J is for Japanese Chin (and other DNA surprises)

A-to-Z Blogging Challenge 2015--J

When we adopted Tessa, the shelter’s best guess was that she was some sort of West Highland Terrier mix. She certainly has some Westie qualities, and we actually guessed she might have been part corgi, because of her short front legs, ears that stick out when she sleeps, and a few other quirks of personality. But we could never really pinpoint anything. She’s a mutt, and we love her.

Last spring, we decided to have a DNA test run on Tonks. These tests can tell if a dog has pure-breed heritage, and give the most likely candidates for the dog’s genetic makeup in the case of mixed-breeds. We ran the test on Tonks figuring that it was kind of like getting a 2-for-1 on the test, since Tessa’s lineage would show as well. If only things had been that clear.

The closest pure breeds on Tonks’s family tree were at the great-grandparent level, which is as far back as the tests can extrapolate. (This is why we’re considering testing Tessa now, just to get one level back on her side.) On one side–most likely Tessa’s, but they don’t mark them as maternal/paternal–she had a Lhasa Apso who mated with a mixed breed, and a Labrador Retriever who mated with a mixed breed. On the other side–likely the paternal one–she had a Chow Chow who mated with a mixed breed, then two mixed breeds who mated. So our Tonks is 5/8 utterly mixed.

We actually thought she had some Chow Chow in her, because she has spots on her tongue and her undercoat is incredibly thick. Two of her brothers also had the spots on their tongues. And discovering that Tessa is likely part Lhasa Apso makes sense when you look at her. Not sure where the Lab fits in, but that was marked as having been detected but at a lower confidence level. So might not actually be any Lab in them.

Then the paperwork goes on to list the most likely components of the mixed breed part of her DNA. This is where things really get interesting. In descending likelihood, they listed Chinese Crested, Swiss White Shepherd, Great Dane, Japanese Chin, and Border Terrier as possible components to her DNA. Yep, my fluffy girl could be a Great Dane mix. This cracks me up. What’s interesting, though, is that we can see resemblances to nearly all of these breeds in Tessa’s puppies. Truffle (whose name is now Flint) was much larger than all the others, even at birth, and at 4 months he was already over 40 pounds. He won’t ever reach Dane size, but he is definitely a large breed. Timon, who was the runt, is a wiry thing, and weighs less than 20 pounds. He definitely has the feisty personality of a Chinese Crested, with the appearance of a terrier.

Look how huge I am. I'm totally a Great Dane!

Look how huge I am. I’m totally a Great Dane!

While I take the possible mixes with a grain of salt, given how distant any other pure bred ancestors must have been, it is definitely fascinating to see these results. We do plan on running Tessa’s now, just because we’re curious to see if having that extra level of ancestry reveals anything new. And we’ve always wondered what Charlie’s origins are, because he looks like a Westie-Cairn mix, but with a little something else thrown in. No results from DNA tests could ever make us love our dogs any less, though. All it would do would be to help us have better answers when we go to the dog park and everyone says, “Aw, they’re so cute! What are they?”

Have you tested your dog’s DNA? Any surprising results? Share with us in the comments!

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