Those of you who are on the International Hovawart Group’s Facebook page may be aware of some dissension in the Hovawart community regarding deliberate crossbreedings. The dialogue has centered around the topic of purposefully breeding Hovawart mixes and whether such actions are harmful to the Hovawart breed.
If you are visiting our website, it is likely that you have a passing familiarity with the Hovawart’s history. As the story goes, the “old” Hovawart was primarily found on estates or farms in Europe and was highly valued. In fact, there are documented references to the breed dating back to the Middle Ages. The breed was nearly lost with the culling of the gene pool due to industrialization and military conflict. Years of careful reconstruction efforts that drew on multiple breeds and generations of dogs ultimately led to today’s Hovawart.
Preserving the health and natural qualities of the Hovawart through generations of dog necessitates collaboration. The Hovawart is blessed to have minimal health problems whereas many other large breeds contend with issues such as cancer and degenerative myelopathy with increasing frequency. For example, a number of peer reviewed, scientific studies within the last five years have documented a high incidence of cancer (~60%) in Golden Retrievers. While cancer does occur in some Hovawarts, it certainly occurs much less frequently. In our opinion, there is no “benefit” that would justify exposing the relatively healthy Hovawart to such health risks.
As Hovawart breeder in the United States, DelNova Hovawarts values collaborating with other reputable breeders and the American Hovawart Clubs (AHC) to help protect the legacy of this special breed. Like many other Hovawart clubs, the AHC evaluates Hovawart dogs for temperament, health, and conformation with the goal of protecting the breed. Doubling up on negatives in a line, such as heart, thyroid, joint issues, cancer, and impaired vision, is avoided. This process has facilitated many hovies reaching 14+ years of age, an uncommon lifespan among most large breed dogs.
How does crossbreeding the Hovawart impact me and my hovi?
Literally decades of painstaking research have gone in the effort of restoring the Hovawart. Combining the hovi with other breeds not only throws away years of collaborative work, but also makes it very difficult to predict the temperament and health of the mixed breed puppy. It gets even more complicated should the originally crossbred puppy have its own offspring. These types of unknowns can have a substantial impact on a breeder’s efforts to place a puppy with the right family.
The ramifications of crossbreeding the Hovawart may not be immediately evident. However, as cross breeding occurs, it can be anticipated that the Hovawart gene pool with be reduced. Responsible breeders will avoid breeding with any stud or bitch that has been utilized for a mixed breed litter. It is likely that such restrictions will also apply to the siblings of any dog used in such a manner due to reputation concerns.
When considered in this light, cross breeding actually limits the collective Hovawart gene pool and creates a substantial problem in the future. It is the responsibility of all Hovawart lovers to act as guardians for the breed. After all, the hovi world is a small one.