thinking they
were doing what was best, have perhaps underestimated their own ability
to breed good dogs.
Many of them have bred dogs for 40 years or more and could have perhaps
contributed much more to their own dogs, by using their own ideas and
experience. New ideas are necessary in every field. Sports records are
consistently surpassed by those not satisfied with repeating someone
else's past performance. Last year's record won't win this year's meet.
Were the dogs of yesteryear really superior? I'm sure many dog men of
the past would think we have it too easy, because we don't have to grow
secret vegetables and cook our dog's food or boil their water.
Penicillin has replaced many old remedies, making better dog care
possible. I have read some diets that top dog men used. While some were
good, none could compete with any good commercial dog food available in
countless supermarkets. The poorest feeder today is able to provide
better nutrition than the best feeder of yesteryear. We also have
refrigeration and other conveniences.
It is not my intention to criticise old-timers and their methods. How
many of us would be feeding as many dogs if we had to cope with the same
adverse conditions? I think our mission however, is to pick up where
they left off, emulating their objectives rather than their methods. The
Colby dogs of the past, fit the description of good blood, as their pit
records indicate. The Colby strain was developed on the principle of
Best to Best. When that principle is no longer employed there is bound
to be a drastic change in quality. In a very short period of time a
great strain of dogs can be reduced to a strain that can do no more than
refer to their pedigree and say "My great, great, grand-daddy was a pit
Pictured is Colby's Galtie, the Irish Dog, 1910.
Colby, Louis Colby, and Colby's Goldy
Louis B.Colby and
Colby's Chester (below)
Modern Day Colby Dogs