The American Canine Hybrid Club was established in 1969. It provides a registry service for hybrid litters. Just for fun, take a look at their list of hybrid breeds. Affenpoo’s, a cross between an Affenpinscher and a Poodle, and Lab’Aire’s, a cross between an Airedale and a Labrador Retriever, are just two examples of popular hybrids. The American Canine Hybrid Club recognizes hundreds of such crosses. Of course, a cross breed from two purebred parents is rare, as mixed breeds go. In fact, they also go by the classification of designer dogs, giving them an air of exclusivity.
Technically, hybrids are a cross between two species rather than two breeds. Canine hybrids have been bred from dogs and wolves, dogs and foxes, dogs and coyotes, dogs and jackals, dingos and coyotes, etc. This article discusses hybrids within the dog family in depth.
Many members of the dog family are also capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. This depends on how closely they are related. Molecular analysis divides the dog family into 4 divisions:
1. Wolf-like canids including the domestic dog, dingo, grey wolf, coyote, and jackal
2. South American canids
3. Old and New World red-fox-like canids, e.g. red fox and kit fox
4. Monotypic species, e.g. bat-eared fox, raccoon dog
The wolf, coyote, jackal, and domestic dog (including the dingo) have 78 chromosomes arranged in 39 pairs. They are interfertile (unless size or behavioural differences obstruct mating) and produce fertile offspring. The wolf, coyote, and golden jackal diverged around 3 to 4 million years ago. The African Wild Dog also has 78 chromosomes, but is considered distinct enough (with different physical features) to be placed in its own genus. Other members of the dog family diverged 7 to 10 million years ago and are less closely related. These cannot hybridise with the wolf-like canids and they have different numbers of chromosomes: the yellow Jackal has 74 chromosomes, the red fox has 38 chromosomes, the raccoon dog has 42 chromosomes, the Fennec fox has 64 chromosomes. Differences in chromosome number are not always a barrier to producing viable hybrids; it depends on the gene combinations in the hybrid and whether these allow an embryo to develop. However, large differences in chromosome number make female hybrids poorly fertile and male hybrids sterile. In the case of dogs and foxes, it appears that viable embryos are not formed.
Breeders will undoubtedly stick with canine hybrids of the designer variety, though some controversy exists surrounding whether it’s appropriate to create new breeds of designer dogs when so many dogs are already without loving homes.
What do you think? Do you have a favorite canine hybrid or designer dog? If you could mix two breeds to create your own designer dog, which 2 would you pick and what would you call it?