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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Skilled Vision Among Breeders

Historically, the best Pedigree Breeders always have and always will breed by eye. They are visual thinkers.  Such breeders are often very instinctive and gifted with “Skilled Vision.”

Golden Bunt Lowersword

© Alan S. Bias
Permission granted for nonprofit reproduction or duplication of photos and text with proper credit for learning purposes only.
April 29, 2020

Skilled Vision has been loosely defined as a learned practice that allows for recognition and productive results.  Based on powers of observation and acquired knowledge, with far less proficiency in the language of science. 

Successful breeders possess skilled vision to varying degrees, and are able to develop a needed understanding of selection from hands on experience.  Good practice results from recursive breedings made over time followed by evaluation of results.  Incorporating skilled vision and practice in attempt to control selection of genotype, while allowing for positive traits with reproducible results in future generations.  This is the nature of Domestic Pedigree breeding.

Skilled vision can be viewed as a discipline involving multiple sensory inputs.  It has a genetic basis, and is not simply the result of accrued knowledge &/or environmental conditioning (formal education & training).  Yet, skilled vision can be enhanced through breeder communications, exchange of ideas, formal competitions, farm visits, breed standards and scientific knowledge. 

Purple Body (Pb) Lowersword female
Taken as a whole, skilled vision allows a breeder to process and make sense of what is seen day to day.  Breeders often lack expansive terminology to express their accrued knowledge to others.  Rather than relying on anecdotal terminology, the language of science can allow for conciseness in conversation.

Is there a dichotomy between the art of breeding and science?  Yes. While science can help a breeder understand results and clearly communicate them to others, extensive reliance on science in breedings can result in a loss of “balance” in results.  This has been seen in many commercial breeds over the last several decades.

Is there dichotomy between a successful breeder and his lessor peers?  Yes.  Those with skilled vision can take breedings to optimum levels of achievement and maintain them long-term. 

Various Lowersword "Bunt" phenotypes.
Science allows me, as a breeder, to maintain a vast array of phenotypes, with truly little effort, in a related breeding program through understanding of the sum total genotype.  Knowledge of chromatophore interactions that determine color & pattern; what is possible and what is not.

While maintaining a reference collection of nearly 5,000 scientific research papers, this falls short of the visual aids I routinely rely on.  In the form or nearly 70,000 photos of guppies from personal breedings and that of others.   To this you can add another 25,000 microscopy images made over the last 10 years.

My breeding notes are embarrassingly minimal and rarely referenced in day to day practice.  Since childhood, sensory perception and visual analysis of the surrounding environment has always been my preference.  Visual images often convey far more meaning than printed words.  As a result, find little need to convert images to words in my mind.

Observation allows for a balance in results within my breeding program…

Grasseni, Cristina. "Skilled vision. An apprenticeship in breeding aesthetics." Social Anthropology 12.1 (2004): 41-55.

Grasseni, Cristina. "Designer cows: The practice of cattle breeding between skill and standardization." Society & animals 13.1 (2005): 33-50.

Grasseni, Cristina, ed. Skilled visions: Between apprenticeship and standards. Vol. 6. Berghahn Books, 2007.

Grasseni, Cristina. Developing skill, developing vision: practices of locality at the foot of the Alps. Vol. 3. Berghahn Books, 2009.

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