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Questions about pedigree terminology


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My breeder forwarded my soon-to-be new puppy's pedigree. There are few terms I hope someone here can help me decipher I realize I am showing my ignorance, so please educate me.

What do the terms "top side" and "bottom side" of a dog's pedigree refer to?

Also, his pedigree includes Fancey Dresser and Outcross to Play It Again Sam, is this significant?

Thanks for any information you can provide.


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Well it would be nice if a CTCA member with some real experience came along and helped out here. Until or unless they do, I'll offer my highly questionable impressions.

Top side probably refers to ancestors of the sire. The sire is traditionally listed on top of each bracket. If you follow along the top going sire-to-sire-to-sire, you will end up in the very top right corner of the pedigree. That path is sometimes called the 'tail male' line.

Bottom side is the mirror of that: the dam side, with the equivalent 'tail female' path ending up in the lower left.

For some reason, the male path is called the line; the female path is called the family. I believe it originated out of some theories about breeding horses.

It is typical to linebreed (a degree of inbreeding, really) to concentrate good traits, eliminate bad traits, and establish a consistent 'type.' From time to time a breeder may breed to a dog that has little shared ancestry - an outcross. Outcrossing brings both risks and rewards. For any new positive traits you get, you may also get some defects and variability in type that you must then work hard to eradicate.

Here is a great page that touches on many aspects of breeding, such as inbreeding coefficients and so on: http://fp.sedona.net/cairnterriers/This%20&%20That/ttfrm.htm

A couple more links about reading pedigrees, specifically:



Although the following article is about Arabian horse pedigrees, much of the content is somwhat applicable to dog pedigrees: http://members.aol.com/arabbits/pedigree.htm

I welcome corrections and amplifications from those more qualified to address this topic.

CAIRNTALK: Questions? Need help? → Support Forum Please do not use PMs for tech support
CRCTC: Columbia River Cairn Terrier Club 



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Thanks for the great explanation. Makes more sense now. The resource sites you provided are also very informative. I absolutely love the pic and caption on the home page of the first website you provided.

I just received an email from the breeder, and the little guy will be home with us this Sunday. We are all so excited.


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Guest posting as: Ladybroc

BradL -- I thought you did a very good job addressing the different breeding philosophies and in your explanation of the pedigree. One web site I would add is Carmen Battaglia's, www.breedingbetterdogs.com.

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