Dogs: Evolution, Links with Wolves and Breed Characteristics

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Impact of facial conformation on canine health: corneal ulceration

Brachycephalic breeds more likely to suffer from canine corneal ulcers

Source: R.M.A. Packer, A. Hendricks, C.C. Burn
PLOS One. 2015 vol 10 no 5: e0123827 .DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0123827

Dogs from extremely short-nosed. or brachycephalic breeds have become increasingly common due to artificial selection, and this has been linked to an increase in eye disorders. This study examined whether corneal ulcers, which appear on the surface of the eye, are linked to extreme facial features such as brachycephaly. The study involved 700 dogs at a UK hospital, and included 31 dogs suffering from corneal ulcers, 30 of which were pedigree dogs, including brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, pugs, shih tzus, and cavalier King Charles spaniels.

These short-nosed breeds had a twenty-fold greater possibility of suffering corneal ulcers, than dogs with normal or longer noses. This may be because brachycephalic dogs tend to have protruding eyes, and they may not be able to protect their eyes by blinking easily. Nasal folds were associated with an almost five-fold risk of corneal ulcers, while an increase in the relative width of eyelid aperture of more than 10% was linked to a more than tripled risk of corneal ulcers, and exposed eye-whites with an almost three-fold risk of corneal ulcers.

Breeding for short muzzles and linked characteristics such as nasal folds can increase the risk of corneal ulcers. Dogs could be bred for longer muzzles, in order to lessen the chances of their suffering from corneal ulcers.


Prevalence of disorders recorded in dogs attending primary-care veterinary practices in England

Study highlights most common canine health problems

Source: D.G. O’Neill, D.B. Church, P.D. McGreevy, P.C. Thomson, D.C. Brodbelt
PLOS One 2014 vol 9 no 3 e90501, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090501

There are from 8 to 10 million dogs in the UK, where an estimated 24% to 31% of households have one or more dogs. There is a need for more analysis of health problems and possible links to breeding practices. Common canine health problems have been estimated by the VetCompass Animal Surveillance project, using information on dogs attending English veterinary practices.

This study used an in-depth examination of the electronic records of 3,884 dogs attending 89 clinics, between September 1, 2009 and March 31, 2013. Of the total, 76% or 2,945 dogs suffered from at least one condition. Ear infections affected 10.2 % of dogs, periodontal disease affected 9.3 %, anal sac impaction affected 7.1 %. Skin conditions affected 36% of the dogs, digestive tract problems affected 30% and musculoskeletal system problems affected 15%. The head and neck was the most common part of the body affected, and inflammation was the most common pathology recorded.

Pedigree dogs were significantly more likely to suffer many diseases than were crossbreeds, including ear problems, obesity and tumours, while cross-breeds did not rank higher than pedigree dogs in any disease category. There was a lot of variety from one breed to another in terms of how likely they were to suffer from common disorders. Changes in breeding practices using a breed-by-breed approach could bring about genetic improvements that help to reduce the risk of dogs being affected by common diseases


Disease control through fertility control: secondary benefits of animal birth control in Indian street dogs.

Rabies vaccination and neutering can benefit untreated stray dogs in the same population

Source: A.J. Yoak, J.F. Reece, S.D. Gehrt, I.M. Hamilton
Preventive Veterinary Medicine, vol 113 no 1, Jan 2014 pp 152-156

Stray dogs can pose a risk to human health, from dog bites and rabies, and there are an estimated 36,580 stray dogs in the Indian city of Jaipur while an estimated 24,853 stray dogs live in Jodhpur. Vaccination and neutering are used to counter the health threats to humans. Neutering appears to benefit the neutered dogs, and this study investigated whether vaccination and neutering can benefit other stray dogs in these locations that have not been neutered or vaccinated.

These two Indian cities have long-term neutering and vaccination programmes. Jaipur´s has been operating for 17 years, and Jodhpur’s for seven years. Some 80% of bitches are sterilised in these cities. In contrast, Sawai Madhopur is a city which lacks a neutering or vaccination programme. The three cities are in Rajasthan, India.

A total of 240 sexually intact dogs from these three locations were checked for signs of infection, and they, and a further 50 dogs were checked for infestation with ticks or fleas, fight wounds, and for general body condition, in autumn 2011. The dogs in Jaipur and Jodhpur showed fewer signs of antibodies to infectious diseases like canine distemper, leptospirosis, infectious canine hepatitis and Ehrlichia canis, compared with dogs in Sawai Madhopur. Their body condition was better, they were less infested by fleas, and they had fewer wounds from fights. The prevalence of Brucella Canis and Canine parvovirus did not differ significantly between cities.

The better health of the dogs in cities with neutering and vaccinating programmes may be because the dog population had dropped through neutering, so there was more food per dog, and infections were less likely to be transmitted. Neutering may also have reduced fights. Dogs from Jaipur and Jodhpur did show more brown tick infestations, though this problem could be tackled by treatment for ticks alongside neutering and vaccinations.

This study shows that neutering and rabies vaccination programmes geared to tackling human health problems can also help populations of stray dogs as a whole.


Dingoes in the dock

Conservation of Australian dingoes depends on realistic attitudes

source: Adrian Franklin
New Scientist vol 213 no 2852, February 18 2012
starts p28, 2 pages long

The case of the baby who died in Ayers Rock, Australia, and whose jacket turned up in a dingo's den, is being reopened, and this could affect attitudes to conservation of dingoes. Many people believed dingoes incapable of killing babies, but few Australians know the animal, and little has been written on its natural history. It is classified as Canis lupus dingo, and reached Australia some 3,500 years ago from Asia, becoming feral and forming packs in Australia. It has both been seen as a native wild dog, and as a dog domesticated by Aboriginals. It is both capable of affection and co-operation, and is opportunistic when hungry, just as humans are. Aboriginals warn of risks from dingoes to babies and frail old people. Whites are more likely to see dingoes as victims of persecution. Dingoes on Fraser Island, Queensland, have become a tourist attraction. Advertising depicts them as wild, solitary and unthreatening. Attacks have occurred against humans, but they have been described as unnatural, and the dingoes culled. This unrealistic view of dingoes is unhelpful for their conservation. Dingoes' relationships with humans can be both symbiotic and predatory. They should be conserved as potentially dangerous animals with measures to keep them separate from humans.


Clever co-operation is not vital to hunting packs

Wolves can hunt efficiently by following simple rules

source: Michael Marshall
New Scientist vol 212 no 2835, October 22 2011 p11

A computer model has shown that wolves can hunt efficiently following simple rules; moving towards prey up to a certain point, then moving away from pack members at that distance. The model was developed by a team led by Raymond Coppinger from Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts. Meanwhile, University of Oxford's Claudio Sillero argues that packs are not formed for communal hunting. Another study sees little advantage of packs once they have grown to a certain size.


Grey wolf hunt is back on

Wolf hunting legalised in Idaho and Montana

source: New Scientist vol 211 no 2828, September 3 2011 p6

Wolf hunting has been legalised in Idaho and Montana, according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fish and Wildlife Service of the US removed Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the two states, which permitted hunting from 2009. This decision was overturned by a district judge in 2010, but the 2011 decision of the appeal court again allows hunting.


Wolf family values

Wolves' social structure affected by hunting

source: Sharon Levy
New Scientist vol 206 no 2764, 12th June 2010  
starts p40, four pages long

Gordon Haber, who died in 2009, was an independent biologist whose findings on the effects of hunting on wolf social structure in Alaska are now backed by researchers elsewhere. Alaskan wolves have been killed and sterlised, affecting as many as 50% annually. Population size has remained stable, but extended families have been broken up by killing, which may mean that younger wolves can no longer learn from experienced oldsters. Less experienced survivors are more unpredictable, and kill more large prey per wolf, so hunting wolves can be counter-productive.

Haber's findings are backed by studies from Yellowstone, where wolves have been reintroduced and are protected. Yellowstone  wolves live longer, sometimes to over 10 years old, and sometimes stay with packs until they are five years old. Elsewhere, wolves rarely survive to over three or four years old. Yellowstone packs are also larger, around 11 wolves, and some packs have more than 20 members, while elsewhere packs tend to have five to six members. Yellowstone packs have developed a division of labour, with females rushing elk and selecting weaker prey, and males killing the prey. Selecting elk is a skill that peaks at three years old, while taking down elk peaks at two years old. Younger wolves learn from observation and experience. Larger packs can eat all their kill, while smaller packs have to leave some, eaten by scavengers, and smaller packs thus kill more large prey per wolf.

These findings are echoed by studies in Ontario, Canada, where wolves have been protected in Algonquin Park since 2001. Population size has remained steady, but the wolves are now setting  up family groups, rather than packs with unrelated members. Packs are also now taking moose, larger than deer, previously the main food source. This means that youngsters are learning new skills. Limits on elk numbers can boost the diversity of songbirds and plants.

Haber emphasises wolves' sociality, a trait also found in howler monkeys. Female howlers raise more young if they live with close kin. African elephants hit by poaching deaths suffer family disruption, with young males becoming more dangerous.

Buffer zones outside parks can help wolf families survive, but they are being removed. In march 2010, wolf trapping was permitted outside denali Park, Alaska, and in 2009, Idaho and montana allowed wolf hunting around yellowstone. This has already led to the deaths of the alpha male and female from one pack, and the survivors' fate is unknown.


Beyond myth and legend

History of wolf studies

source: New Scientist vol 206 no
 2764, 12th June 2010 
starts p42, two pages long

Persecution of wild wolves made studying them impossible, so captive wolves were studied. Observers perceived a rigid pecking order, with only alpha wolves breeding. This view was changed by the studies of David Mech, who looked at wolves from Ellesmere Island, Canada, where hunting is banned. Mech saw packs as family groups. Texas University's Jane Packard was a co-worker with mech, and sees monogamous packs as more likely where wolves are not hunted, and there is abundant prey. Elsewhere, there is diversity, as with humans, for example, single mothers or polygamy. Packard also sees wolves as using social skills to live together, rather than bullies imposing dominance. A wolf can gain food from showing submissive behaviour, while pushiness can lead to conflict. Wolves can move from a submissive to an alpha position. Knowing when to defer and when to fight helps wolves to survive. Wolves  with these skills have emotional resilience, a trait which can also help humans under stress, and which social animals can learn to develop. 


Sick as a dog

Current pedigree dog breeding practices can promote ill-health in dogs

source: Paul McGreevy
New Scientist vol 200 no 2677 October 11 2008 p18

Critics of pedigree dog breeding are concerned that dog show winners gain prizes for movement and appearance, while canine well-being and health are neglected. The RSPCA and Dogs Trust no longer support the UK Kennel Club's Cruft's show. There is a need to focus on longevity, health and temperament.

Problems arise from intensively bred animals selected from a closed stud book. This closed system means that inherited disorders are found in many dogs. Some traits sought by breeders may affect canine health, and breeders tend to place more importance on looks than function. An example is the Weimaraner standard, for a deep and well-developed chest, a firmly held abdomen, and moderately tucked up flank, traits that can make Weimaraners vulnerable to torsion and gastric dilation. In another case, breeders who seek to develop bulging eyes in Pugs can produce dogs unable to close their eyes, and which thus become blind.

Studbooks should be more open, and there should be greater control of emerging inherited diseases. Most dogs are now companions, so greater importance should be placed on temperament, to allow dogs a better quality of life, and better relationships with humans. Australia has embarked on a scheme to promote easier temperaments, a scheme backed by Australian dog breeders. Vets are now using better quality tools to assess canine quality of life.

Rules for pedigree dog breeding should change if pedigree dogs are to survive. Good breeders care about their job. Breeders need to collaborate with veterinary associations and welfare charities, using up-to-date knowledge of epidemiology and genetics, to take a fresh approach to dog breeding.


Wild at heart

Why wolves are not good pets

source: New Scientist vol 199 no 2670, August 23 2008 p 35

Domestic dogs may be classed in biological terms as a canis lupus, or grey wolf, subspecies, however, there are major differences between wolves and dogs. Wolves are difficult to train, spooked by strangers and new experiences in general, and are aggressive in unpredictable ways. Wolves also scent mark to a greater extent than dogs, can be more destructive, and are more prone to escaping than dogs. Wolves howl rather than barking, and this may mean that communication with humans is limited. A fashion for owning wolves is evident from websites offering advice on the subject, but University of Pennsylvania's James Serpell counsels against this fad.


Sniffing out the genes behind pooch personalities

Comparison of genetic variations and their links to behaviour and physical differences in different dog breeds

source: Ewen Callaway
New Scientist no 2662 June 28 2008 p17

A team from Utah University, Salt Lake City, headed by K. Gordon Lark, has compared dogs from 148 different breeds, looking at both behavioural and physical characteristics. The behavioural characteristics that the team investigated include trainability, exciteability, boldness, and a tendency to herd, while the physical characteristics include size and body proportions. A dopamine receptor gene appears to be linked to boldness in rottweilers. Smaller dogs tend to carry a gene linked to exciteability. Timidity and boldness, however, do not appear to be linked to size. Meanwhile, California's Stanford University's Greg Barsh cautions that it is difficult to explain behaviour completely in terms of genetics. This research has been published in the journal Genetics.


Getting some shut eye

Comparison of sleep patterns of selected mammals and birds

source: Emma Young
New Scientist vol 197 no 2647, March 15 2008
starts p 32, 2 pages long

Humans sleep relatively little, ranking fourth in a sample of 12 species of mammals and birds, behind giraffes, elephants and whales, while dogs rank sixth in this sample. Though dogs tend to sleep for longer overall, ten hours on average compared with eight for humans, humans have more REM or rapid eye movement sleep than dogs. Dogs clock up some nine hours non-REM sleep compared with humans at some six hours, so dogs have only around one hour of REM sleep compared with two for humans. Zebra finches, on the other hand, rank tenth overall, with over 14 hours total sleep and very little REM sleep, while lions rank ninth, with around 14 hours total sleep some some four hours REM sleep. The information in this article is presented in graphic form.


Open season on rare wolves

Government allows hunters to shoot wolves in Norway

source: New Scientist vol 185 no 2483, January 22 2005 p4

Conservationists are concerned about a decision by the Norwegian government in early January 2005 to allow hunters to shoot five grey wolves before February 15 2005. The total wolf population in Norway is estimated at some 25 individuals. There is a protection area for wolves in south eastern Norway, where hunting wolves is banned, but wolves can be shot if they leave this area. The protection area was also reduced to 50% of its previous size in 2004. Hunting wolves is supported by sheep farmers. They lose some 30,000 sheep annually to lynxes, bears, wolverines and wolves, with wolves estimated to be responsible for 2,000 of these sheep losses.

There are some 100 wolves in Scandinavia as a whole. At one time, wolves were extinct in Scandinavia, but the species was revived by a pair which came to Scandinavia in 1978, from a pack that included parts of Russia and Finland in its territory.


Canine muzzle points to speedy evolution

New research on evolution of canine shapes

source: Bob Holmes
New Scientist vol 184 no 2478, December 18 2004 p10

Variations in repeating DNA sequences can account for variations in head shapes across dog breeds. John Fondon and Harold Garner from the Southwestern Medical Center, University of Texas, looked at 92 dog breeds, sequencing 37 repeated regions coming from 17 genes affecting development. Runx-2 is a gene which affects head shape. Breeds with short noses, like pugs, were found to have repeats inside one particular gene giving codes for a high number of alanine amino acid repeats, and a low number of glutamine amino acid repeats. The reverse was true for greyhounds and other long-nosed breeds. The protein product of the genes affects how bone-producing cells differentiate. This helps to explain the great variation in canine shapes and sizes which have arisen in a few thousand years.


Will overcrowding sink Noah's ark?

Defining species, and implications for conservation

source: Bob Holmes and Jeff Hecht
New Scientist no 2422, November 22 2003
starts p 6, 2 pages long

It has become more difficult to define species, with new discoveries, and disagreements as to whether a particular group of animals constitutes a species. This makes conservation decisions difficult, because it is unclear what we should conserve. Elephants and gorillas, for example, could have more species than previously thought. In constrast, other animals, such as the red wolf, are no longer considered to be species. The red wolf is likely to have resulted from a cross between a coyote and a wolf.

Paul Hebert, biologist from Guelph University, Canada, is tackling the problem by focusing on one gene, cytochrome C oxidase I, in order to identify species. There is disagreement on what constitutes a species, and it is more complex than whether offspring can be fertile. Species can be seen as lineages that have evolved separately, a view that could more than double the number of species.


A dog called Jacksy

Jackals crossed with huskies to produce sniffer dogs

source: New Scientist May 18 2002 p19

Jackal-husky crosses are being used as sniffer dogs at a Russian airport. Jackals tend not to have a strong work ethic, but their sense of smell is keener than that of domestic dogs. The work on developing the cross was carried out by Klim Sulimov from the DS Likhachev Scientific Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Environmental Protection, Russia. There are ten of the new breed of sniffer dogs working at a forensic department, and 25 working at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.


Honey, I shrunk the dog

Benefits of having a small dog

source: Justine Hankins
Guardian Weekend July 6 2002 p71

There are many people who are prejudiced against small dogs, especially the toy breeds, seeing them as yappy and silly, and not 'proper' dogs. Tough little breeds like Jack Russells and Westies seem to be the exception. Some people believe dogs should look butch, so would be very embarrassed to go out in public with a dog with ribbons and long silky hair. Small dogs have been associated with pop stars, women who are unable to express maternal instincts in other ways, and overprivileged ladies. Yet dogs should not be seen as reflecting owners' testosterone levels. These prejudices also seem strong in big cities in Britain than in many other European capitals, and smaller dogs are better suited to city life.

Small dogs do things that other dogs do, like chase squirrels, bark at postmen, and love their owners unconditionally. They also have benefits such as not needing as much space, and not stealing from tables. They don't pull as hard when they are on the lead, and are not likely to be involved in fatal dog bite cases. Small dogs are the tops.


The human-dog connection

How dogs became domesticated

source: Karen E Lange
National Geographic vol 201 no 1 January 2002 p4
from 'Wolf to Woof' starts p2, 30 pages long

There is evidence that dogs had started to become domesticated some 14,000 years ago, though it is unclear why. Some scientists believe that wolf pups were adopted by humans, with less aggressive pups, and those that begged better for food, being favoured through natural selection. Other scientists see early dogs as attracted to human refuse tips, and canids that did not run away from people tending to be selected for. Dogs just had to be able to eat near people to be selected for, according to RaymondCoppinger, a biologist. Wolves and dogs have almost identical DNA.

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Breeds apart

Differences and similarities between dog breeds

source: Karen E Lange
National Geographic vol 201 no 1 January 2002
starts p5, 3 pages long
from 'Wolf to Woof' starts p2, 30 pages long

Dogs have been called shape shifters by Raymond Coppinger, because they show more diversity than other species, but different breeds also have similarities. Dogs became tamer as they adapted to living near humans. They also became more trainable, wagged their tails, and their coats became multi-coloured. Their teeth and skulls shrank in relation to their size, since they didn’t have to hunt big prey. Their brains also shrank, and they didn’t need as many calories or as much protein. The earliest breeds were probably like scavenging dogs seen all over the world. People may have chosen good guarding or hunting dogs and raised them. Bigger dogs with thicker coats survived better where it was cold.

Wolves and dogs share the same bones in terms of number. Dogs differ from cats in that puppies’ heads have different proportions from adults’ heads, and the timing of foetal and puppy development affects dogs’ shapes as adults. This has led to many of the variations between breeds.


Roots of the dog

Evolution of early canids

source: Karen E Lange
National Geographic vol 201 no 1 January 2002
starts p8, 2pages long
from 'Wolf to Woof' starts p2, 30 pages long

Early ancestors of the dog are thought to include Epicyon, a powerful canid that lived eight million years ago. There were also Eucyon, which were about the size of modern foxes. It was the Eucyon which survived climate cooling, while big prey and Epicyon both became extinct. Eucyon evolved into wolves, and wolves are thought to have travelled to Arctic North America some 800,000 years ago.


Faithful companions

The changing relationship between dogs and humans

source: Karen E Lange
National Geographic vol 201 no 1 January 2002
starts p10, 2 pages long
from 'Wolf to Woof' starts p2, 30 pages long

Dogs are unable to exist without humans, and have evolved in human company. This is true even for feral dogs scavenging from villages. James Serpell is a biologist who sees dogs as living between nonhuman and human worlds. Ancient civilizations saw dogs as taking messages between dead and living people.


Love story

Relationships between humans and dogs

source: Karen E Lange
National Geographic vol 201 no 1 January 2002
starts p12, 20 pages long
from 'Wolf to Woof' starts p2, 30 pages long

Dogs have benefited from a long term relationship with humans and have grown in numbers, while wolves have become scarcer. There are some 68 million dogs just in the US, or one dog per four humans. Most of these dogs aren’t working dogs. They may live in city apartments, or in hunting packs. Some 40 million US households have dogs .

There is very little difference between wolves and dogs. The difference between wolves and dogs in terms of most variable mitochondrial DNA markers is only just over 1%, according to Robert Wayne, geneticist. Wayne’s studies indicate that dogs started to break away some 100,000 years ago. There have been finds of early human and wolf fossils from 400,000 years ago, though the earliest find of human and dog fossils dates back to 14,000 years ago. Dogs and/or wolves seem to have developed a relationship with humans prior to humans having developed permanent settlements and farming. Wolves may have helped humans to find and track prey.

As dogs developed, they became smaller and friendlier, and their markings changed. They could clean garbage, provide warmth for humans, warn of danger, and even be eaten. Dogs were described by Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. There were many working dogs in 17th century England, and their jobs included herding and providing power for turnspits. Breeding took off in the 19th century, with private registries being set up. The Kennel Club recognises 196 breeds, and the American Kennel Club recognises 150. Companion dogs are kept by 94% of dog owners in the US, while 6% of owners have dogs for hunting, and 4% have them for farming.

There is concern that dogs may be affected by selective breeding for their looks, leading them to become less healthy and less useful as working dogs. Dogs can be extremely useful for work, such as hunting retrieving, helping disabled people as service dogs, drug sniffing, and search and rescue. 


Wolf dogs

Latvian wolves found to be interbreeding with dogs

source: New Scientist May 4 2002 p27

Genetic analysis carried out on 31 wolves from Kemeri National Park, Latvia, has found that a minimum of 12 of them appear to be hybrids, resulting from interbreeding with dogs. Wolves usually see dogs as prey, but this can change at a time when wolf populations are falling. The wolf population in the Kemeri region may have been affected by intensive hunting, the researchers argue. The research was carried out by Zanete Andersone and team, and has been reported in Mammalian Biology, vol 67 p79.


Old dogs gave new tricks to early man

Early humans may have imitated canine behaviour

source: Mark Henderson
Times March 27 2002 p11

Australian Researchers, Colin Pardoe and Paul Tacon, argue that early humans may have imitated canine behaviour, leading to the usage of early works of art as ways of marking territory. The researchers, from Sydney’s Australian Museum, note that most primates tend not to show territorial behaviour found in modern humans. They argue that wolves may have been domesticated as early as 130,000 years ago, when anatomically modern humans emerged in Africa. Humans may have observed dogs and wolves functioning as packs, a trait not usually found in primates, and humans may have seen this pack behaviour as a strategy that enabled them to deal with harsh environments. This could have helped the flow of ideas, culture and gene flow between groups of humans. The research has been published in ‘Nature Australia’.


Knife twists mystery of dog burials

Roman dog graveyard discovered

source: Maev Kennedy Guardian January 1 2002 p6

An archaeological investigation in Silchester, Hampshire, England, has found what appears to be a Roman graveyard for dogs. Reading University researchers are investigating the site, which includes the grave of a dog buried with a young child, and a grave with a dog standing upright, and buried carefully so as to keep it standing as though it was on guard. A knife has also been found at the site showing two dogs mating on its carved ivory handle. The dogs have blunt muzzles, unlike dogs usually shown in Roman mosaics and sculptures. Silchester was abandoned as the Roman influence in Britain declined, unlike most Roman towns, which later became cities.


New tricks and old dogs

Dogs may have been domesticated earlier than previously believed

source: New Scientist March 4 2000 p24

Dogs were thought to have been domesticated some 14,000 years ago, when humans started to settle and grow crops, rather than hunt, but researchers from the University of California argue that dogs may have been domesticated earlier. Carles Vila and his team examined DNA from 67 dog breeds, and found four separate lines descending from wolves to dogs. This implies a minimum of four attempts to domesticate dogs that have been successful. Different breeds show great variations in genetic terms. This diversity suggests that dogs may have been domesticated earlier than previous estimates, perhaps as long ago as 135,000 years. Domestication of dogs may have begun at the time that humans evolved. Further research is being carried out, on ancient dog remains from Latin America and the Middle East, and ancient breeds like the Xolo, to assess how long ago it was that dogs were domesticated.


Africans fight to preserve one of man's oldest friends

Preservation project for African dog

source: Karen MacGregor
Independent on Sunday September 10 2000 p22

The Africanis Society of Southern Africa wants to have canis africanis, the African dog, registered with the Kennel Union of South Africa. The society was set up in 1998 by Johan Gallant, its president. He sees the African dog as a pure race at risk from interbreeding. Twenty five dogs have been collected and have been bred from, giving some 70 pure African dogs. Mental and physical alertness rather than physical homogeneity are important. African dogs have to be fit to survive because they are valued less than chickens, in terms of prices paid in rural Africa. The society aims to breed dogs without hereditary problems, and resistant to disease.

African dogs originally came from the Arabian peninsula. There is evidence that they were found in the Nile Delta from 4700 BC, and that they had reached southern Africa by 6th century AD.


Wolves aloof as ever in Italy

Italian wolves do not appear to be breeding with dogs

source: Guardian April 27 2000
Science section p3

Italian Institute of Wildlife Biology's Ettore Randi reports that DNA samples from 101 Italian wolves show no feral dog sequences. Wolves from Romania, Bulgaria and western Russia have interbred with feral dogs, but this is not the case for Italian wolves, according to Randi. This work has been reported in 'Conservation Biology'.

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Wolves on the brink

Concern that Swedish wolves are mating with dogs and could become extinct

source: New Scientist February 5 2000 p5

A wolf puppy in a car crash in Sweden was fathered by a dog, according to Uppsala University scientists. Wolves may mate with dogs because there are not enough wolves. Mating with dogs could lead to wolves becoming extinct in Sweden.


Taming the wolf

Development of dogs from wolves through selection by humans

source: Ken McNamara
New Scientist October 16 1999
Inside Science supplement p2

Humans have selected traits in dogs which are characteristic of wolf puppies, such as shortened snouts and smaller size. The oldest dog remains are some 14,000 years old. Juvenile wolf behaviour may have been selected, rather than shape. Wolf pups are scavengers, and this may have led to contact with humans. Primary social bonds are established when the pups are between three-weeks old and 12-weeks-old. Wolf pups that exhibited aggression or failed to bond with humans were probably killed or driven away.


Nobody's fool

Special needs of collies

source: Linda Capel and Tony Brenton
Wag Spring 2000
starts p8, 2 pages long

Collies are working dogs that appear in sheepdog trials and other roles. Many are abandoned every year, and cared for by the National Canine Defence League in Britain. Collie puppies look appealing, but this breed needs a lot of effort and time. They are intelligent and athletic, and need to have something to do or they will find their own amusements. Dominant collies need firm leadership, while timid collies can be handled more gently. Collies like to herd and sometimes nip, so they may not be suitable for families with many pets or very young children. They learn fast, and this includes learning bad habits.

Collies are not easy dogs, but they are challenging and exciting. They need fun and action, as well as training, and they are happiest when they are using their special skills.


How much is that wolf in the window?

DNA evidence that dogs were first domesticated longer ago than previously thought

source: Bob Holmes
New Scientist June 21 1997 p19

DNA evidence indicates that dogs were first domesticated longer ago than previously thought. It was thought that dogs and humans first lived together when humans settled and started to farm, since the earliest achaeological evidence of a link, with humans buried next to skeletons of dog-like creatures, is only 14,000 years old. However, new research from the University of California, Los Angeles, has compared mitochondrial DNA from canids, and found a far older link.

The study, carried out by Carles Vila and team, looked at 162 wolves world-wide, 12 jackals, five coyotes, and 140 dogs from 67 breeds. Analyses revealed that wolves are more closely related to dogs than jackals or coyotes, and there are at least four different lines that can be traced from dogs to wolves. There was also a large variation in the mitochondrial DNA of dogs, which Vila believes means that dogs originated far longer ago than 14,000 years, and he estimates that the origin of dogs occurred some 135,000 years ago. This research is reported more fully in Science (1997), vol 276, p1687.