The story was published on DJ Jazzy D’s website in 2017, and has so far racked up more than 3,200 Facebook shares.
“A 24-year-old female tourist from Germany has reportedly given birth to a litter of German Shepherd puppies in Stellenbosch, Western Cape Province after being hospitalised with severe stomach pains.” The story says the tourist “would often have sex with the family dog, Jonsey, because she couldn’t find a date”.
In January 2019 Facebook flagged the story as possibly false. And it is false, simply because even if a human and a dog did have sex, the two species are so different they couldn’t make babies, as we explain shortly.
A puppy? A goat?
The story’s evidence is a photo of some kind of newborn animal – furry, seemingly dead and spotted with blood – with a face that appears human.
But an earlier fact-check by Snopes found that the image was first published online in a 2016 story claiming it was the carcass of a newborn goat. The article noted the animal’s human-like face but said it could have been trampled by its mother, which could have disfigured it.
The photo has resurfaced many times since then with claims that it is of a human-animal hybrid. Examples can be found on Empire News, Now 8 News and the Week.
Can a dog and a human make puppies?
Very closely related species – like horses and donkeys – can mate and reproduce. But even then, their babies are sterile. The offspring of horses and donkeys are called mules, and mules can’t reproduce.
Tigers and lions are also closely related, and sometimes do mate in captivity. Their offspring – known as ligers if the mother is a tiger, and tigons if the mother is a lion – are also sterile.
But humans and dogs are very different species.
The last common ancestor of horses and donkeys lived about 4 million years ago. The last common ancestor of tigers and lions lived about 3.8 million years ago. But the last common ancestor of humans and dogs lived an estimated 96 million years ago – while there were still dinosaurs on the planet.
Animals so distantly related can’t reproduce because their bodies are so different.
An article by the Tech Museum at Stanford University in the US explains:
Dogs and people have very different sets of instructions in their DNA. Their genomes are simply too different to come together and make something that will live...
Imagine you take the instructions for making an airplane and instructions for making a curling iron and mix them together. If you use those mixed instructions it would be very unlikely you’d make a flying machine that curls your hair.
Instead you’d most likely get a heap of metal that can’t do anything.
The idea is the same for how we can’t get a half man/half dog. The instructions are just too different to make anything meaningful.
It’s still not clear what animal is in the photo. But it’s definitely not a puppy born to a “German tourist”. – Africa Check (22/01/19)
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?
Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.Publishers guide
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.