The aim of the study was to assess the possible existence of major genes influencing hip and elbow dysplasia in four dog populations. A Bayesian segregation analysis was performed separately on each population. In total, 34 140 dogs were included in the data set. Data were analysed with both a polygenic and a mixed inheritance model. Polygenic models included fixed and random environmental effects and additive genetic effects. To apply mixed inheritance models, the effect of a major gene was added to the polygenic models. The major gene was modelled as an autosomal biallelic locus with Mendelian transmission probabilities. Gibbs sampling and a Monte Carlo Markov Chain algorithm were used. The goodness-of-fit of the different models were compared using the residual sum-of-squares. The existence of a major gene was considered likely for hip dysplasia in all the breeds and for elbow dysplasia in one breed. Several procedures were followed to exclude the possible false detection of major genes based on non-normality of data: permuted datasets were analysed, data-transformations were applied, and residuals were judged for normality. Allelic effects at the major gene locus showed nearly to complete dominance, with a recessive, unfavourable allele in both traits. Relatively high estimates of the frequencies of unfavourable alleles in each breed suggest that considerable genetic progress would be possible by selection against major genes. However, the major genes that are possibly affecting hip and elbow dysplasia in these populations will require further study.