Is There a Difference Between Mutts and Mixed-Breed Dogs?

eldadcarin/iStock via Getty Images
eldadcarin/iStock via Getty Images

July 31 is National Mutt Day, a day to celebrate everything great about mutts. In 2005, animal welfare advocate Colleen Paige created the day, which is acknowledged once again on December 2 (because all those good boys and girls deserve two days of nonstop treats and belly rubs). But what exactly is a mutt? Is it the same as a mixed-breed dog? And how does it differ from other dog breeds?

First off: The fact that National Mutt Day is also referred to as National Mixed Breed Dog Day should tell you something—namely, that mutts and mixed-breeds are basically the same thing. Meaning that, as the latter name suggests, they are made up of more than one breed of dog.

Whereas purebred dogs have registration papers that confirm the dog's single-breed pedigree, mutts aren't registered and each of their parents could be a mix of several breeds themselves.

Where it gets a little confusing is when you come to designer or hybrid dogs, where two specific breeds are intentionally cross-bred in order to create a sort of sub-breed that mixes the best traits of both pups (like mating a poodle with a Labrador to get a Labradoodle). Though designer dogs are extremely popular, they're essentially just fancy mutts. While the American Kennel Club (AKC) does offer some activities for mixed-breed dogs to take part in, the organization only formally recognizes purebred dogs on its official registry (sorry Puggle lovers).

Ladies Morgan and Mathilda Wood-Menzies
Ladies Morgan and Mathilda Wood-Menzies
Erin McCarthy

With so many different types of dog breeds, what are the benefits of adopting a mutt? According to the dog lovers behind National Mutt Day, approximately 80 percent of all shelter dogs are mixed breeds. That’s a lot of dogs—and a lot of dogs in need of forever homes! And there are plenty of benefits to adopting a dog versus purchasing one: first, adopting a dog is almost always cheaper than purchasing one from a (reputable) breeder. And because there are so many dogs in shelters, and only so much room to accommodate them, adopting a dog means that you're potentially saving one dog's life and making room for another dog to move in to the shelter. (Of the 3.3 million dogs that enter shelters each year, the ASPCA estimates that 670,000 of them are euthanized.)

And when you get your mutt home, the benefits continue. Though there's some debate over the topic, some experts have found that because mixed-breed pooches aren’t exposed to as many genetically inherited health issues, they can often be healthier. According to some statistics, mutts can also have a longer life expectancy. Mutts are great in work situations, too, like serving as guide and therapy dogs or sniffing out drugs and bombs. And in 2014, for the first time ever, The Westminster Kennel Club allowed mutts to compete in their annual dog show.

One downside to owning a mutt (if it can be considered a downside) is that if you don't know a dog's ancestry, you might have trouble predicting its temperament or unique behaviors. But many pet parents see this as one of the benefits of adopting a mixed-breed pupper: they're full of surprises and totally unique. (Plus, dog DNA tests are widely available, so if you really want to know what your dog is made of, it's easy to find out.)

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How Does Alberta, Canada, Stay Rat-Free?

Francisco Martins/iStock via Getty Images
Francisco Martins/iStock via Getty Images

David Moe:

Alberta is the only province in Canada that does not have any rats and is, in fact, the largest inhabited area on the planet that is rat-free. Rats had to come from Eastern Canada, and it’s a long walk, so it was not until the 1950s that they finally reached Alberta. When they did, the Alberta government was ready for them: They instituted a very aggressive rat control program that killed every single rat that crossed the Alberta/Saskatchewan border.

The Agricultural Pests Act of Alberta, 1942 authorized the Minister of Agriculture to designate as a pest any animal that was likely to destroy crops or livestock; every person and municipality had to destroy the designated pests. Where their pest control was not adequate, the provincial government could carry it out and charge the costs to the landowner or municipality.

Rats were designated as pests in 1950. An amendment to the act in 1950 further required that every municipality appoint a pest control inspector. In 1951, conferences on rat control were held in eastern Alberta, and 2000 posters and 1500 pamphlets titled "Rat Control in Alberta" were distributed to grain elevators, railway stations, schools, post offices, and private citizens.

Between June 1952 and July 1953, [more than 140,000 pounds] of arsenic trioxide powder were used to treat 8000 buildings on 2700 farms in an area 12 to 31 miles wide and 186 miles long on the eastern border. Some residents were not informed that arsenic was being used and some, allegedly, were told that the tracking powder was only harmful to rodents. Consequently, some poisoning of livestock, poultry, and pets occurred. Fortunately, Warfarin—the first anticoagulant rodent poison—became available in 1953; Warfarin is much safer than arsenic, and in fact is prescribed to some heart patients as a blood thinner.

The number of rat infestations in the border area increased rapidly from one in 1950 to 573 in 1955. However, after 1959, the numbers of infestations dropped dramatically.

The provincial share of rat control expenses increased to 100 percent in 1975. All premises within the control zone from Montana to Cold Lake are now inspected at least annually. Rat infestations are eliminated by bait, gas, or traps. Buildings are occasionally moved or torn down, and in some cases, rats are dug out with a backhoe or bulldozer. In the early days they also used shotguns, incendiaries, and high explosives to control rats. It was something of a war zone.

Hundreds of suspected infestations are reported each year, but most sightings turn out to be muskrats, pocket gophers, ground squirrels, bushy-tailed wood rats, or mice. However, all suspected infestations are investigated.

A few white rats have been brought in by pet stores, biology teachers, and well-meaning individuals who did not know it was unlawful to have rats in Alberta, even white lab rats or pet rats. White rats can only be kept by zoos, universities, colleges, and recognized research institutions in Alberta. Private citizens may not keep white rats, hooded rats, or any of the strains of domesticated Norway rats. Possession of a pet rat can lead to a fine of up to $5000.

In 2004 someone released 38 rats in Calgary. By the time the rat control officers arrived, most of them were dead. The local residents had formed a posse and killed them with brooms, 2x4s, and shovels. If the authorities had caught the culprit, he could have faced a $190,000 fine (38 x $5000)—assuming his neighbors didn’t get to him with brooms, 2x4s, and shovels first. Albertans don’t want rats.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Why Do Students Get Summers Off?

Iam Anupong/iStock via Getty Images
Iam Anupong/iStock via Getty Images

It’s commonly believed that school kids started taking summers off in the 19th century so that they’d have time to work on the farm. Nice as that story is, it isn’t true. Summer vacation has little to do with tilling fields and more to do with sweaty, rich city kids playing hooky—and their sweaty, rich parents.

Before the Civil War, farm kids never had summers off. They went to school during the hottest and coldest months and stayed home during the spring and fall, when crops needed to be planted and harvested. Meanwhile, city kids hit the books all year long—summers included. In 1842, Detroit’s academic year lasted 260 days.

But as cities got denser, they got hotter. Endless lanes of brick and concrete transformed urban blocks into kilns, thanks to what was known as the “urban heat island effect.” That’s when America’s swelling middle and upper class families started hightailing it to the cooler countryside. And that caused a problem. School attendance wasn’t mandatory back then, and classrooms were being left half-empty each summer. Something had to give.

Legislators, in one of those if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em moments, started arguing that kids should get summers off anyway. It helped that, culturally, leisure time was becoming more important. With the dawn of labor unions and the eight-hour workday, working adults were getting more time to themselves than ever before. Advocates for vacation time also argued (incorrectly) that the brain was a muscle, and like any muscle, it could suffer injuries if overused. From there, they argued that students shouldn’t go to school year-round because it could strain their brains. To top it off, air conditioning was decades away, and city schools during summertime were miserable, half-empty ovens.

So by the turn of the century, urban districts had managed to cut about 60 schooldays from the most sweltering part of the year. Rural schools soon adopted the same pattern so they wouldn’t fall behind. Business folks obviously saw an opportunity here. The summer vacation biz soon ballooned into what is now one of the country’s largest billion-dollar industries.

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