A Dog Named Tequila
It was early February 2009 and Swedish Photographer Tommie Ohlson had just finished puppy-sitting his Brother’s new Finnish Lapphund “Tequila”. Tommie was happy to do it since he already had an older Lapphund named Cheyene who needed a pal. As a landscape photographer, he would often trek through the deep woods of Värmland, and having another dog tag along was no extra effort.
Although not his usual subjects, Tommie would often snap photos of animals when he came across them. So, it was no big deal when he snapped a few photos of 10-week old Tequila while she was visiting. Noticing how well one of the photos turned out, Tommie thought he’d add it to his public Flickr page so his friends could see Tequila and his brother’s girlfriend Helena could easily download a copy.
Although undeniably adorable, the photo of Tequila wasn’t especially unique or special, and didn’t attract any unusual attention outside of Tommie’s family and small group of followers. There the photo sat, relatively untouched, unviewed, and masked in anonymity, for nearly two years.
In early 2011, Peggy Wang was a senior editor at the quickly growing viral news website Buzzfeed. Started only 5 years earlier, BuzzFeed had grown to become one of the most socially shared websites on the planet. Peggy Wang, only a few years earlier, had been the first ever hire by CEO Jonah Peretti.
As BuzzFeed grew, the writers learned how to tap into their audience’s passions, and developed an effective formula which persuaded people to share their articles on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. One of the earliest passions they learned to tap into was their viewers love of cute animals. Pictures of kittens, puppies, and baby animals would be featured in posts designed to generate excitement, intrigue, and other emotional reactions, which would (hopefully) motivate their readers to share the articles on their social feeds.
Miss Wang had helped pioneer this formula and was as effective at writing viral news articles as anyone in the company. One day, she saw an opportunity for an article about an unusual dog cross-breed with an exceptionally cute name that no one had ever heard of: a Pomeranian x Husky mix called the Pomsky.
They had written articles on other similar cross-breeds before, so following the same formula would certainly lead to a successful viral article. The Pomsky was perfect for their audience, and hit three major check marks: it featured baby animals, was intriguing, and sounded cute. There was only one problem: the Pomsky wasn’t a real breed, so there were no pictures to include in the article.
That was a big problem.
A story about cute puppies without any pictures OF the cute puppies would never get shared. There were two options available:
- Kill the article
- Post fake pictures of Pomskies, and publish the post
On February 5th, 2011, Peggy Wang published the post:
“Pomskies – The Pomeranian + Siberian Husky mix: the cutest designer dog breed ever?”
The article contained five pictures of cute, fluffy, small dogs. The second picture listed was Tommie Ohlson’s picture of Tequila.
Since virtually no one had ever seen a Pomeranian Husky hybrid, no one knew that the pictures were frauds. Each picture in the article was of a completely different dog breed and had been copied from somewhere on the internet, most likely Google Images.
The post quickly went viral and got over 100,000 views.
Just five days after the BuzzFeed article was published, Reddit user u/nontamopiu saw an opportunity to quickly increase his karma on the site. Likely taking it from the Peggy Wang’s article, he posted the Picture of Tequila in the r/aww subreddit with the title: Pomsky! Pomeranian/Husky mix! (:
The post quickly made it to the front page of r/aww and soon several other copycat posts using Tequila’s photo across the rest of the site. Soon other pictures of cute fluffy puppies were showing up across Reddit, all falsely claiming to be Pomskies.
All total, the pictures draw tens of thousands of votes and comments, and hundreds of thousands of views.
By late 2011, the Pomsky myth had been popularized across virtually every social media platform. Tommie Ohlson’s picture of Tequila could be seen all over Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others. A 9gag.com meme of the picture had already become wildly popular before Tommie even realized that his picture had been stolen. When he did finally find out, he wasn’t even sure what to think of it at first:
“As a photographer, it’s never fun when someone is using your stuff without permission. But when I came across my photo uploaded on 9gag’s Facebook page with 1.2 million likes it was surreal. And humorous. I thought everyone knew what a Finnish Lapphund was and what they looked like. It’s a common breed over here.” – Tommie Ohlson
Through the next year, the Pomsky myth continued to gain steam, and unverified reports of actual Pomsky litters started surfacing.
The First Pomskies
The earliest evidence of a verified litter appeared right after the BuzzFeed and Reddit stories. A breeder in Australia had an accidental litter when her female Pomsky was impregnated by a Husky that escaped its enclosure.
Due to the size difference in the breed, the pregnancy was highly dangerous. Under the guidance of a veterinarian, the first verified accidental litter of Pomskies was born in early 2011.
The breed’s existence likely would have ended there, had it not been for the publicity the Pomsky received from Buzzfeed and Reddit.
Instead, the existence of an actual successful Pomsky litter only served as proof that the breed could be achieved. This fact would serve as inspiration for the first Pomsky breeders.
The First Pomsky Breeders
Shortly after the Pomsky myth surfaced only, it caught the attention of an amateur dog breeder in Tennessee named Tressa Peterson. Tressa became intrigued by the idea of a Pomsky and saw an opportunity to start breeding the dogs.
After initially seeing the pictures on-line, she started to do research into the cross-breed and was soon joined by her friend Joline Phillips. Together they started the process of finding their first breeding stock.
After locating a male Pomeranian stud to use, Joline connected with a Siberian Husky breeder in Arizona name Tabetha Ruhstorfer. Tabetha agreed to let them use one of her female dogs for their experiment, and through artificial insemination they achieved a successful pregnancy.
On March 5th, 2012, the first litter of Pomsky puppies was born.
Tressa, Joline, and Tabetha had brought into existence the breed that, only 13 months ago, had been little more than a thought in a BuzzFeed writers notebook.
Today the Pomsky is the fastest growing cross breed in the country. In less than five years the breed has gone from obscurity to having over 70 breeders across the US, with more popping up every day.
The idea of the Pomsky, perpetrated and distributed to the masses through social media, has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The breed may never have existed, save for the occasional “accidental litter”, if that first article had never been published.
While it’s easy to oversimplify the complicated process of turning a social trend into a real dog breed, there are actors who were essential to the process. BuzzFeed, Reddit, and a Finnish Lapphund named Tequila all deserve their share of credit in the creation of the Pomsky. However, without the implicit cooperation of the masses and a few enterprising individuals, this story would have a much different ending.
Is the creation of a new dog breed a good thing, or a bad thing?
You can find passionate arguments on both sides of that topic, and the answer is not as black and white as most people wish.
What we do know is that the Pomsky is here to stay. For better or worse, the internet created its own dog breed and it’s not going away anytime soon.
To read an even deeper account of how the Pomsky was created, read about the complete history of the Pomsky.
Super interesting, I never knew this origin story!