Perception Of Short-Muzzled Dog Breeds As Cute
“Brachycephalia” refers to the short muzzles and flattened faces of certain dog breeds such as bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers. These physical traits can cause serious health issues. Despite the broad scientific understanding of these issues and advocacy campaigns against breeding dogs with brachycephaly, the popularity of brachycephalic breeds has recently increased.
Some researchers argue that humans think that brachycephalic dogs are cute and, when seeking a companion animal, opt for “cuteness” over the animal’s welfare. A recent study investigated the cuteness hypothesis. Ultimately, the study found that while the demand for brachycephalic breeds may be driven partially by cuteness, the reality may be more complicated.
To carry out the study, a multinational team of researchers used a large dataset of online dog and puppy advertisements taken from a companion animal sales website in the United Kingdom. Using the above-mentioned dataset, the team analyzed over 40,000 distinct advertisements to see how likely an advertisement was to use the words “cute,” “adorable,” and “sweet” to describe dogs with and without brachycephaly. The results provided partial support for the claim that the popularity of brachycephalic breeds stems from their cuteness.
According to their analysis, brachycephalic dogs are more likely to be described as “cute,” but not as “sweet” or “adorable.” Brachycephalic puppies are more likely to be described as “cute” and “adorable” than non-brachycephalic dogs or brachycephalic adults. When the sample is confined to adult dogs, non-brachycephalic dogs are more likely to be described as “sweet.” However, other factors were more important in determining whether a dog was described as “cute,” “adorable,” or “sweet,” including size (with smaller dogs more commonly described in these terms) and age (puppies were more likely to be called “cute” or “adorable,” and adults “sweet”).
This study shows that humans are more likely to see short-muzzled dogs with flattened faces as cute, especially if the dogs are puppies. However, brachycephaly is not the most important factor affecting whether humans see a dog as cute — the size of a dog had the strongest effect in this study. In general, it’s important for animal advocates to pay attention to these trends so they can tailor their campaigns accordingly.