Pig is her own breed. To me, she is just 1 in a million." -- Kim Dillenbeck
One of the first questions people ask when they meet Pig the Unusual Dog is: "What breed is Pig?"
The short-spined mixed-breed pup has become a world-wide sensation since first being spotted at this year's Do Dah Day festival in May and after being featured in a story on AL.com in early June. Pig's Facebook page, which was created in late June, has more than 76,500 followers. Media outlets around the world have told Pig's story. Pig often is an invited guest at area animal festivals and other events. Pig's human, Kim Dillenbeck of Helena, has founded the nonprofit Pig's Foundation to help raise funds for individuals who rescue, as well as for established rescues, and to raise awareness that just because an animal may look a bit unusual, doesn't mean that animal should not have a happy life.
But that one question keeps coming up: What breed is Pig?
My bet was on at least some Akita. Wisdom Panel 2.0 says I lose that bet.
Wisdom Panel says Pig is a Boxer, Chow Chow, American Staffordshire Terrier mix. Yep. There's some pit in Pig.
Other traces possible in Pig's ancestry include Portuguese Water Dog, Alaskan Klee Kai, Scottish Deerhound, Lakeland Terrier and, oddly, Maltese.
Wisdom Panel points out that the mixed breed signatures MAY HAVE contributed to Pig's genetic makeup, but that it is highly unlikely that all those breeds are present. Yeah, I'm not seeing the Maltese. But Boxer, Chow Chow and American Staffordshire Terrier are definitely there.
Kim Dillenbeck, Pig's owner, was surprised by the results.
"I felt like a cartoon character with my head crooked sideways going, 'huh?'" Dillenbeck said. "I don't see any of those close to her by appearance."
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Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, focuses on animal issues for the Alabama Media Group. He is also a community engagement specialist for AL.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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But a more thorough look at the results is revealing. The physical characteristics and personality traits of Pig turn out to be closer to those breeds than one might think. And just because no Akita showed up in the DNA test doesn't mean Pig doesn't have Akita. It just means the Akita marker Pig may have wasn't identified.
The Wisdom Panel DNA tests are credible -- for how much they show, anyway. An Auburn University geneticist in the College of Veterinary Medicine vouches for the test, and he was once was a skeptic.
"Everybody thought Akita," Dillenbeck said. "I was was thinking something like a smaller dog, but I was wide open. I've never seen her (Pig's) mother's personality. Pig has all these interesting traits, and there are so many breeds out there.
"With that tail and all that hopping, maybe rabbit?"
The Wisdom Panel did not pick up any rabbit.
Pig is a small dog, about 16 pounds, but that is as much a result of short-spine syndrome as anything. Dillenbeck said Pig's sister, who is not a short-spine syndrome canine, is about knee high and just under 40 pounds.
"Science believes that she is X-Y-Z," Dillenbeck said. "I don't want to knock Wisdom Panel; I just think it's going to make people giggle a little bit because of her physical size. It'll be another one of those things where it'll be fun to see people's reactions, like when they first see her."
It is hard to think of Pig as a muscle breed.
"The smallest muscle breed you ever saw," Dillenbeck quipped. But Dillenbeck admits that much of Pig's personality traits do line up with traits of the breeds revealed by the Wisdom Panel. Some of the physical characteristics show up, too, Dillenbeck said, when you look closely.
When Pig is relaxed, her ears look like the American Staffordshire Terrier. When she's alert, her ears are more like the Chow's. Pig has a lot of Boxer personality traits: She's intelligent, hard-working and playful, with a lot of energy. She's eager to learn and responds well to reward-based training using treats and toys. And Pig is competitive, especially in one particular way:
"I would say she's competitive for attention," Dillenbeck said with a laugh.
But whatever it comes down to, Pig is, well, just Pig the Unusual Dog.
"Pig is her own breed," Dillenbeck said. "To me, she is just 1 in a million. As much as I can see her potential in all these breeds, she is still just Pig."
Pig's DNA test results from Wisdom Panel