Cross-Breed or Hybrid
Cross-breed means the animal is of mixed blood; the animal is often a mix of two different breeds, or a mix of several breeds. These are often referred to as mongrels for dogs, or moggies for cats, mules in sheep, or just known as a cross-breed with other species. Cross-breeds often display traits from all the breeds that make up the mix. Cross-breeds can reproduce, as they are just different types of the same species.
A cross-breed is different to what is referred to as a hybrid. A hybrid is cross between different species, as with cross-breeds, hybrids often display both physical and personality traits from both parents species. However, hybrids tend to be infertile (they cannot reproduce their own young) and therefore the only way to get the particular hybrid is to cross the 2 original species. A few hybrid animal examples are:
- Mule (female donkey x male horse)
- Hinny (male donkey x female horse)
- Liger (male lion x tigress)
- Tigon (lioness x male tiger)
- Leopon (lion x leopard)
- Beefalo (buffalo x domestic cow)
- Dzo (yak x domestic cow)
- Cama (camel x llama)
- Zorse (zebra x horse)
- Donkra (zebra x donkey)
It is important to think about this when acquiring a cross-breed as a pet; if the mix of breeds is known, you can research into them to see the likely physical characteristics, as well as the likely personality traits you may see in your pet.
Cross-breeds are becoming increasingly popular with dogs, and cross-bred dogs are being sold as designer breeds. Some of the more popular designer dog breeds are:
- Labradoodle (Labrador x Poodle)
- Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel x Poodle)
- Chorkie (Chihuahua x Yorkshire Terrier)
- Puggle (Pug x Beagle)
As you may have noticed, these deisgner breeds have been given their own, new name that combines the 2 breeds they have been crossed with.
Due to the fact that cross-breeds have ability to reproduce, there is dispute about designer breeds and what makes them up. Take the Labradoodle for example, most breeders will only accept a dog as being a Labradoodle if it is the first generation; i.e. one parent is a Poodle, the other parent is a Labrador. If 2 Labradoodles have offspring, most breeders do not class the puppies as Labradoodles, but rather as mongrels. If one parent is a Labradoodle, and the other is either a Poodle or a Labrador, the offspring is also termed as being mongrels along most breeders of the designer breed.
Aside from the designer cross-breeds, most cross-breeds are not recognised as “breeds”, but rather just referred to as crosses. The crosses from just 2 different breeds that are not designer dogs are easily differentiated by the fact they are referred to as cross-breeds, and do not have their own “breed name”.
Often cross-breeds are similar breeds that have been mated, such as the Scottish Terrier and the West Highland Terrier. These are 2 similar looking breeds; similar height, coat, ears, face, as well as having a similar temperament.
However, due to the ability to reproduce, cross-breeds become more and more diluted in breed terms and eventually just get termed as a mongrel. A lot of mongrels are so mixed with breeds that a similarity to any one breed is very hard to see, others have a distinct breed that stands out; such as the Alsatian mix and the Tibetan Terrier mix, pictured below.
All breeds, including the ones that are now classified as pedigree breeds, have come about from mixing different kinds of canines to get the desired appearance and/ or personality out of the animal that the breeder desired. The Bedlington Terrier for example, is thought to be a mix of; the Rothbury Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Wheaten Terrier, Otterhound, Poodle and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier… so basically a mongrel with a lot of breeds mixed in! However, nowadays it is its own recognised breed, a pedigree.
Other Cross-Breed Animals
Dogs may be the most popular animals to mix breeds, but they are certainly not the only ones! Cats, birds, fish, rabbits, rodents, reptiles, sheep, cows, pigs, horses and ponies can all be cross bred; but some species cross-breeds are more common than others. For example, cross-breed rabbits are fairly common, often due to un-neutered pets having accidental litters!
Cats cross-breed often too, however in one litter there can be a different father for each kitten, so the crosses cannot always be determined and may not be known – unless the cross-breeding was intentional and artificially selected. Cats are usually bred via artificial selection for their pedigree, so in the way we get designer dog breeds, it is not the same with cats. Some cat crosses can be seen clearly, but most are unsure and just get termed as a moggie.
Just to clarify – the terms horse and pony refers to the height of the same animal. They are measure in hands high (hh) – horses are 14.2hh+, whereas ponies are up to (and including) 14.1hh. Horses and ponies are usually selected for their pedigree too, due to needing pure bloodlines for race and show animals. However, there are a few recognised cross-breeds:
- Welera (Welsh pony x Arabian horse)
- National Show Horse (American Saddlebred x Arabian horse)
- Morab (Morgan x Arabian horse)
- Appendix Quarter Horse (Quarter horse x Thoroughbred)
- Quarab (Quarter horse x Arabian horse)
- Walkaloosa (Tennessee walking horse x Appaloosa)
There is also a mongrel of horses – a mix breed of many breeds that has come to be recognised as a breed, the Pony of the Americas (POA).
A lot of people do not believe birds and fish can be cross bred, however this is just due to the occurrence of this being very low (lower in fish than birds). Birds can cross breed as long as they belong to the same sub-species; for example, 2 of the same type (such as 2 conures, or 2 cockatoos) of parrot can have offspring, 2 of the same type of aviary bird (such as a pair of different finch types) can have offspring, 2 different chicken types can have offspring… And the list goes on. It is just uncommon, but the ability is there.