Mi-Ki Breed Now Reported on Embark

We are pleased to inform our readers that the Mi-Ki is now an officially reported breed on Embark Veterinary DNA testing for dogs as of May 5, 2022. Previously, any Mi-Kis submitted for testing would show “mixed ancestry,” and percentages of contributing breeds would be broken down for us to ponder.

This was always an interesting read for us because the DNA has told a different story than some of the written histories we’ve been given regarding our magical Mi-Kis. For instance, most folks have heard that the Mi-Ki ancestry included Shih Tzu, Maltese, Papillon, and Japanese Chin.

Out of the 32 Mi-Kis we’ve tested through Embark, the breeds we consistently see in the largest percentages are Maltese, Shih Tzu, Pomeranian, and Pekingese. We’ve also seen small percentages of Bichon and Yorkshire Terrier in some lines. We’ve never seen any traces of Japanese Chin, and have only seen a hint of Papillon in one of my dogs (as of May 6.)

The First “Official” Mi-Ki Revealed on Embark

We first heard about the Mi-Ki being reported as a breed on Embark testing from our friend and new Mi-Ki breeder Rachel Greene of Tagi’s Little Cutie’s in Michigan (TLC Mi-Kis on Facebook.) She informed us that she’d received an email from Embark on 5/5/2022 that her smooth-face Mi-Ki puppy Barnaby’s results were ready.

She was excited because he was listed as 100% Mi-Ki instead of the usual “mixed ancestry” that all Mi-Kis have thus far been labeled. She checked the previous dogs she’s tested but their results still read as “mixed ancestry.”

Barnaby smooth-face Mi-Ki on Embark
Barnaby, a smooth-face Mi-Ki owned by Rachel Greene. He is the first “official Mi-Ki” tested by Embark.

A few minutes later, I received a text that our new male Louie’s Embark results were ready. With much anticipation, I clicked on the link and learned that Louie is…

Louie's Mi-Ki results on Embark.

91.1% Mi-Ki and 8.9% Unresolved. Needless to say, that was an unexpected result! Upon further inspection, it appeared that the unresolved portions may be DNA from “distant ancestors”:

UNRESOLVED ANALYSIS Learn More

There may be small amounts of DNA from these distant ancestors:

  • Chihuahua
  • Papillon

This was actually the first time I’d ever seen Papillon in any of my Mi-Kis I’ve tested, so this was exciting! But Chihuahua? That would be a big fat NO. Chihuahua should not be in the background of the Mi-Ki to my knowledge.

Did I freak out a little bit with this news? Sure. Maybe a little bit. After all, the benefit of a purebred dog is the predictable traits and temperament associated with a given breed. Mi-Ki buyers are willing to pay a pretty penny to own a purebred Mi-Ki.

But then I realized that it said these were “distant ancestors” and would assume that mathematically Chihuahua would be less than 5% of his genetic makeup. Would I be willing to dismiss a wonderful dog who definitely has the full Mi-Ki package of good looks and temperament over less than 10% of “unresolved” breed information that “may” be included?

After discussing Louie’s results with Tamara Beebe, the American Mi-Ki Registry Association’s registrar, she said it’s possible that the Chihuahua result is a “miss” hit and that when the Wisdom Panel dog DNA company first began to identify the Mi-Ki breed, they also had results that didn’t turn out to be correct. We decided it would be fun to test Louie with the Optimal Selection Wisdom Panel as well to get a comparative study.

We’ve found that the two DNA companies do not always return the same results. For instance, on Savannah, our mascot, the Wisdom Panel says that she has the genetics for a short muzzle. Embark says Savannah has the genetics for a medium or long muzzle! This may be frustrating for breeders, but it has been a lesson to me that DNA testing is a developing science and can’t be relied upon exclusively when making breeding decisions.

Mixed Ancestry results in purebred dogs

Embark has some insights about purebred dogs that show mixed ancestry.

Genetic ancestry can be complicated. Here’s what you should know:
If you have a purebred dog:

A purebred dog can sometimes share DNA with another breed. If this happens, you’ll see “Mixed Ancestry” in your dog’s results. These results in no way affect registered “purebred” status or your dog’s standing with the registration body. Typically, a registration body certifies a dog’s purebred status through pedigree records and parentage verification, which do not rely on genetic testing.

Louie’s results didn’t even say “Mixed Ancestry.” It said “unresolved,” so I reached out to Embark for clarification. As of 5/10/22, Embark answered my inquiry that asked, “Is the ‘unresolved’ designation the same as a ‘mixed breed’ designation?”

If the print of my email screenshot is too small, the important part says [unresolved ancestry] “can be due to ancestors of a different breed far back in the family tree, but it can also be because there’s diversity in a purebred breed that isn’t reflected in our reference panel yet. For a relatively rare breed like the Mi-Ki that was developed fairly recently, I fully expect the unresolved result you are seeing is due to genetic diversity in the breed rather than mixed breeding in the recent past.”

I also found this helpful bit of information on Embark‘s website:

For a variety of reasons, the registered purebred dog tested by Embark may not perfectly match the genetic signature of the reference panel. One example is the dog may have an ancestor that is in a closely related breed which was utilized prior to the closing of the breed’s studbook many generations ago. Another reason is that the dog may come from a bloodline that is geographically very distant from the group of reference panel dogs. These results in no way affect the “purebred” status of the dog or its standing with the registration body. In fact, because these dogs usually contain genetic signatures not common in the breed, they can be highly useful for maintaining or even increasing genetic diversity in the breed!

For readers who are new to the importance of genetic diversity, having higher diversity gives dogs a better chance of not inheriting two identical gene mutations that could result in the expression of disease. Additionally, a higher diversity is associated with health, longevity, and better reproductive outcomes. Losing genetic diversity can eventually lead to the extinction of dog breeds.

With this in mind, we are hopeful that Little Louis will have great OFA health test results and will be a great addition to our breeding program in late 2022. Louie also carries tan points and blue, according to his Embark test results.

DNA proves dog parentage

Before the advent of DNA parental testing, most breeders had to give their best guess or just assumed which dog sired a litter. It’s entirely possible that there was an accidental breeding or unknown sire even in the most structured of breeding programs.

We are pleased that the American Mi-Ki Registry Association requires DNA-proven parental verification to register any Mi-Ki. AMRA has been requiring DNA verification since 2006, so any possible chihuahua ancestor in Louie’s background would likely have been many years ago if his ancestors were AMRA registered. I believe the International Mi-Ki Registry also requires DNA parental verification for registration, so that is also a comfort.

I should take this moment to mention that Royal T Mi-Kis is not listed on the AMRA website because they are no longer able to edit it. We look forward to the new AMRA website when it is launched!

We have not applied to be members of the IMR but have traded dogs with an IMR kennel.

When will previously-tested Mi-Kis get their updated ancestry results on Embark?

Rachel Greene was kind enough to forward the response from Embark regarding when other Mi-Kis might have updated ancestry results.

The Embark Science team is now doing an internal update of all owner-reported Mi-Kis after a recent reference panel update. Embark will be contacting all owners whose results have changed with this recent update within the next few weeks once the audits and updates are complete.

We’re saving all of our old Embark data to ensure we have access to all of the interesting mixed ancestry data. If you’ve previously tested with Embark, be sure to save your old data before the updates are complete.

We use and endorse Embark dog DNA testing

Royal T Mi-Kis is pleased to have submitted several samples to Embark when members of the International Mi-Ki Registry invited Mi-Ki breeders from all registries to participate in a breed-wide genetic survey. Many kennels participated as well as several Mi-Ki pet owners. We are grateful for everyone’s participation to help raise awareness of our fantastic breed.

In addition to having insight into the Mi-Ki’s ancestry, we’ve also enjoyed learning more about the genetics that affects coat color and other physical characteristics. The most important information we’ve gained through Embark testing is regarding health genetics including diversity and disease.

All of this data is helping breeders to make informed and balanced breeding decisions. We hope these efforts will create a healthy, sustainable breed for Mi-Ki fanciers to enjoy for generations to come.

Please visit the Our Dogs page to see what dogs have been tested with Embark. If you’re a breeder and would like $50 off to test your dog, use this Embark link. If you’re a pet owner who would like to test with Embark, use this link to also get $50 off. For each purchase, Royal T Mi-Kis will receive credit toward future Embark test orders. Thank you for supporting the Mi-Ki breed!