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.