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The topic has come up in chat, so a meta discussion seems to be in order.

Should we actively disallow questions asking for identification of a specific breed, or even species?

Presumably users would upload pictures of their pets, and request identification of their dog/cat/lizard/snake/whatever.

  • ID question always starts trouble. Specially with low quality. I think in Pets.se we should dis-allow them – Ankit Sharma Oct 17 '13 at 18:45
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While other sites have variations on identification questions (scifi.se allows story identification questions, biology.se seems to allow some species identification questions, graphicdesign.se allows font identification, etc.), I do not feel that this is a good fit for pets.se.

Particularly problematic is how many cross-breeds there are out there. There are a multitude of dogs and cats out there that can't positively be identified as any one (or even two, or three!) breeds due to interbreeding.

These questions are also not really searchable, making them of incredibly limited value for our site.

Questions on pets that are less subject to cross breeding, such as reptiles or birds, would probably be on topic for biology given their current acceptance and use of their species-identification tag, so making them on-topic here seems redundant and unnecessary (especially given the problems with identifying dog or cats breeds).

Anyone looking for help in identifying their pet should be encouraged to ask in The Litter Box, however.

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    In addition, such questions are unlikely to be useful to future readers due to all the cross-breed combinations out there. If I have a collie/shepherd/terrier/wombat mix, the question about the collie/poodle/husky/chihuahua mix isn't going to help me. – Monica Cellio Oct 17 '13 at 16:14
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    @Josh, agreed -- this should be one of the bullets in the "don't ask about" list in the help center and about page. – Monica Cellio Oct 17 '13 at 16:33
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    Please try not to anticipate too many problems before they are actually problems, otherwise you'll turn your welcoming 'help center' into a bulleted list of "here's all the ways you can go wrong on this site." Until such problems become prevalent, gentle and helpful moderation is best. – Robert Cartaino Oct 17 '13 at 16:55
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    I think it would be helpful for aquarium fish and perhaps other types of pets. We could ask for a written description as well as a picture and then it would be searchable. – Jeni Oct 17 '13 at 17:23
  • I absolutely hate the SciFi identification questions. I do not think species identification is nearly the problem that breed identification would be. I suspect that the majority of the questions would include pictures of mixed breed dogs/cats that would be very hard to figure out what its parents may have been, – user9 Oct 25 '13 at 16:36
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    I think you can mark this accepted now – James Jenkins Nov 18 '15 at 23:53
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I'm with @Beofett here. Just adding links and an example.

Biology StackExchange: https://biology.stackexchange.com/

[Species-identification] tag in Biology SE has this info text:

Questions looking to find the name of a specific species of organism. Please include as much information as possible on habitat (esp. where in the world you found the organism) and behavior, and ideally provide images.

My suggestion is that we let the biologists handle indentifying questions.


An example case:

Identifying dog breeds is easy, rigth? Just for an example of what kind of difference three years in age can do. It is the same dog in both of pictures below. Identifying his breed is not difficult if you happen to know what other dogs of that same breed typically look like.

enter image description here
enter image description here
Also these above pictures are of the best kind for identifying purposes, I say.

My point is; let's assume this was some exotic animal that has even greater level of variation in how it looks in different ages. Add to that the (often) lesser picture quality. The identifying task quickly becomes very challenging and a many such question will be left unanswered in Pets SE.

  • Agreed, my pup everyone said what a cute little malamute, then as he aged and grew into his size everyone said what a cute little husky. No one ever says what a cute Canadian Eskimo Dog. He's a Malamute/Husky/Canadian Eskimo dog, these questions would just get out of hand very quickly... – AM_Hawk Dec 20 '15 at 18:35
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I still think that "what breed is this?" questions are not a good fit for Pets. I have upvotes on both the existing answers.

But the recent question Why did this fish kill my Kissing Gouramis? wants to know what species an animal is. I am leaning towards this being a good fit on pets.

I recognize that the line between species and breed can be thin (i.e. wolf vs malamute) and this may cause some difficulty. But over all if a person does not know the species of the animal they are caring for it can have a huge negative impact on the animals (and others) lives and wellbeing. I think we should try to answer "what species is this?" questions.

The big difference between the two types of questions is that:

"What breed is my pet?" is a foundling asking for the names and heritage of its parents. That is not a question that can be answered on the internet from a picture and/or description

"What species is my pet?" is asking about a biological group, the question is not about who are my parents, it is about what group of animals can I interbreed with. This can be answered by a picture and/or complete description.

  • found·ling Noun "an infant found after its unknown parents have abandoned it" MW

Example of open species question from our main site.

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    yeh I can live with that. Species identification sounds good. Personally I'd prefer to pen the scope of our site and allow breed identification. If people are unsure, they can include that in their answers. There's a lot of people who are experts in various breeds. – Yvette Colomb Jun 4 '18 at 15:10
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    I think perhaps I've missed the point. Why is allowing identification of a species more useful in the future than a breed? Because it is less specific? – Henders Jun 5 '18 at 9:30
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    @Henders the species of an animal has significant impact on several points of its care, dietary, legal, reproduction, etc. The significance of breed is much less critical. Consider a Zebra and Horse, these are distinct species capable of interbreeding, with sterile offspring. Zebras are not domistactable (essentially) while horses are. Addressing the care and legal aspects of a pet zebra are extremely different than any difference between breeds or cross breeds of a horse. Same for a Fox and Dog, or a cottontail Rabbit and Domestic Rabbit. or a Cat and Dog. – James Jenkins Jun 5 '18 at 12:16
  • With minor exceptions when different species attempt to interbreed, there are no offspring, or the offspring is sterile – James Jenkins Jun 5 '18 at 12:18

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