Is There a Difference Between Mutts and Mixed-Breed Dogs?

eldadcarin/iStock via Getty Images
eldadcarin/iStock via Getty Images

July 31 is National Mutt Day, a day to celebrate everything great about mutts. In 2005, animal welfare advocate Colleen Paige created the day, which is acknowledged once again on December 2 (because all those good boys and girls deserve two days of nonstop treats and belly rubs). But what exactly is a mutt? Is it the same as a mixed-breed dog? And how does it differ from other dog breeds?

First off: The fact that National Mutt Day is also referred to as National Mixed Breed Dog Day should tell you something—namely, that mutts and mixed-breeds are basically the same thing. Meaning that, as the latter name suggests, they are made up of more than one breed of dog.

Whereas purebred dogs have registration papers that confirm the dog's single-breed pedigree, mutts aren't registered and each of their parents could be a mix of several breeds themselves.

Where it gets a little confusing is when you come to designer or hybrid dogs, where two specific breeds are intentionally cross-bred in order to create a sort of sub-breed that mixes the best traits of both pups (like mating a poodle with a Labrador to get a Labradoodle). Though designer dogs are extremely popular, they're essentially just fancy mutts. While the American Kennel Club (AKC) does offer some activities for mixed-breed dogs to take part in, the organization only formally recognizes purebred dogs on its official registry (sorry Puggle lovers).

Ladies Morgan and Mathilda Wood-Menzies
Ladies Morgan and Mathilda Wood-Menzies
Erin McCarthy

With so many different types of dog breeds, what are the benefits of adopting a mutt? According to the dog lovers behind National Mutt Day, approximately 80 percent of all shelter dogs are mixed breeds. That’s a lot of dogs—and a lot of dogs in need of forever homes! And there are plenty of benefits to adopting a dog versus purchasing one: first, adopting a dog is almost always cheaper than purchasing one from a (reputable) breeder. And because there are so many dogs in shelters, and only so much room to accommodate them, adopting a dog means that you're potentially saving one dog's life and making room for another dog to move in to the shelter. (Of the 3.3 million dogs that enter shelters each year, the ASPCA estimates that 670,000 of them are euthanized.)

And when you get your mutt home, the benefits continue. Though there's some debate over the topic, some experts have found that because mixed-breed pooches aren’t exposed to as many genetically inherited health issues, they can often be healthier. According to some statistics, mutts can also have a longer life expectancy. Mutts are great in work situations, too, like serving as guide and therapy dogs or sniffing out drugs and bombs. And in 2014, for the first time ever, The Westminster Kennel Club allowed mutts to compete in their annual dog show.

One downside to owning a mutt (if it can be considered a downside) is that if you don't know a dog's ancestry, you might have trouble predicting its temperament or unique behaviors. But many pet parents see this as one of the benefits of adopting a mixed-breed pupper: they're full of surprises and totally unique. (Plus, dog DNA tests are widely available, so if you really want to know what your dog is made of, it's easy to find out.)

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, send it to bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Antoninapotapenko/iStock via Getty Images
Antoninapotapenko/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25 and ends on January 5. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Tevarak/iStock via Getty Images
Tevarak/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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