Beagles are scent hounds, prone to wandering by following their noses. But Bonnie the beagle is a couch potato.
Beagles are known for their humor. Clyde the beagle, on the other hand, enjoys his independence.
Beagles are famous for their friendliness, but gentleness wouldn’t describe Mikey the beagle’s quick high jumps.
Beagles, apparently, don’t make good watchdogs. But Rocky the beagle alerts his family to the slightest disturbance.
Such discrepancies are explained in a large study published Friday in the journal Science. He found that, despite conventional wisdom, breed does not predict much of an individual dog’s personality traits.
Dog genomics research reveals that breed accounts for only 9% of behavioral variation. This means that behavior within a race varies about as much as behavior between races.
So descriptions of border collies as smart, retrievers as outgoing, and bulldogs as brave are just stereotypes.
It turns out that a dog is a dog unto itself.
So true, said Heather Sabia, owner of beagles Bonnie and Mikey.
“I would say beagles are stubborn, some more than others. But you can say that for any breed,” Sabia said. In beagles, “there is a lot of individuality”.
Louise Sabia, Heather’s mother, owns the beagles Clyde and Rocky. Louise said beagles came into her family in the 1940s when she was a child and the family’s beloved pooch, Patches, was killed by a car. Patches had a friend – a beagle who lived a block away.
“Every day after Patches died, this beagle came to our house and waited for Patches to come home,” Louise Sabia said. “My mother was so impressed she went to get a beagle.”
In the 1960s, after Louise got married and Heather was born, Louise’s brother brought them a beagle that someone was abandoning.
“We’ve had beagles ever since,” Louise said.
In between, they’ve had a dozen beagles over the years.
“I love their size, not too big that you can’t pick them up and hug them, and not too small. And I love their big soft ears,” Heather said. they are faithful. But everyone is different.”
Now science explains it.
The researchers interviewed the owners of 18,385 dogs, roughly half purebred – 128 breeds were represented – and half mixed breed. They asked owners to answer dozens of questions about their dogs’ behavior. The researchers also obtained saliva samples from 2,155 dogs and sequenced their DNA.
They found that although behavioral traits can be inherited, behavior crosses racial lines.
“Modern dog breeds are less than 160 years old,” the researchers wrote in their report, “a nod in evolutionary history from when dogs originated over 10,000 years ago. years”.
Modern dog lines date back to Victorian England, when people began to invent breeds by selecting traits based on how they wanted dogs to look.
Over 80% of a dog’s appearance can be linked to DNA, according to the study.
But the genetic traits that determine behavior have been around much longer than breeds, so dogs have a lot of behaviors in common.
The study showed that the behavioral traits attributed to modern dog breeds are determined by several genes, influenced by many environmental factors and present in all breeds to varying degrees.
The researchers found 11 genetic markers associated with certain behaviors. But none of the markers were breed-specific.
Certain behaviors are rooted in a dog’s genes, such a trait in border collies to respond well to training, the researchers found. Mutts with many border collie ancestry also tended to respond well to training.
But researchers haven’t identified any markers in the genes of Labrador retrievers to indicate sociability, a trait they are known for. And they found few links between race and aggressive behavior, which could affect perceptions of which breeds are deemed dangerous.
The researchers said dogs are a good resource for studying the genetic basis of personality traits because so much is known about them – they live in millions of homes, share environments with humans and receive sophisticated medical care, including included for behavioral problems.
But the researchers cautioned: “Dog breed is generally a poor predictor of individual behavior and should not be used to inform decisions about selecting a companion dog.”
Louise Sabia could have told them that.
“I really don’t know much about breed,” she said. “I love dogs.”