Harold Herzog 1 Forty-two Thousand and One Dalmatians: Fads, Social Contagion, and Dog Breed Popularity ABSTRACT Like other cultural variants, tastes in companion animals (pets) can shift rapidly. An analysis of American Kennel Club puppy reg- istrations from 1946 through 2003 (N = 48,598,233 puppy reg- istrations) identified rapid but transient large-scale increases in the popularity of specific dog breeds. Nine breeds of dogs showed par ticularly pronounced booms and busts in popularity. On aver- age, the increase (boom) phase in these breeds lasted 14 years, during which time annual new registrations increased 3,200%. Equally steep decreases in registrations for the breeds immedi- ately followed these jumps in popularity.The existence of extreme fluctuations in preferences for dog breeds has implications for understanding changes in attitudes toward companion animals, veterinar y epidemiology, and canine evolution. Like diseases, preferences and behaviors are conta- gious (Gladwell, 2000; Lynch, 2002; Watts 2003). Examples of large-scale social contagions include such diverse phenomena as changes in baby names (Hahn & Bentley, 2003; Lieberson, 2000), women’s fashions (Richardson & Kroeber, 1940), sexual behav- ior (Stoneburner & Low-Beer, 2004), psychiatric dis- orders (Acocella, 1999), and suicide rates (Gould, Jamieson, & Romer, 2003). Although fads in choices
Society & Animals – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2006
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