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The dogs that go to work, and play, all day -- for science

Geneticist Jasper Rine and his colleagues launched the Dog Genome Initiative to elucidate both canine genes and behavior

In the early 1990s, at the University of California at Berkeley, Jasper Rine set up an extraordinary investigation into canine genetics. He and his fellow scientists from the University of Oregon and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, also commenced what is likely to become the most significant long-term observations of canine behavior yet.

Rine's intent was not only to study canine genes but to examine inherited behaviors that may be linked to specific genes. With that end in mind, Rine focused on Border collies, legendary for their herding behavior, and Newfoundlands, seamen's dogs originally bred to save drowning mariners. Newfoundlands are imbued with the remarkable instinct to rescue humans from water.

The original pair of progenitors, a female Newfoundland named Pepper and a Border collie named Gregor (after pioneer geneticist Gregor Mendel) have now produced a first (F-1) generation of puppies, who have then produced their own (F-2) generations. Each puppy has been adopted by a specially selected family in the Berkeley environs in order to ensure the integrity of the long-term study.

Rine hopes his research will soon yield some applicable results: helping breeders to eliminate genetically linked canine diseases.

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