HAPPY NATIONAL MUTT DAY! Join us as we celebrate those mixed breed dogs that fill our lives with joy. Today we’re partying with dog pal Nicki Fuchs (@nfewks on Instagram and Twitter)!! LET’S PARTY!!

Show Notes

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Definition, history of the topic

  • What is a mutt?
    • First, a crash course on dogs in lay terms, courtesy of holidayscalendar.com:  “Scholars originally believed that dogs come from wolves that were domesticated approximately 12,000 to 15,000 years ago in the Middle East but new evidence has caused that theory to change. The current theory is that wolves were domesticated in Northern Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe about 35,000 years ago. Scientists believe that wolves were attracted to human camps because of the leftover food scraps they could scrounge. Some of the gentler wolves came even closer to human beings and eventually became pets. Over several generations, the wolves began to transform themselves and eventually become domesticated canines. From that time on, humans began crafting dogs through selective breeding into one of the many hundreds of dogs breeds that are available today.”
    • Now, onto mutts. Wikipedia states that “A mongrel, mixed-breed dog, or mutt, is a dog that does not belong to one officially recognized breed and is not the result of intentional breeding. Estimates place their numbers at 150 million animals worldwide. Although the term “mixed-breed dog” is preferred by some, many mongrels have no known purebred ancestors.”
    • Technically, crossbreed dogs, and “designer dogs” while also a mix of breeds, differ from mongrels in being intentionally bred. Although mongrels are viewed as of less commercial value than intentionally bred dogs, they are thought to be less susceptible to genetic health problems associated with inbreeding (based on the theory of heterosis), and have enthusiasts and defenders who prefer them to intentionally bred dogs.
      • Heterosis, hybrid vigor, or outbreeding enhancement is the improved or increased function of any biological quality in a hybrid offspring. An offspring is heterotic if its traits are enhanced as a result of mixing the genetic contributions of its parents.
      • The theory of hybrid vigor suggests that as a group, dogs of varied ancestry will be generally healthier than their purebred counterparts. In purebred dogs, intentionally breeding dogs of very similar appearance over several generations produces animals that carry many of the same alleles, some of which are detrimental. If the founding population for the breed was small, then the genetic diversity of that particular breed may be small for quite some time. In essence, when humans select certain dogs for new breeds, they artificially isolate that group of genes and cause more copies of that gene to be made than might have otherwise occurred in nature. Initially, the population will be more fragile because of the lack of genetic diversity. If the dog breed is popular, and the line continues, over hundreds of years diversity will increase due to mutations and occasional out-breeding; like an island with a few new birds—they will diversify. This is why some of the very “old” breeds are more stable. The problem is when certain traits found in the breed standard are associated with genetic disorders. Then, the artificial selective force favors the duplication of the genetic disorder, because it comes with a desired physical trait.The genetic health of hybrids tends to be higher. Healthy traits have been lost in many purebred dogs lines because many breeders of showdogs are more interested in conformation – the physical attributes of the dogs in relation to the breed standard – than in the health and working temperament for which the dog was originally bred.
      • Several studies have shown that mixed-breed dogs have a health advantage over pure-bred dogs. A German study finds that “Mongrels require less veterinary treatment”.Studies in Sweden have found that “Mongrel dogs are less prone to many diseases than the average purebred dog”and, referring to death rates, “Mongrels were consistently in the low risk category”.Data from Denmark also suggest that mixed breeds have higher longevity on average compared to purebreeds. A British study showed similar results but a few breeds (notably Jack Russell Terriers, Miniature Poodles and Whippets) lived longer than mixed breeds
      • In 2013, a study found that mixed breeds live on average 1.2 years longer than pure breeds, and that increasing body-weight was negatively correlated with longevity (i.e. the heavier the dog the less its lifespan).Another study published in 2019 confirmed this 1.2 year difference in lifespan for mixed breed dogs, and further demonstrated negative impacts of recent inbreeding and benefits of occasional outcrossing for lifespan in individual dogs.
      • Studies have also shown that cross-bred dogs have a number of desirable reproductive traits. Scott and Fuller found that cross-bred dogs were superior mothers compared to purebred mothers, producing more milk and giving better care. These advantages led to a decreased mortality in the offspring of cross-bred dogs
    • Mongrel dogs can be divided roughly into types:
      • Mixes that show characteristics of two or more breeds. A mix might have some purebred ancestors, or might come from a long line of mixed-breeds. These dogs are usually identified by the breed they most resemble, such as a “Lab mix” or “Collie-Shepherd”, even if their ancestry is unknown.
      • The generic pariah dog, or feral Canis lupus familiaris, where non-selective breeding has occurred over many generations. The term originally referred to the wild dogs of India, but now refers to dogs belonging to or descended from a population of wild or feral dogs. The Canaan Dog is an example of a recognized breed with pariah ancestry. Pariah dogs tend to be yellow to light brown and of medium height and weight. This may represent the appearance of the modern dog’s ancestor. DNA analysis has shown pariah dogs to have a more ancient gene pool than modern breeds.
      • Functional breeds, which are purpose-bred dogs whose ancestors are not purebred, but rather are selected by their performance at particular tasks. Examples of this are the Alaskan Husky, the Eurohound, and the Pointer/Greyhound mixes referred to as Greysters, which compete at skijoring and pulka races, particularly in Europe. Occasionally a functional breed such as this becomes accepted as a breed over time.
  • Terminology
    • Merriam-Webster defines a mutt as 1: a stupid or insignificant person and 2: a mongrel dog
      • “Mutt can now be used with either affection or disdain to refer to a dog that is not purebred, but in the word’s early history, in the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century, it could also be used to describe a person – and not kindly: ‘mutt’ was another word for ‘fool.’ The word’s history lies in another insult. It comes from ‘muttonhead’, another Americanism that also means essentially ‘fool.’ Muttonhead had been around since early 19th century but it was not unlike an older insult with the same meaning: people had been calling one another ‘sheep’s heads’ since the mid-16th century.”
    • Crossbreed versus mongrel–In the United States, the term “mixed-breed” is a favored synonym over “mongrel” among individuals who wish to avoid negative connotations associated with the latter term.[2] The implication that such dogs must be a mix of defined breeds may stem from an inverted understanding of the origins of dog breeds. Pure breeds have been, for the most part, artificially created from random-bred populations by human selective breeding with the purpose of enhancing desired physical, behavioral, or temperamental characteristics. Dogs that are not purebred are not necessarily a mix of such defined breeds.Therefore, among some experts and fans of such dogs, “mongrel” is still the preferred term.
      • Crossbred dogs, sometimes called “designer dogs” also are not members of a single recognized breed. Unlike mixed-breeds, however, crossbred dogs are often the product of artificial selection – intentionally created by humans, whereas the term “mongrel” specifically refers to dogs that develop by natural selection, without planned intervention of humans.
        • Purebred dogs are known by breed names given to groups of dogs that are visibly similar in most characteristics and have reliable documented descent. But in recent years many owners and breeders of crossbreed dogs identify them—often facetiously—by invented names constructed from parts of the parents’ breed names. These are known as portmanteau names and the resulting crosses as “designer dogs.” For example, a cross between a Pekingese and a Poodle may be referred to as a Peekapoo. Another trendy cross is the Goldendoodle, a cross between a standard poodle and a golden retriever.
    • Regional and slang terms–The words cur, tyke, mutt, and mongrel are used, sometimes in a derogatory manner. There are also regional terms for mixed-breed dogs. In the United Kingdom, mongrel is the unique technical word for a mixed-breed dog. North Americans generally prefer the term mix or mixed-breed. Mutt is also commonly used (in the United States and Canada). Some American registries and dog clubs that accept mixed-breed dogs use the breed description All American.
      • There are also names for mixed-breeds based on geography, behavior, or food. In Hawaii, mixes are referred to as poi dogs, although they are not related to the extinct Hawaiian poi dog. In The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, the common term is potcake dogs (referring to the table scraps they are fed). In South Africa the tongue-in-cheek expression pavement special is sometimes used as a description for a mixed-breed dog. In Trinidad and Tobago, these mixed dogs are referred to as pot hounds (pothong). In Serbia similar expression is prekoplotski avlijaner (over-the-fence yard-dweller). In the Philippines, mixed-breed street dogs are often called askal, a Tagalog-derived contraction of asong kalye (”street dog”). In Puerto Rico they are known as satos; in Venezuela they are called yusos or cacris, the latter being a contraction of the words callejero criollo (literally, street creole, as street dogs are usually mongrels); and in Chile and Bolivia, they are called quiltros. In Costa Rica it is common to hear the word zaguate, a term originating from a Nahuatl term, zahuatl, that refers to the scabies disease. In the rural southern United States, a small hunting dog is known as a feist.
    • Slang terms are also common. Heinz 57, Heinz, or Heinz Hound is often used for dogs of uncertain ancestry, in a playful reference to the “57 Varieties” slogan of the H. J. Heinz Company. In some countries, such as Australia, bitsa (or bitzer) is sometimes used, meaning “bits o’ this, bits o’ that”. In Brazil and the Dominican Republic, the name for mixed-breed dogs is vira-lata (trash-can tipper) because of homeless dogs who knock over trash cans to reach discarded food. In Newfoundland, a smaller mixed-breed dog is known as a cracky, hence the colloquial expression “saucy as a cracky” for someone with a sharp tongue.
  • Shelter statistics, from aspca.org and petpedia.co
    • Of about 6.5 million companion animals that enter US animal shelter each year, approximately 3.3M are dogs. The total number of dogs and cats entering shelters has declined from about 7.2 million in 2011. The largest decline was in dogs, from 3.9 million to 3.3m
    • Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).  The number of dogs and cats euthanized in U.S. shelters annually has declined from approximately 2.6 million in 2011.  This decline can be partially explained by an increase in the percentage of animals adopted and an increase in the number of stray animals successfully returned to their owners.
      • Five states account for 50% of shelter animals that are euthanized each year in the US: Georgia(43K), North Carolina(62K), Florida(66K), California(110K), and Texas (125K)
    • Approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).
    • About 710,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, 620,000 are dogs and only 90,000 are cats.
    • 30% of animals in shelters were left there by their owners.
    • There are 3,500 animal shelters in the US.
    • Altogether, there are around 14,000 shelters and rescue groups in the US.
    • No-kill shelters attempt to save 9 out of 10 animals, or 90% or higher. 
      • In 1994, SF became the first no-kill community
      • Delaware became the first no-kil state in 2019
      • On average, the US saves 76.6% of shelter pets
      • US animal activists are striving to make the US a no-kill zone by 2025
    • 23% of dogs in the US were adopted from an animal shelter.
      • 34% of 78 million dogs in the US were bought from a breeder
      • About 40% got wind of their dogs through word of mouth
    • 25% of the dogs abandoned in shelters are purebred
  • Some famous mutts
    • Benji– Benji is a dog that has been acting in movies from 1974 to the 2000s.  Benji’s name also serves as the title of the movie in the Benji franchise. The eponymous canine character is a small, lovable mixed-breed dog with an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, usually to help someone overcome a problem
    • Laika– Laika was the first animal in space on a mission led by the Russians.  Described as a stray mongrol (possibly part husky or samoyed and part-terrier) from the streets of Moscow, she was selected to be the occupant of the Sputnik 2 spacecraft that was launched into outer space on November 3rd, 1957. 
    • Spike– Spike was a Labrador Retriever/Mastiff mix, most famously known for starring as Old Yeller. He was rescued as a pup from a shelter in Van Nuys, CA, becoming the pet and pupil of animal trainer Frank Weatherwax. Spike also appeared in A Dog of Flanders, The She’Creature, The Silent Call, episodes of The Mickey Mouse Club and Lassie, and every episode of The Westerner

History/Fun facts about the holiday

  • National Mutt Day, also known as National Mixed Breed Dog Day, was created in 2005 by Celebrity Pet & Family Lifestyle Expert and Animal Welfare Advocate, Colleen Paige and is celebrated on both July 31st and December 2nd. National Mutt Day is all about embracing, saving and celebrating mixed breed dogs. The biggest percentage of dogs abandoned and euthanized is due to the constant over-breeding and public desire of designer dogs and pure bred puppies that are sold to pet stores supplied by puppy mills that often produce ill and horribly neglected animals.
    • This special day was created to be celebrated on two dates per year, to raise awareness of the plight of mixed breed dogs in shelters around the nation, as approximately 80% of dogs in shelters are mixed breeds. Most pure breeds that end up in the shelter are generally rescued quickly by either the public wanting a “less expensive” pure bred dog or by a pure breed rescue. The day’s mission is to educate the public about the sea of mixed breed dogs that desperately await new homes and to celebrate the amazing characteristics that the mix of breeds creates in each individual dog.
    • Mixed breed dogs tend to be healthier, better behaved, they live longer and are just as able to perform the duties of pure bred dogs – such as bomb and drug sniffing, search and rescue and guiding the blind. There are millions of loving and healthy mixed breed dogs sitting in shelters, who are desperately searching for a new home. 
  • Dogtime.com gives a few other perks of getting a mutt:
    • They’re cheaper to get than dogs from breeders
    • They’re less likely to be stolen
    • They all look different
    • They get a grab bag of whatever breeds they’re made of, personality-wise
    • Breeder shopping is hard work, so you can skip the nitty gritty and grab a shelter dog

Activities to celebrate

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  • Use #NationalMuttDay to observe on social media
  • From navc.com, download a phone or desktop wallpaper that will proudly proclaim that you like big mutts
  • From nationalmuttday.com:
    • Visit your local shelter and find a new friend! 
    • If you can’t adopt a mixed breed friend on July 31st or December 2nd, please donate at least $5 to your local animal shelter, as they all need financial assistance and every dollar counts! 
    • You can also volunteer at a shelter, or donate food, and other supplies needed to your local animal rescue. 
    • Help end the overpopulation of dogs by spaying and neutering your pets.
      • It’s estimated that an unspayed dog and her puppies can produce 67K dogs in just a 6 year period if left unchecked
      • One unspayed female cat and her offspring can created 420K cats in 7 years
  • Enjoy the entire archive of MUTTS comic strips by Patrick McDonnell, which he started in 1994 and now appears in over 700 newspapers in 20 countries. It’s been described by Peanuts creator Charles Schulz as “one of the best comic strips of all time”


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