There seems to be some confusion over the use of Beardies that are carriers of the CEA gene. If CEA, or any other inherited disease, had been found to be widespread in the breed the advice would be to use carriers as to exclude them would risk losing many genes in a breed that was already seriously compromised by lack of genetic diversity. The fact is both the original Animal Health Trust population study and subsequent widespread DNA testing has, at least to date, indicated that this defect stems from one little used line. All dogs found to be carriers are descendants of Wishanger Hill Dawn. The outstanding BCX internet site is maintaining a list of tested dogs and their results and this is open for anyone to study.

Wishanger Hill Dawn was born in 1989 and had 12 littermates, several of which were bred from. It is possible that any of these dogs and bitches were carriers of the CEA gene and it is therefore possible the gene has been spread into subsequent generations. The joint breed liaison committee has been busy contacting breeders who own dogs with these ancestors and warning them of the need to test for CEA. Hill Dawn has 643 descendants at four generations. This sounds an awful lot of dogs but is actually very small. More influential dams had vastly more descendants at four generations. Ch Blumberg Hadriana at Potterdale, for example, has 13,733 and Ch Willowmead My Honey has 7,558.

The key breeder to be affected by this problem was Nic Broadbridge, the owner of Wishanger Hill Dawn and breeder of her progeny. Thankfully Nic’s response has been outstanding and the breed owes him its thanks. He has had his current dogs DNA tested for CEA and has made the results public for all to see on the BCX site. Not surprisingly, a few of Nic’s dogs were found to be carriers but the vast majority are CEA clear and Nic, and anyone wishing to use his stock, will be able to continue the line with 100 per cent confidence that they will not produce further carriers.

As the CEA gene appears to be restricted to such a tiny percentage of the breed and as it currently appears to involve only one small line it would, in my opinion, be madness to use carriers in the breeding programme. Statistically speaking 50 per cent of offspring produced by a carrier will carry the CEA gene. I cannot think of a quicker way of spreading CEA throughout the breed than by including carriers in the gene pool. There are plenty of unaffected dogs from this particular line and the valuable genetic diversity they represent can be preserved by the use of these CEA free dogs.

Wendy Hines