Fashion vs. Function in Cultural Evolution: The Case of Dog Breed Popularity

Abstract

We investigate the relationship between characteristics of dog breeds and their popularity between years 1926 and 2005. We consider breed health, longevity, and behavioral qualities such as aggressiveness, trainability, and fearfulness. We show that a breed’s overall popularity, fluctuations in popularity, and rates of increase and decrease around popularity peaks show typically no correlation with these breed characteristics. One exception is the finding that more popular breeds tend to suffer from more inherited disorders. Our results support the hypothesis that dog breed popularity has been primarily determined by fashion rather than function.

Publication
Ghirlanda S., Acerbi A., Herzog H., Serpell J. A. (2013), Fashion vs. Function in Cultural Evolution: The case of Dog Breed Popularity, PLOS ONE, 8(9), e74770