Cat and Dog Origins & Breeds


Icon of a book Information to Make Informed Choices

Domestic animals have been bred by humans for centuries. Selective animal breeding has been used to modify the characteristics and traits of domestic animals, and involves the application of different types of scientific knowledge and research:

  • Genetics
  • Animal physiology
  • Reproductive technologies 
  • Statistics

The increasing use of technology in animal breeding has allowed animal breeders to breed for very specific traits. This use of technology includes biotechnology, which includes any use of science or technology to alter the characteristics of a particular breed or animal. Selective breeding is one form of biotechnology. It involves the process of mating two animals in an attempt to produce offspring with more desirable characteristics or traits. Selective breeding is a form of biotechnology that people have used for thousands of years. Artificial insemination, inseminating a female with sperm, and in vitro fertilization, fertilizing an egg outside of the body, are also forms of biotechnology.

Genetic engineering is another form of biotechnology and uses technology to add DNA to an animal. Simply put, its goal is to add one or more traits that are not already found in that animal. Genetic engineering in animals is a very new science.

Biotechnology can provide benefits for both animals and people. It can improve an animal’s resistance to disease and increase its productivity – including, for example, the number of eggs laid by hens and the amount of milk produced by dairy cows. When it comes to companion animals, biotechnology is used to select genetic traits in animals that have desirable physical or performance traits. However, biotechnology can also raise a number of ethical and moral issues and questions. Some people believe that the genetic selection of certain physical or performance traits can be associated with distress and serious health issues for the animal.

What to Know About Dog Breeds

Knowledge of the characteristics and background of dog breeds is extremely important when choosing one. Each breed of dog has different personality traits and care requirements.

Dogs were initially selectively bred for various functions. Then, during the Victorian era, they were bred for various appearances. The majority of modern dog breeds were originally developed in the Victorian era (Parker et al. 2017; Spady and Ostrander 2008).

There are over 180 breeds of dogs that are recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club, each with their own natural instincts, characteristics and appearance. A purebred dog, defined by the Canada Animal Pedigree Act, is a dog that has parents of the same breed registered with the Canadian Kennel Club. 

One advantage of purebred dogs is that the qualities of each generation, such as size, coat and temperament, are passed on to the next. The chart below can help identify the varied needs of breeds with different characteristics.

What does the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Kennels say about dog breeds?

“Dogs, whether purebred or mixed-breed, can be obtained from various sources, including breeders, pet stores, humane societies or SPCAs and rescue groups. When selecting a particular dog from any of these sources, it is important to match the characteristics of the dog with the lifestyle of the owner.”

SIZE Determines space requirement
COAT TYPE Determines grooming time needed
ENERGY LEVEL Determines space requirement and exercise needs
ORIGINAL PURPOSE Indicates innate activity (e.g., barking, protecting, retrieving)
TEMPERAMENT Determines training needs, level of independence or attachment, aggressive/passive nature, etc.
ALLERGIES Some breeds cause less suffering for allergy patients
Excerpts obtained from the Code of Practice for Kennel Operations (2nd Edition, 2007), Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

What to Know About Cat Breeds

Knowledge of the characteristics and background of cat breeds can help cat owners understand the animal. Cat breeds can vary in their body type, coat colour, length of coat and eye colour.

It is believed that people have been breeding cats for over 8,000 years. There are over 70 breeds of cats that can generally be divided into three large groups – natural, hybrid and mutation. 

Natural Breeds 

These are breeds that developed naturally in specific geographical regions. Because these cats lived together in a limited space with the same climatic conditions, cats bred among themselves and their characteristics became “evenly” distributed so that they all eventually resembled each other. 

Hybrid Breeds 

Hybrid cat breeds are bred from two animals of different breeds and species. Natural hybrid breeds can occur when domestic cats or feral cats breed with wild cats. Other hybrid cat breeds result from intentional or selective breeding between domestic cats and wild cats. 

Mutation Breeds 

Mutation breeds are cats that have unique characteristics that have occurred from mutations. These mutations have been kept through selective breeding. Mutations can affect the cat’s coat, eyes, ears, tail or legs.

What does the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Catteries say about cat breeds?

“Cats can be obtained from various sources, including breeders, pet stores, humane societies or SPCAs, and rescue groups. When selecting a particular cat from any of these sources, it is important to match the characteristics of the cat with the owner.” 

Cats are considered pedigreed and not purebred. Pedigreed cats are of known and recorded ancestry. Cat breeds are separated into breed classifications. 

The term “breed” is used to describe natural breeds, established breeds, mutations and hybrids. 

Individuals are involved in cat breeding for a number of reasons, among them being the improvement of the breed and the progeny resulting from their breeding stock. Cats are mainly bred to be companion animals and are not generally obtained to serve a function other than companionship.

Excerpts from the Code of Practice for Cattery Operations (2009) by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association have been used with permission.

Icon of a graded written submission Making A Choice (Activity)

What’s involved in making an informed decision about the animal you want to raise and care for?

There are a number of different factors to consider, including:

  • The type of domestic animal
  • The breed of the animal
  • The animal’s sex

You have chosen to work with, or are working with, a specific type of domestic animal. Domestic animals that share characteristics are grouped into breeds, and often described with the breed name. Animal breeds have very similar, defining characteristics or traits that are passed on to their offspring when they reproduce.

Take a few minutes to complete the following activity. 

Activity Instructions

  1. Open your copy of the activities booklet for this module which you saved on your computer at the beginning of the module.
  2. Scroll down to the “Making A Choice” activity item in the booklet.
  3. Complete each of the activities outlined in the instructions.
  4. SAVE your work.

When you are done, proceed to the next item here in the online course.

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