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RareDenver's avatar

Are humans the only animals that we further classify by race?

Asked by RareDenver (13141points) October 28th, 2012

Is a Black Swan just a swan that is black?

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17 Answers

hearkat's avatar

What about breeds of dogs, or birds, for example? We might only use the term “race” for humans, but it’s basically the same concept of classifying based on physical differences that are determined by genetics.

Coloma's avatar

Race isn’t the word, the word would be species. Humans are all of one, singular species, animals have evolved as a life form into multiple species. Yes, it is a classifying system but a dog is not a horse is not a swan. Apples and oranges.

RareDenver's avatar

@hearkat of course I hadn’t thought of dog breeds, thanks. @Coloma I was more thinking about further classification of the same species, not just classifying different species.

snowberry's avatar

Not exactly Inter-species mating often results in serility, such as the mule.

Coloma's avatar

@RareDenver Yes,.it is true that certain breeds did all evolve from the same source, dogs from wolves, etc. and there are many variations within breeds in terms of traits, colors, etc. However, unlike humans, there is a huge variation in how different species evolved.
Birds from reptiles for instance, where humans all have the same evolutionary ancestors.
A lot of people think a ” Palomino” horse is a breed, it is not, it is only a color and any breed of horse can carry the Palomino color gene. Same goes for pintos, appaloosas, paints, etc. A horse is a horse of course, unless it’s a horse of a different color. lol

Nullo's avatar

Race is akin to breed in lesser creatures. The term comes from the Norman razza, a term used to differentiate horse breeds.

Crashsequence2012's avatar


What do you think breeds are.

Buttonstc's avatar

It’s not termed as “race” per se, but we still do it just as a further descriptor of a breed.

With cats, for instance, the words “calico” and “tortoiseshell” are strictly based upon coat color and can be found in several different breeds.

But terms like Siamese, Maine Coon etc. are distinctive breeds.

Nevertheless, they are all in the classification Felidae which is scientifically accurate.

The various breeds are mainly the result of human tinkering in one way or another.

Coloma's avatar

@Buttonstc Right, you explained it better than I.

JLeslie's avatar

Some would argue, and have on fluther that there is no such thing as race. Certainly animals come in a variety of colors within their own species and breeds for that matter. So if a person defines race by color of skin, then it is just color, like color of skin or fur of animals. If you classify race by facial features, which is how it was done or taught back in the day, then I am not sure what the equivalent is in animals, I guess breed like many answered above. Supposedly facial features and color of feathers or fur or stripes are discriminated by animals within the same species, basically the idea of natural selection, promoting certain features to give more off spring and continue that feature. Animals also mate based on physical strength and I would assume some even are attracted to the clever in their group.

Buttonstc's avatar

If I’m not mistaken, I think that the only time that animals are concerned about color is if there is ONE odd one in the bunch whose coloring is so markedly different in terms of camouflage with their surroundings.

So, I would think it makes them more distinct for those who prey upon them, thus further assuring their rarity.

Do their own group discriminate against them? Is their any evidence for that?

Do regular yellow and black tigers discriminate against white tigers (clearly in the minority)? I don’t think so but I could be wrong.

I know that with domestic cats, the silky white Persian has no aversion to the jet black common alleycat. That’s the purview of the human owners of the white Persian :)

And I’m certain that other cats don’t consider themselves unlucky if a black cat crosses their path.

That’s the job of us foolish humans who invest way too much energy on color distinctions which are basically meaningless. (and it’s also why many shelters refuse to endanger the safety of any of their black cats and have a ban on pre-Halloween adoptions)

JLeslie's avatar

@Buttonstc Interesting. I remember learning that it was believed male peacocks having beautiful feathers or male lions with beautiful mains are to attract the opposite sex, so I figured maybe the females discriminate to some extent? I use discriminate, not as meaning they won’t mate, or necessarily less desirable, but just that they do separate into various groups based on different attributes. I have no idea if that is really true, it is more an assumption based on what little I know.

I do agree that coloring is camoflauge or that one odd in the bunch might be ostracized.

Coloma's avatar

Well, just look at my avatar. My goose is best friends with the neighbors sheep. They spend all their time together at the exclusion of their own kind. Figure that one out! The sheep has 3 flock members and my goose has a mate, but they have developed a strong interspecies bond for some unknown reason. My goose shrieks and runs after the sheep when she walks away. lol

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma Well, that is a whole different thing. That example is like how people love their dogs.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie I think it illustrates the lack of “racism” amongst animals, or lack of speciesism. ;-)

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma :) I think in nature human beings would also not be racist or care about skin color. I think it is some sort of crazy construct that became very complicated with the modernized world.

cazzie's avatar

Dogs are the same species, but come in all shapes and sizes and colours. Horses are all the same species but come in different sizes and colours. When you consider the human species, we all look much more alike, I think, than a bull mastiff and a chihuahua, (but there are pygmies, and there are pro basketball players). Biologically speaking, within one species, there can be so much lovely, beautiful diversity, we could look around us in awe and should be inspired to be curious and kind, (like @Coloma s animals) but instead, we humans react more with fear and suspicion. Doesn’t really represent well of our species, does it?

Actually, there are animals that are of the type of species called ‘ring species’ meaning that those that live near eachother can breed successfully, but the further apart they get, geographically, the less they get along and the more different they are biologically and they finally get to the point where the are so different genetically, they can no longer breed together. In some species this can occur quickly when geographically separated, and breed isolated for a time (Australian Possum vs NZ Possum). For humans, we are so similar, even though we are geographically separated for many many generations, we can successfully, not only get along, but also have viable and beautiful offspring. I like to think that our similarities, genetically speaking, stand up to the test of time and genomic differences.

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