Dogs today are genetically far removed from wolves and even dogs of a couple hundred years ago

There are no ancient breeds of dogs extant-

In the last few years there have been several articles tracing the ancestry of dogs back to wild wolves. This may give rise to pet owners thinking their dog is very “wolfy” — nearly a wolf, a bit of the wild on your living room floor or kennel.

A new study led by Durham University says “not so fast.” When this group of scientists analyzed the genetics of today’s dogs this found that due to crossbreeding over thousands of years the dogs have almost nothing in common with wolves. They are human created animals.

The researchers poured over the genetic data from 1,375 dogs coming from 35 breeds, and found that no breeds are ancient, not even ones so claimed like Akita, Afghan Hounds and Chinese Shar-Pei. These are genetically no closer to the domestication event than recent dogs. In fact there probably was no single domestication event. Instead wolves became dogs many times and in different places.

Equally surprising is that today’s breeds of dogs frequently have little in common with those breeds that were abundant a couple hundred years ago. Until the last century or so, dogs were almost exclusively used to perform various tasks — to work. Now most are pets and bred to be pets. As a result, few dogs today have much in common with the genetics of dogs of, let’s say, 1700.

A report of the research can be found at “Modern Dog Breeds Genetically Disconnected from Ancient Ancestors. ScienceDaily (May 21, 2012).

Like cattle, one could argue that dogs are artificial animals with little genetic connection with the wild.





  1. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    This article hits the nail squarely on the head. Dogs are indeed far removed from wolves, yet still capable of interbreeding with wolves. There have been countless recent dog genetics studies, their genome is being mapped, and extremely interesting studies in terms of dog behavior, and how they are more “hard wired” toward people rather than other dogs.

    Dogs: Decoded is a fascinating PBS Nova documentary

    that enters the realm of many aspects of dog behavior and evolution. Yes, it covers the possible adrenalin/biochemistry connection in dog evolution(Russian Fox farm experimentation), but bits of the program that cue in on dog research in regards to dog relationship with humans is utterly fascinating.

    If you have the time, watch the entire video, not just the bits and pieces.

    1. Rancher Bob Avatar
      Rancher Bob

      Interesting video the best is about 30 minutes in and just think we’re only 3 generation from a new world. If you have the time a Russian has living in Siberia.

      1. Immer Treue Avatar
        Immer Treue

        Rancher Bob,

        Glad you liked the video as there is some neat stuff in there about dog behaviors/ and why you can’t tame a wolf… but I’m not quite sure what you mean “and just think we’re only 3 generation from a new world. If you have the time a Russian has living in Siberia.”

        1. Rancher Bob Avatar
          Rancher Bob

          It was that it took 3 generation of breeding to change the fox what else can you change in 3 generations if you have the time of someone living in Siberia. One can breed for mean or tame we’re only 3 generation away from change if we chose that route. No hidden meanings.

          1. Immer Treue Avatar
            Immer Treue

            Rancher Bob,

            Not to worry, I implied no hidden meaning. I just wasn’t sure what you meant. Makes more sense now.

            Ironic that as Belaev bred for tameness, he received foxes(at least some of which) were worthless to the fur industry. Of course 100,000 to 12,000 years ago, man had no pens or cages to confine and selectively breed, nor, I would say, the inclination to do so. More or less had to let nature, curiosity on the part of wolves, and probably mooching take place, and that took some time.

            This video and another Nova video, Dogs and More Dogs, cover the dog topic quite well. I always show my students one video, the other or both during our study of genetics. Most of the kids like dogs, and the genetics of dogs is a good hook to garner their interest in the topic.

  2. Nancy Avatar

    I’m somewhat thru the video Immer, thanks for posting it, but due to my bargin rate internet conection (that only allows me “bits & pieces” at a time) its gonna take awhile to see the entire video.

    Although I have to say, my “kids” (2 mixed breed dogs) keep gathering around me when they hear dogs barking on the video 🙂

    A short version of “can you identify this bark” from NOVA :

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      Ouch! Only 50%. Too accustomed to the barks/noises of a big shepherd.

  3. Ted Clayton Avatar
    Ted Clayton

    I’ve previously seen 2 papers, or series of research projects/papers that relate to this item.

    1) There appear to have been multiple ‘original domestication’ events. All from wolves, but from different populations at different times

    2) All the early lines of dogs died out, and ‘our’ dogs were separately domesticated, later.

    Some domestic animals revert readily to something persuasively resembling their ancestors. Others don’t.

    Efforts to create a wolf-like dog, made use of wolves. Goats or hogs – just turn them loose.

  4. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    I rather hoped this particular thread would Garner more interest as it seems most of us have, or have had dogs. In the book Dog Sense, where it was stressed that much of what we thought we knew about dog behavior was based upon observations of captive wolf Packs.

    As most captive Wolf packs were/are not family units when the studies were
    Made, the results about hierarchy within the captive packs was faulty in regard to wild packs, and for that matter, the behavior of domestic dogs. Captive wolf pack studies were more comparable to, in an a optical way, the study of prison populations and applying those results to Humans as a whole.

    The natural curiosity of canids… And their ability to locate food had an awful lot to do with the domestication process, and per the studies as shown in the Nova “Dogs Decoded” have much to relay in the sense that there were parallels in evolution in terms of humans and their dogs, or perhaps one might hazard a postulation of dogs And their humans.

  5. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    Oh bout the hazards of hand helds, should read anolgical, not optical.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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