Thursday, August 25, 2011

What's in a Breed?

I have finally made it.  And by made it, I am referring specifically to Hurley's ranking in google's image search for "Curly Tailed Saint Bernard".  Go ahead, google it.  There he is - results # 5, 6, & 8.  But obviously that means there are not many curly-trailed St Bernard mixes on the interwebs.  Drat!  Another google search that lends no answers to the question:  Where did Hurley get his curly tail?

I love the disparity of guesses we've received on young Hurley's breed DNA.  Here's the list in its entirety:
Actual Puggle

Puggle:  This was the most often guess between months 2 and 3.  Hurley was still small enough that not everyone realized how big he was going to get and I got a ton of Puggle guesses.  It made sense - curly tail, not fully developed puppy snout appearing to be the short snout of puggles.  Plus the coloring is spot on.  While I don't think Mr Hurley-pants has any pug or beagle in him, to this day, his favorite "friends" to visit him are still the puggles that stop by the shop.

I haz curly tail too

Akita:  I do lean towards this as a possible explanation for his curly tail.  While I don't see any other characteristics of an Akita, we met some folks who used to breed Akitas and insisted his hind-quarters were shaped exactly like that breed.  So maybe an Akita tail and butt?

Chows are fat puppies!

Chow:  This too explains away his tail and the black spots on that tongue of his.  But other than the fact that Hurley too was a tub o' lard at 8 weeks, he certainly has not developed into anything remotely Chow like.  And I'm pretty sure Chow isn't the only breed with dark spots on its skin.

Anatolian Shepherd = Hurley Look alike

Shepherd:  He's got a dark snout?  He does have a lot of similarities facially to Shepherd puppies but the body is way off.  While Shepherds are lean, Hurley is a tank.

The actual Hurley

Ewok:  I still stand by this.  What else could account for this baby picture?

Two Hurleys = Double the Trouble

Mastiff:  This is currently the predominant guess we receive and I would say the closest.  St Bernards are closely related to Mastiffs and the Golden in him gives him a coloring that many Mastiffs have.   Our vet has threatened to change him from a St Bernard mix to a Mastiff mix in their system so they'll recognize him when we come in the door.

While it certainly is fun to guess where on earth that curly tail comes from, the fact is that we do know the two predominant breeds that are part of his make-up:  St Bernard and Golden Retriever.  Yet most of the breeds listed above are Hurley look-a-likes.  From Puggle to Shepherd to Mastiff, Hurley looks like them all.  Only two people have ever guessed St Bernard and, to this day, no one has guessed Golden Retriever.

So how on earth do shelters properly assign breed?  Yup, they don't most of the time.  As you can see, one little puppy can appear to be a lot of different breeds.  I once worked with a rescue group that didn't know that a Staffordshire Terrier was a different breed from an American Pitbull Terrier.  They just thought it was the nice breed name for the same dog and chose to profile all of their pitbull-type dogs as Staffordshire Terriers in hopes of getting them adopted sooner.

And does the breed really matter?  Sure, there are specific instances in which a certain breed is more likely to result in a dog suited for the job at hand - from Collies on farms to Retrievers being used in Assistance work to St Bernards in Search and Rescue.   I am so thankful that Hurley is in our lives.  He is an awesome puppy but not because he's part fill-in-the-blank.  It's because he's Hurley and he's ours.   And at the end of the day, even though we know two of his breeds, his tail is a mystery and that makes him the best kind of dog - a mutt!


  1. There's nothing like a splash of mystery DNA to make life more fun. Now this may be in a past post that I missed, but how do you know he has St. Bernard and Golden in him?

  2. My hubbie got Hurley from a family whose Golden had been knocked up by a St Bernard. So long as we believe them at their word, those are the two breeds but it's obvious that's not all that's going on in his genetic pool. My hubbie did meet the Golden Retriever mom (which is the breed that you see the least of, except for coloring) so we know that for sure. I do love the guessing game!