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Are Mongrels Healthier Than Purebreds?

Updated on November 4, 2007
There's a good reason for the expression "Fit as a mule"
There's a good reason for the expression "Fit as a mule"

One day when I worked in a pet store, a man brought in a litter of baby guinea pigs for us. They were one of the millions of accidental breedings that occur in pets (and people) each year. These guinea pigs were gorgeous. The pet store owner asked me what breed they were in order to know what price to put on them. I said a little too loudly, "they're mutts." The man who brought the babies in frowned. He took my word the wrong way. I had meant the word "mutt" as a compliment.

Do Purebreds Go To The Vet More Than Mongrels?

Any vet will tell you that they get just as many mongrels (or mixed breeds) to treat as they do purebloods. But with purebloods, you know what health problems your pet is more susceptible to. You have a pretty good picture of what vet bills you are going to be paying for than with mongrels. Also, you can't go to most prestigious shows with mongrels.

Purebreds seem to inevitably have to go to the vet for health or behavioral problems than do mongrels. Mongrels still need check ups, still get into accidents, still catch contagious diseases or parasites, just like purebreds. And there will be variations of the strength of their immune system and overall health within each member of a pure breed. Because they are the products of a limited gene pool, any negative health or behavioral trait is going to be magnified in a purebred.

Hybrid Vigor

Purebreds lack a quality called "hybrid vigor", which has been studied in plants and animals. There are a lot of people who claim that hybrid vigor is a myth. A scientific study comparing the health of purebred dogs verses mongrels yielded non being the superior in health.

However, the same test showed:

  • That mongrels lived longer
  • That mongrels needed less surgeries
  • That purebred dogs were more prone to getting the following diseases than mongrels : an elongated soft palate, intervertebral disk disorders (discopathy), hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament rupture, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, panostitis, patellar luxation, distichiasis and entropion
  • That since most mongrels are neutered and purebreds are not, purebreds are prone to getting cancer and other problems with their reproductive organs

Case Study: The Thoroughbred

The detrimental health effects over just a few centuries are clearly seen in the fastest breed of horse in the world - the Thoroughbred. They get the name not because they are purebreds, but because they are "thoroughly bred for speed". All Thoroughbreds today can trace their ancestry back to just three stallions who lived in the 1700-1800's. Between 60%-70% of all Thoroughbreds alive today trace back to just one horse born in 1961, Northern Dancer.

The result has been a disaster for the horses. They are bred to win races, not to survive. Their bones are thin, their nerves are shot and they can barely support their own weight, let alone that of a rider. The European Horse of the Year, Dubai Millennium, died from being allergic to grass. When a horse cannot even eat the most basic of horsey foods, it's time for all of the horses to get out of the gene pool.

Let the tragedy of the Thoroughbred be a lesson for all pet owners and pet breeders of whatever species.

Look In The Mirror

You are most likely a mongrel. So why do people generally prefer pure bred pets over mongrels? Fashion, probably. Money, definitely. There is more of a demand for purebreds, so there are more having babies. If suddenly everyone stopped buying purebreds and just bought mongrels, there wouldn't be a lot of purebred pets left.

Although mongrels are overall healthier than purebreds, they by no means make any better of a pet. Purebreds are just as loving and friendly and still deserve all the care and affection their guardians can give.

Gorgeous Mongrel Dancing. Film by idahopugilist


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