Article: General Information » Canid Hybrids
Canid hybrids are the result of interbreeding between different species of the canine (dog) family (Canidae)
Members of the dog genus Canis: wolves, dogs (both common dogs and dingoes), coyotes, and golden jackals cannot interbreed with members of the wider dog family: the Canidae, such as South American canids, foxes, African wild dogs, bat-eared foxes or raccoon dog; or, if they could, their offspring would be infertile.
Members of the genus Canis species can, however, all interbreed to produce fertile offspring, with two exceptions: the side-striped jackal and black-backed jackal. Although these two theoretically could interbreed with each other to produce fertile offspring, they cannot hybridize successfully with the rest of the genus Canis.
The reason for this lies in their genetics. The wolf, dingo, dog, coyote, and golden jackal diverged relatively recently, around three to four million years ago, and all have 78 chromosomes arranged in 39 pairs. This allows them to hybridize freely (barring size or behavioral constraints) and produce fertile offspring. The side-striped jackal and black-backed jackal both have 74 chromosomes. Other members of the Canidae family, which diverged seven to ten million years ago, are less closely related to and cannot hybridize with the wolf-like canids; the red fox has 38 chromosomes, the raccoon dog has 42 chromosomes, the fennec fox has 64 chromosomes, and the African wild dog has 78 chromosomes.
Legal Implications of Hybrids
Canid hybrids kept as pets are prohibited in certain jurisdictions, or are classed as wild animals and must be housed in the same way as purebred wolves.
The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is a domesticated form of the gray wolf (Canis lupus lupus) and therefore belongs to the same species as other wolves, such as the dingo (Canis lupus dingo). Therefore, crosses between these sub-species are unremarkable and not a hybridization in the same sense as an interbreeding between different species of Canidae.
People wanting to improve domestic dogs or create an exotic pet may breed domestic dogs to wolves. Gray wolves have been crossed with dogs that have a wolf-like appearance, such as Siberian huskies, and Alaskan malamutes. The breeding of wolf–dog crosses is controversial, with opponents purporting that it produces an animal unfit as a domestic pet. A number of wolfdog breeds are in development. The first generation crosses (one wolf parent, one dog parent) generally are backcrossed to domestic dogs to maintain a domestic temperament and consistent conformation. First-generation wolf–dog crosses are popular in the United States, but they retain many wolf-like traits.
The Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) breeds freely with other domestic dogs. This is now so widespread that in some areas, dingoes are now mostly mixed-breed dogs, crossed in recent times with dogs from other parts of the world. However, DNA study shows that “the dingo originates from domesticated dogs, originally from East Asia” (which reverted back to the wild) and so interbreeding between dingos and other domestic dogs is also not a hybridization in the same sense as an interbreeding between different species of Canidae.
Some dingo hybrids have been deliberately bred as pets but turned loose due to behavioral problems. These cross-breeds are accepted back into the wild dingo population, where they breed with pure dingoes. In some parts of Australia, up to 80% of dingoes are part domestic dog. Dingoes are distinguishable from domestic dogs through DNA and through having longer teeth and longer muzzles.
The Australian kelpie sheepdog is widely believed to be the result of crossing dingos with English herding dogs, but this (the dingo blood) is not upheld by breed documentation. The Australian cattle dog breed is known to have been influenced by the dingo.
According to the partwork “Animal Life and the World of Nature” (Vol 1, 1902–1903), Lord Walter Rothschild owned a dingo–wolf cross, bred by Mr. and Mrs. HC Brooke from a tame male dingo and a semi-tame female wolf.
In the United States, there is a variety of dingo known as a Carolina dog. Brought over by native peoples migrating from Asia, it is almost identical to the Australian dingo. While once very common in the American south, it was collected and bred for herding. Now possibly extinct in the wild, thousands remain in captivity, some of them crossed with dogs of other breeds to experiment with making them smaller.
No reliable reports or genetic testing prove the existence of dog–fox hybrids (called doxes), though there are many unsubstantiated reports of such hybrids.
In the United Kingdom, an unconfirmed female terrier/fox hybrid was reported and later euthanized. British gamekeeper folklore claims that terrier bitches can produce offspring with male foxes. Other dog breeds claimed to have hybridized with foxes are the Shetland sheepdog, Alaskan malamute, Siberian husky, and most of the hound groups.
There has been a reported cross between a domestic dog and a South American maned wolf, but the maned wolf is only a fox-like canid not closely related to other canids and is the only member of the genus Chrysocyon.
In Saskatchewan, Canada, there was another supposed dox, this time the offspring of a female miniature Sheltie and a wild fox. There was a litter of three, but only one survived. The survivor (a female) was barren and resembled a fox with slight variations. However, the variability of dogs in appearance makes it impossible to determine whether an animal is a hybrid based upon its looks. In most reported cases, the dox had gold or yellow eyes, wired hair and black, red and gray coloration.
Coyote–Domestic Dog Hybrid
There is no genetic difference between a male coyote/female dog breeding and a male dog/female coyote breeding, but two separate terms have been invented, coydog and dogote, as the customary naming for hybrid animals is to derive the first portion of the name from the father and the second from the mother (cf. liger vs. tiglon). A major difference between the two is logically the birthplace of the offspring: a female coyote would give birth in the wild and a female dog, unless feral itself, would give birth domestically.
Coydogs (the offspring of a male coyote and female dog) were once believed to be present in large numbers in Pennsylvania due to a declining coyote population and a burgeoning domestic dog population. Most supposed hybrids were naturally occurring red or blond color variations of the coyote or were feral dogs. The breeding cycles of dogs and coyotes are not synchronized and this makes interbreeding uncommon. If interbreeding had been common, each successive generation of the coyote population would have acquired more and more dog-like traits.
Coyotes are solitary by nature, a trait carried over to coyote–dog hybrids. This can result in problematic and unsociable behavior that makes them generally unsuitable as pets. As a result, they may be abandoned or allowed to stray and be absorbed into the feral dog or coyote population. However, if the coyote (or dogote) is found at a very young age and raised properly, it can become a pet. Much time and effort must be invested for this to occur.
The mating of a male dog and a female coyote results in a dogote. There has been one report of a dogote arising from a male German shepherd/female coyote mating in the wild. Hybrid pups were found after the female coyote was shot. The adult dogotes resembled German shepherds in color.
Hybridization between wolf and coyote has long been recognized.
DNA analysis consistently shows that all existing red wolves carry coyote genes, though it is not known if this is a result of recent habitat destruction by man, or whether Red Wolves have always been hybrids. This has caused a problem for Canid taxonomy, as hybrids are not normally thought of as species, though the convention is to continue to refer to red wolves as a subspecies of wolf, Canis lupus rufus, with no mention of the coyote taxon, latrans.
In recent history, the taxonomic status of the red wolf has been widely debated. Mech (1970) suggested that red wolves may be fertile hybrid offspring from gray wolf (Canis lupus) and coyote (C. latrans) interbreeding. Wayne and Jenks (1991) and Roy et al. (1994b, 1996) supported this suggestion with genetic analysis. Phillips and Henry (1992) present logic supporting the contention that the red wolf is a subspecies of gray wolf. However, recent genetic and morphological evidence suggests that the red wolf is a unique taxon. Wilson et al. (2000) report that gray wolves (Canis lupus lycaon) in southern Ontario appear genetically very similar to the red wolf and that these two canids may be subspecies of one another and not a subspecies of gray wolf. Wilson et al. (2000) propose that red wolves and C. lupus lycaon should be a separate species, C. lycaon, with their minor differences acknowledged via subspecies designation. A recent meeting of North American wolf biologists and geneticists also concluded that C. rufus and C. lupus lycaon were genetically more similar to each other than either was to C. lupus or C. latrans (B.T. Kelly unpubl.). Recent morphometric analyses of skulls also indicate that the red wolf is likely not to be a gray wolf–coyote hybrid (Nowak 2002). Therefore, while the red wolf’s taxonomic status remains unclear, there is mounting evidence to support C. rufus as a unique canid taxon.
Many animals commonly referred to as “eastern coyotes” or “northeastern coyotes” have wolf and dog genes, a larger size and a more wolf-like skull shape than other coyotes, and they are generally believed by experts to be hybrids. This has become a problem for taxonomists, as it is unclear what new taxon will be used to refer to this new population of animals.
The wolf and jackal can interbreed and produce fertile hybrid offspring, which are sometimes known as huskals. Coyote–jackal hybrids have also been bred as pets by wolfdog enthusiasts. Dogs have been crossed with golden jackals. It is also thought that Pharoanic Egyptians crossbred domestic dogs with jackals, producing a jackal-dog that resembled the god Anubis.
The reason golden jackals differ in chromosome number is most likely because golden jackals have two pairs of chromosomes that are twice as long but contain gene content similar to four pairs of dog chromosomes. This might reduce fertility, but it would not likely completely sterilize golden jackal–dog hybrids.
In The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication Charles Darwin wrote:
Several years ago I saw confined in the Zoological Gardens of London a female hybrid from an English dog and jackal, which even in this the first generation was so sterile that, as I was assured by her keeper, she did not fully exhibit her proper periods; but this case, from numerous instances have occurred of fertile hybrids from these two animals, was certainly exceptional.
Robert Armitage Sterndale mentioned experimental jackal hybrids from British India in his Natural History of Mammals in India and Ceylon, noting that glaring jackal traits could be exhibited in hybrids even after three generations of crossing them with dogs
In Russia, golden jackal/Lapponian herder hybrids were bred as sniffer dogs because jackals have a superior sense of smell and Lapponian herders are good cold climate dogs. Also, fox terrier, Norwegian lundehund, and Spitz blood were combined to create the Sulimov dog. As well as a superior sense of smell, important at low temperatures where substances are less volatile and therefore less pungent, Sulimov dogs are small-sized and can work in confined spaces. When tired, their normally curled tails droop, making it clear to the handler that the dog needs to be rested. The jackal hybrids were bred by Klim Sulimov, senior research assistant at the D.S. Likhachev Scientific Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Environmental Protection in Russia. Male jackal pups had to be fostered on a husky bitch in order to imprint the jackals on dogs. Female jackals accepted male huskies more readily. The half-bred jackal-dogs were difficult to train and were bred back to huskies to produce quarter-bred hybrids (quadroons). These hybrids were small, agile, trainable and had an excellent sense of smell. Twenty-five jackal-dog hybrids are used by Aeroflot at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow for functions including bomb-sniffing. Their breeding program dates back to 1975, but it was not applied to bomb detection until 2002.
Canid Infertility Chart
Tentative synoptic table
|Dog / Wolf||Dingo||Coyote||Jackal||Dhole||Fox|
|Dog / wolf|
(Canis lupus, et al.)
|Wolfdog||Dingo Hybrids||Coydog / dogote||Jackal hybrids||Unknown||Dox
(Canis lupus dingo
|Coydog / dogote||Coydingo|
(Canis aureus, etc.)
(Vulpes vulpes, et al.)
- Evolutionary Biology and Forensics, Origin and history of the domestic dog
- Summary of Red Wolf Genetic Analysis
- Darwin, Charles (1868). The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication. Volume 1 (1st ed.). London: John Murray. pp. 32–33.
- Natural History of the Mammalia of India and Ceylon by Robert A. Sterndale, Thacker, Spink, and Co. Bombay: Thacker and Co., Limited. London: W. Thacker and Co. 1884.
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