Dog lovers and dating

Tomorrow the nation's top dogs from 173 breeds will compete for glory across the street at Madison Square Garden.

But today is more akin to a four-legged meet-and-greet, as owners shuffle through the check-in line at the competition's official lodgings.

But because dogs have been genetically segregated into breeds developed from just a few original individuals, each breed has a much smaller set of errant genes—often only one or two—underlying the disease.

For instance, Cornell researchers studying the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa—shared by humans and dogs—found 20 different canine genes causing the disorder.

To create a dog well suited for cornering badgers, for instance, it is thought that German hunters in the 18th and 19th centuries brought together some combination of hounds—the basset, a native of France, being the likely suspect—and terriers, producing a new variation on the theme of dog with stubby legs and a rounded body that enabled it to chase its prey into the mouth of a burrow: hence the dachshund, or "badger dog" in German.

The difference between floppy and erect ears is determined by a single gene region in canine chromosome 10, or CFA10. Flip a few switches, and your dachshund becomes a Doberman, at least in appearance. "The story that is emerging," says Robert Wayne, a biologist at UCLA, "is that the diversity in domestic dogs derives from a small genetic tool kit." Media reports about the gene for red hair, alcoholism, or breast cancer give the false impression that most traits are governed by just one or a few genes.Height in humans, for instance, is determined by the interaction of some 200 gene regions. The answer, the researchers say, lies in their unusual evolutionary history.Canines were the earliest domesticated animal, a process that started somewhere between 20,000 and 15,000 years ago, most likely when gray wolves began scavenging around human settlements.Thousands of years later, breeders would seize on that diverse raw material when they began creating modern breeds.They tended to grab traits they desired from across multiple breeds—or tried to rapidly replicate mutations in the same one—in order to get the dog they wanted.

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  2. "They can relate to you in ways a non-ugly person could never understand." As if this list couldn't get any more ridiculous, yes -- there's actually an online dating website for people who still love that insanely outdated "business in the front, party in the back" hairstyle trend.