What is a Mongrel?

what is a mongrel dog

Is your dog a mongrel? While that name might carry a negative connotation, it’s really just another word for “mutt.” A mongrel is a mixed-breed dog, similar to a moggy cat (which is also mixed-breed). A mongrel is the opposite of a pedigree or purebred dog. The majority of domesticated cats and dogs in most families are moggy cats and mongrels. In fact, today, there are approximately 150 million mongrels living worldwide. Here we will dive into what makes a mongrel a mongrel, and what makes mongrels so special.


The word “mongrel” contains the Middle English root word “mong,” meaning “mix.” Mongrel, then, simply means a dog (or other animal) with mixed ancestry. It is not meant to be an insulting term (unless applied to humans, in which the word has been used as a slang term or slur).

Many mongrels have no purebred ancestors anywhere in their family tree. A mongrel is typically the result of the unintentional breeding of two dogs. The origin of the mongrel dates back to ancient times. During those times, texts that have been recovered referred to dogs who accompanied people in everyday life as “mongrels.” Mongrels were also described as dogs that could adapt to a variety of climate and weather conditions.


There is no one single appearance of a mongrel, as a mongrel is the result of a mixture of a variety of breeds. Mongrels are known for diversity in appearance, coat type and length, size, ear position, tail length – just about any feature of a dog you can think of. Each mongrel is different from the next.

One feature that is common to most mongrels, however, is an uneven coat color.  Most mongrels have multi-colored coats, and may be slightly spotted or have tan mixed in.

Mongrels vary in size and weight as well. One interesting predictor of a dog’s future size is the size of its feet. A mongrel puppy with feet that look too big for its body will usually grow to be larger dogs, while mongrels with feet that are proportionate to their body size usually end up being smaller or medium-sized adult dogs.


Because mongrels are so different from each other, it’s difficult to define any common characteristics. However, most (but not all) of them do share the following traits:

  • Higher intelligence – Mongrels are thought to be smarter than purebred dogs. It is believed that this is due to the fact that, throughout history, mongrels have had to learn to live on their own, in less affluent families than pedigree or purebred dogs. They developed determination, fortitude, and a better ability to handle crises.
  • Eager to learn new skills – Mongrels typically understand commands well and are eager to learn new skills
  • Tendency towards shyness – Many mongrels are shy and may not trust people, due to having lived in shelters during their lives. Past trauma can affect a dog for its entire life. However, if you adopt a mongrel from a shelter, your love and caring can change its temperament from a shy dog to a loving, friendly dog.

Common Health Issues

Because the genetic makeup of mongrels is not known, the health issues that they might suffer are also unknown. There are a few health issues that seem to be common to mongrels, however:

  • Cancer – Some mongrels will develop cancer as they grow older (just like humans).
  • Heartworm – Mongrels are prone to heartworm. This can be prevented with monthly treatments.
  • Kennel cough– As many mongrels are found in shelters, some of them develop kennel cough. This can be treated with antibiotics, rest, and adequate food and water.

Caring for a Mongrel

Mongrels are like other dogs, even though each one is unique, and need the same general type of care as other dogs (food, water, shelter, play and love).

Food and Water

Make sure to always provide adequate food and water for your mongrel, based upon its size, activity level and age. Check with your veterinarian for their recommendation of the best food to feed your mongrel. Most mongrels thrive on being fed twice a day. Based upon mongrel weight, food requirements usually are:

  • Mongrels that weigh 3 to 12 lbs.: need 1/3 to 1 cup of dry food each feeding
  • Mongrels weighing 13 to 20 lbs.: need 1 to 1 1/3 cup dry food
  • Mongrels weighing 21 to 35 lbs.: need 1 1/3 to 2 cups dry food
  • Mongrels weighing 36 to 50 lbs.: need 2 to 2 2/3 cups dry food
  • Mongrels weighing 51 to 75 lbs.: need 2 2/3 to 3 1/3 cups dry food
  • Mongrels weighing 76 to 100 lbs.: need 3 1/3 to 4 ¼ cups dry food
  • Mongrels weighing over 100 lbs.: need 4 ¼ cup dry food plus ¼ cup for each additional 10 pounds of weight over 100 lbs.

Mongrel puppies, of course, require smaller amounts of food multiple times per day, as their stomachs are smaller than mongrel adults. Feed mongrel puppies up to six months old about three to four times daily. After six months, they should be fine with two feedings daily.


Mongrels will need different amounts of grooming and maintenance depending on their mix of breeds. Longer-haired mongrels, for example, need to be brushed at least once weekly. Shorter-haired mongrels should also be brushed periodically. When mongrels begin shedding a lot, they should be brushed more often. Professional grooming every few months is also recommended.

You should brush your mongrel’s teeth a few times each week, and keep their nails trimmed so that it doesn’t hurt when they walk. Clean your mongrel’s ears too, as dirty, waxy ears can lead to ear infections.


Mongrels should begin training as soon as they are brought into your home. Socialization training, or just taking your dog out among people, can help mongrels overcome shyness. Obedience training is also recommended to help them learn commands and act as they should in public.


Mongrels need exercise, just like all dogs do. Daily activity is good for mongrels, even if it’s just a walk, or room to run in a fenced-in yard. Mongrels who become overly energetic or destructive might be telling you that they need more exercise.

Cost of a Mongrel

One of the most appealing factors of mongrels are their cost. Many of them are free, or available with a donation/adoption fee given to the shelter in which you find them. If a fee is charged, it is usually $250 or less. This is a small price to pay for the great addition to your family that a mongrel is likely to be.

Should I Get My Mongrel DNA Tested?

We have all seen the many doggie DNA tests that are popping up for sale across the Internet. If you have a mongrel, the idea of learning their ancestry might be particularly appealing to you. DNA testing can determine the mix of breeds found within your mongrel, giving you a better clue to the dog’s character and personality. However, your own observation of the dog is probably just as reliable. It’s not like you will DNA test a mongrel before deciding to adopt it. DNA testing your mongrel can satisfy an owner’s curiosity but is not necessary for the dog’s health or happiness. Having loving, caring owners will do far more for your mongrel than any DNA test will.

Famous Mongrels in Pop Culture

There are many famous mongrels in pop culture, including (but not limited to):

  • Duke from the movie “Bad Boys”
  • Buster from the movie “Bruce Almighty”
  • Lucky from the movie “Dr. Doolittle”
  • Sweeties from the movie “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days”



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