American Dogs' Ancestry: Only Alaskan Breeds Truly American, Study Shows

Image: American Dogs' Ancestry: Only Alaskan Breeds Truly American, Study Shows

Thursday, 11 Jul 2013 04:01 PM

By Michael Mullins

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The only breeds of dogs that actually have American ancestry are Alaskan Inuit sled dogs, such as the Eskimo dog and the Greenland dog, according to a study published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"They originate from the indigenous Indian-American and Inuit dog populations, and have only marginally been mixed with European dogs in modern time," the study's co-author Peter Savolainen told Discovery News. "They are all equally American."

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The study found that the breeds' mitochondrial DNA, which was inherited from the canines' mothers, was pre-Columbian, meaning it predated the arrival of European settlers in the Americas who brought dogs with them.

An associate professor at Sweden's KTH-Royal Institute of Technology, Savolainen told Discovery News that most dog breeds overall trace their roots back to Asia.

"There was a single origin of the domestic dog somewhere in Eurasia," Savolainen explained. "The exact place is still debated, but our previous studies strongly indicate the southern part of East Asia, basically southern China."

The vast majority of dog breeds in the U.S. have European origins, according to Discovery News.

Despite this, the site says, archaeological digs have found the remains of dogs dating back 10,000 years in the U.S., long before Europeans appeared on the scene.

According to Savolainen, there is no European heritage in the genes of the Eskimo dog and the Greenland dog.

"Nobody knows exactly what happened," Savolainen told Discovery News. "[The breeds] most probably migrated together with the humans that entered America from Asia via the Bering Strait. These humans became today’s Indians and Inuits.

"Our data shows dogs came in several migrations, at least one with the Indian-American ancestors and at least one with the Inuit ancestors," he added.

Other Alaskan breeds, such as the Alaskan Malamute, have origins in Siberia, Japan, and China, according to the study.

Similarly, the Alaskan husky also has its roots in Siberian spitzes and other European dogs, Discovery News reported.

Chihuahuas and the hairless Xolo dog are the most pre-Columbian Mexican breeds according to the study.

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