Once again, I’m in mind of the podcast I listened to about the history of the domestication of the cat. Another fun fact discovered during that listen is that mixed breeds of cats are far more common as pets than are mutts - essentially, there is a higher percentage of dog owners with pure breeds.
This isn’t actually a surprise for me, as I’ve seen all kinds of dogs held in different environments for their designer qualities. For example, the stray dogs in Nepal were largely different than the dogs kept as pets - but being a pet didn’t necessarily guarantee a better life.
The German shepherd and Dalmatian at my home in Nepal were designer breeds, certainly, definitive status symbols, but they lived in a small uncleaned cage, sleeping in their own feces. Whenever they were let out, they rushed around the vicinity creating general chaos until the family couldn’t put up with it and returned them to their quarantine. Meanwhile, the dog up the hill had been taken from the streets and had of her house free reign and the furniture.
In Cuba, on the other hand, I met two huskies in a town where their thick fur was wildly inappropriate. They lived in a luxurious home with a wealthy family, and wanted nothing in terms of affection and food, but when the days reached over a hundred degrees, they could do nothing but lounge in the shade.
I’ve also already mentioned village life in Hungary, with the preferences of families there to arm their homes with pitbulls. The purpose there, of course, is more functional than decorative, but one breed has been singled out for certain qualities.
In both Cuba and Nepal, I saw exemplified the desire for designer - foreign - dogs; many stray dogs were native to the area, mutts, smaller and more narrowly built. I’ve wondered for some time about the nature of breeding in other countries, as in the United States, breeding dogs can be complicated, and often problematic.
That being said, it was also incredibly common for families to take dogs off the streets and integrate them into their households. Stray dogs might also adopt families, as while I was in Cuba, several stray dogs had homes they stayed close to, even if another dog was already in the home. In turn, they might be fed by the family and familiar faces in the neighborhood. This process was fascinating to me, as it meant attached stray dogs participated less - even intact males - in the ganglike behaviors of dogs on the streets.
Now that I’m in Peru, I’ve seen some of the designer dog desires (the occasional Saint Bernard happily lagging behind its owner, dachshunds in coats, and furless dogs with tufts of wiry hair on the tops of their heads), but I’ve also seen families with mutts from the streets - even the families that are better off. Peru has an interesting, somewhat contradictory, pet culture, but it’s also changing as the culture and economy develop.
And, of course, we know in the United States that it’s a mix. Purebreds and certain mixes (cough - labradoodle - cough) can be purchased at prices upwards of a thousand dollars. Breeds come with important behavioral and personality distinctions, and sometimes extreme genetic disorders; I’m thinking mainly of bulldogs, who I’ve heard require artificial insemination and C-sections to safely reproduce, and pugs, who can have a whole host of physical difficulties.
In contrast, I can think of few cats I know who are purebreds, though I know that designer cats do exist - siamese and hairless cats are two
examples. I have heard, though, that it’s and absolutely fascinating experience to watch a cat show and see what distinct breeds actually look like.
None of this is to pass judgement, but it is something I’ve kept in mind while travelling. Personally, I love most dogs that cross my path and one of my own dogs is this crazy-looking gremlin thing who used to meander the streets of Los Angeles. She was a bit more of a challenge because of her fear and mistrust of people, but she has been so worth it. All I will say is that I hope anyone looking into buying a new pet will do the proper research for whichever breed or background of animal they’re thinking of taking home. It makes things better in the long run.
What type of pet do you have? What’s its origin story?