DNA tests give similar information about a dog's ancestry as they do for humans. Apparently these tests can "confirm" a pooch's antecedents, also showing predispositions on health and behavior.
One of the first questions asked when taking an animal to a vet is about its breed. All well and good if you have shelled out huge sums for a particular breed, but when you adopt an abandoned or abused pooch, general appearance and the vet's knowledge of dog breeds is all we have to go on.
Molly mongrel is a case in point. She was automatically listed as a mongrel because she doesn't match any database. We can make a guess at her ancestry though, partly because dogs resembling Molly have been turning up wild born in a particular place for at least a dozen years.
Visually, she has the head crest and vestigial feathering of hind legs and tail of a flat-coated retriever. She has the smiling mouth and upright ears and coloring of a samoyed or husky. She has the temperament of a herding or livestock dog. She is as excitable and energetic as a terrier and she has a double-layered coat that sheds all year round.
The shedding has caused much frustration, not least because one of Molly's many traits is a dislike of being restrained. Once resigned to the necessity of a good brushing, Molly stands nervously in the garden to have handfuls of creamy white fur combed out each and every day.
On a breezy day it is like a bizarre snowstorm, with everyone sneezing and spitting to get rid of the floating silky soft undercoat, while the heavier top coat gets put in the trash.
It has also become a habit to release some of this natural bounty in the garden as it makes ideal bedding for a number of birds. The tradition has become familiar to the magpie robins, who swoop down for the luxury bedding, often before the donor has even moved back inside.
But the cheeky black and white bird that swooped on Molly recently as she skulked away with tufts of loose fur still wafting from her back was really chancing its luck. It snatched at a few strands barely disconnected from the grumpily shaking dog and headed jubilantly for the trees.
Georgina Noyce is an equestrian judge, and has a menagerie of adopted four-legged waifs and strays.