Domestic dog breeds show a wide variety of morphologies and offer excellent opportunities to study the molecular genetics of phenotypic traits. We are interested in exploring this potential and have begun by investigating the genetic basis of a short-tail trait. Our focus has been on the T gene, which encodes a T-box transcription factor important for normal posterior mesoderm development. Haploinsufficiency of T protein underlies a short-tail phenotype in mice that is inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion. We have cloned the dog homolog of T and mapped the locus to canine Chromosome (Chr) 1q23. Full sequence analysis of the T gene from a number of different dog breeds identified several polymorphisms and a unique missense mutation in a bob-tailed dog and its bob-tailed descendants. This mutation is situated in a highly conserved region of the T-box domain and alters the ability of the T protein to bind to its consensus DNA target. Analysis of offspring from several independent bobtail x bobtail crosses indicates that the homozygous phenotype is embryonic lethal.