It’s not hard to tell a poodle by its curls, a greyhound by its deep narrow chest, or a pug by its flattened snout. But can people guess the ancestors of mixed breeds?
Researchers at Darwin’s Dogs, a citizen science effort focused on the genetics of canine behavior, want to know. On 16 April, they’ll launch the MuttMix project, where volunteers can try to identify the top three breeds that make up a given dog. The researchers will then compare that with the pooch’s actual genetic profile.
The data, they say, will help them assess how people perceive and react to dogs based on preconceptions about breed characteristics—for example, the assumption that German shepherds are strong and brave, that golden retrievers are always good with kids, or that Jack Russell terriers have a Napoleon complex. And that, in turn, will allow the team to begin to tease out how much of dog behavior is innate, and how much is driven by the way we tend to treat and train different breeds.