Urban Legend: Human and Dog DNA Create Inter-Species Hybrid

Shocked teen on computer
Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Circulating via email, an unsettling photograph of what appears to be a half-dog, half-human creature suckling her hybrid offspring has been circulating via email since April 2004. It's real... a real sculpture, that is.

Human-Dog Hybrid Artwork

The strange half-human creatures in the image that circulates with the email are neither real nor a hoax; they are elements of a sculpture by Australian artist Patricia Piccinini entitled "The Young Family." It's part of a larger installation called "We Are Family," described by Jane Silversmith of the Australian Council for the Arts as an exploration of "the changing relationship between what is considered natural and what is considered artificial."

"Piccinini's works animate the promise and the perils of the runaway scientific developments that pervade our time," Silversmith continues. "Her art embodies our dreams—dreams of perfect children, of perfect health, of life disease-free, and articulates the value of difference and uncertainty in human life."

Variously characterized as "sow-like," "half-human, half-dog," "human-dog hybrid," and "trans-species," Piccinini's silicone creatures are unsettling, even disturbing to look at, because they blur the boundary between human and animal in such a lifelike way.

Are Human-Dog Hybrids Possible?

Humans and dogs cannot interbreed naturally and produce viable offspring. While there are mythologic creatures called chimeras that are mixtures of species, true hybridization can only occur between very similar animals such as a donkey and a horse producing a mule which is then left sterile. Dogs and humans are much farther apart as species, however, so a natural hybrid is not possible.

But it is a timely theme, given continual advances in embryonic stem cell research that may eventually enable scientists to grow human organs in the bodies of other species, and vice-versa. Transgenic research and producing chimeras in the lab is the subject of scientific, moral, and political debate. Whether some rogue mad scientist could or would produce a human-dog chimera is pure speculation.

Sample Email About Human-Dog Hybrids

You may receive an email or see a social media posting relating to this artwork and purporting that it is real. This sample is provided so you can see what elements might be identical to what circulated in 2004. Such postings tend to come back again and again over the years, claiming to be new. You can stop the cycle among your friends with a comparison to what was previously debunked.

Distributed in 2004

Tel-Aviv, Israel (AP)—Israeli scientists are examining what appears to be a trans-species between a Labrador retriever and human. While genetically considered impossible, humane workers found remains of an earlier trans-species, believed to be the parent of the animal pictured above, shallow buried in the owner's property. The human parent of the animals is believed to be the teen-aged son of the family well known in politics.
DNA studies are in process and results are expected early next month. The animal shown has been named "Chimera" and appears to have a rudimentary ability to speak. At this time no charges have been laid pending DNA and court rulings. Chimera is believed to be about ten years old. Neighbors were shocked to learn what was living in their area. However, several did comment that strange cries have been heard at night.

You can compare the circulated photo with The Young Family artwork. Rest assured that this was simply an imaginative hoax.