What is a Mutt?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

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 a mixed-breed dog that is not usually bred deliberately.
A mutt is a mixed-breed dog that is not usually bred deliberately.

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.

A mutt playing.
A mutt playing.

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.

A Shih-Poo is a crossbreed between a Poodle and Shih Tzu.
A Shih-Poo is a crossbreed between a Poodle and Shih Tzu.

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.

Unintentional breeding resulting in mutts can nonetheless produce dogs with wonderful traits.
Unintentional breeding resulting in mutts can nonetheless produce dogs with wonderful traits.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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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).


Nice article. Mutts make the best pets.


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.


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!


@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!


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!


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!


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.


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!


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.


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!

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