I originally made this comment on Facebook (friend me, it’s all fun and games), but the ‘mutts’ comments are starting to really torque me off, so here’s a slightly expanded version.
I always find it amusing when a bunch of supposedly intelligent dog breeders start talking about crossbred dogs.
Here’s a little genetics lesson for you: A crossbreed is not a mutt, or a mongrel. By definition, a mutt or mongrel is made up of multiple types, often to the point where the ‘breeds’ in the background are unidentifiable. My first dog, Honey, looked like a very small, leggy, fine-boned yellow Lab. I haven’t the faintest idea what kind of dogs were behind her. She was a mutt. My crosses and backcrosses are neither mutts nor mongrels and I’ll thank you to use the correct terms, since you are calling yourself a breeder and a real breeder should know better.
Here’s a little history lesson for you: prior to the Victorian fixation with class and conspicuous consumption, dog breeds were more properly types; ‘breed’ simply meant that the dogs in question bred true. ‘Strain’ was commonly used to designate a certain type of dog, especially associated with a specific breeder or locale. It did not mean that kennel club defined purity of blood was the order of the day. Most breeds did not exist in fully closed registries until after WWII. (Which, if you think about it, means that mongrelization was ongoing in many breeds until the fifties. Hmm.)
It is incorrect to say that “all dog breeds started as mixed breeds.” Most dog breeds started as more general, variable types or landraces, until some upper class twit got their hands on them and decided to standardize and ‘improve’ them, thus differentiating them from the original ‘common’, lower class type. Dog breeds developed after the advent of the kennel club breeding system were not developed in the same natural way that the previously existing landrace breeds developed. There was no process resulting in small founder populations.
This will really bake your noodle: it’s possible to have a breed, as defined by selecting for function and not phenotype, that has a widely variable appearance. Alaskan huskies are one such breed that properly earns the classification, because they breed true for function, even though their appearance is not standardized. They also have a genetic signature, due to selection for function. Due to their heavily mixed background and frequent additions of new blood, Alaskan huskies could be correctly called mongrels, but they are also, genetically, a breed or type, with no written standard, no closed registry, and no one pointing and calling names.
Here are a few issues that purebred breeders that frequent Facebook seem to be a little confused about:
- Non-purebred dogs most certainly can have a pedigree, which is just a record of ancestry. It’s not magic. I’ve got one myself. So do you. So do my crosses and backcrosses.
- You do not need a ‘breed club code of ethics’ to breed ethically. This is the same as saying you cannot have morals without religion, and it’s just as damned stupid.
- You do not need a ‘written standard’ to breed dogs. A written standard is a modern construct, which serves two purposes: it provides a description of a ‘breed’ so that animals can be registered under a ‘breed’ designation, insuring ‘purity,’ (interesting that there is no test to see if the dogs meet the standard before registering them, isn’t it, if the standard is so very, very important?) and it allows a judge who does not live intimately with the breed to determine whether a dog conforms to the standard. Dogs have been bred to written, breed club standards for only about a hundred years. Prior to that, the standard was in the breeders head. Something as simple as ‘small fuzzy dog with a friendly nature and easy care coat, not too independent’ could be a standard for a breeder to use as a goal. Any time you are selecting or eliminating dogs from breeding, for a purpose or to meet a goal, you are breeding to a ‘standard.’
- The history of dog breeding did not start with the establishment of the British Kennel Club in 1873. Ethical breeding is not the sole provenance of purebred breeders of registered dogs. Purebreds are not the only dogs bred via selection for traits.
- You don’t get to determine the value that people apply to things, including dogs. If there’s a market for it, people will produce it. It’s called supply and demand. Look it up.
An obsession with class and status is no doubt behind the use of ‘mutt’ or ‘mongrel’ as a derogatory term, mutts and mongrels being owned by the common working class. There’s a reason that multigenerational mixes like lurchers and longdogs, curs and feists have never been co-opted, standardized, ‘improved,’ and turned into ‘breeds’ by the breeders of kennel club purebreds. Without the derogatory connotations, you wouldn’t see so many breeders calling crossbreeds mutts, or using mutt as insult regarding purebred dogs they don’t like. (Like those funny colored Salukis.) Breeders who get some kind of kick out of maliciously calling someone’s beloved puppy a mutt, to belittle them and devalue their pet, well, there’s a word for them: Asshole.
The pet owner who thinks their Goldendoodle or Schnoodle or Puggle or whatever is a ‘breed’, because of the phenotypic consistency of most F1 crosses, or due to unscrupulous breeders (not that there are any of those in purebreds, eh?), can be excused due to ignorance. Since cross-breeding is a common practice in many species, including dogs, and has a clear definition, breeders have no excuse for not knowing, understanding, and using the correct term.
A crossbreed is not a mutt or mongrel, so all of these breeders must be either idiots or assholes. Which is it?