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Ask a Vet: Mixing breeds doesn’t make a new one

POSTED: December 8, 2013 12:05 a.m.

Gregor Mendel was a rebel, but not like James Dean or the Sex Pistols.

Mendel did incredible research and posthumously became the father of genetics. He worked in the mid-19th century, when science was a bit demonized. So when he revealed organisms bequeath traits directly, not via any superstitious mechanism, he was risking a lot.

Why? His day job was as a friar. The man who gave us the first hard evidence for inheritance via (what would eventually be known to be) DNA had a job in religion. Revolutionary.

But what this means to us today, related to our pets, is pretty straight forward. Mendel showed two organisms with different traits can be bred together and produce an offspring with shared traits. This offspring of the mixed heritage was called an F1 cross. It was a mix of the two previous organisms. But it was not a pure example of a new organism. Only a mix.

This is wildly popular today. Designer “breed” dogs in pet stores or from private breeders are F1 crosses. They are not new breeds. I repeat, they are not new breeds.

Our breeds were developed throughout the generations. Thus, gradual changes in what a Labrador retriever looks like have happened. British-type labs look short and stocky. American types are taller and thinner. The first Uga looked like what we currently think of as boxers. Russ (the current Uga) does not.

Labradoodles and golden doodles are not breeds. They are mixes of two breeds. They have been touted as having specific characteristics, and this may be true. But you cannot breed two puggles together and get a puggle offspring. Instead, you get an F2 cross, which is even more mixed, but it is still not a breed.

I’ve met many charming and beautiful designer “breed” dogs. And like most mixes, they are usually healthier than purebred dogs. But it always makes me shake my head that someone would pay hundreds for a dog easily available genetics-wise at the local humane society. 

And rescuing an animal makes me feel better than buying one advertised as something I know it isn’t.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at mattsisk2003@yahoo.com.


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