Language selection


Secretary's manual (page 7 of 9)

Animal Pedigree Act Secretary's Manual - Table of Contents

Glossary of terms

It is usually necessary to amend the by-laws of breed associations regularly, partly in response to new developments, but also to clarify and ensure they are consistent with industry standards, etc. Terminology is important and a few of the more important terms which are relevant to breed associations are explained below. These are guidelines only.

Articles of incorporation

This is the legal instrument by which breed associations are incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act. The Articles establish the corporate identity of an association in setting out its name, breed(s) represented and first directors and officers.


An inter-mating population of animals having similarity of origin and history with evident genetic stability. For recognition under the Animal Pedigree Act as a breed there must also be unique characteristics which distinguish the breed from others of its species.

Breed standard

This term is used in several ways, and none all too consistently.

  1. in breed registries - breed standards are the essential trademark characteristics of a breed such as colour and coat pattern, horns, size, conformation, etc. Additional breed standards may include performance characteristics such as growth rate or milk production. These may be incorporated into the rules of eligibility for registration and taken together should be distinguishing factors.
  2. in judging - breed standards have been used as equivalent to a 'standard of perfection' , 'true type' or 'ideal' for the breed.
  3. in extension and field use - breed standards are expressed in terms of the average and range of characteristics that can be expected.

(Distinct) breed

A breed is an inter-mating population of animals with a common origin and history and is often used loosely to refer to a group of animals which are distinctive. Under the Animal Pedigree Act a distinct breed is one which has already achieved genetic stability. Therefore, besides having a common origin and history, distinct breeds are also expected to have unique distinguishing characteristics and be genetically stable in those characteristics from generation to generation.


The set of rules adopted by an association which, once approved by the Minister, have effect and are binding on every member.


A certificate is a document which attests to something by virtue of the authority of the issuing body or person. Breed associations are authorized to issue certificates specified in the Animal Pedigree Act, including the following: certificate of registration (for distinct breeds), certificate of identification (for evolving breeds), semen certificate and embryo certificate. Certificates of registration and identification must meet minimum requirements established under the Act (see sections 29 and 32, respectively of the Act) and breed associations must have by-laws respecting the issuance, amendment, transfer and cancellation of such certificates.

Effective population size

The effective number of breeding animals in a population. In an idealized population, all animals have equal chance of mating and therefore, an expected equal contribution to the next generation. Frequently, however,a few animals are responsible for a high percentage of all the matings, thus reducing the effective population size from the actual.

Evolving breed

A population of animals recognized under the Animal Pedigree Act which is not yet genetically stable, but for which target goals have been established. To be recognized under the Act, an evolving breed should have a defined parental population, established breed standards towards which selection will be directed, and a breeding plan to get there.


Fitness is the ability of an animal to become a parent of the next generation and commonly refers to fertility and disease resistance. In wild populations, traits such as predator avoidance and size of horns might be important components of fitness. However, in domestic populations, other characteristics such as an animal's economic utility are more likely to determine its fitness. Practical measures of fitness often focus on negative characteristics which can lead to culling. For example, genetic disorders and degree of inbreeding may be negatively related to fitness.

Foundation stock

The animals which are recognized as the original stock of a distinct breed. They are the first animals registered in a registry of a distinct breed. Foundation stock are expected to embody the characteristics of the breed and have achieved genetic stability for those breed standard characteristics. Progeny from a foundation sire and foundation dam of the same breed are considered 100% purebred.


These are the basic units of heredity in all living organisms and are transmitted from a male and female by reproduction to form a new individual. Mammals are considered to have up to 100,000 genes. Genes occur in pairs in almost every cell of the body, one copy coming from the sire and the other copy from the dam. Genes are responsible for the genetic differences and similarity among animals.


Refers to the process of consecutively breeding animals towards a purebred status. Animals which are registered as purebreds are mated to animals of other breeds or of crossbred or uncertain genetic origin (grade animals). A first mating gives 50%, second mating 75% and so on.


When two animals are mated successfully, a gamete (sperm or egg) from each combines with the other to form a zygote. Every copy of a gene (an allele) from the male side has a counterpart which comes from the female side. If both copies are the same, then the animal is considered homozygous for that gene, or heterozygous otherwise. The term 'homozygous' may be used in reference to a single trait if, for example, there is only one gene which controls its expression (eg. the polled condition in cattle).


The mating of animals which are more closely related than the average in a population (eg. mother x son). Inbreeding tends to increase the homozygosity of genes in a population and cause a loss of fitness.

Individual identification

This refers to the means by which the physical animal is identified and includes marking (eg. tattoos), tagging or recording of an animal's physical characteristics. The individual identification of an animal is critical to being able to certify its pedigree. It should be unique, positive (easy to read and interpret) and permanent.

Inter se mating

Mating of animals amongst each other, as opposed to outcrossing.

Mens rea

With criminal intent. The Animal Pedigree Act contains an offences section. Where a person has 'knowingly' contravened a provision of the Act, such action shall be investigated by the RCMP as an offence committed with criminal intent.


A person who holds a position of authority within a breed association. In general, officers may be elected or appointed. The most important offices in breed associations are those of president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and registrar. Their duties relate directly to the obligations of breed associations undertaken upon established under the Animal Pedigree Act.


Mating of animals which are relatively unrelated. Outcrossing to another breed creates a cross-bred animal. Outcrosses are less predictable genetically, but introduce more genetic variation into a population and often display hybrid vigour.

Parentage verification

Refers to laboratory tests by which animals are compared to their parents. Tests determine if an animal can be included or excluded as a possible parent. An animal's parentage can never be confirmed 100%, but individuals can be excluded as possible parents with a very high degree of accuracy. Tests are based on the fact that each parent contributes a random 50% of an animal's genetic makeup. (Genes don't come from anywhere else unless manipulated at the cellular level, as in transgenics.)

Verification may be based on techniques such as blood typing or DNA typing (eg. fingerprinting, microsatellite analysis). Use of DNA typing is generally more accurate since it is based on direct comparison of the genetic code of an animal rather than the products of its genes.

[Note: Certain conditions may influence the accuracy of parentage verification such as multiparous births, multiple fertilization, and transgenic manipulation. If any of these cases are suspect then the labs responsible for testing should be informed. Random mutations also take place in populations but generally at low levels not expected to interfere with parentage verification. Other congenital anomalies may arise in the developmental genetic stage. Generally these do not play a role in animal genetics and should not influence standard parentage verification.]


Synonymous with percentage or crossbred. An animal whose ancestry traces back to purebred of a breed on only one side of the pedigree.


This is the ancestral lineage of an animal, starting with its parents, grandparents, etc. The pedigree of an animal is its family tree.


This refers to the measure of utility of an animal and may include traits such as productivity, conformation, temperament, movement, etc. For example, dairy cattle may be assessed on milk production, alpaca on fibre quality, horses on race times and dogs on conformation. Performance is an objective assessment of an animal's worth based on selected characteristics.


A species is a class of animals with common attributes and common genetic origin. The term 'species' is a category of biological classification referring to an inter-mating group of animals in the wild, or to a group of breeds which all originated from a common ancestral population. Once domesticated, species subgroups (subspecies) are more commonly referred to as breeds. Mating across species is generally not successful, or it results in hybrids (eg. the mule) which are themselves sterile or have reduced reproductive ability. The Animal Pedigree Act requires that an association represent breeds of only one species.


Refers to an animal with genes from another species obtained via genetic engineering rather than by natural reproductive techniques. Transgenic techniques are employed which result in changes to specific genes in order to alter the production of certain proteins. Transgenic animals may be created to enhance production characteristics (eg. alter milk proteins to enhance cheese production), produce pharmaceuticals (eg. human growth hormone), produce organs for use as transplants which will not be rejected by the human body, increase disease resistance, etc. A regulatory framework has not yet been established for transgenic animals in Canada but is in development.

Report a problem on this page
Please select all that apply:

Date modified: