Line Breeding

This article on line breeding is being republished from Acorn Hollow Bantams website with permission from Lou Horton.

I believe in line breeding. By that I mean starting with an outstanding individual of either sex (of course, an outstanding pair would be better yet) and using them to build a line of birds that are descended from the foundation stock. A simple description of how such a line would be started is to take the example of a single exceptional male. One’s first task is to pair him with a female (or two – best if they are related) of the very best quality one can obtain. They should carry their own strengths and should not be weak in any area in which the male is weak. Raise just as many young from that mating as possible, assuming one has good rearing facilities. From those well grown out youngsters, select the two or three very best female offspring and in year two, mate them back to their father. The very best male offspring should be mated to their mother(s) in year two. In subsequent years, the process is repeated: foundation male to daughters, granddaughters, etc. until he is too old and then he is replaced with the very best son or grandson and the process is continued. The same thing is done on the female side of the line and it is best if the two lines are allowed to run parallel for several generations before any cross is permitted. Avoid brother/sister matings.

If the original foundation stock was prepotent (able to transmit their quality to their offspring) the following generations should contain most of the foundation bird’s strengths and fewer and fewer of it’s weaknesses. Be aware that not all outstanding showbirds are prepotent.

line breeding, cochin

What are the advantages of a line breeding system? 

With a properly conceived and managed line breeding system, it can be expected that after several generations that the overall quality of the offspring will be high and that they will be quite uniform. A good example that comes to mind was the flock of White Runners that was developed by John Lightfoot. John passed from the scene in the late 1980s as I recall but he dominated the Runner classes at major shows for decades. By the time I got to know John, he was up in years and no longer raised large numbers of the Runners each year. As I recall, he would raise no more than a dozen or so most years and from that group, he would select just a few to show. He would often travel to shows with just a pair or two. Keep in mind that this was at a time when it was normal to see 30- 40, or more White Runners at many major shows. While John didn’t always win, he won way more than his share and virtually every quality line of White Runners today has Lightfoot blood in it.

By Lou Horton