Inbreeding  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Inbreeding is the production of offspring from the mating or breeding of individuals or organisms that are closely related genetically.

Inbreeding in humans

The taboo of incest has been discussed by many social scientists. Anthropologists attest that it exists in most cultures. As inbreeding within the first generation often produces expression of recessive traits, the prohibition has been discussed as a possible functional response to the requirement of culling those born deformed, or with undesirable traits.Template:Fact Some biologists like Charles Davenport advocated the traditional forms of assortative breeding, i.e. eugenics, to form better "human stock".

Ancient Egypt

Some Egyptian Pharaohs married their sisters; in such cases we find a special combination between endogamy and polygamy. Normally the son of the old ruler and the old ruler's oldest (half-)sister became the new ruler. Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XIII, married and named co-rulers of ancient Egypt following their father's death, were brother and sister. Not only this, but all rulers of the Ptolemaic dynasty from Ptolemy II on engaged in inbreeding among brothers and sisters, so as to keep the Ptolemaic blood "pure".

Royalty and nobility

The royal and noble families of Europe have inbred considerably as a result of royal intermarriage; the most discussed instances of inbreeding relate to European monarchies. Examples abound in every royal family; in particular, the ruling dynasties of Spain and Portugal were in the past very inbred. Several Habsburgs, Bourbons and Wittelsbachs married aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. Even in the British royal family, which is very moderate in comparison, there has scarcely been a monarch in 300 years who has not married a (near or distant) relative. Indeed, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh are second cousins once removed, both being descended from King Christian IX of Denmark. They are also third cousins as great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. European monarchies tried to avoid brother-sister marriages, though Jean V of Armagnac is a notable exception.

There is a greater amount of inbreeding within royalty than there is in the population as a whole. Among genetic populations that are isolated, opportunities for exogamy are reduced, however may not intend to inbreed. Isolation may be geographical, leading to inbreeding among people in remote mountain valleys. Or isolation may be social, induced by the lack of appropriate partners, such as Protestant princesses for Protestant royal heirs, in which case inbreeding is desired. Since the late Middle Ages, it is the urban middle class that has had the widest opportunity for outbreeding and the least desire to inbreed.

It has long been debated on whether inbreeding caused some of the problems among some of the family members of some royal lines, most notably centered around Charles II of Spain, who was mentally retarded. It is thought that his genetic makeup was so thoroughly degenerated that he could not properly chew food. As there was no genetic testing back then, we cannot be certain although this was most likely the case.

Other examples of royal family inbreeding include:


Inbreeding in European royal families has declined slightly in relation to the past. This is likely due to clear scientific evidence of genetic degeneration. Instead, inter-nobility marriage as a method of forming political alliances among elite power-brokers has taken precedence. These ties were often sealed only upon the birth of progeny within the arranged marriage. Marriage was seen as a union of lines of nobility, not of a contract between individuals as it is seen today. However, inbreeding within Royal bloodlines is still alive and well.

  • Some Peruvian Sapa Incas married their sisters; in such cases we find a special combination between endogamy and polygamy. Normally the son of the old ruler and the ruler's oldest (half-)sister became the new ruler.
  • The Inca had an unwritten rule that the new ruler must be a son of the Inca and his wife and sister. He then had to marry his sister (not half-sister), which ultimately led to the catastrophic Huascars reign, culminating in a civil war and then fall of the empire.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Inbreeding" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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