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Development of dog breeds
There are numerous dog breeds, with over 800 being recognized by various kennel clubs worldwide. Many dogs, especially outside the United States of America and Western Europe, belong to no recognized breed. A few basic breed types have evolved gradually during the domesticated dog's relationship with humans over the last 10,000 or more years, but all modern breeds are of relatively recent derivation. Many of these are the product of a deliberate process of artificial selection. Because of this, some breeds are highly specialized, and there is extraordinary morphological diversity across different breeds. Despite these differences, dogs are able to distinguish dogs from other kinds of animal.

The definition of a dog breed is a matter of some controversy. Depending on the size of the original founding population, closed gene pool breeds can have problems with inbreeding, specifically due to the founder effect. Dog breeders are increasingly aware of the importance of population genetics and of maintaining diverse gene pools. Health testing and new DNA tests can help avoid problems, by providing a replacement for natural selection. Without selection, inbreeding and closed gene pools can increase the risk of severe health or behavioral problems. Some organizations define a breed more loosely, such that an individual may be considered of one breed as long as 75% of its parentage is of that breed. These considerations affect both pets and the show dogs entered in dog shows. Even prize-winning purebred dogs sometimes possess crippling genetic defects due to founder effect or inbreeding. These problems are not limited to purebred dogs and can affect cross-breed populations. The behavior and appearance of a dog of a particular breed can be predicted to a degree, while mixed-breed dogs show a broader range of innovative appearance and behavior.

Mixed-breed dogs or Mongrels (also called "mutts") are dogs that do not belong to specific breeds, being mixtures more than two in variant percentages. Mixed breed dogs and purebred dogs are both suitable as companions, pets, working dogs, or competitors in dog sports. Sometimes different breed dogs are deliberately bred, to create cross-breeds such as the Cockapoo, a mixture of Cocker Spaniel and Miniature Poodle. Such deliberate crosses may display some degree of hybrid vigor and other desirable traits, but may or may not inherit any of the desired traits of their parents, such as temperament or a particular color or coat. Without genetic testing of the parents, the crosses can end up inheriting genetic defects that occur in both parental breeds.

A breed is a group of animals that possesses a set of inherited characteristics that distinguishes it from other animals within the same species. Deliberately crossing two or more breeds is also a manner of establishing new breeds, but it is only a breed when offspring will reliably demonstrate that particular set of characteristics and qualities.

Physical characteristics
Modern dog breeds show more variation in size, appearance, and behavior than any other domestic animal. Within the range of extremes, dogs generally share attributes with their wild ancestors, the wolves. Dogs are predators and scavengers, possessing sharp teeth and strong jaws for attacking, holding, and tearing their food. Although selective breeding has changed the appearance of many breeds, all dogs retain basic traits from their distant ancestors. Like many other predatory mammals, the dog has powerful muscles, fused wristbones, a cardiovascular system that supports both sprinting and endurance, and teeth for catching and tearing. Unlike humans which are plantigrade, dogs are digitigrade.
(continued on HEALTH page)

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