Fact Check

Is the 'Pandog' a Real Species Bred from Pandas and Dogs?

So-called "pandogs" have infiltrated the internet with claims suggesting that two species — panda and dog — have interbred.

Published March 30, 2024

 (@officialtiktokscience/TikTok)
Image Via @officialtiktokscience/TikTok
Claim:
A video shows "pandogs" — a real species bred from pandas and dogs.

With the playful spirit of a human's best friend and the fluffy white-and-black mask of one of China's most celebrated animals, "pandogs" have infiltrated the internet, with some claims suggesting that the two species — panda and dog — have interbred.

One video clip of "pandogs" was posted to Instagram on March 1, 2024, (archive), implying that it showed a genuine hybridization between the animals. At the time of this writing, it had received more than 88,000 likes.

However, this claim was not true. The same video was first shared to TikTok on Aug. 21, 2023, (archive) and claimed to tell the story of the world's first pandog.

The video, which discussed having "spliced" together DNA from a pet panda and dog, was shared by the account @officialtiktokscience, which is self-described (archive) as being a page dedicated to "🧬SCIENCE ANIMALS SATIRE🧬."

We have therefore rated this claim as "Originated as Satire." 

In an email, Michelle Kutzler, an Oregon State University professor of theriogenology — the study of advanced veterinary reproductive medicine — confirmed that pandogs are genetically impossible. 

"The [two] species cannot interbreed. A giant panda has 42 chromosomes, while a domestic dog has 78 chromosomes," Kutzler wrote to Snopes.

Kutzler is referring to hybrid speciation, defined in the 2016 edition of the Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology as the "hybridization between two or more distinct lineages that contributes to the origin of a new species." 

Hybridization is characterized by three criteria: evidence that it occurred, reproductive isolation from the parent species — meaning they cannot interbreed and produce viable offspring — and evidence this isolation is caused by hybridization. 

Most commonly, hybrid speciation is caused by allopolyploidy, the doubling of chromosomes. Hybrids, in short, have twice the number of chromosomes as their parents, preventing them from creating offspring with their parent species. (In this scenario, a "pandog" would not be able to breed with either a dog or a panda.) 

Hybrid speciation also can occur through homoploid hybrid speciation, or no change in chromosome number. This happens when hybrid species have evolved to eventually be reproductively isolated from their parental species over long periods of time. This is most commonly seen in plant species, and incredibly rarely in animal species. 

Hybridization speciation is not the same as interspecific hybrids, which include animals like ligers — tiger-lion mixes — or geeps — goat-sheep mixes. Why? Because these animals are, like mules, sterile and cannot breed beyond a single generation. Interspecific hybridization is described in the 2004 Encyclopedia of Grain Science as "the crossing of two species from the same genus. This allows the exploitation of useful genes from wild, unimproved species for the benefit of the cultivated species." 

While there's no such thing as a panda-dog hybrid species, there are dogs bred to look like pandas, and, yes, they are as adorable as they sound. 

"A panda dog, or a pandog, is a chow chow that has been dyed to look like a panda," Kutzler told Snopes.

As a testament to their cuteness, the internet abounds with dozens of news articles portraying dogs made to look like pandas, including news reports by the HuffPost, People, the New York Post and Good Housekeeping, to name a few.  

Snopes has debunked other claims related to dogs, including whether an image genuinely showed "a dog embryo in the womb after 7 days of gestation" and whether a video authentically showed a dog being rescued by a dolphin. More dog stories can be read here.

Sources

BCR. "Liger Facts." Big Cat Rescue, 7 Feb. 2019, https://bigcatrescue.org/liger-facts/.

"Encyclopedia of Biodiversity." ScienceDirect, http://www.sciencedirect.com:5070/referencework/9780123847201/encyclopedia-of-biodiversity. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

"Encyclopedia of Grain Science." ScienceDirect, http://www.sciencedirect.com:5070/referencework/9780127654904/encyclopedia-of-grain-science. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

Hybrid Speciation - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/hybrid-speciation#:~:text=In%20nearly%20all%20cases%2C%20the,parents%20to%20become%20new%20species. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/reel/C3_VRhMv_Ma/?igsh=MzRlODBiNWFlZA%3D%3D. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

"LOOK: Panda Dogs Are Dogs That Look Like Pandas." HuffPost, 13 May 2014, https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/panda-dogs_n_5316918.

Mavárez, Jesús, and Mauricio Linares. "Homoploid Hybrid Speciation in Animals." Molecular Ecology, vol. 17, no. 19, Oct. 2008, pp. 4181–85. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-294x.2008.03898.x.

Mine, O. M., et al. "Sheep-Goat Hybrid Born under Natural Conditions." Small Ruminant Research: The Journal of the International Goat Association, vol. 37, no. 1–2, July 2000, pp. 141–45. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1016/s0921-4488(99)00146-7.

News.com.au. China's Hot Pet Trend? Dogs Primped to Look like Pandas. 13 May 2014, https://nypost.com/2014/05/13/chinas-hot-pet-trend-dogs-primped-to-look-like-pandas/.

"'Panda'-Like Pups Take Over the Internet — and Put a 'Spot'-Light on Pet Adoption." Peoplemag, https://people.com/panda-looking-dogs-on-tiktok-and-instagram-photos-8411223. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

"Pandog - Cute Little Dogs from China." Pinterest, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/484207397413262972/. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

"Pandogs, Y'All | Panda Dog, Dog Dye, Panda Puppy." Pinterest, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/203858320602379626/. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

Puppies That Look like Pandas - Google Search. https://www.google.com/search?q=puppies+that+look+like+pandas&oq=puppies+that+look+like+pandas&gs_lcrp=EgZjaHJvbWUyBggAEEUYOdIBCDMwOTlqMGo0qAIAsAIB&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#ip=1. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

"This Woman Dyes Her Puppies to Look Like Pandas — and Animal Lovers Are Furious." Good Housekeeping, 10 Feb. 2016, https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/pets/news/a36838/chow-chow-dog-pandas/.

TikTok - Make Your Day. https://www.tiktok.com/@officialtiktokscience/video/7269969156013968682. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

---. 27 Mar. 2024, https://web.archive.org/web/20240327204424/https://www.tiktok.com/@officialtiktokscience/video/7269969156013968682.

---. https://www.tiktok.com/@officialtiktokscience. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.

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