Just over seven years ago, while adding listings to my Bullbreeds in Need page, I saw this little face looking up at me. I actually gasped. I decided that I had to drive to the pound straight away to meet him. Dave arrived home as I was rushing out the door and I assured him that I was just going to meet the puppy and if he seemed nice enough to foster we could do that.
I didn’t make air quotes when I said the word foster but considering we’d adopted our previous two “fosters” I guess they were both presumed and implied.
I won’t tell Bruno’s whole life story – you can go to his Facebook page or Instagram if you want to know more about him (but I deleted all the pro pics from FB a few years ago due to constant copyright infringements) – the condensed version is we kept him and he’s the best dog in the world.
Whenever anyone asked what breed he is I’d crinkle my face and say “some sort of bull breed mix, he had a sister at the pound who has a long snout so he’s definitely got something else in him, for sure”.
We had Chopper DNA tested about 12 years ago. It was the BITSA test which Dave was suckered into buying at a dog event. I’d heard the results were questionable so I made sure we didn’t give them a photo or any descriptions about his coat type, colour, his size etc. A few weeks later they were excited to let us know that Chopper was exactly 50% Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the other 50% was made up of so many breeds they couldn’t determine any of them. Soooooo, he was a Staffy X. We paid good money to be told something we already knew!! The original owner bought him from a pet shop as a pure SBT puppy but when we adopted him at 9mos we knew full well he was a mix.
After that I was the first to say “don’t waste your money on DNA tests, they’re rubbish”. I’ve firmly held that belief for over a decade, so people might be surprised that we decided to have Bruno tested. There’s been a lot of buzz about Embark recently. A lot of my friends have been getting their dogs tested and I find the non breed aspects of the results to be truly fascinating. So, I succumbed.
I’ve waffled on for long enough, here’s Bruno’s full Embark profile (the images and video were added after we got the results): https://my.embarkvet.com/dog/brunothedog
You may, or may not be, as surprised as I was to find out that he’s 100% American Staffordshire Terrier.
Say what? I was actually disappointed (when I read the email at 3am!). How could he be pure, I know several American Staffordshire Terrier breeders and Bruno doesn’t look like their dogs. He’s tall and lean. And how do you explain his sister’s long nose? So many questions!
I wrote back to Embark and sent photos of Bruno and Juno and asked if they ever re-test and get different results. I know it’s possible for a litter to have multiple sires and I also know that we have no proof that Bruno and Juno are even related but I still don’t think Bruno looks like a pure AST. This is what they said:
I have had our science team dive back into his data to see if we would have missed ancestry from any breeds, and we’re not seeing evidence that he has recent ancestry from any other breeds. In fact, he fits right in, genetically, with the 100% American Staffordshire Terriers in our reference panel.
I thought you might be interested in seeing how this looks! One data visualization technique we employ in determining your dog’s breed is something called a PCA analysis, which is a handy visualization of how your dog fits in with dogs of known breed in our reference panel. In this visualization, we selected American Staffordshire Terrier, Boxer, and American Pit Bull Terrier; you can see a representative sample of known purebreds of each breed as the colored dots in the graphic. Mixed breed dogs will fall on the edges or in the middle of the figure whereas purebred dogs will fall within one of the purebred clusters. I’ve attached his PCA here, so you can see how Bruno clearly clusters with the other American Staffordshire Terriers we’ve tested, even when compared to very closely related breeds.
What we can confidently say is that for at least the past 3 generations (and possibly even further back, as we don’t see any evidence of mixture), Bruno has inherited American Staffordshire Terrier ancestry. It is possible that there may have been some admixing further back than we can detect, however. It could also be that Bruno doesn’t fit in perfectly with the breed standard, as American Staffordshire Terriers are highly diverse!
I also asked if they could explain his colouring to me …
We start off here looking at the E locus, where Bruno has come back with results of EmE. This means that he has the melanistic mask commonly seen on the muzzles of German Shepherd Dogs or Pugs. Moving on to the K locus, we see the result kyky which indicates non-dominant black. This means that we must move to the A locus for determination of his overall color, which is ayat, meaning Bruno is sable. However, there are two more interesting components to Bruno’s coloring! One is the D locus, where he has a result of dd. This means that he is dilute, or that his color is lighter than a dog who is simply sable and changes the color of the melanistic mask. The other is the S locus, which we are currently unable to test for, but is what causes his white coloration (known as residual white). If you’d like to learn more about the S locus, this website is a great resource: http://www.doggenetics.co.uk/white.htm
How’s that for service? I find it all so interesting. I’m friends with Juno’s owner and they’re thinking about doing the test too, so I’ll report back with the results if they do.
I’m happy to know that Bruno’s healthy and isn’t carrying or affected by any of the 160+ genetic diseases they test for. I also now know what colour he is and why he sheds like a Husky in summer.
So, it turns out my pound mutt might actually be pure bred. I think we can all agree that he’d never win a conformation show but I still think he’s the most handsome dog alive (even if “that’s just like, [my] opinion!”).
If you’re interested in getting your dog tested I have a referral code that will save you US$20 on the full cost of the kit. Every time it’s used I’ll get a US$10 Amazon voucher but I plan to donate them to Fetching Dogs.
Update 6 Oct 18: My affiliate link keeps breaking and needing to be fixed by Embark so please let me know if you can’t get it to work for you.