Yoshi is a cute, cheerful and fluffy Old English Sheepdog whose registered name is Lambluv Desert Dancer. This fluff ball, owned by Kere Marder, won 64 Best in Show awards—more than any other Old English Sheepdog in history.
He took Best of Breed at the Westminster Dog Show three times — the most recent was in 1999.
Yoshi has long been dead. He died in 2006 but Marder is still able to breed him.
“I have about 100 straws!” Marder says. She was referring to Yoshi’s frozen semen samples that she will use to breed additional offspring.
Marder owns Indiana-based Lambluv Old English Sheepdogs.She sells show-quality puppies for prices starting at $2,500 and most of her dogs are bred the traditional way.
Last year, the second place in Westminster’s Best in Breed category went to an Old English Sheepdog from one of Lambluv’s dog’s 17-year-old sperm.
Since the 1960s, veterinarians have been artificially inseminating dogs with frozen semen. Back then, the technology was more of a scientific experiment, but as technology and conception rates improved, professional dog breeders used the technique to stock up dogs’ bloodlines without reaching too far out into the gene pool.
“Most serious breeders that I know of have something in store,” says Marder. “If anything, it’s just a precaution; otherwise, if anything happens to your champion dog before you can breed him, you’re out a good chunk of money.”
“It’s definitely a market—and one that’s growing,” says Randall Popkin, owner of Breeder’s Veterinary Services in California.
Popkin’s company has been storing frozen semen and inseminating dogs with it since 1984.Over the years, he estimates that he has stored samples from 1500 dogs. The oldest sample that successfully produced puppies was 27 years old!
“When I first started, few breeders were doing this. Nowadays, you travel to dog shows and there’ll be three companies there offering to freeze your dog’s semen,” Popkin said.
The number of registered purebred litters conceived with frozen semen has risen by 26 percent, over the past decade. In 2013, the AKC registered about 2,200 litters – only 1 percent of all AKC-approved litters. This means that most breeders still prefer the natural way.
Marder says she has sold frozen semen only twice within the past year. A sample costs a whopping $2,000. This could be a great buy– an entire litter of puppies for the price of one – or a terrible one—if the sample doesn’t take.
Oregon-based International Canine Semen Bank (ICSB) still has frozen samples that date back to the 1970s. The samples are kept in liquid nitrogen.They charge a little over $300 for the first donation, and $200 for each additional one. There is also an annual storage fee and an insemination fee. This means costs quickly add up but it’s still cheaper than shipping an adult dog across the country to be bred.
“There are downsides to this,” Popkin admits, “If a dog is beautiful and does well in shows, people will want to breed them, even if they have a health [problem] that, in a livestock animal for example, would make you want them eliminated from the gene pool.”
Remember that things can also go wrong. In 2009, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi breeder sued an animal hospital after her dog was allegedly inseminated with sperm from a Great Pyrenees—a breed that’s about five times the size of a Corgi! The Corgi nearly died giving birth.