Science & History
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DNA & The Well-Mixed Mutt


Barrett’s DNA test reveals one clear progenitor. We “should see” aspects of: Chinese Shar-Pei.We read these words with the same quizzical amusement with which we read the fortune cookies our pan-Asian carry-out tosses in the bag along with the won-tons. His parent or grandparent was a dog that in 1978 was considered by Guinness to be the rarest in the world? A dog introduced to the U.S. in 1966 and only recognized by the AKC 17 years ago had found its way to Appalachian Ohio and evinced itself in a dog possessing nothing like the breed’s “short, harsh coat…loose skin covering the head and body…small ears… ‘hippopotamus’ muzzle shape”? But even more curious, Barrett shares none of the Shar-Pei’s “independence, wariness around strangers, or possible aggression with pets and people.”

Barrett’s report concedes that his other ancestors are as remote as Ticker’s. Oddly, the Labrador Retriever and Flat-coated Retriever rear their handsome, promiscuous heads in his case, as well.

So has this genetic information enriched our understanding, changed the doting, ever-watched-over lives we offer our companions, tempted us to collect new breed-specific knick-knackery? Bark readers, I suspect, know (and share) our conclusion: Dogs are beyond a single, double, or even motley, answer. Rather, each companion is an ongoing question, a partner with whom we share our mixed-up, muddled, ever-more-hybridized planet.



Michael J. Rosen has written a shelf-full of books; among the most recent are Dogs We Love and, for middle-grade readers, Our Farm: Four Seasons with Five Kids on One Family's Farm. fidosopher.com

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