Domestic dogs trace their origin to wolves. In 1993 the Society of Mammologists and the Smithsonian Institution reclassified dogs as a subspecies (Canis lupus familiaris) of the Gray wolf (Canis lupus). Currently North America is the likely origin of all living members of Canidae family. Wolf like canines probably originated in Africa. Archaeological evidence has widely been thought to point to the Middle East as the place dogs were first domesticated.

There are various theories as to how, why, when and where dogs branched away from wolves and became domesticated and we will probably never know with certainty. Archaeological evidence has widely been thought to point to the middle-east as the place dogs were first domesticated. DNA studies by Peter Savolainen et. al. published in 2002 suggest dogs were domesticated around 15 000 years ago in China in an area south of the Yangtze river from at least 51 female wolves. Dogs also share one jaw feature with Chinese wolves but no other wolves. Dogs probably accompanied man to the middle east 12-14 thousand years ago.

Other genetic studies by Adam Boyko suggested that dogs have a higher proportion of wolf haplotypes from Gray wolves native to the middle east suggesting this as the first domestication area with later admixture from Asian wolves. More recently an extensive study of over 5000 dogs looking at genotypes of 185.805 markers point to a Central Asian origin and spread to nearby regions including Afghanistan, India and Vietnam.

Archeological finds of dogs in Europe are older than any remains found so far in China, however failure to find such remains I not proof that dogs were not there but only that remains  have not been found. Dogs share some 18 000 genes with humans, a number of these result in us sharing the same diseases.

Africa, Asia, Australia and America all have dogs today that are descendent form earlier dogs including Carolina, Basenji, Dingo and others. Early Pacific Islanders took dogs with them on Ocean voyages to the islands and New Zealand. Many of these dogs share similar general appearance know as Long Term Pariah Morphotype (LTPM).

Pariah is derived from the Hindu “Pariayar” used to denote drum beaters and general agricultural labourers among Sri Lankan Tamils. In the caste system these people were considered “untouchables”. In the English language “pariah” has come to mean outcasts or scavengers and in connection with dogs describes the group including Canaan’s, Basenjis, Bedouin Shepherds, Carolina dogs, Dingo’s, INDogs, New Guinea Singing dogs, Peruvian Inca Orchard, Hawaiian Poi, Inca Hairless dog, Telomian, Tahitian Bear dog and Xoloitzcuintii. They are often referred to as primitive dogs but are in fact highly intelligent and healthy. They are NOT mongrels derived from mixed modern breeds but are an ancient type very important and significant historically.

Modern pure breeds have only come in to existence in the last few hundred years and are a direct result of interference by man to select out “desirable” traits. In some cases excessive in breeding may occur with resultant genetic problems. There are now 300 – 400 recognized breeds each with distinct features thus dogs show more morphological variation than any other animal species on earth.

It has also been suggested that humans learning to grow crops and so becoming settled lead to the domestication of dogs.

Where do “desert dog” pariahs of the Arabian Peninsula fit in all this? Well we just don’t know because none of the genetic studies published so far have included them! In March 2001 the rock carvings in Shuwaymus, Saudi Arabia unknown to archaeologists until then, were rediscovered when a Bedouin pointed them out to a school teacher. These carvings are believed to be Neolithic, i.e. pre-agriculture and show 2 types of dogs, the typical LTPM “desert dog” and sighthounds. They show the dogs accompanying a hunter. Rock carving photographs courtesy of Lars Bjurstrom.

Dr. Niels Pedersen of the University of California has now analysed some 40 dogs originating in Um Al Quwain, Dubai, Sohar, Doha, Dhahran and Jeddah. The results so far confirm that these dogs have a wide genetic diversity that has been lost in modern breeds. Two of the markers found by Dr. Pedersen are not on his current database. Work is on-going now with a call for additional samples currently being collected at Dr. Elaine Ostranders laboratory at the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, USA in collaboration with Dr Adam Boyko at the Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University.


The canine genome

Elaine A. Ostrander1,3 and Robert K. Wayne2

1Cancer Genetics Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892,

USA; 2Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California at Los Angeles,

Los Angeles, California 90095, USA

Genetic Evidence for an East Asian Origin of Domestic Dogs

Peter Savolainen,1* Ya-ping Zhang,2 Jing Luo,2 Joakim Lundeberg,1 Thomas Leitner3

1 Department of Biotechnology, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), 10691 Stockholm, Sweden.
2 Yunnan Laboratory of Molecular Biology of Domestic Animals, and Laboratory of Molecular Evolution and Genome Diversity, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650223, China.
3 Department of Virology, Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control, 17182 Solna, Sweden.
*   To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

Present address: Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, 78457 Konstanz, Germany.

Phylogenetic Distinctiveness of Middle Eastern and

Southeast Asian Village Dog Y Chromosomes Illuminates

Dog Origins

Sarah K. Brown1,2, Niels C. Pedersen2,3,4, Sardar Jafarishorijeh5, Danika L. Bannasch2,6, Kristen D.

Ahrens1,7, Jui-Te Wu8, Michaella Okon9, Benjamin N. Sacks1,2,6,7*

1 Canid Diversity and Conservation Laboratory, Center for Veterinary Genetics, University of California Davis, Davis, California, United States of America
2 Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, University of California at Davis, Davis, California, United States of America
3 Center for Companion Animal Health, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California Davis, Davis, California, United States of America
4 Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California Davis, Davis, California, United States of America
5 Department of Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran
6 Department of Population, Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California Davis, Davis, California, United States of America
7 Biological Sciences Department, California State University Sacramento, Sacramento, California, United States of America
8 Department of Veterinary Medicine, National Chiayi University,Chiayi City, Taiwan, Republic of China
9 Ruah Midbar Kennel for Desert Bred Salukis, Herzliya, Israel