My Latest Pet Peeve

I have a new pet peeve. I'm sure it comes mostly from being a biology major, but it drives me crazy.

What is it?

People using the words "species" and "breed" interchangeably.

It doesn't bother me too much when laypeople use "breed" in place of species. No, wait, it does. Blue-fronted Amazon is not a breed; it is a species. Amazona aestiva. Most species have a common name and a scientific name, though some lack the common name. In the case of a Blue-fronted Amazon, the common name is Blue-fronted Amazon, and the scientific name is Amazona aestiva. (The first word listed in the scientific name, the one that is capitalized, is the name of the animal's genus. The second word is the species name and it is not capitalized. Scientific names are italicized when written.)

But it really bothers me when people who you know are educated about such matters do it. For example, last week when I took Prudence to the vet and I was filling out their form for new exotic patients, I came across these two questions:
  • What kind of animal is your pet?        
    Bird ______ Mammal ______ Reptile ______ Other ______
  • What breed?
This was at the VET'S OFFICE!!! I knew exactly what they wanted me to write. They wanted a check next to mammal and they wanted me to write "guinea pig" for the breed. I rolled my eyes and filled it out like this:
  • What kind of animal is your pet?        
    Bird ______ Mammal   Guinea Pig    Reptile ______ Other ______
  • What breed?
After they filled out Prudence's chart using the information I supplied, they listed her "breed" as guinea pig as I knew they would.

Let's get something straight. Prudence's breed is not "guinea pig". Her species is guinea pig, or Cavia porcellus. Her breed is silkie.

Here's another example of breed vs. species. My horse, Bold Brush, is a Thoroughbred. His species is horse or Equus ferus caballus. His breed is Thoroughbred. The barn owner has a wild caught mustang. His species is horse; his breed is mustang. (I should note that caballus is a subspecies of the species Equus ferus. The wild mustangs in the United States are a part of this subspecies. However, the Przewalski's Horse is also a subspecies, the only other extant subspecies and the only truly wild horse left. They are the same species, but different subspecies.)

All five of my family's dogs are the same species, Canis lupus familiaris. We have four different breeds though--German shepherd dog, Chihuahua, miniature schnauzer, and cockapoo (I know, most people don't consider cockapoos to be their own breed...). Now, nobody would ever see a dog and ask, "What breed is that?" and want the answer "dog". They want an answer like, "Oh, she's an Australian cattle dog," or "Well, I'm not really sure, but I think he looks like a cross between a bull dog and shih-tzu." So why people do this with other animals I have no clue.

Then there are things like this Yahoo! Answers question: What species is my cat? Out of six answers, only two people correctly answered the question.

Now, dear reader, you have listened to my rant, and now, you have no reason to ever say your bird's breed is a cockatiel. But, you can say with confidence that your bird's species is a cockatiel. 


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