Wikipedia:Writing about breeds

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Below is a crash course in the basics of writing a breed-related article on Wikipedia, without getting into administrative trouble or having the article deleted. All of Wikipedia's rules apply to breed articles, just like everything else. However, many people who want to write about them are fairly new to Wikipedia and do not understand yet what those policies and guidelines are and how they may apply.

While written mainly with standardized breeds in mind, much of this advice also pertains to landraces and feral populations; hybrids, cross-breeds, and other varietals (often of tamed wild animals rather than true domesticates); and "fancy" varieties and laboratory strains of rodents, which are breeds in all but name. Some of it will also be applicable to writing about plant cultivars, the horticultural equivalent of animal breeds.

Proper sourcing is required[edit]

For how to provide reference citations, see WP:Citing sources.

All claims must be verifiable in reliable sources[edit]

Everything in a Wikipedia article must be verifiable, and sources for our material have to be reliable ones. Blogs, forums, wikis and other self-published or user-created material does not count – no matter how correct it may be. Same certainly goes for personal knowledge or opinion.

  • This precludes opinional statements about a breed being "friendly" or "outgoing" or "good with kids" or "intelligent", unless there are reliable sources (e.g. dog behavior studies) that prove that a particular breed statistically stands out from the crowd in such a respect.
  • Any potentially controversial claim without a source or with an unreliable source can be removed by any editor. Someone may "tag" such a claim with a cleanup or dispute template, such as {{citation needed}} or {{unreliable source}}, or they may simply delete the questionable material.
  • If two or more apparently reliable sources disagree, we note that they disagree (within the bounds of due weight), and leave it to the reader to investigate those sources and make up their own minds. We do not try to adjudicate between them and decide which one is right, or try to synthesize a compromise between them.
  • You cannot just copy-paste from sources, even if you think they won't mind. Limited block-quotation is permissible, with proper sourcing and attribution. Even copying from a legally public-domain text requires attribution. Wikipedia doesn't rip off or regurgitate others' writing.
  • Magazines can sometimes be used as references for non-controversial claims, but are considered weak sources because their fact-checking standards are low and their propensity for credulity and exaggeration is high. This is especially the case in the pet-breeding sphere; most breed profile articles are written by breeders of the breed in question, with a vested interest in promoting that breed and circumscribing its definition and nomenclature to match that of whatever organization they're a recognized breeder within.
  • Breed registries are reliable sources for the content of their own breed standards. They are not reliable for scientific, medical, or historical claims about breeds (and frequently re-publish blatant misinformation in these regards – basically whatever breeder groups tell them). They are also not reliable for exaggeratory behavioral claims. Example:
    • The following (adapted from a real organization's breed description) is not encyclopedic information, but marketing by breeders, and nothing like it belongs in any article on Wikipedia, no matter who said it: "A very loving breed, they enjoy being in the middle of an active family. Their large size and silly personalities make them a perfect companion. They do not like to be left alone for long periods of time as they are very social, so be prepared to spend quality time snuggling." Such claims can only pertain to individual animals. There is no such thing a breed of anything that is loving, family-friendly, snuggly, or prone to separation anxiety as a breed trait. Neither pets nor livestock have a consistent personality across an entire breed. About the best we can do with this "information" is something like "[Organization name]'s overview of this large breed describes them as affectionate and social.[1]"
    • Some behavioral traits do breed true to a limited and variable extent. This is rare, and must be proven with highly reliable sources. Some examples are the direction-indicating behavior of pointer and setter dog breeds, the pulling instinct of sled dog breeds, the herding instinct of herding dogs, and the going-limp-when-picked-up reaction of the Ragdoll cat breed.
  • Not all breed registries and federations are equivalent. Some are notable national and international organizations, others are "mills" with impressive-sounding names but terrible reputations, and others are simply non-notable little groups, which are often not independent publishers but have strong fiduciary ties to breeders. Registries that are non-notable (or infamous) do not help establish a breed's notability, and are categorically unreliable sources.
    • The documentation of some templates, including {{Infobox cat breed}} and {{Infobox dog breed}}, contain information on notable and reputable registries, and which ones are not. This feature may not be available for other-species breed infoboxes, in which case consider asking on the talk page of the relevant wikiproject (listed in the "See also" section, below).

Do not engage in what Wikipedia calls "original research", or treat Wikipedia as a forum[edit]

Wikipedia is not a publisher of original thought, only of material verifiable in reliable sources. We have stringent rules against original research – the advancement of your own ideas or investigation as if they're reliable facts.

  • Just include what the reliable sources say, without any "therefore, ..." conclusions being drawn by you (or manipulative wording to lead the reader to such a conclusion).
  • Any claim that involves analysis, evaluation, interpretation, or synthesis (AEIS) must come from a secondary source. No AEIS material from an editor's own mind, or from a primary or tertiary source, can be used in a Wikipedia article. These words for source types have very specific meanings on Wikipedia, and do not match the definition used in every other field (they cannot, since different fields define them very differently). This is covered at WP:PSTS (primary, secondary, tertiary sources).
  • This is also not a place where anyone gets to control an article, even if they started it and wrote 99.99% of it. Wikipedia is not yours, and is not about you or your viewpoint.
  • Article talk pages are not a forum for discussing things like animal welfare, breeder and organization disputes, and other material that doesn't pertain to improving our encyclopedia articles.
  • Trying to "win" on Wikipedia is a waste of everyone's time; your debate skills and persuasion techniques are meaningless if reliable sources do not back your material. Civility is required between editors, including on talk pages and in edit summaries. (And please do use clear and meaningful edit summaries.)

Write in an encyclopedic style and manner[edit]

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and is written like one. We have an important policy about what Wikipedia is not (and is not written like), including guidebooks, news, blogs and op-eds, advertising, attack pages, personal memoirs, webboards, and everything else that isn't an encyclopedia.

Maintain neutrality[edit]

Writing for Wikipedia must express a neutral point of view. Avoid emotive language, opinion, advocacy, or criticism.

  • Encyclopedic writing uses in a formal, dispassionate tone.
  • Avoid skewed coverage; Wikipedia is neither a soapbox for promotion nor a battleground for dispute. If there is real-world disagreement or controversy about a breed or breeder organization, that may be encyclopedia-worthy to cover (with sufficient sourcing, and not out-of-proportion to other material), but Wikipedia does not take sides.
  • Any criticism of a breed must be found in reliable sources, like everything else. And see the example earlier in this page about excessive, promotional claims.

Wikipedia's Manual of Style and related rules do apply[edit]

There is no magical exception for anyone's favorite topic. Our WP:Manual of Style is large, with various subpages. No one is expected to absorb it all, or read it from top to bottom; it is primarily a reference work for settling disputes. But it is a formal guideline and is expected to be followed. You're free to just dive right in and write without looking at these rules, but we prefer you at least absorb the basics. Importantly, it is not permissible to edit-war against other editors when they make your material conform to the style guidelines.

Some key points for the breeds context:

  • Wikipedia is not news or written like journalism – of any kind, including fancier/breeder magazine or blog style.
  • Wikipedia does not capitalize the names of any kind of grouping (type, breed group, feral population, landrace, species common name, etc.) of organism, including domesticated animals. An exception is made for the formal names of standardized breeds, which are are treated as proper names and capitalized exactly as they appear in the breed standards.
  • Do not over-capitalize "other stuff" related to dogs, horses, cats, or whatever – not animal sports, pet or livestock equipment types, coat color patterns, training types, working roles, or anything else – no matter how often dog, horse, or cat magazines do it. If you're capitalizing for emphasis, to stress the importance or specialness of something, you are a making a mistake.
  • Do not directly address the reader in second-person language ("you"). Wikipedia is not a guidebook.
  • Do not write in first-person language ("I", "our"). Wikipedia is not a blog, journal, editorial, or column.
  • Do not use "the [singular name here]" in reference to things that are not standardized breeds; use the plural. Standardized breeds: "The American Yorkshire is a breed of pig ..."; breed groups: "Poodles are a group of formal dog breeds, the Standard Poodle, Miniature Poodle and Toy Poodle."; feral populations: "Mustangs are free-roaming horses of the American west that ..."; landraces: "Van cats are a distinctive landrace of domestic cat, found in the Lake Van region of eastern Turkey."

Our title policy and related rules also apply[edit]

WP:Article titles provides a checklist of criteria for a proper title of a Wikipedia article.

  • Always start with the most common name in English-language sources as the default title choice, to test against the five title criteria.
    • For breeds, this will almost always be a standardized breed name in a large breed registry.
    • Where a breed has multiple standardized names in different registries, use the most common one in English materials as the article title and as the primary way to refer to the breed in running text. Alternative names are given in a breed infobox template and in the lead section of the article.
    • If there's something problematic, under the criteria, with the most common name (perhaps is it not precise enough because another registry uses it for another breed), then try the second most common.
    • For horses, which tend to be standardized only by breed-specific or breed-group-specific registries rather than by all-breeds organizations, a common-name analysis is especially important. For other species, the most common name is almost always the name used by the largest all-breeds registry.
  • If the best name to use for a breed article is already used for some other topic, the name needs to be disambiguated. Wikipedia only does this in particular ways.

An alleged breed or other population must be provably notable to have an article here[edit]

WP:Notability explains what Wikipedia specifically means by "notable" (it does not mean "important" or "been around a long time" or "newly announced in a press release"). The general notability criterion (GNG) is that there must be in-depth coverage in multiple, independent, reliable sources, or the article will likely be deleted.

In general, a standardized breed is almost presumptively notable, because it will appear in multiple breed standards, breed encyclopedias, news articles, and other sources.

  • This does not apply to horses, due to the lack of international all-breeds organizations.
  • This is also not true at all of alleged breeds (new, experimental, rumored, mentioned in ancient manuscripts, or otherwise hard to prove). These are frequently deleted or at best merged by the WP:Articles for deletion process.

For a population that is not a breed (such as a type, a landrace, a feral population, a cross-breed, or a coat variant), proving independent notability is often impossible, and we have few such articles. Some examples that are notable include Mustang, Van cat, Wolfdog, and Labradoodle – because a lot of reliable material has been written about them.

Examples of articles to not create[edit]

  • Breeds that have only provisional or experimental recognition, or none at all, in any major breed registry.
  • Breeds that only exist as a recent studbook operated by a small group of breeders.
  • Breeds that are essentially the same (just under a different name) as another breed about which we already have an article (see WP:Content forking).
  • Alleged breeds or populations only rumored to exist.
  • Obscure alleged breeds reported by national authorities to breed databases like DAD-IS but about which no secondary sources can be found (many of these are either not real breeds – usually non-notable landraces – or are a local name for a breed we already have an article about).
  • Cross-breeds and hybrids of any kind unless they have broad recognition as a new breed in their own right (e.g. Bengal cat and Beefalo), or have attracted significant coverage in secondary sources (e.g. Labradoodle).

For nascent breeds, treatment may differ:

  • We have a List of experimental cat breeds, for example, which can include a "mini-article" entry for an in-development breed which can be verified with independent, reliable sources sufficient to establish that it isn't indiscriminate trivia, but which does not yet have sufficient coverage to be notable (i.e., to warrant its own stand-alone article). Similar lists do not yet exist for horses, dogs, etc.
  • Similarly, List of cat breeds has a scope that also permits (even shorter) summaries of such new or experimental breeds. By contrast, List of horse breeds specifically excludes non-notable breeds, as do List of dog breeds, and several others.
  • Just because something simply exists doesn't mean Wikipedia must cover it, in any article. Whether to do so is up to editorial consensus.
  • In this case, there are few enough cat breeds – and this might also be true of geese and some other species – that covering experimental breeds isn't a drain on editorial productivity. This would not be true of dogs and horses, because there are thousands of "backyard breeders" trying to establish and promote alleged new breeds.

Disagreement between two registries is not a rationale to fork a new article, or to take sides[edit]

It's entirely common and everyday for two or more breeder or fancier organizations to:

  1. Have not quite perfectly matching specifics in their breed standards for essentially the same breed – things like head size, withers height, etc.
  2. Have different names for essentially the same breed.
  3. Have different standards for what a breed encompasses. (Is this variant a color variety within the breed? A defined sub-breed? A separate breed? Unrecognized at all? It varies by organization.)
  4. Have differing rules on what is and is not a permissible outcross (if anything).
  5. Offer full to provisional to absolutely zero recognition for a new breed or sub-breed or color variety derived from an old one.
  6. Sometimes even refuse to recognize a breed recognized by other major registries, even if it isn't a recent breed.

We cover all this stuff by neutrally observing what is written in the breed standards and related documentation; and in less primary sources like breed encyclopedias (tertiary sources); and especially in any secondary sources like books, academic journals, mainstream newspapers, and other materials not published by any of the kennel clubs or breed associations themselves.

It is not permissible to treat any particular one of these publications or publishers as the holy truth or go on some kind of righting the great wrongs campaign to push your version of what is "correct".

Merge redundant stubs[edit]

It's standard practice here to merge closely related short topics ("stub" articles) that don't work well as stand-alone articles. A combined one will form a single, better sourced, more comprehensive article on the overarching topic.

Thus, someone's insistence that this version of a particular breed or breed group is distinct, and that other one isn't legitimate in their view or the view of some particular organization they're familiar with, is irrelevant.

Similarly, cultivars (plant breeds) may have trademarked trade designations (selling names); these are not independently notable and instead redirect to the cultivar's article and should be mentioned there.

If the sources treat them as essentially the same topic, and they cannot be cleanly separated, and we don't have enough material for multiple stand-alone articles, then they remain (or get) merged into one article.

See also[edit]