When we adopted Fritz fall 2017, the rescue said he was a Wheaten Terrier Mix. As someone who has fostered multiple dogs in the past, I knew that for the most part, breed identification is just a guess. Especially for Fritz, who was found on the side of a road.
A few of my coworkers recently used Embark for puppy breed identification. It’s a local Boston company, and when they had a sale a few weeks ago, I went for it. I also challenged my friends to take their best guess. I posted the following to Instagram:
“What breed is Fritz? If you’re the first person to guess correctly, I’ll donate $50 to your charity of choice. Fritz is 40 lbs, has hair not fur, giant front paws and black marks on his tongue. I’ll have the answer in about 2 weeks when we hear back from @embarkvet! Happy guessing!”
Before we go too much further, want to take a guess?
My friend’s guesses came in from Instagram and Facebook: Australian cattle, Airedale Terrier, Border Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Chow, Poodle, Great Dane… I was personally convinced that he was, in large part, an Irish Terrier.
So, when the results came back and Fritz’s (main) breed mix was none of the above, we were so surprised! He is 87% American Pit Bull Terrier, and 13% Chow Chow.
But, where did his wire-hair coat come from? I emailed Embark to ask. (As an aside, I was thoroughly impressed with their regular email updates and customer service.) They replied within 3 hours:
“This is an interesting case — it’s neat you have a wire-haired APBT/Chow mix. I’ve had Fritz’s data reviewed by our science team, and we do see evidence of a couple of breeds that fell well below our ~5% threshold for showing in the results. Specifically, it looks like Fritz may have a very small amount of Poodle and Collie ancestry. The Poodle ancestry is especially neat, in that Poodles all have what we call ‘furnishings’ — which is a wire-coat. In Poodles, this trait combines with their curly and long coats, but in a lot of Poodle crosses where the texture is inherited but not the curls or length, you end up with coats like Fritz’s.”
The winning guess came from my friend (and one of Fritz’s besties) Eric, who was the closest, even though no one guessed pit bull. Eric’s original guess was: “Black tongue suggests a little bit of chow. Probably not a lot though. He’s got the coat of a wire-haired dog, but I’m struggling to settle on one. I don’t think it’s a wheaten, even though he’s about the right size for that breed. So my final answer is like 15% chow for tongue, 35% bull terrier for face shape, and 50% poodle for hair and body type.