New Findings Discovered on the History of Dogs

Scientists tested DNA from hundreds of dogs and wolves to make this new discovery.
If a dog owner wanted to know about the basic genetics of their dogs, they could simply purchase a "Doggie DNA kit" which could tell them the ancestry of their pooch. With an over-the-counter DNA kit, a dog owner can discover the different breeds of their dog going back to their great-great-grandparents. However, if you're trying to go back a bit further into dog-history, it's going to take a bit more than a $100 DNA Kit.

Recently, the origins of the domesticated dog have been in hot debate in scientific circles. According to many published reports, it was long agreed that our modern-day domesticated dogs had evolved from the breeding and training of Grey Wolves in Eastern Asia. The discovery of different fossils around known camps and tribes suggested that wolves were kept as pets and possibly for hunting and protection. However, there has been new evidence to suggest that these "first dogs" were not the first domesticated wolves, in fact, some scientists have found that the first dogs may have been in humans' homes as long as 30,000 years ago, when it was initially thought to be something more like 10,000 years ago.

New Evidence
The academic journal "Science" recently published an article that has scientists and dog lovers yipping with curiosity. According to Science, they analyzed the mitochondrial genomes of 18 prehistoric carnivorous families from Eurasia and the Western Hemisphere, along with a comprehensive panel of modern dogs and wolves. The new study found that the molecular structure was a closer match with European hunter-gatherers and the animals with whom they interacted.

The original studies found fossils in Asia dated back 10,000 years. However, new DNA evidence was compared to 49 modern wolves and 77 modern dogs (the cross-breed from Gray Wolves that were originally domesticated have long been extinct.).

The Nine Oldest Dog Breeds
To see how ancient a breed of dog is, a scientist can test a breed's DNA and then compare it to the DNA of a Gray Wolf, which is what we understand to be where domesticated dogs are the closest relative. The breeds with the fewest genetic differences to wolves are the oldest breeds. Take a look at the list, you may be surprised:

All dogs are related to the Gray Wolf.
  • Shar-Pei
  • Shiba Inu
  • Chow Chow
  • Akita Inu
  • Basenji
  • Siberian Husky
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Afghan Hound
  • Saluki

Regardless of the recent scientific findings, nearly everyone agrees that our modern dogs are the result of domesticating wolves. It's sometimes hard to believe that from breeding, cross breeding and cross breeding again that a toy poodle is related to a wild wolf, but scientists will continue to discover the secrets of our history and our relationship with our pets.

By Sean Bowes
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