Kingi showing how a PON moves

(Flinkbein Srebro)





Christina Drake's Response to Mr. Miroslaw Redlicki's article on PON Tails



International PON Community


I read the article by Mr. Miroslaw Redlicki in Pondigest ( on Friday 30 March  2007. His article " LONG, SHORT  OR DOCKED?  ON PONSí TAILS" emphasized one of the most current issues regarding PON breeding around the world in respect to tails and their lengths.


Since we have also taken this point under consideration in Finland , I would like to share our feelings and procedures  in regard to this rather complex matter, because in the not too distinct future, we might actually have genetic research to clarify some of the genetic aspects of  tails. I hope that someone would be kind and translate this also into Polish, since sharing information regarding our breed is vital.


In addition to the genetic aspect, I will also tackle the issue of prevailing short tails and contrast this with the concept of preserving long tails, and everything in between, since they  constitute a significant segment of the breed. We cannot only breed  appearance, and just one part of it, the tail. The PON is a complex whole animal, made up of individual characteristics, including head, tail,legs,etc. 


Before beginning, I must notify everyone that these are my opinions and do not necessarily present the opinion of The Finnish PON Club, however, as a member of the board of the club as well as a member of the breeding committee, I strongly believe that this presents the opinion of at least a majority of the members.


As Mr Redlicki mentioned, there is no documented information regarding the origin of PONs in the concept of tails, and therefore we cannot say for sure, whether bobtails are truly the ONLY original tails features of the PON. Since we do have tails of all lengths, I strongly believe that this is well founded in  history as well, otherwise we would not have long tails and there would not be a lethal mutation of this gene (described below). The image of bobtails as the "original PONs" is perhaps more of a consequence of the docking that has been going on for centuries. Tails do not just "appear" at some point in breeding, the genes must have been in existence ever since the early origin of the breed.


Mr Redlicki summarized:

      1.     A single Mendelian gene (dominant) decides whether a tail is shortened at all

      2.     A large group of other genes decide the actual length of a shortened tail and also its shape


A dominant gene in this sense means that it is sufficient that one of the parents of the litters has a short tail, and at least some of the puppies are short-tailed. The phenotype caused by this bobtail-mutation can vary from no-tail to 2/3 tail and into anything in between, and according to Dosent Kirsi Sainio from the Department of Finnish Biochemistry and Developmental Biology, all of these different lengths of tails are caused by the same mutation. This is called a T-Box mutation which is lethal if combined to another short-tailed and therefore  genetic researchers strongly advice combining this to a non-lethal phenotype (long tail).


This would mean that the length of the parents' short tails would not be equivalent to the puppies tail length. And from this information,  we also have had some proof in Finland , for instance one male with a few centimeters long tail has had puppies with "no-tails" and 2/3 tails in the same litter. I don't know whether the pattern described by Mr Redlicki would then apply to short-tail/short-tail combinations in case one or both of the parents are phenotypes with non-lethal mutation.


Mrs Sainio also clarified, that the gene, in which this bobtail-mutation is found, is vital to the early development of the fetus and affects also a variety of other things besides the tail-length. If two short-tails are mated, can some of the fetuses have two mutated alleles and none of the normal, and lethal dominant mutation means that homozygote bobtail-gene phenotypes will die as fetus. If short-tail/short-tail combinations are created and puppies are born this is a sign, according to Mrs Sainio, that the homotsygote individuals have died during pregnancy, but those that are born are either heterotsygote short tails or long-tailed "wild-type" phenotypes. It would be interesting to know if bobtail-bobtail -combinations' litters are smaller than long tail-bobtail, because this would explain and enforce this theory.




In Finland two short-tailed PONs are not combined for breeding, and at least one of the parents must have a long tail. This is due to the lethal mutation presented above. At one point, 2 PONs have been tested regarding this lethal mutation and the findings reveal that the PONs bobtail-gene presents in fact T-box normal mutation (lethal). In some breeds an allele variation has been found in the second allele of the gene, which makes this dominant mutation non-lethal. In the PONS tested previously, this allele variation has not been found. 


For a while now, the Finnish PON Club has searched for different litters to find PONs for testing regarding  short tail genetics. Most especially non-tails are to be tested, but also combinations in which there is no certainty of one or both of the parents' tail lengths'.


This spring, we have gathered a group of almost 20 PONs for DNA-testing that will be carried out by the Institute of Biomedicine's department of Biochemistry and Developmental Biology that will evaluate research for more information about the mutation on PONs and whether it is in fact lethal in all cases or not. It might be that different PONs carry a different mutation variation. We carry out this research NOT because we want more short tailed PONs but because our genetic basis is rather narrow due to the small gene pool of PONs and finding non-lethal variations would mean that we would not have to choose a short-tailed male for long-tailed female and vice-versa, and this would give us wider gene pool of PONs to choose for breeding.


As soon as we receive results from the new research, we will absolutely share this information with the PON community.



When it comes to genetics, one must also remember, as Mr Redlicki emphasized, that tails DO come in all lengths. I agree with Mr Redlicki as he states that as docking is spreading, it is important to decide about future breeding strategies. However, I do not feel that a short tail is such a unique feature since we also have long tails.


Mr Redlicki also states that "One must admit, thought, that these partially shortened tails are not very attractive". I must comment that the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is well known that what the eye gets used to, is long determined and hard to change, but it has already happened in Finland, where docking has been prohibited for a long time: not that many people think that tails of different lengths are unattractive, and this is a result of the fact that we have been watching different variations for much longer now. This has not come easily, since we had to fight not only our own images of the "traditional" PON, but also the attitudes of judges and other authorities. A new "PON-people" generation has been born that has not been used to only short tails and they will see different tail lengths as a normal part of the breed since they will SEE THEM ALL equally.


Docking has created an image that does not present the whole true nature of PON, and in my opinion, tails of all lengths should be cherished. I have heard of a comment on tails "all best pons are born with short tails", and we all know this is not the case: Many long tailed PONs have been extremely successful in shows and brought additional value for our breed also as breeding dogs.


Furthermore, If the genetics test carried out currently documents that the bobtail gene is actually a normal lethal type in all PONs, we will have no choice but to get used to the tails. Or if the test proves that also heterotsygote phenotypes can be born from these combinations, what would that mean for our breeding? Breeding only short-tailed PONs would, in my opinion, be a hindrance for this breed since it would not only mean that one current segment of the PON would disappear but also that the amount of combinations and individuals used for breeding would decrease and the genetic pool would get smaller as a consequence. Even more so since the breeders of this breed around the world have managed to keep PON as original as it is this long.


However, I do have a slight fear that if the test proves that there are non-lethal variations of these genes in some PONS, using only bob-tailed PONs for breeding becomes more common, which might mean a decrease in the amount of long tailed PONS, and this again, might result in disagreements in breeding PONs around the world (since some of us like them with tails and some without). On the other hand, I believe that breeders are responsible and believe in their good judgment. We all know the fact that most of the dogs end up being normal family dogs, and in this sense, the length of the tail is rather insignificant, but, as Mr Redlicki also emphasized, does require decisions at some level.

At the moment, some judges are strongly against long tailed PONs, but this is also changing. The change is slow, but given time, this is a battle that can be won. In the past I often ran into comments about my oldest male's tail in shows, but not any more. As the years go by, attitudes change, and this is a welcome change that will take place in any country at some point, if pushed through.


I would like to invite open discussion and an exchange of information on this matter and thank Mr Redlicki for bringing this to the attention of  the international PON community.


Christina Drake 5th April 2007


This is a link to Mr. Miroslaw Redlicki's original article on tails: