Science Needs Your Help, And All You Have To Do Is Look At Photos Of Dogs


Katy Evans

Katy is Managing Editor at IFLScience where she oversees editorial content from News articles to Features, and even occasionally writes some.

Managing Editor

Could you identify the lesser-known pug-butterfly cross? You wouldn't think they'd be able to lift off the ground. Ezzolo/Shutterstock 

Do you know your beagle from your bulldog? Your pug from your poodle? Well then, dear reader, science needs your help.

In the most adorable citizen science project since pika-spotting back in 2014, researchers are asking for help from the public to gauge our ability to recognize dog breeds in mutts.


Your task: To stare at pictures of dogs. For science!

Who can take part? Well, the MuttMix project says its ideal age groups are: “Middle school (11-13 years), High school (14-17 years), College, Graduate students, Adults, Families, Seniors”. So, that's basically everyone then.

The survey is being carried out by the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT as part of their ongoing research project Darwin’s Dogs (“following the pawprints of evolution”).

Darwin’s Dogs' aim is to understand the genetic history of man’s best friend, from wiley wolf to playful pupper, conducting ancestry research on thousands of dogs. They have teamed up with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) to see how we humans perceive dog breeds.


Specifically, the researchers are curious as to how different breeds affect how we view them, how good we are at guessing which mixed breeds are present by looks alone, and how that may affect our relationship with our canine companions.

Breed affects our perception of dogs; their personality, ability, energy levels, you name it. It's a lot harder to do that with a mixed breed pet because you end up playing the "what is he/she?" guessing game. The scientists behind MuttMix have developed an algorithm to identify the dogs' genetic history. They're actually banking on you finding it pretty hard to judge a dog by its furry cover.

This is where you come in: Prove them wrong!

To take the survey, you will be introduced to 31 mutts. You’ll be asked to guess the three breeds that you think contribute the most DNA for each dog from a drop-down menu. You only need to do the survey once and it should take under an hour.  


As cute as all this is, the researchers do include a gentle reminder that this is real science, and for your participation to be valid you need to give your best guesses without influence or hints from others. The information gathered here will be vital to future doggy-related projects in the scientific world.

You even get a certificate of participation, and the correct answers so you can see if you were right, when the survey closes on June 16. 

I mean, really this is you just being a good citizen. (Half the IFLScience office has done it already. This is exactly what we got into science for.) 


  • tag
  • citizen science,

  • muttmix,

  • mutts,

  • mix breed dogs,

  • genetic history,

  • mans best friend