Beagles, Pugs, and Puggles: Designer Dogs, Hybrids, Mixtures, and Mutts!

by coachz10 on October 29, 2009

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I received another great question today from a new Puggle owner. He just loves his little guy and wants to know more about Puggles.

The new Puggle owner asked me about the difference between a mix and a hybrid. And, since this came up in another form recently, I thought it worth addressing. Many people do not understand genetics and even many breeders are misinformed when it comes to the whole issue of what is a hybrid or designer species and what is a purebred dog…and what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of each.

Many use the terms species and breed synonymously, and that is incorrect.

So, here goes:

“What is the difference between a mix and hybrid dog?”

My answer (expanded a bit for PugglePlace):

A mix is a mixture of many breeds, often affectionately referred to as a “mutt.” It is also used as a condescending or derogatory term by some, one meant to take something away from the dog as a mixture.

The fact is, some of the best dogs I have ever had have been “mutts!” In fact, most dogs are mutts…or mixtures.

The “designer” label is simply a new and/or fancy way of saying the dog is a mix, in this case a mix of two “purebred” dogs. The term is actually a bit of a misnomer, in that dogs are a single species. Purebred dogs are considered by some to be subspecies or even an artificially created subspecies, this is also pushing it more than a bit.

Here is a very short lesson on the Linnean Hierarchy

Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Chordata
Subphylum – Vertebrata
Class – Mammalia
Order – Carnivora
Suborder – Caniformia
Family – Canidae
Genus – Canis
Species – familiaris

All domesticated canines (dogs) are the same species, Canis familiaris. It makes absolutely no difference whether your pooch is a Pug, Beagle, Puggle, Poodle, Doberman, St. Bernard or any other breed of dog, they’re all just dogs. And yes, for all you English teachers out there, I know they are not capitalized. But I do, and that is a personal preference and decision.

So, Sister Mary will whack my hand with a ruler and we’ll move on!

There are a number of people who believe dogs are a subspecies of the grey wolf, Canis lupus. However, while dogs are descended from wolves, many scholars believe they’re different enough from wolves to deserve specific (meaning species) status. I tend to agree.

The use of hybrid is also incorrect, technically speaking.

In evolutionary terms, a hybrid usually refers to a the mix of two different species, like lions and tigers creating the “Tiglon!” Hybrids in nature are usually sterile, like the hybrid of a male donkey (jack) and a female horse (mare), the mule is almost always sterile. The much rarer mating of a male horse and a female donkey produces what is called a hinny! If they are not sterile, there are significant evolutionary boundaries and obstacles prohibiting reproduction.

With dogs it is a lot different because dogs are all one species, so mating between breeds doesn’t raise the same issues or boundaries as mating between species does.

Mating between pure breed dogs, say German Shepherds and Labs, may be considered subspecies by some, but again this is a misinterpretation of the species concept and incorrect. They are not sterile and can mate, they are actually broadening the gene pool, usually a healthy thing.

Purebred dogs are the exception, they have been bred a certain way to create a certain look or a breed of dog that can perform a certain task. But they are all still just dogs.

Interestingly, the mutt has a better chance of survival…evolutionarily speaking. This is because they have a broader gene pool!

Dalmatians are an example of breeding gone awry. Dalmatians are susceptible to all kinds of problems, like blindness and mental retardation…all for a few more spots. As the evolutionary base becomes more restricted and restrictive, more genetic problems surface. Dominance and recessiveness, remember your high school genetics? English Bulldogs have the same sort of issues and must be delivered by Cesarean section because their heads are so big. While both are amazing dogs and have their fans, and I am not knocking the breeds, I love dogs, period, I am simply noting the consequences of genetics. Both of these breeds are in an evolutionary tunnel, a dead end of sorts.

In the wild, both of these breeds would simply have gone extinct by now!

So, hybrid is actually the wrong term to use and designer, while it may sound a bit snooty, is probably more accurate. Either way, Puggles can breed, they have a broader gene pool so may be healthier, and they are an awesome “mix” of two great dogs, Pugs and Beagles!

Anyone that tells you that a purebred has a better lineage and a better genetic base, simply does not understand evolutionary genetics. In evolutionary terms, in terms of reproductive fitness, the broader gene pool wins!

Therefore, in terms of evolutionary fitness:

The mix or “mutt” wins!

The “designer” dog comes in a close second!

And the purebred, depending on the level of genetic tinkering breeders have engaged in, comes in from third place on back!

With the ultra-purebred dogs coming in dead last and, from a reproductive and evolutionary sense, they are fading fast!

Hope that helps!

John Zajaros & TuffGuy
Skype: johnzajaros1


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