By Joel Burkard/Pan Intercorp
When Koi first started to become popular in the early 1970s here in the United States, the average hobbyist seldom heard the name of the person who bred any particular Koi that was offered for sale. In fact, most were so excited to even see a Koi of any quality, that the issue of lineage seldom arose.
Subsequently, experience has taught us that lineage can play an important role in the development of a Nishikigoi. Kohaku bred by one breeder can have a propensity for growing very large and impressive, whereas Kohaku from another bloodline are known for the intensity of their red.
In recent years, many of the Koi dealers here in the United States have begun advertising their stock as being from this breeder or that breeder. This helps provide a guideline to the buyer as to the possible course of development for their Koi, or does it?
Like anything else, the names of famous breeders and bloodlines can be overused and abused, and they most certainly have been here in the United States. The following anecdote illustrates the heights of absurdity that this abuse has reached.
A well-intending Koi dealer offered to supply his local Koi Club with "Dainichi" fingerlings to sell at their Koi show. Club members were so amazed at the low price that was quoted for these "Dainichi" fingerlings, that they asked the Koi dealer how this could be possible. The dealer replied that he had been informed by his source, that Dainichi had moved their breeding operation to Mainland China in an effort to save costs, that all Dainichi Koi were now being spawned in China and later on shipped to Japan! The reason they were so cheap was because his source was able to buy the Koi direct from China!
In fact, several Japanese farms have become involved with Koi farming in China and Taiwan in the past couple of years; however, you can be assured that there is not a shred of truth to the preceding anecdote.
An interesting perspective on the subject of breeders and bloodlines was related to me by Mr. Hiroyuki Haibara, of Kasugai Nishikigoi Center located in Yamanashi Prefecture. Mr. Haibara is a past Director of the All Japan Nishikigoi Promotion Association, a local radio talk show host, an active leader in the Kasugai community, as well as a second-generation Koi breeder.
Several years ago, one of the Haibara Kohaku took a major award at a prestigious Japanese Koi show. Predictably, shortly following the show, Mr. Haibara was inundated with inquiries and customers seeking to purchase young Haibara Kohaku. Business was brisk and sales made it a record year for Kasugai Nishikigoi Center.
The interesting part of this story was that the two-year old Kohaku that made the record sales were technically not Haibara Kohaku at all! Haibara relates that a common fry disease had wiped out his entire crop of Kohaku bred the preceding year, leaving him with no choice but to produce some Kohaku fry from another farm with which he had a close association.
"You must realize," he said "that every breeding does not always result in success. It is quite common for one farm to receive fry from another following an unsuccessful spawning. It's probably more common in Niigata than anywhere else; breeders often collaborate in joint spawning. Ultimately, it is the breeder's skill in the selecting and rearing of the fry that determines the final outcome."
"The performance of my seven year old Kohaku at the Koi show attracted the attention of the public, but the actual sales were on the two-year-olds that were swimming in our farm at the time. Although the fry came from another farm, the selection process that resulted in these Koi was performed by ourselves. Are these Koi to be regarded as Haibara Kohaku? You could say that Nishikigoi is 10% bloodline, but the remaining 90% is definitely in the rearing."
Bloodlines are certainly important and can help provide insight as to the possible lines along which a Koi may develop, but Mr. Haibara's story cautions us against blind faith in manes and urges us to concentrate more on the inherent.