The Swedish Vallhund is a 'Stub Tailed' breed.  About half of all puppies will be born with no tail or a stump tail.  This is a result of a natural gene mutation.  It is an ancient aspect of the breed and true guardians of the breed will keep and use stub tailed dogs in their kennel to breed with  ~ and here is why:

        • Tailed to Tail matings only produce Tailed puppies.
        • Stub Tail to Tail matings can produce Tailed and Stub Tailed puppies
        • Stub Tail to Stub Tail matings can produce Tailed and Stub Tailed Puppies.

Breeders that continually use only tailed dogs in an ongoing way are neglecting an important aspect of our cherished breed, and the natural stub tailed Swedish Vallhunds could potentially be lost.  While tail docking of dogs is a legal and accepted practice in New Zealand, there is no good reason to dock the tail of Swedish Vallhunds.  The Swedish Vallhund Club (inc) endorse and support all tail types within  the breed and do not endorse or support tail docking of our breed.  For Vastgotaspets the world over, it is a practice for the past.

The T-box transcription factor T gene (C189G) accounts for natural bobtails in 17 of 23 dog breeds studied, but not in another 6 dog breeds, for which the genetic mechanism is yet to be determined.

Natural bobtail dog breeds with C189G mutation:

  • Austrian Pinscher
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
  • Braque du Bourbonnais
  • Brazilian Terrier
  • Brittany Spaniel
  • Croatian Sheepdog
  • Danish Swedish Farmdog
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Karelian Bear Dog
  • Mudi
  • Polish Lowland Sheepdog
  • Pyrenean Shepherd
  • Braque Francais aka Savoy Sheepdog
  • Schipperke
  • Spanish Water Dog
  • Swedish Vallhund
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Natural bobtail dog breeds without C189G mutation:

  • English Bulldog
  • Boston Terrier
  • King Charles Spaniel
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Parson Russell Terrier

Dog breeds into which the C189G mutation has been introduced by cross-breeding:

  • Boxer

Dog breeds where natural bobtails have not yet been tested for C189G mutation:

  • French Bulldog
  • McNab (dog)
  • Miniature Fox Terrier
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Rat Terrier
  • Tenterfield Terrier


photo Oili Helenius 

 It is all in the DNA !

The Swedish Vallhund breed are naturally born with a full length spitz-curl tail, also with varying lengths of a naturally occurring stub tail including a variation that presents as no discernible tail at all. Right from time of Bjorn von Rosen and Karl Gustave Zettersten, there was a suspicion that there may be a link between the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and the Swedish Vallhund. People pondered on the possibilities that reached way back into the time of the Viking Raiders who travelled to the Corgi region.  Geneticist and Fellow of the Royal Society Dr. Bruce Cattanach, sheds some much needed light over the controversy surrounding naturally stub tailed dogs and debunks some myths along the way. Today we know about the genes that create the stub tail which have been identified at the DNA level, and consist of an inheritable T-box mutation.  Geneticist and Fellow of the Royal Society Dr. Bruce Cattanach, sheds some much needed light over the controversy surrounding naturally stub tailed dogs and debunks some myths along the way. Today we know about the genes that create the stub tail which have been identified at the DNA level, and consist of an inheritable T-box mutation. 

The precise mutation represents a base-pair change. Essentially an important protein fails to bind to it¡¦s DNA target which leads to a short-tail phenotype. The discovery of the responsible gene was initiated by Dr Cattanach. He had successfully introduced the dominant gene into his Boxers with a careful breeding program that began with the crossing of one of his Boxers with a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Dr Cattanach's fascinating project to create natural Bobtail Boxers that would not need docking can be found in detail on his website. Blood samples he took from his Corgi/Boxer crosses were studied ( “Canine homology of the T-box transcription factor T; failure of the protein to bind to its DNA target leads to a short-tail phenotype” - 2001) to find the gene and it's mutation. We also now know that this same T-Box mutation causes stub tails in Swedish Vallhunds and another 22 identified working dog breeds. The Swedish Vallhund world owes a debt of thanks to the work of Dr  Cattanach and his colleagues which ultimately led to the detection of the gene.

Today in Finland there is a blanket ban on the breeding together of a stub tailed + stub tail dogs. The legislation for this ban was implemented in January of 2009 in an effort to prevent congenital abnormalities carried by puppies suspected of being born with a lethal double dose (homozygote) of the T-box mutation. Dr Cattanach and several others believe that very shortly after conception pups that inherit this double dose die and are reabsorbed by the bitch.

A controversial Norwegian study (A study of inherited short tail and taillessness in Pembroke Welsh corgi - published Sept 2007) that claimed that two malformed puppies born of a stub tail + stub tail pairing had inherited a double dose of the T-Box mutation. Rather than die and be reabsorbed very early in gestation, they had apparently survived to birth. While the Norwegian paper had a genetic overtone, it was a descriptive investigation and claimed the puppies were homozygotes. No data to support this was produced, nor were alternative explanations discussed.

Surprisingly given they believed it was an observation of something not seen before there was also no further investigation and no neonate homozygotes pups have been found, or claimed since. The Finnish law was designed to prevent the homozygote fetus even being conceived, in what is an over the top reaction to a natural occurrence. The likely early re absorption of homozygotes appears to have no ill consequence for the bitch in whelp, or the puppies she later delivers. Anecdotal observation from experienced older breeders suggest that there are no obvious health consequences associated with pups born of stub tail + stub tail pairings over and above the incidence of health consequences to pups born of tail + tail and also stub tail + tail pairings. Breeders also detail how deformed puppies are actually quite rarely seen, and occur in no greater numbers than a breeder might expect in the natural course of breeding any dog variety. Further,multi-generation stub tail + stub tail breeding is in reality no different from one generation. There is no accumulative effect associated with the T-Box mutation. Stub tailed dogs only have one dose of the gene (heterozygous) irrespective of their parents, or grand-parents. Nothing can change. There is no significant science to show that multigeneration breeding of only stub tails + stub tail dogs creates any negative outcomes for puppies. Neither can multigeneration breeding of stub tail + stub tail pairings alter ratios of stub tail / tailed puppies in the litter. 

The issue for breeders is that in the Finnish rush to prevent possible genetic problems the gene pool has been unnecessarily and significantly narrowed by cutting out so many options of breed pairings. The ban is not something that solely affects Finland. Swedish Vallhunds are a rare breed that descend from just a small handful of dogs. The Finnish efforts and contributions feed into the wider global Vastgotaspets gene pool. The general consensus among Swedish Vallhund breeders is that the Finnish law is unwarranted. Most breeders hope that not only should this ban not spread to other countries, but that the Finnish ban might one day be challenged and repealed. Until there is very good, peer reviewed science to establish just reason to avoid stub tail + stub tail matings in Swedish Vallhunds the freedom to make choices about which dogs to breed together must remain the domain of the breeder as it has for the hundreds of years this gene has been with our dogs.

March 2011