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Caroline Ruins Adam Ruins Everything

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300 – November/December 2019

By Caroline Coile
The other day I settled down for lunch and clicked on the TV. Oh good, another episode of Adam Ruins Everything, the show where this guy tells you what you always thought was true isn’t. I briefly thought, “Wouldn’t it be good if Adam could set people straight about how animal rights zealots mislead animal lovers when it comes to dogs?” And it was just at that moment that I saw this episode was about “Adam Ruins Purebred Dogs.” If you want to see the episode you can Google that title on YouTube and find it. More than 8 million people already have, according to the YouTube stats.
Let me repeat that: More than 8 million people, in addition to the television audience, have watched this episode since it was first aired in 2016.
Has the AKC responded to it? I don’t know. If they have, they haven’t mentioned it. Has anybody responded to it? Again, I don’t know. I do know it won’t hurt to respond again even if I’m not the first, because assuming “somebody will do it” is the way nobody will do it.
So here is the complete text of the episode, along with my responses I am sending:
Dear Adam Ruins Everything:
I regret that your segment on purebred dogs has ruined your show for me. Unfortunately, its degree of misinformation has led me to doubt the scholarship or impartiality of your other episodes. I would be extremely impressed if Adam were brave enough to revisit this topic, this time with adequate research. Please read on to find out why Adam’s assertion that “purebreds are the worst dogs” is grossly misinformed.
Adam: “Not only are so-called purebred dogs riddled with disease, but they’re not even a real thing, we made them up. In fact mutts are dogs in their natural, healthy state and purebred dogs are just the results of genetic manipulation humans made up just to amuse ourselves. Outside of a few traditional working dogs, 90% of all dog breeds were created in just the last 100 years.
Let’s take this in parts.
1) “Not only are so-called purebred dogs riddled with disease…” False. It may seem like purebreds have a lot of diseases because purebred breeders have funded studies to uncover every disease their breed may have. No such parent club funding exists for mixes. While in some cases diseases may be more common in certain breeds compared to others or to mixes, in most cases these diseases are still uncommon even within these breeds—however, breed clubs are careful to alert owners that these diseases exist, and to promote testing for them, both of which give the impression they are more common than they are.
2) “…mutts are dogs in their natural, healthy state…” False. Dogs in their “natural” state tend to share a group of traits seen in dogs categorized as “pariah dogs” or “primitive breeds.” These traits include prick ears, small to medium size, short to medium fur, curled tail and tawny coat. Examples are the Carolina Dog, Indian Pariah Dog, Dingo, Basenji, New Guinea Singing Dog and many others. Not mutts, as you call them.
As for health: In a five-year study at the University of California-Davis veterinary school, there was no difference between mixed-breed and purebred dogs in the prevalence of most common inherited disorders. ( Hip dysplasia, cancers, patellar luxation, epilepsy and many other diseases commonly considered genetic were as common in mixes as they were in purebreds. Certain diseases were more common in isolated breeds, or dogs that shared certain physical traits, which could skew results overall unless this was considered. For example, large size dogs, whether pure or mixed, are more likely to have elbow dysplasia, deep-chested dogs more likely to have bloat, and small dogs more likely to have patellar luxation. Dobermans are more likely to have a type of cardiomyopathy, and Westies skin allergies. A follow-up study confirmed this for several disorders: “For aortic stenosis, GDV, early onset cataracts, dilated cardiomyopathy, elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, and portosystemic shunt, most purebred groups were not statistically distinct from the mixed-breed population with higher prevalence in purebreds restricted to distinct subsets of purebred dogs.” ( In other words, the differences between purebreds and mixes were driven by certain diseases in certain breeds, not overall pure versus mix status. Note too, that a disease known to occur in a particular breed is more likely to be diagnosed in it, whereas if it occurs in a mix it is more likely to be unrecognized because it’s not on the list of usual suspects.
Veterinary geneticist Dr. Jerold Bell, of Tufts University, states: “The most common hereditary diseases occur across all purebred, mixed breed, and designer-bred dogs. These include cancer, eye disease, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, heart disease, autoimmune disease, allergies, patellar luxation, and elbow dysplasia. Labradoodles are being diagnosed with hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and inherited Addison’s disease; all recognized disorders in both parent breeds.”
Conscientious breeders use phenotype and genotype testing on all dogs they breed to avoid producing any with hereditary disease. They register results with open access databases such as the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and the Canine Health Information Center. The OFA has more than a million test results, and the CHIC has more than 70,000 dogs that have passed their specific breed health clearances. What health clearances have the parents of random-bred dogs (“mutts”) passed?
These tests have come about because purebred breeders, along with the AKC, have contributed more than $52 million to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, which has funded more than 760 studies with results in peer-reviewed articles. These have been of such importance that they’ve been cited by other researchers more than 26,000 times. No group has contributed more toward canine health in history. Who will contribute when purebred dog breeders are gone? Certainly not the “breeders” of random bred mixes.
Random bred dogs, while reaping these benefits, are unscreened.
Adam: “Purebred dogs are just the results of genetic manipulation humans made up just to amuse ourselves.” False. By ancient Egyptian times dogs were already diversified into different types, and selectively bred in a “like begets like” manner. These types were originally hunting (Saluki family), guarding (Mastiff family) and companion (Maltese family) dogs. Through the centuries they evolved to include vermin hunting, herding, rescue, draft, sledding, and more specialized types of hunters such as coursers, trailers, pointers, retrievers and so on. While a subset of companion dogs could be argued to have been developed “just to amuse ourselves” they are a minority and equally as important. Specialized dogs enabled humans to explore and settle the globe. Specialized dogs evolved because random-bred dogs could not have accomplished this.
Adam: “Outside of a few traditional working dogs, 90% of all dog breeds were created in just the last 100 years.” False. Please reference Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds for date of origin for dog breeds. Virtually none is after 1916, as Adam states in this 2016 program. Breeds such the Afghan Hound, Saluki, Basenji, Alaskan Malamute, Chinese Shar Pei, Tibetan Spaniel and many others date to ancient times, often kept pure from other breeds and referred to as specific breeds even in the earliest times. Many, many others have been around since the Middle Ages. The first official pedigree listings began in 1791 in the General Stud Book, although private lists had been kept before that time. Several breeds have pedigrees dating back several hundred years. The Bedlington Terrier, for example, has an unbroken pedigree dating to 1782.
Adam: “In 19th century Victorian England eugenics was all the rage and competitive dog breeding became the fad among the wealthy. After these Dr. Frankensteins had played God for a while they declared their little monsters the newest pure breed.” False. While 19th century England could be considered the birthplace of dog shows and multi-breed kennel clubs, the excitement for new breeds focused mostly upon importing unusual types of dogs from around the world in adequate numbers to recreate them. They were often admitted as new breeds immediately, assuming there were adequate numbers of them.
Adam: “When you think purebred you should think inbred. Kennel clubs prohibit purebred dogs from ever mating outside of their breed, and often mate them with their own parents and siblings.” False. When warranted, kennel clubs do allow outside matings, although it is not common. There are quite a few breeds that have documented AKC-approved crosses to other breeds, the most recent the cross of Dalmatians to Pointers to correct a bladder stone problem. In addition, in breeds in which a native population still exists, for example Basenjis and Salukis, unregistered imports (from the jungle or desert) are allowed into the AKC gene pool. Some kennel clubs prohibit the matings between siblings or parent-offspring. Even when it isn’t prohibited, such matings are rare.
Adam: “One study found that 10,000 pugs have the same genetic diversity as 50 individuals, making this little guy [points to pug] as inbred as an Austrian duke…” False. I am pretty good at finding journal articles and scientific studies, but I hit a brick wall trying to track down this alleged study. Oh sure, I found multiple anti-purebred/anti-Pug sites citing it. A few even gave a reference. In every case the reference led back to another uncited source and ultimately back in a circle. In short, this “study” appears to be a figment of somebody’s imagination. I did, however, find a UK study of Pug effective population size, which found it to be 134 ( By the way, for comparison, Holstein cattle have an effective population size of 66 to 79. The genetic 50/500 rule states that a minimum population size of 50 is needed to combat inbreeding, and a minimum of 500 individuals is needed to reduce genetic drift. Kennel clubs recognize the desirability of large effective population sizes, which is why they conduct such studies.
Adam: “All this inbreeding means that purebred dogs are sicker than, well, a dog. Sixty percent of Golden retrievers die of cancer; a third of King Charles Spaniels have skulls that are too small for their brain; Great Danes are so huge that their hearts can’t support their bodies; and, as for little dogs, have you ever seen a little dog that seemed happy?” There is some truth in this, unfortunately. About 33 percent of all domestic dogs will develop cancer. About 23 percent of all humans will. In Golden Retrievers, the higher rate is due to two types: hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma, both of which overall have the same incidence rates in mixed breeds. And Cavaliers can have the condition you describe. But Great Danes do not have “hearts too small to support their body” and well, we’ll just let the last statement about little dogs go as I realize it was supposed to be funny. But really, finding three breeds to use as examples out of approximately 400 breeds is transparently misleading.
Adam: “The bulldog is a total genetic failure, a century of inbreeding has ruined them. Their nose is so squashed they can hardly breathe; their head so big they can only give birth by C-section; their tails can become ingrown, they basically all have hip dysplasia, and their average life expectancy is 6 years. Let’s face it, these dogs shouldn’t even be alive.” Mostly False. Bulldog breeding schemes are seeking to reverse any trend toward any traits that interfere with breathing, and some kennel clubs restrict dogs from further breeding once they have a C-section. Does this Bulldog look like he is having a hard time breathing? … Does he look like he needs a “Kill Me” label as was posted on the Bulldog picture on the program? As for hip dysplasia, it is true that Bulldogs have the highest rate of hip dysplasia as judged by radiographs; however, perhaps because of their muscular hindquarters, few suffer from its clinical manifestations. Also, the most recent (2013) study found life expectancy for Bulldogs was 8.4 years. That’s over two years more than Adam reported.
Adam: “Best in show is more like best in the freak show. The sad truth is the kennel clubs could cure all the Bulldog’s problems if they would just let them cross breed. But they won’t because then they might not look like the cute little Bulldogs everyone loves. But our insistence that they live up to our arbitrary standard is causing them to get sick and die. As much as you love the bulldog, the fact that it exists at all is borderline animal abuse.” This, along with the sign advocating “Kill Me,” is hate speak, similar to the words of various radical animal rights groups which are determined to eradicate domestic dogs by first attacking planned breeding.
Adam: “…an easy solution, when you get a dog don’t worry about what breed it is, just go to the shelter and get yourself a mutt. It will be happy, healthy and 100% all natural dog.” This is probably the most false and dangerous statement in the entire program. Dog breeds differ as much in behavior as they do in appearance. One of their advantages is that you can choose a breed that fits your lifestyle, or put another way, you can make sure you will fit your dog’s lifestyle. The proper match ensures a long relationship; an incompatible match too often means dogs end up being surrendered to shelters. With mixes, we don’t know what their behavioral tendencies are. At present, the vast majority of dogs in shelters are pit bulls and pit bull mixes. Many of these shelter dogs, particularly pits and pit mixes, are responsible for fatal attacks on humans and other dogs. Dog aggression is a result of both genetics and experience; with the shelter mutt we don’t know either, and too often we bring home a dangerous or incompatible dog that was supposed to be our companion but instead is our nightmare. Rescue dogs can be great dogs, but they are not for everybody, and people should have the option to buy a health-tested dog with known behavioral tendencies or to take their chance buying a random-bred dog of unknown health and experiential background.
In fact, you know what would be a great topic for Adam Ruins Everything? Adam Ruins Rescue. While dog lovers all support legitimate rescue, we do not support taking advantage of kind hearted people at the expense of dogs in order to make a profit. Google retail rescue. You’ll have a great show.

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300 – November/December 2019

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