Three Types of Selective Breeding

Written by jenny e
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Three Types of Selective Breeding
Selective breeding involves a manipulation of the natural breeding process. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Selective breeding is the process of purposefully breeding plants and animals for the objective of obtaining particular genetic traits. The people who engage in selective breeding are known as breeders, and the bred animals are known as breeds.

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Selective Breeding Terms

When you breed plants, the results are known as cultigens, cultivars or varieties. When there is a cross of animals, the results are referred to as crossbreeds, while a cross of plants results in hybrids. Similar methods are used in animal and plant breeding. When animals with desirable traits are selected, they are bred through the process of culling for particular for traits. Culling is the process of selecting livestock based on desired criteria, and destroying the others. This is how purebreds are produced. Purebreds with a recognisable lineage are known as pedigreed, while a mix of two separate purebreds will produce crossbreeds. The three methods of selective breeding are outcrossing, inbreeding and line breeding.

Line Breeding

Line breeding is the process of breeding animals or plants that are closely related so as to "fix" or "set" desirable traits. For example, if a horse has some qualities that the breeder likes, the breeder could breed that horse with another relative so as to reinforce the desirable traits through a "pooling" of the genes. The idea is that if one animal has desirable qualities, mating it with a genetically related animal will increase those desirable traits. In human terms, linebreeding is like mating two close, but one-step-removed relatives, like first cousins, grandparent and grandchild, or uncle and niece.


Inbreeding is the mating of very closely related animals in the hopes of increasing the desired traits in the next generation. Inbreeding is similar to linebreeding only that in inbreeding, the animals would be as close as parents and offspring, or siblings. Inbreeding has some serious flaws because, while it may intensify the desired traits, it will also intensify any faults in the parents. Linebreeding is a little better, because the parents are one step removed. Still, it has similar drawbacks to inbreeding, because it is still that same small gene pool that is being passed from one generation to the next.


Outcrossing is the breeding of two animals or plants that are not related to each other. This means that the animals do not have any related ancestors in their pedigree for four generations or more. Outcrossing introduces new traits that are missing in the limited gene pools available in linebreeding and inbreeding. It can also "dilute" the effects of inbreeding by reducing the concentration of undesirable genes.

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