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What is a Mutt?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 21, 2024
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The term "mutt" refers to a mixed-breed dog. It derives from the word "muttonhead," suggesting stupidity. The term may be used in a derogatory fashion, or in an affectionate way. A mixed-breed dog might also be called a mongrel, and it is typically the result of random breeding rather than being specifically created from purebred dogs.

A mutt is usually the result of generations of mixed-breed dogs or the unplanned breeding between purebreds. Some people believe that breed is very important, and there find it important to identify the ancestors of a dog that's mixed-breed. Deliberate crosses, such as the labradoodle, a poodle-labrador cross, and a peek-a-poo, a poodle-pekinese cross, are usually not considered mutts, although they are mixed-breed dogs.

Some maintain that mutts tend to be hardier dogs than purebreds because the genetic pool is much bigger and may eliminate some traits that can develop with inbreeding. This is highly dependent upon the breeding cross, however, and breeding two dogs that have the same predilection for a certain type of disease is likely to result in puppies with the same risks for that disease, no matter the breed of the parents. Mutts that do not have purebred parents may be less likely to have inbred characteristics for disease, however, and may be less prone to certain conditions than their distant progenitors.

Adopting a young mutt of unknown parentage can be a little risky. Some breeds of dogs are known for certain character traits, and it is hard to tell in the first few months what types of behavior a dog might show when its ancestors aren't known. For example, if the dog comes from two breeds that are more likely to be aggressive, it may show this tendency as well. It is also hard to tell what the dog will ultimately end up looking like, or how big it might grow.

For people who want a predictable outcome in appearance or size in an older dog, it may be better to adopt an older dog, whose behavior, size, and appearance is already known. Usually, these types of dogs are the least likely to be adopted, since so many favor a particular breed.

Those who own one mutt or more usually praise them. Unknown parentage does not stand in the way of the loving and faithful nature of most dogs. In fact, many people find they prefer a mixed-breed to a purebred, since it may have a unique look and not have some of the health issues found in certain breeds.

Most dogs that are now recognized as pure breeds would once have been thought mutts. Since most breeds developed from one or two sources, variations in appearance and behavior are due to crossbreeding and selection of desirable characteristics. Theoretically, anyone who owns a purebred dog owns a mutt, or at least the distant ancestor of one.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a mutt?

A mutt, often referred to as a mixed-breed dog, is a canine that has parents of different breeds or a blend of several breeds, rather than belonging to one recognized breed. Unlike purebreds, mutts typically exhibit a combination of traits from their diverse ancestry, leading to a unique appearance and temperament.

Are mutts healthier than purebred dogs?

According to veterinary studies, mutts often benefit from hybrid vigor, which can result in a lower incidence of genetic disorders that are common in purebred populations. This genetic diversity can contribute to better overall health and longer lifespans for mixed-breed dogs compared to their purebred counterparts.

How can I determine the breed composition of my mutt?

To ascertain the breed makeup of a mutt, DNA testing is the most accurate method. These tests can analyze your dog's genetic markers and provide a detailed report on the breed composition. This information can be useful for understanding potential health issues and behavioral traits specific to the breeds in your dog's lineage.

Do mutts have a consistent temperament?

Mutts exhibit a wide range of temperaments, influenced by the combination of breeds in their genetic makeup. While it's challenging to predict the exact personality of a mixed-breed dog, observing a mutt's behavior and knowing its dominant breed traits can offer some insight into its temperament.

Is it easier to train a mutt or a purebred dog?

Trainability in dogs is not solely determined by whether they are mutts or purebreds, but rather by individual personality, breed traits, and the training methods used. Some mutts may be highly trainable due to their intelligent and eager-to-please nature, while others may require more patience and consistent training.

Can mutts participate in dog sports and competitions?

Yes, mutts can participate in a variety of dog sports and competitions. Organizations such as the Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America offer events specifically for mixed-breed dogs. Additionally, many agility, obedience, and performance events are open to all dogs, regardless of breed, celebrating their abilities and training.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a AllThingsNature contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon1002881 — On Mar 09, 2020

We have rescue dogs at our house. Yes, they are mixed. It doesn't matter. What matters is that they are the best of the best (for us anyway). We have such a happy household and I have to credit our dogs for making it that way. The question is the following: Who really rescued who? My dogs give me a sense of joy that people don't. (And that is not because I don't like people. I actually do like some people, lol, but loyalty is generally foreign to many people and rudeness seems to be commonplace).

By anon995770 — On May 24, 2016

Nice article. Mutts make the best pets.

By anon965890 — On Aug 15, 2014

I have had five mutts over the last 30 years. They are long-lived, amazingly loyal and protective. Two are with us now. I wouldn't trade them for any purebred.

By Perdido — On Dec 03, 2012

Anyone here who has ever had a litter of mutt puppies knows about the possibility of shocking variety within the litter. I started feeding a stray who looked to be a mix between a German shepherd and who knows what, and she had the most mixed up litter of ten puppies!

Three of them were solid black and looked like labradors. Two were brown and white with brown speckles, two were black, white, and tan, two were blond with obvious pit bull features, and one was white with a black circle around one eye and pointy ears.

They all looked like the would probably grow up to be big dogs, except maybe the smallest black lab. I only know for certain how three of them turned out, and they were all close to the size of the mother. One of the pit bull mixes grew very large, though, and he is currently 90 pounds!

By shell4life — On Dec 02, 2012

@kylee07drg – I would think so. Any cross between breeds, even if both fall under the category of hounds, is considered a mutt.

If you saw a cross between an Irish wolfhound and a beagle, the cross breeding would be more obvious. It would be a rather odd looking creature.

Even though the black and tan hound and the bluetick have similarities, a mix between the two would be a mutt, technically. Still, it makes for a good hunting dog!

By kylee07drg — On Dec 02, 2012

If a dog is a cross between two similar breeds, is it still considered a mutt? I have a bluetick coonhound who really looks like he is pure bluetick, but I know for a fact that his mother was a black and tan hound.

He has all the attributes of a great hound dog. He is always going off in the woods by himself hunting, and I can hear him baying for hours!

By DylanB — On Dec 01, 2012

I usually end up with mutts, because I will feed whatever stray dog comes to my house looking hungry. Many times, these mutts are scared and skittish for awhile, but once they realize that I am not a threat, they become very loving.

People are always dumping their unwanted mutts on my street, and they wind up at my house. I think it's terrible that people get rid of litters of mutts when their female dog breeds with a dog other than the one they chose for her to mate with. They throw them out like they are trash, when really, they make the best pets!

By anon97225 — On Jul 19, 2010

i have a mutt and she is the best mutt of them all. every time i walk her people ask is that a mutt and i say yes. then they say can i have her, so i tell then to go get their own and within two days they're walking their own mutts.

By anon64168 — On Feb 05, 2010

I decided to get a mutt two years ago, and she's the best dog alive in the universe! i love her and she's so spoiled! she's beautiful and healthy and has a lot of spirit.

i would suggest to anyone, get one! they're healthy, beautiful, awesome dogs who want nothing more than to please you. plus, they're cheaper to acquire, can be just as beautiful as purebreds, and are naturally healthier then purebreds, too, because they have not been inbred!

By anon61172 — On Jan 18, 2010

I got a mutt puppy at a street fair and I will admit that she isn't what I pictured my dog to be but I love her to pieces and it can be guaranteed that she is a one of a kind that could never be duplicated. Designer dogs are for idiots despite being really cute sometimes.

By anon4336 — On Oct 14, 2007

Mutts are absolutely the best kind of dogs! Not only do you not have to pay a lot of money for purebred dogs, you're helping a dog who needs a home and helping NOT support the horrible puppy mills. Also, mutts are usually healthier than purebred dogs because they haven't been inbred. Get a mutt!

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a AllThingsNature contributor, Tricia...
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