Wait wait, don't stone me!
Dr Cattanach then began backbreeding with typey purebred boxers. By the fifth generation, he had produced this:
This article can tell you about the whole process and give a play-by-play of each generation. Ultimately, Dr Cattanach introduced the natural bobtail gene and managed to breed back to "show quality" boxers. Ta-da! Somebody smart and qualified saw something going on with his breed, and had the perseverence to change the situation. More bobtails. Not only are these boxers being spread across Europe and Australia, they're recognized by the UKC.
There are other backcross projects going on. Breeders have been trying for several decades to eliminate uric acid defect in Dalmatians, a breed riddled with genetic defects. Dalmatians have suffered from uric-acid stones for over a century now; no other breeds are affected. High levels of uric acid can result in bladder stones - this is an emergency. These stones often need to be removed surgically, and high uric acid hits up just about every Dalmatian.
In the 70s, Dr Robert Schaible, a geneticist and breeder (not unlike Dr Cattamach), bred a Dalmatian bitch to a champion pointer dog in order to introduce normal levels of uric acid back into Dalmatians. The resulting pups, though they didn't look a whole lot like Dalmatians, all excreted normal uric acid levels. Dr Schaible started backcrossing, selecting one pup from each resulting litter for Dalmatian traits and low UA levels. Only the one pointer has been used, but the AKC refuses to register the backcrossed dogs in spite of the project receiving support from the Dalmation Club of Northern California (home to the Backcross Project). This project quietly persists, producing more and more Dalmatians with normal UA levels; the AKC continues to ignore it. In September 2008 the very question of discussing registry for these dogs was shot down by the parent club.
I can't help but wonder why it is the backcross developed for largely aesthetic purposes is embraced so much more widely than the backcross designed to cut back on health issues...
Should more backcrossing projects be encouraged and nurtured? Is this really an alternative, in the hands of gene-savvy, qualified breeders? Are these problems ones that could be eradicated by changing the breeding policies of purebred dogs?
Until somebody changes my opinion, I'd like to see more careful, controlled, supervised-by-scientists out- and back-crossing projects for our "emergency" breeds. The pug may be too far gone to save itself; maybe beagle genes really are the answer. Maybe the Shar-Pei needs a serious face-lift in the form of a non-wrinkled mate. Maybe this is the only hope of the Neapolitan mastiff. Who knows?
It can't hurt our breeds more than we already have.