I’d call them “fancy mutts” if it weren't for the fact that the m-word tends to talk down mixed breeds. But that’s effectively what “hybrid” typically refers to in the context of canine genetics: a mix of two distinct, well-established breeds of dogs ostensibly selected with the notion that two breeds are better than one.
Consider the adorable Puggle and the popular Labradoodle, for instance. Two great breeds that make better offspring? Sometimes.
It totally makes sense –– in theory anyway. After all, a Poodle coat makes a Labrador retriever more allergy friendly and a Pug makes a Beagle more what … entertaining? (Hmmmm …) But what happens when the two chosen breeds collide unfavorably?
That’s what I couldn’t keep myself from thinking when I saw a picture of Rami the Pit Bull-Dachshund mix, a rescue dog who found his way into a Georgia shelter and onto a Facebook page-gone-viral.
Now, I’m not at all sure someone went out of their way to breed a pittie with a doxie but that’s exactly what Rami looks like. And not in a good way. His head appears dramatically and disproportionately oversized and his dwarfed limbs and long Dachshund back are not exactly this breed’s healthiest features. (And don’t get me started on why anyone would stoop to crop any dog’s ears, much less a mixed breed’s.)
As a result of his apparent hybridization, Rami will almost certainly suffer from osteoarthritis as a result of his outsized head’s stress on his deformed spine and limbs. And since he got a big dose of Dachshund genes on the long back and twisted limbs, he’ll probably get all the disk disease and orthopedic maladies inherent to this breed, too.
Yet now that Rami’s pic has been shared millions of times, he’s received nothing less than adulation, countless offers of adoption, and thousands of likes. Seems everyone wants a Pit Bull-Dachshund hybrid. Some watchers are even talking about breeding more Ramis.
Yes, everyone loves a "mutant." We love bulldogs with the smushiest faces, Corgis with the shortest legs, Bassets with the longest ears and Bloodhounds with the droopiest eyes. We’re attracted to the most exaggerated features and, therefore, to the most diseased dogs in the pack.
Yes, we want the “cutest,” most deformed Frenchie –– never mind the pain elicited by the deformities themselves, all the overbred pups who didn’t make it along the way, and the mothers who have to endure C-sections so they can live to see another breeding cycle.
Which explains why I hate it when we all hail hybrids. Because with some notable exceptions (reduced allergenicity, for example), I believe the drive to hybridize –– á la Rami –– is almost always born of human vanity. After all, in today’s culture, it’s way more important for dogs to look a certain way than to perform a certain function. And when that becomes the norm, breeding for health becomes an afterthought –– if it’s considered at all.
Indeed, the irony is that for all the talk of hybrid vigor, hybrids are only as healthy as their ancestors and the conditions they’re bred and raised in. There’s no inherent health enhancement to be gleaned here.
All of this anti-hybrid talk doesn’t mean I don’t love them, too. Beautiful dogs come in all shapes and sizes and I’ll concede that there are plenty of good reasons to seek out purebreds and even hybrids. Health, coat quality and temperamental predictability are foremost among these. But most don’t justify a Schmal-tzu, Shih-pei or a Schnoodle, do they?
Which brings me to my final point: Most hybrids are so-called “designer dogs” sold by pet stores and Internet sites looking to make an easy buck off the unsuspecting, ignorant and ego-driven among us. All at the expense of all the many millions of pound puppies who will die because we’d rather pay for the privilege of owning a designer who-knows-what with a name that sounds like a thousand bucks but costs way more once those health issues emerge.
I mean, cute as he is, do we really need more dogs like Rami? Do we really need a “Doxbull”? Or –– dare I offer a marketable moniker –– a “Pixie”?