Pit bulls and visual breed identification

by gm99 • Posted in: Awareness/ PR

Ok, so I said that the first post on Pit Bulls would be about statistics, but I’m realizing that I need to start with breed identification, so please forgive me as I take a step back to post some information about our ability to visually define breeds.

Think you could pick a pit bull out of a line-up?  Check out this chart over on the Love-A-Bull (a local pit bull advocacy group) website.

Ok, so maybe it’s a little harder than it seems.  But certainly people experienced with dogs and identifying breeds could do much better, right?

Actually, no.  This summer, a study was published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science with the results of an experiment that compared visual breed determination with results from DNA tests of shelter dogs.  The results showed that the breed was incorrectly visually identified by the adoption agencies 75-87% of the time:

In only a quarter of these dogs was at least one of the breeds proposed by the adoption agencies also detected as a predominant breed by DNA analysis. (Predominant breeds were defined as those comprised of the highest percentage of a DNA breed make-up.) In 87.5% of the adopted dogs, breeds were identified by DNA analyses that were not proposed by the adoption agencies. A breed must have been detected at a minimum of 12.5% of a dog’s make-up to be reported in the DNA analysis.

This information is important to know before we start talking about dog bite statistics by breed and how the media covers dog bites.

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