What words would you use to describe an Afghan hound? Many would settle on dignified, aloof, and perhaps even loyal. How about an Alsatian or a cocker spaniel?
We all have our own notions for how certain dog breeds behave, but are these characteristics innate and bred into the breed (as fixed as their coat color and head shape) or are they fluid and influenced by our preconceptions of what the animal should act like? These are the questions that a new citizen science project called MuttMix seeks to answer.
According to the team behind the survey, they aim to unravel how the characteristics we think certain dog breeds have influences our expectations of how they will behave.
“When asked about our pets,” the researchers at Darwin’s Dogs write, “we don’t say 'I have a dog,' we say 'I have a golden retriever,' or 'I’ve got a dachshund.' Statements like these bring with them a weight of preconceptions. Some breeds are expected to be friendly, others aloof. Some are a bit slow, others can practically play chess.”
They suggest that our notions of how certain breeds behave become muddled when we meet mutts and mongrels. While we try to place labels on these pooches to better understand how the animals may act, that's a much more difficult task with mutts.
Therefore, they want to see just how well we are at distinguishing which breeds make up the lion’s share of mixed dogs, before moving on to whether these preconceived notions hold true.
The survey, which launches on April 16th, will ask volunteers to look at pictures of mutts and then try to identify the top three breeds that make them up. For the first few attempts, the researchers will immediately show you what the correct answer is to give you a chance to get used to the system. From then on, you’ll be flying solo and will only find out the results at the end.
[H/T: Science Magazine]