Can you guess the top 10 most common breeds in mixed-breed dogs?
If you’ve tested your dog with Embark, you may know that breed ancestry doesn’t always dictate appearance, leading to some surprises. We often receive questions from customers about the breeds in their dog’s genetic ancestry—especially the unexpected ones.
We analyzed genetic data from nearly one million dogs in North America with mixed-breed ancestry. These are the top 10 most common breeds that show up in the ancestry of Embark-tested mixed-breed dogs. Read on to see if your guesses were correct and find out what the #1 most common breed is.
The 10 most common dog breeds in Embark ancestry results
10. American Staffordshire Terrier
1.9% of Embark-tested mixed-breed dogs have American Staffordshire Terrier ancestry.
This breed got its start centuries ago in Great Britain, with a tragic history involving being used for sport. As the American Kennel Club writes, “these sad spectacles did, however, leave us a happy legacy.” These dogs arrived in America by the mid-1800s, and US breeders developed the American Staffordshire Terrier breed, which the AKC recognized as separate from the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
The American Staffordshire Terrier rose in popularity in the late 19th century and quickly became an American favorite, even appearing in movies like Little Rascals. It is now the 81st most popular breed in the United States. It’s been estimated that up to 20% of dogs in American shelters contain some American Staffordshire Terrier ancestry.
In fact, Embark CEO Ryan Boyko adopted his dog, Harley, from a shelter. Turns out she’s 50% American Staffordshire Terrier.
2.8% of Embark-tested mixed-breed dogs have Boxer ancestry.
The Boxer is the 14th most popular breed in America. Descended from war dogs of the Assyrian Empire, the American Kennel Club writes that the first ancestors of these dogs can be traced as far back as 2500 BC. The Boxer is a cousin to practically all recognized breeds of the Bulldog type.
According to the AKC, over the years, Boxers have done many jobs, including cattle dog, police dog, war dog, watchdog, and guide dog. The Boxer rose in popularity in the 1950s, and has consistently been one of the top 10 breeds in America ever since.
The Boxer also holds a special place in the hearts of many geneticists. The first dog reference genome published in 2005 is from a Boxer named Tasha.
8. Chow Chow
3.0% of Embark-tested mixed-breed dogs have Chow Chow ancestry.
Many people are surprised to learn that their dog has Chow Chow ancestry, but there’s a reason why it’s so common.
Though purebred Chows are not especially common in most places today, they were an AKC top 10 breed in the 1980s and popular into the 1990s. Some of those Chows bred with other dogs, and today their mixed-breed descendants retain small amounts of Chow ancestry.
Dr. Adam Boyko, Chief Science Officer at Embark, explains why so many breeds have Chow Chow ancestry. (Hint: your dog’s tongue might contain a clue.)
7. Poodle (Small)
3.2% of Embark-tested mixed-breed dogs have Miniature or Toy Poodle ancestry.
A small Poodle is a Miniature or a Toy. These two Poodle sizes have genetic profiles that are so similar that Embark groups them under one name.
According to the AKC, Poodles as a group were the fifth most popular breed in the US in 2021, with Miniature Poodles being the most common variety. Small Poodles are also a popular choice for designer breeds with low-shedding coats, explaining one reason behind their continued prevalence in the US.
6. Siberian Husky
3.7% of Embark-tested mixed-breed dogs have Siberian Husky ancestry.
The Siberian Husky is the 19th most popular breed in America. Their ancestors originated in northeastern Asia, living with the Chukchi people as companion dogs and sled dogs. Siberian Huskies made headlines for their speed in sled dog racing, with Balto being the most famous.
Recent years have seen a rise in the number of Siberian Huskies and Husky mixes in shelters. Some speculate that this trend is due to the popularity of the TV show Game of Thrones, and the fact that Huskies look strikingly similar to the dire wolves portrayed on the show.
5. Australian Cattle Dog
4.6% of Embark-tested mixed-breed dogs have Australian Cattle Dog ancestry.
The Australian Cattle Dog is the 51st most popular breed in the US as of 2021. Also known as the Blue Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog is related to Australia’s famous wild dog, the dingo.
The Australian Cattle Dog is among the top ten breeds commonly found in shelters. These dogs are highly energetic and need plenty of outdoor space and exercise to thrive. If this type of home environment is unavailable, or if pet owners are not prepared for their dog’s high energy levels, it contributes to the high numbers of Australian Cattle Dogs in shelters, especially in densely populated cities. Allowing intact dogs to roam freely can also add new puppy litters to the growing population of Australian Cattle Dogs in shelters.
5.1% of Embark-tested mixed-breed dogs have Chihuahua ancestry.
Why do so many dogs that don’t look like Chihuahuas have Chihuahua ancestry?
Chihuahuas are a staggeringly diverse breed, both in appearance and genetics, so it’s not too unusual for us to test some Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes that look a little different. Chihuahuas are an ancient breed that in modern times has been bred into many diverse lines.
The breed standard was developed to depict the perfect dog to do their job in each breed. Because no dog meets the standard exactly, you will find Chihuahuas that are bigger than the recommended eight-pound limit.
3. Labrador Retriever
5.7% of Embark-tested mixed-breed dogs have Labrador Retriever ancestry.
According to the American Kennel Club, the Labrador Retriever was the most popular breed in America in 2021 (and has been every year since 1991). It’s no surprise that so many dogs have Labrador ancestry.
Why are Labrador Retrievers so popular? The AKC suggests the answer might be their wonderful temperaments. Judy Heim describes Labradors as “light-switch dogs,” who are equally willing to turn “on” to go for a hike or a swim as they are to turn “off” and curl up to watch a movie at home. This temperament also makes the Lab an excellent service dog.
2. German Shepherd Dog
7.0% of Embark-tested mixed-breed dogs have German Shepherd Dog ancestry.
The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) often ranks in the top five most popular breeds in the US. According to the AKC, the breed became popular during the early 1900s, thanks in part to the canine movie stars of the era, including Rin-Tin-Tin and Strongheart.
The GSD was originally meant to be a herding breed, but has become one of the most versatile breeds and can adapt to many different canine occupations. With the rise of modern livestock management, the GSD became known as an ideal K-9 worker, and today is the preferred breed for many law enforcement and service dog training organizations.
1. American Pit Bull Terrier
14.8% of Embark-tested mixed-breed dogs have American Pit Bull Terrier ancestry.
In general, Pit Bull Terriers (or related breeds) are among the most common dogs in America, so it’s not at all surprising that ancestry related to them would show up in a large, perhaps even disproportionately large fraction of American mixed-breed dogs.
Almost 15% of American mixed-breed dogs have some American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) ancestry, and many miss out on adoption opportunities because of negative stereotypes of the APBT and Pit Bull mixes. No shelter wants a dog to miss out on the opportunity to be a part of a family due to misconceptions about the breed, but unexpected APBT ancestry can understandably be a cause for some confusion if the dog undergoes genetic testing.
At Embark, we believe that all dogs are good dogs, and that there is no scientific evidence behind Pit Bull stereotypes and bans. Several organizations, including the MSPCA-Angell, are working to debunk myths about the misrepresented breed.
Curious about your dog’s breed ancestry? An Embark dog DNA test analyzes 350+ breeds, with the option to test for 230+ genetic health risks and 35+ traits as well.