Monday, June 30, 2008

Pit bull supermix

For kicks, I spent some hard-earned cash and had the Wisdom Panel MX mixed breed analysis test run on Dozer. Byrd and I keep wondering why our "pit bull" has medium-length fur, a pronounced sagittal crest (a bony bump on the top of the skull, not typical for pit bull type dogs), and an obsessive need to put things in his mouth. Naturally, I figured there was some Lab in him. Perhaps the Wisdom Panel could shed some light on his genetic makeup.

Results came back quickly and explained very little. "Dozer's ancestry contains distant traces of American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, Bulldog and Dalmatian. There are also faint signals from other breeds which are not strong enough to identify." All of these breeds were noted as "trace amounts," with little stars next to Bulldog and Dalmatian to indicate "trace amount detected at low confidence."

Anybody with a Bull Terrier breed book can read that Dalmatian was a likely add-in to create the BT. And anyone familiar with the history of both the AmStaff and the BT knows that the old-style Bulldog forms the root of both breeds, and the modern Bulldog is a mutated version of that. So, duh, Bulldog and Dalmatian are gonna be in there if AmStaff and BT are.

But the results didn't say "Your dog is a mix of AmStaff and Bull Terrier." It said there were "distant traces" of those breeds.

For all it mattered, the results might have well said "Look, lady, just face it--your dog's a mutt."

Furthermore, it said (which did not inspire any confidence in me at all as to the accuracy of the results):

"Dozer is one of a kind, unlike any other dog in the world. Our analysis has shown that Dozer is an extremely complex mixed breed dog.... Validation testing has resulted in an average accuracy of 84% in first-generation crossbred dogs of known parentage. The breeds in this validation study represent 45% of AKC registrations."

In other words, if it's not an AKC breed, it doesn't count. This means Dozer could easily be part American Bulldog, or American Pit Bull Terrier, or Dogo Argentino, or any of countless other non-AKC breeds. And it sounds like the accuracy of the test drops significantly in cases where the dog is not first-generation crossbred--which is obviously the case with Dozer. So just how accurate is this test?

And finally, all of the breeds mentioned have very short fur and flat skulls. So I still don't know why my dog's fur is so long, or why he has a sagittal crest. These aren't "faint" characteristics at all--they're major aspects of his appearance--so why don't the results explain them?

I'm left musing the deepest irony of all... that despite the fact that my dog is apparently a total mutt, with only "trace amounts" of AmStaff in his genes, he would still be legally considered a pit bull mix in any of the countless jurisdictions with BSL. Not even "trace amounts" of Dalmatian can save him from the darkness.


Families Against Breed Bans said...

Great post! I laughed a little and also got a little sad because yes, no matter what the breed of dog you (or we) own, whether it be pure pit, 50% pit or have a pit looking smile. None of this will stop BSL from affecting their lives and ours.

So you may not know exactly what your pooch is, but he is sure one gorgeous looking dog and I bet you are both fortunate to have each other!

HELP FIDO said...

Did you catch the story on 60 Minutes this Sunday about ancestry in humans? If you did, this might help understand your results. It is not that the results are not is just that the results represent the true mixed background of dog (or a human). If you take a moment to realize that going back just 4 generations means that you are looking at 16 relatives with direct influence on genetic make-up, go back 2 more generations and you are at 64 dogs that have dna funneling it's way into Dozer.
We are doing a study project collecting DNA results such as yours along with photos. As a collective these can be used to demonstrate that absent of a pedigree, it is impossible to identify a dog as being specific breed. And this can help debunk the idea that policies can be based on breed.
If you would like to participate please contact me at

Daisy Dog said...

I have wanted to do this test with Daisy and Roscoe (the Rascal). But I have heard from several people say some of the same things you experienced. Well we will love them all regardless of what their ancestry is :)