Using males in breeding gold selfies

This article is based on our personal experience in breeding gold selfies: it is likely that other breeders will express a different opinion, so do not take what is said here as an immutable truth, but solely as a personal point of view.

What is the role of the male in breeding selfies (besides the obvious answer – getting offspring)? What qualities do you need in a breeding male, and what do you want to achieve by using this particular individual to cover the females?

Cattle breeders have this phrase: the bull is half of the herd. The same can be said for the males in your herd of guinea pigs – although there are far fewer of them than females, they are half responsible for the quality of the offspring.

One could say that the ideal breeding male is an excellent show specimen (if such an animal exists at all), which, when mixed with an excellent show female, will produce an excellent show offspring. Of course, we all know that this is not so, however, the closer the animals in the herd to perfection, the greater the chance of getting a future winner of exhibitions. It is this theory that we have successfully adhered to when breeding black selfs, but with gold ones, the situation is more complicated. Black selfs can have a great personality – a short, broad head, good posture, and a short, silky coat. On the other hand, we considered most of the male gold selves to be clearly imperfect, only a few of them had show qualities. So, when forming a herd of a standard size – about 20 – 25 females – we decidedthat we need to keep a whole “squad” of males, since together, in our opinion, they have all the desired characteristics; and balance their use according to the qualities of the female.

Using males in breeding gold selfies

It often surprises me that people, turning to me for breeding animals, ask only for females. I can draw the only conclusion – they have a wonderful breeding male at home either from their own herd or from somewhere else, and mixing him with my females will give an excellent result (how they can assume this, not knowing the pedigree of my herd, remains a mystery). Or they are trying to breed their own breed after several generations (which is more understandable). However, based on the simple fact that I leave four times as many females as males for further breeding work (since on average I only need one male for four females), it can be understood that the quality of the males I offer for sale will be in generally higher than the quality of the females. Trust me,our local pet stores have had some pretty good golden males in the last couple of years.

Let us turn again to the world of cattle – in the last few years there have been numerous attempts to test the so-called “ability to transmit the necessary traits by inheritance.” That is, if a bull has a pronounced desired characteristic, then what is the likelihood that his offspring will also possess this trait, despite the fact that this characteristic is not perfect for the cows used. The results showed that some traits are more transmitted by the male and others by the female. Of course, there is no 100% guarantee, but is breeding an exact science? It looks like our guinea pig breeding also confirms these results.

When evaluating our pigs, we use 10 criteria: head width, head shape, muzzle, ears, eyes, posture, body shape, color, coat and size. Our five-year experience proves that some of these characteristics are mainly (but not always) transmitted from either the female or the male. This forces us to select males who are strong in some ways and females in others. As it turns out, these signs can be divided into two groups of five signs:

  • males – head width, drooping ears, posture, color and size;
  • females – profile, muzzle, eyes, body shape and coat.

These two lists are not mutually exclusive, as females very often possess some or all of the traits expected from the male line – and vice versa – although I must admit that short, rounded heads, large round eyes and short silky coats are not abundant in our golden males. …

As a rule, we do not resort to the so-called “intrafamily mating”, when a father and a daughter, a mother and a son, a brother and a sister are crossed with each other. Nevertheless, we have come to the conclusion that in order to capture the characteristics, it is necessary to engage in purebred breeding of the best animals, especially males. To achieve this, we took males with their granddaughters, as well as pigs with common grandparents. This method worked, and we have now achieved much more robustness of traits in the herd. Probably, this stability could have been achieved more quickly if we had recourse to “intrafamily mating”.

So, as breeders have said in the past, it’s a matter of balance. You can try to correct the female’s flaws by using a male carrier of the desired trait and, as far as possible, double the desired characteristics if they are present in both the male and the female.

When we first started breeding gold selfies, we bought all our males in the first couple of years. However, now all males (except for two purchased ones) are from their own broods, and one of these two was obtained from our own broods. This allows us to evaluate males based on their pedigree as well as on external characteristics, which is very important in any mating, since not all of the animal’s traits are obvious externally.

Using males in breeding gold selfies

So what characteristics do we want from our golden males?

Head – Our golden males often have a long and flat head. However, if this is combined with a good width of the head, which is not uncommon, then they have a very masculine appearance, albeit with some lack of charm. Such a male can then be used to cover females with a nice but narrow profile (did anyone else say that about golden selfies?) The male should have a very good ear fit. We like the ears when the front edge of the ear touches the back corner of the eye, and the bottom edge of the ear is level with the bottom of the eye (if you can understand it at all). Our pigs usually have great ears, because Jane hates piglets, which may have short ears and will not keep them. Eyes in our herd were a problem and only now are we starting to get a decent number of pigs with big round eyes. However, we found outthat the female is mainly responsible for this trait, and studies have shown that from males obtained from a female with good eyes, even if they themselves do not possess this characteristic, when mixed with a round-eyed female, offspring with an improved trait is obtained.

Body – We had a lot more trouble getting a good body shape in our gold selfies compared to black ones. But there were no problems with the size – the pigs gain weight in the right places – i.e. the shoulders are getting fat, not the belly. Gold selfies love to eat and will eat pretty much whatever is offered to them, while black ones are usually more picky. So, when fattening gold selfies for the exhibition, it is advisable to feed them not with what they just get fat from, but with what they build muscle from – and this is not always easy. As a rule, gold selfies do not like to show off on the exhibition table and often jump off the “pedestal”. A good judge will understand this and will try to seat the pig better, while others will just quickly give points, not appreciating the quality of the pig. We prefer “courageous” males with good posture,good size and strong build, which do not need to be specially fattened to such a state.

Color and Coat – Males and females are very different in coat type. We found that, in general, females have softer and shorter coats. Some females have very short coats with fewer guard hairs than usual: it is great if this is a show animal since the grooming requirements are reduced and it is also a useful trait for inheritance. In males, the coat is stiffer and longer, it is more difficult to bring it into proper form – an additional problem when displaying. We would rather leave our males with show qualities at home than stress them by preparing and delivering them to the show, while also risking the ability to reproduce and the health of the pig.

Color is an important contribution of the male to the future offspring. Personally, we prefer the richer mid-gold shade. Not too dark, otherwise it looks like a tarnished redhead, and the pigmentation of the ears and paw pads becomes too dark. But, of course, not pale. Achieving the desired color in golden selves does not mean mixing colors: mixing a dark female with a lighter male does not mean that the offspring will have a medium shade. Our goal is to be consistent with the color we want to spread in the herd; at the same time, we always remember that it would be foolish to select animals according to one single criterion. So, for example, pigs with a very good head, but a little lighter in tone, will most likely be abandoned. All our males, except for one (read on), of the desired color – rich, solid, the same on the legs and on the tummy.Many gold self breeders have told me that the shade is very easy to lighten, but much more difficult to darken.

Using males in breeding gold selfies

We currently have 7 adult males. Our strategy is that in general, in our detachment of males, all the desired characteristics are present, and the maximum possible number of males has all the characteristics at once. In a detachment, usually one or two males are considered leading, with a proven pedigree, they are widely used to cover a large number of females. The rest of the males are used periodically – before we have a chance to evaluate the offspring. We used to make hasty decisions about selling males, which we later regretted.

Of the current males involved in breeding, two are considered good in all respects, combining good color and type. Two are used mainly because of the color, which is slightly darker than the tone required for exhibitions; two more are used for the sake of type – a wide head and decent posture. Here is a short description of each.

GETTISBURGH – Acquired three years ago from Evelyn Van Vliet; not as prolific as it used to be and not used often. Every pig in the herd has his blood. Very good head – broad, with a good muzzle, large round eyes and well-set ears. The coat is a little harsh, but of the required color, which is perfectly preserved. In his youth, he was a very large pig. Now he is no longer the leader in the detachment of males and is reduced only to individual young pigs of a suitable pedigree.

HOUSTON is the son of Göttinburg from one of our early show females, who had light colored ears and paw pads. He was not a good producer at first, but he flourished at about 12 months and is now quite reliable. Again, a large pig of a good color, with a good head and with a better coat than the father’s. It stands out for the fit of the ears and the shape of the body. One of the current leading males.

DAYTONA – A very dark male from a female who was shown in a young age group, and nothing more. The male was not exhibited and, as a result, left numerous offspring. A male with a good rich coat color, good body shape and excellent ears – ideally I would like the head to be a little shorter, but he has sired some wonderful females suitable for the show.

WYOMING is a good overall male without any outstanding features. He was left mainly due to the fact that his mother was the Best Selfie at the shows in 1998, and after the birth of the babies was brought back to show standards. At the moment we are waiting for his first offspring from two young females, whose father is Michigan.

ANTIETAM is a huge young male from Michigan with the best head we have achieved in males to date. It also has outstanding width, eyes, ears and posture. Its main drawback is that it is a shade lighter than what we like. WHAT IN MY LOOK IS TYPICAL FOR GOLDEN MALE , so we will use it occasionally until we understand what kind of offspring it gives.

MICHIGAN is another male with an excellent broad head and ear set, with a very nice color and body shape, but relatively small eyes. His father was a large, powerful male purchased from Bernard Wiles, and he was able to perfectly convey the width of the head to his offspring. Michigan also passes on the traits of his father by inheritance, from him there are already several promising babies.

CONCORD – this male was bred from the gilts I sold and the Bigwig gilts, and was bought at the beginning of this year, when his breeder stopped breeding. This is a large male of good color, but with nothing prominent head. We are waiting for his first offspring.

We always try to build our breeding strategy on sound scientific principles. However, it gives me great pleasure to breed gilts out of interest rather than logic, just to see if my intuition works. And it is usually based on the pedigree of the pigs, trying to achieve something not entirely clear. When it works – it’s great when it doesn’t – you can always say that the mating pigs were chosen incorrectly.

As stated at the beginning, the opinions expressed in this article are based solely on our own experience. We often exchange glances with other self breeders at shows, etc .; and we often try to implement ideas from these conversations: some of them work, some do not. But nobody knows everything there is to know about breeding guinea pigs; and no matter how long you have been a breeder, there will always be something to learn. So let’s communicate constructively with each other, continue to breed selfies of all colors, and overcome the challenges that come up from time to time.

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