The Weimaraner was bred centuries ago to produce a noble, hunting canine befitting a king. It may be surprising to learn that a Scottish Lord bred one of the most recognized dog breeds less than 200 years ago; the golden or Labrador retriever. In fact all known breeds are hybrids developed by the cross breeding of dogs for a purpose. Yet the modern canine’s DNA has been proved to be only 0.2 percent different from the gray wolf.
The Center for Biological Diversity reports that the world is in a stage of mass extinction of plants and animals, although just this year the gray wolf was taken off the endangered list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. But another surprising fact is that dog breeds may become extinct. It is a term already applied to such canine hybrids as the old English bulldog that no longer exists and cannot be reproduced because its original genes disappeared long ago.
Biologically the term hybrid defines a cross between two different species. It takes longevity through generations and a number of other factors before a new breed is recognized by main registries. Even introducing a new coat color for an established breed is a complex procedure for recognition by Kennel Clubs worldwide.
But here in the twenty-first century the attempts to create dogs that are perhaps more appealing to a modern lifestyle have had some disastrous results for the dog; crippling arthritis at only two years of age, skulls too small for a brain, snub noses that cause breathing problems. These conditions could be the reason mixed breed dogs are deemed healthier and more long-lived.
In dog parlance the term hybrid is now commonly used to describe a cross between two specific breeds, a cross to produce a dog benefiting from the best genes of two pedigree breeds. Hence the new term designer dogs. And contemporary cross-breeding has produced such popular dog hybrids as the puggle and the labradoodle.
The website for the American Canine Hybrid Club reveals 16 pages of hybrid breeds along with an invitation to register and name a new hybrid cross, so giving substance to a pure-bred mongrel. Modern genetics have provided the means to test a dog’s DNA to be sure of or simply explore a pet’s family tree. Wisdom Panel® is an example of a company that provides DNA testing for the designer dog, mixed breed or pure bred canine.
Responsible groups proudly nurture their breeds, new or established, and responsible dog owners do likewise whatever their pet’s ancestry. It seems appropriate to extend a big thank you to the gray wolf for passing on their big, small, hairy and hairless, fluffy, funny, smart and adorable genes to mans’ best friend.