Science Laughs At Your Wiener Dog

Genetic science tackles adorably stubby dogs. (©

Even when they're not wearing tiny cowboy hats, dachshunds are hysterical. We've been snickering at our wiener dogs and their short little legs since the 15th century and yet genetic science has only recently allowed us to understand exactly why they're so cute.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science recently reported that scientists with the National Human Genome Research Institute have pinpointed exactly why dachshunds have tiny legs. Geneticist Elaine Ostrander had previously discovered a key size-determining gene called IGF-1 that, while prevalent in smaller dogs, was conspicuously absent from larger breeds. In addition to this shortening gene, some dogs -- such as dachshunds and basset hounds -- carry an extra retrogene responsible for their truncated limbs.

An article in the New Scientist ponders whether this knowledge of canine DNA will lead to a future dominated by genetically augmented designer dog breeds. Not all the possible ramifications sound like a Dean Koontz novel. Ostrander says that similar discoveries in the human genome may lead to a better understanding of dwarfism and some forms of cancer.

So there you have it! You can find the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast on iTunes, Zune and the RSS feed. And don't forget the free HowStuffWorks App!

Skull still intact? Follow Stuff to Blow Your Mind on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.