History of Hybrids: A Look Back at Designing Dogs

Lea Jaratz

The Chug (Chihuahua-Pug), The Frengle (French Bulldog-Beagle), and the Rat-a-Pap (Rat Terrier-Papillon) are just a few of the hundreds of dog breeds to hit mainstream as “designer breeds” in the last decade or so. What seemed like a fad that kicked off with Labradoodles and Yorkipoos has turned into its own phenomenon, with many pet owners becoming increasingly loyal to their hybrid or cross-breed of choice. Many organizations for breeding, showing, and advocacy for designer dogs are popping up, brewing an added legitimacy to the breeders of these often trendy new breeds. Many animal welfare advocates argue that some breeders are breeding for profit, ignoring the risks of genetic defects and breed-inherent issues, while others see the hybrid as an opportunity to expand the canine gene pools.

No matter your stance, chances are you’ve loved a “designer breed” at some point in your life. The fact is that while they might not have had trendy names, hybrid-breeding of dogs has been around since man’s earliest relationship with dogs. Dogs that we know today simply as Rottweilers or Rat Terriers find their origins linked back to the earliest of “designer dogs,” when mankind bred desirable traits to create more effective, efficient working partners and companions. Some of these hybrids just might surprise you.

Rat Terriers

Bred by 19th century farmers as the cure for pesky rabbits, the Rat Terrier is a feisty, yet loyal terrier with great agility and determination. Where did their stubbornness and prey-drive come from? A mash-up of many breeds, including Fox Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Whippets, and Italian Greyhounds.

Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dogs

The Australian Cattle Dog, sometimes known as a “Blue Heeler” got its start in the 1800s when beef farmers needed a strong-willed, rough-and-tumble dog to take on even the toughest livestock. By breeding Dingos with Black and Tan Kelpies as well as Collies, the mottled, spotty Cattle Dog became one of the most popular ranch dogs out there today.

Doberman Pinschers

The Doberman Pinscher we recognize today was originally bred by tax collector and dog warden, Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann in the late 19th century. As you can imagine, Mr. Dobermann was probably a pretty unpopular man, and sought protection and status in the form of a dog. Using the kenneled dogs at his disposal, he bred a number of them together, including Rottweilers, Great Danes, Greyhounds and Beaucerons. The tall, lean Dobies we know now have just a little of the best of each of these breeds, making them one of the most recognizable “hybrid” dogs today.

Akitas

The Akita has undergone many breed changes since its early Japanese ancestors were around. Dogs from the northern island of Honshu were bred with English Mastiffs, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Tosa Inus to build their fighting quality. Then, during WWII, Akitas were bred with German Shepherds to develop them into police dogs, as a war-time policy was to eliminate all dogs that weren’t police dogs. Many of the Akitas we know and love here in the states are descendants of dogs that returned with American soldiers after the war.

German Shepherd Akita

Knowing the political history of the Akita, do you see similarities between these dogs (Shepherd on the left, Akita on the right)?

Have you ever wondered where your dog got his characteristics or temperament? Chances are he has some long-lost cousins you just might recognize.

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