Thursday, March 7, 2013

The journey towards a new breed

As I'm sure I may have mentioned before, I've been working towards establishing a new look coat in the Brisbane Cavies over the last few years. This is a rather controversial thing to do among other registered breeders/people who show cavies. 

One group of people believe that ONLY pedigree guinea pigs should be bred. Thus, mix breeding to produce a new look/breed is a big no no, and a waste of time. 

Another group of people believe that no new breeds can be developed - we have all the available types we can access in Australia already, so why bother?

And I must say, I do see the validity in each of those points of view. I just don't agree with them. 

Firstly - pedigree guinea pigs have a 'breed standard' that breeders can work towards. It's very clear and they can see where their current animals need improvement - thus being able to make pairings to try and better the subsequent generations. 

I get that! 

But once upon a time, many decades ago when these standards were being decided - the judges could only work with the breeds at hand. They weren't to know or predict that new combinations of genetic mash-ups could produce whole new looks in cavy-coats (ie, the Sheba Mini Yak which is the most recent 'mash-up' breed). In response to this, after a great deal of work on behalf of sheba-breeders, the Sheba Mini Yak was standardised as a breed, giving breeders a guideline for what the ideal specimen should look like. 

So - as discussed above, new breeds CAN be produced. Usually (as has happened in Europe with the Lunkarya, Swiss etc), genes mutate spontaneously producing a whole new coat-effect. When this is recognised and fostered whole new lines/looks can be achieved. 

 (Lunkarya babies)

 (Lunkarya adult)

(Swiss adult)

However - this can also be achieve by mixing genes that already exist. For example - the Peruvian came before the 'Alpaca', which is just the rexed (curled) version of the peruvian. Someone had to specifically introduce the curl-gene into a Peruvian line to achieve that coat-effect. The Merino is a rexed Coronet, the Texel a rexed Sheltie... why not a rexed Sheba?! It is certainly not a genetic impossibility. The biggest challenge I think the 'new breed' will face is getting it to look significantly different to the Alpaca as the curl has a tendency to overrides the lift of the rosettes if the coat is too silky. Not unlike a poor-coated sheba with not enough rosettes or too-fine hair. This aspect will be all about getting the right balance of rosette placement/coat density/shaft coarseness.

So that brings me to our current moment. March 2013 at Sirocco Cavy Stud. And our small herd of Generation 1, 2 and 3 Curly-Sheba Cavies (tentatively named 'Angora Yaks'). They are FAR from perfect! Goodness knows they need a lot of work yet. We anticipate at least another 4-5 years of following through the most promising/consistent lines before we'll start seeing something that resembles the ideal 'Angora Yak' in our minds... but this is a start. And a start I'm bloody proud of. 

So I thought I'd do a post just for these guys. 

This little guy is 'Talbot' - sheba coated (carries curl). Four weeks old in photo above, 3.5months old in photos below. 


This lady is 'Tallulah'. Also sheba-coated but carrying curl. She's 2 weeks old in the photo above and 4.5months old in the photo below. Sadly we lost Tallulah this summer to heat. She is survived by her two curly-sheba daughters (Bambi and Blessing - see photos below). 


Sweet Evangeline. Also Sheba-coated, but carrying the curl. She is Tallulah's half-sister and has also produced a curly-coated sheba boar (Asher - see photo below). 

Tallulah was a few hours old in the photo above, and 2.5 months old in the photos below. 


Meadow is almost 3 weeks old in the photo above, and 5 months old in the photo below. She is also sheba-coated, but carries the curl. She is yet to produce a curly-offspring. 


Gorgeous Cleo. Shown at a few hours old in the above photo, and approx 12months old in the photo below. She is sheba-coated (not quite as many rosettes as preferred), and carries the curl. She has produced one curly-sheba son (Gizmo - see photos below), and a grandson (Talbot - see photo above).


Mr Gizmo - a curly-coated sheba boar at 8 weeks old in the above photo, and 5 months old in the photos below. He has produced both curly-sheba offspring and sheba offspring.


Tiny Bambi at hours old in the above photo. She was one of our first curly-sheba sows to be born here. Bambi is 4.5 months old in the photos below. She has an incredibly dense coat with excellent lift. She is yet to fall pregnant.


Blessing. Sweet Blessing! Four-weeks old in the photo above, and 4 months old in the photos below. Blessing also has incredible density, good lift and nicely formed ears. She is also yet to fall pregnant. 


Little Salem. Born to two curly-sheba parents (our first litter of the kind) - but lacking in the rosette department. At this stage is appears that he may only have two rosettes on his rump - which would actually make him a pet alpaca. But as it can be quite hard to accurately locate the rosettes until the babies reach their 'scraggy stage' between 5-7 weeks of age (when their curls aren't quite long enough to give their growing bodies good coverage, making them look a little disheveled). At this stage the coat is parting in the directions of the rosettes, but isn't long enough to fall back down and hide them yet. Try to find the rosettes too early and the coat will be too closely squashed together to get an accurate look.


Miss Sarabi - newborn in the photo above and 3 weeks old in the photos below. She's still only 3.5 weeks old, so hard to tell how she's going to grow up, but she does appear to have a better coverage of rosettes. Not enough to make a big impact to coat lift - but it's a start.


Asher - my first home-born curly sheba boar, in a gorgeous cinnamon agouti too. Asher is newborn in the photo above, and 6 weeks old in the photos below. He is only about 8 weeks old now, but looking better and better as he grows. (he did go through a 'scraggy' stage - but it only lasted for a week or so!).


And lastly - little Scout. He is the full sibling to Salem and Sarabi - but actually has the best rosette placement. He doesn't have the agouti colouring though, so his coat isn't as dense. It will be interesting to see how his appearance differs to them as he grows though. He is newborn in the photo above, and 3 weeks old in the photos below.

Well - I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty tired after that! Hopefully in a 6 months or so I'll be able to do another post with generation 4 babies, and some updates on how these bubs are going :)

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