For me it’s hard to top a mutt

I don’t mean this as a slap toward people with purebred dogs. I’ve just never had a reason to possess one. I have great admiration for the skills these pedigreed canines can acquire and demonstrate. Overall expense for me was never justified.

Watching a good lab retrieve waterfowl in cold windy conditions is captivating. I also enjoy seeing a beagle get the scent of a rabbit or a Brittany do its thing with quail, grouse or pheasants. Border collies and other herding breeds make moving livestock much easier too.

My father-in-law loved his coonhounds. Some cost him a month’s salary and he worked them night after night to earn that money back. He loved his hunting dogs the way western cowboys loved their horses.

There’s no question that if I was a serious hunter I’d probably have a proper dog for the job at hand. The problem is that all I really want is a dog who will be my friend. I don’t need a fancy dog. I’m happy with a mutt.

Now it’s true that mutts can be taught to hunt, retrieve, herd and guide. Some are very intelligent and trainable. We just don’t always know what we’re getting. Champion hunting or herding dogs usually are offspring of the same. Pedigree is highly regarded and experienced people will invest in those animals. Why argue with success?

Your average person doesn’t really need that type of pedigree. Most people want a companion animal and there are a lot of mutts around needing a home.

I must admit there are some advantages of a purebred. The owner knows roughly the size, shape and temperament of the breed. However, temperament and general manners can be trained into a canine. I’m no expert and I’ve done it.

There will forever be arguments as to whether purebreds or mixed breeds are healthier. I’ve heard all the arguments on both sides. You probably have too. We know that whenever we inbreed we narrow the gene pool and concentrate harmful traits.

However, mutts get all the same diseases like hip dysplasia, heart disease, kidney diseases and various cancers. Certain breeds might be more prone to some but all dogs can get them. That goes the same for parasites.

Some purebred connoisseurs might claim that mutts are more likely to have parasites, since they probably did not receive as much medical care early in life. Overall statistics might even show that, but that problem has more to do with treatment than it does breeding.

Nobody is going to herd cattle with a Chihuahua mix. I doubt that little toy dog would make a great rescue animal either, nor would it be proficient at retrieving ducks in cold rough water.

It all comes down to procuring the dog you want and taking care of it. All dogs deserve regular veterinary care and proper nutrition. I’ve owned what some might call worthless old mutts, but these dogs would lay down their life for me in a heartbeat. You can’t buy that at any price.

One of my favorite mutts and a fixture in our family for 11 years

One of my favorite mutts and a fixture in our family for 11 years

Trevor and Blazer

Perhaps my most loyal mutt with his best friend


Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School (

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I recently retired from teaching high school agriculture after 25 years teaching with my wife. Until recently I wrote a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper ( I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone (presently out of print), a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death (this one is not yet published). In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books. I also wrote a romance novel titled Virginia. It is available on Amazon and is a different type of romance from a man's perspective.
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