And that concludes the “Background Information” section of this blog!
I avoided discussing concepts like “genes” and “genotype” in much detail, as I wanted to focus more on the foundations behind breeding. It’s worth stressing that the mechanisms of heredity were unknown for most of the history of breeding, and it wasn’t until the work of Gregor Mendel in the mid 19th century that genetics as a field of study could even arise (more on this to in the next section). And yet this lack of understanding in no way prevented the development of the thousands of breeds of dogs, cats, horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, ad poultry in the centuries prior. Many of those breeds are still with us today, a tribute to the countless astute and observant breeders who shaped them.
Genetics is now a well-established field with more than a hundred years of study behind it. It is an invaluable tool in modern breeding programmes, but to use it well requires understanding it. The next section of this blog will provide a good introduction to genetics and how heredity works.