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The Rhodesian Ridgeback Pedigree Search – a very personal story

Behind each project puts an idea and a certain motivation to do something. The online platform Rhodesian Ridgeback Pedigree Search was not planned from the beginning in this scale - what it is today, has simply evolved over the years, and as so often coincidences have also played a role.

When I started 14 years ago with the database I did not realize what dimensions that would accept and how helpful it really should be for the breeders worldwide. Not to mention the many contacts to breeders all over the world that I got.

In 1998 I got my foundation bitch Beris Bilé Karpaty, bred by Radomir Kavka, from the Czech Republic to Germany. At that time the issue about breeding was still in far distance, but long before my dog as a puppy came to me, I dealt with the bloodlines in the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed. When I finally had the dog with me at home, I started to deal with this race even more. After I have been operated since my youth in the Arab horses is genealogy, it seemed to occupy myself also the Rhodesian Ridgeback with the ancestors. Genealogy is ultimately the basis for breeding. It does not matter if it comes to horses or dogs.

In 1999 I bought a pedigree program and began - with a breeder friend at that time - to collect the data in a database. Everything I found on the websites of the breeders has been incorporated. Very soon I realized, that not all pedigree informations published on the websites were correct. Often the spelling of the dogs was different, sometimes the same dogs had different parents, the birth dates or the registration numbers had disagreed also. But how do you find out what information is correct? I didn’t have had contact to breeders at this time, and I also identified very quickly that very few breeders were really interested in the fact, what was in the pedigree of their dogs from the 4th generation release.

So far so good. In the meantime, Kimba (Beris Bilé Karpaty) has developed into a wonderful dog and we could not imagine life without her. In April 2000 she passed the breeding examination with temperament test.  In this breeding exam I met Monika Cramer - she was there also with her male Aliko and he also passed the exam. She has, like me, dealt extensively with the pedigrees and ancestors of our Ridgebacks. This interest and love to breed connects us to this day.

Kimba was now approved for breeding, so now I dealt with the topic breeding and the appropriate bloodlines. After searching for months for the perfect breeding partner for Kimba, I finally went with Kimba to Denmark in February 2001. I have spent some nice days with Helle Lauridsen, the owner of the stud dog Witches LeCreme's Trick, imported from Canada. We quickly discovered that we both had the same interests when it came to the pedigrees of our Ridgebacks. She offered me to send her database, because she was collecting pedigrees for a few years. So I could import her data into my database. Since that time I have worked with a different program than it is today, I decided to buy me the same program as Helle to provide a straightforward import of her data. Breed Mate, an Australian program with many interesting features was so installed on my computer. My old data has been imported, then the database of Helle added - and so the chaos was perfect!

At once there were many dogs with different spellings, but actually were always the same dog. I had to come up with a system for it all to get a grip and decided to revise all the records completely. A lot of work, because the database already comprised by that time about 15,000 entries. I decided that kennel name, where the dog was bred, always to write in capital letters. The names of the dogs in upper and lower case. It was the challenge that sometimes I was not sure which was correct spelling of a name now, but I had to live with it initially easy.

It is incredible in how many different ways you can write the name of a dog. An example was "Glenaholm Strauss of Inkabusi": We have had "Glenaholm of Strauss's Inkabusi", then "Glenaholm Strauß" or "Strauss of Inkabuzi", always the same dog! To make matters worse, sometimes between the words were two instead of one space, sometime it was all written in capital letters, so the program automatically created a new record for this dog

In months of hard work, often late into the night, I have revised the database and tried to assign the dogs correctly. During this time I got over Helle contact to Yvonne Bowker in England. She has had a lot of contact to old breeders in UK and worked extensive with the breed registry data of Rhodesian Ridgebacks in the UK. A great help for me. She even had a database and she offered me the data import. But….after my experience with the database of Helle I did not want to import this data easily, because then everything would be messed up again. So I had to tap, tap, tap….

At the End of 2001, I was finished with the revision of the data and had the idea to put my database online, as well as the American database (POST Pedigree Online Search Tool). When I told Peter Rost and Uwe Scheibel about my idea, they were immediately impressed and offered me to put their technical know-how to provide and create a program for the database. Based on the online database of Alfirin Technologies, which was already optimized for the Breed Mate database, they programmed an online search engine and I they created the first design for the website. 

I tried to get in touch with the makers of POST, because I knew that I has had not nearly as many American dogs in my database as they have, and I thought working together would be meaningful. So I offered them a collaboration and wanted to put a link to their site on my website, but unfortunately they didn’t answer to my question.  At this time I did not come up with the idea, that not all people would be happy with a new database, but I should notice this fact very soon.

On 20 June 2002 it was time - the database was online. If I would have known how many trouble would come towards me, then I do not know whether I would have ever started this project. My intention was always to help breeders with this informations and to support them. Some saw it quite differently.

That corrections of names and dates would come, this was clear and that was and is very important. It was clear that there would be discussions about spellings of names, as the old pedigrees were handwritten and thus could easily lead to transmission errors. These errors were then of course continued when the puppies pedigrees were created. But I had no idea what else will happen to me  - I really could not imagine it!

Already on the very next day I got an e-mail of an RR owner, who asked me about the policy, because his dog was already recorded in the database and he knew nothing about it. 

We already have made a research about the privacy before we have published the website online, and the german laws are very strict! We had to find out what data we are allowed to publish without violation the privacy of individuals. For this reason we do not publish up to today some certain information in our database  - such as HD-evaluations of the dogs or the name of the breeder / owner.  The request to publish this information also comes very often, but as the German laws are so strict, more than for example the United States, we are not allowed to do this. The only way for breeders and stud dog owner to publish their kennels or stud dog is to enter their website to the link database. Then the names of course will be published. But so many websites have link databases now, so we are not sure whether it makes sense to  maintain this link database on. That would be a question for the user.

On the Internet, however, the waves beat high - in a newsgroup was denounced that all my data are incorrect, that you can not do anything with such a database and that the only one and correct database is POST. I wrote that I only can correct the data with the help of the breeders  and  that I would be grateful for corrections and additions. But that was initially boycotted downright. It almost seemed that they see the Pedigree Search as competition to POST, which was utter nonsense and still is.

An English breeder wrote me furious emails, threatened me massively and asked me to delete all his dogs. He wrote “I My pedigrees are my buisness,not yours, or any Tom Dick or Harrys. I will contact the V.D.H. if you do not remove all information on my breeding and pedigrees. The place to prove yourself as a Ridgeback person is in the show ring and gaining titles with dogs,not being a bissy boby,trying to make yourself look important with pedirees on a database.” Short-term the dogs were removed from the databse, but not final.

With the help of Yvonne Bowker finally I contacted the English Kennel Club who confirmed that the data that I have online are likely to be published and no copyright was violated, as this breeder claimed.

To make matters worse a German breeder tried to antagonize Janet Murray from Australia against me and the Pedigree Search. With the help of many Australian breeders like Leanne Lewis (Kennel Skiska) and Vicki Moritz (Kennel Ujamaa) Janet could be convinced that the database is important for breeders and very helpful. From this point on, she was assisting me with corrections and additions to the database. I worked through all of their books and added the database with the information that I found there.

One evening I received a call from a RR owner, who told me that the breeder of his dog had been inviting her to take legal action against me because her dog is in the database, and even with the photo. So I explained her the policy and the fact that I took the photo at an exhibition, the copyright is by me as the photographer and I therefore can publish it.  For her, the issue was settled then, but not for the breeder. For months she tried to  incite people against me from the backgraound. Why? It is still unclear to me and she never contacted me directly.

Then came a letter from an RR Club, which threatened with legal action if I will not remove the data of the dogs that have been bred in this club. After a vigorous correspondence the club would finally gave the permission for the publication - if I sign a declaration in which I sign a paper with an agreement, that I am personally liable if a  club members should arise "inconvenience” from the publication on my website. There was of course no reason to sign such a statement, and the data stayed self-evident in the database.

These are just some experiences I have had in the first years of the Pedigree Search. I could write a novel about what else happened. But ultimately counts that I have been through these difficult beginnings and that the Pedigree Search is still alive. Luckily I got so much encouragement and assistance from breeders around the world, that I never have lost the fun of the database and never gave up, even if I sometimes was just about to quit.

Ann Chamberlain (Kennel Mazoe) and Linda Costa (Kennel Sarula), who have been in the breed a very long time, have helped me a lot - especially when it comes to the foundation dogs of our breed. That was (and still is) probably the hardest part, because we could only rely on the old, hand-written documents (as mentioned earlier), and in terms of spelling this documents unfortunately are not always correct and often contain transmission errors.

That the database was interesting for the breeders worldwide, this was a fact I realized from the many emails from breeders from all over the world. But I was totally surprised when I was the Rhodesian Ridgeback World Congress 2008 in Ireland and Dennis Boyd asked me on stage and thanked me in the name of the Ridgeback world for my work on the Pedigree Search. An unexpected honor which indemnified me for many things, and encouraged  me to keep going..

With each year that the Pedigree Search online is growing and the size of the database continues. In 2009 I got the data of about 20,000 dogs from Australia from Vicki Moritz (Kennel Ujamaa), whereby the amount of data has grown quickly to nearly 70,000 dogs. 2010 the Pedigree Search got a new look and we have added some points - such as articles on breeders, genetics and health. The most important thing is still the pedigree database. She can only be expanded and corrected through the intensive collaboration with breeders worldwide. Meanwhile, more than 80,000 dogs are  in the database, and it are getting more every day.

I can not list all people who have helped me (and still help) while researching for the pedigrees of our Ridgebacks. So at this point I want to thank everyone for their tireless help! Without you all this project would not be as international and extensive as it is.

Because I have to type in all records by hand and the data cannot be simply imported (because the different spellings would otherwise lead back to the same mess as in the beginning) it sometimes may take a little longer until the new entries appear in the database. The database is free for all and the work it is my hobby, although this hobby has already reached such enormous proportions, which is hard to deal with. Therefore I beg for your indulgence, if the next update should take again a little longer. 

Monika Pehr
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