The last word on dog genesis is not nigh!

By Razib Khan | December 19, 2011 11:00 am

In my post below Rob commented:

Surely the genetic evidence is pointing towards a single domestication event (see

My general response is not to accept the latest press release about the genetic origin of dogs. I keep track of the literature and it’s rather fluid. For example, I woke up this morning, and this is what showed up in my RSS, Modern dogs are more Asian fusions than Euro pups, study finds:

Results from the study, which examined the DNA of 642 dogs, suggest that European and American canine breeds were much more influenced by dogs from Southeast Asia than by ancient Western dogs or by dogs from the Middle East, as was previously thought.

Findings from the study by collaborators in California, Iran, Taiwan and Israel appear online in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) One.

“The two most hotly debated theories propose that dogs originated in Southeast Asia or the Middle East,” said study co-author Ben Sacks, director of the Canid Diversity and Conservation Group in the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. The laboratory is an international leader in animal genetics research and provides DNA testing and forensic analysis for numerous wildlife, companion animal and livestock species.

“In contrast to those theories, our findings suggest that modern European and American dogs are overwhelmingly derived from dogs that were imported from Asia since the silk trade, rather than having descended directly from ancient dogs native to Europe,” Sacks said. “Therefore, previous arguments against Europe as a potential site of dog origins, based on modern European dog DNA, must be reconsidered, and our high-resolution Y-chromosome data from indigenous dogs of the Middle East and Southeast Asia now provide the means to test this hypothesis using ancient European dog DNA.”

I assume that as man’s best friend dog genetics is going to be where human genetics is in a few years. I’m not well aware of how good the dog reference genome is, though I hear the cat genome isn’t very good. After whole genome analysis gets going with humans I assume people will start looking at domesticates, companion animals as well as those with more direct economic productivity implications.

MORE ABOUT: Dogs, Domestication
  • Tabor

    Male baboons kidnap puppies of feral dogs. The kidnapped pups grow up with the baboon family. The dogs are treated like family pets while they defend the baboon family from other feral dogs and guard at night:

  • jb

    This puzzles me. I know there has always been long distance trade, but how could enough dogs have ever been imported from Southeast Asia to swamp the preexisting European dog population?

  • Brian Schmidt

    I read somewhere (possibly here?) that modern New Hemisphere dogs are descended from Columbian Exchange dogs, replacing the originals brought by Native Americans. So it can happen.

  • Razib Khan

    #3, yep, that is one result.

  • Charles Iliya Krempeaux

    @Brian Schmidt said,

    I read somewhere (possibly here?) that modern New Hemisphere dogs are descended from Columbian Exchange dogs, replacing the originals brought by Native Americans.

    Wonder if that includes the Carolina Dog?

  • pos

    There is some continuity with native American dogs ( in the current New World population but it appears to be very minor.

  • Cathy

    #2 jb – They were favored dogs. For example, pugs were preferred by royal families and were imported over many centuries into Europe. You can see them in portraits of nobility because they were treasured pets. Because they lived healthy, pampered lives, they were able to breed more freely and for many more years than the less pampered , native origin working dogs. Same thing applies to many of the dog breeds in the US.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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