Most of us take dogs for granted. These friendly loyal animals are usually accepted for what they are, dogs. However, whilst most people know dogs came from wolves, not many give it much a thought. Especially here in England, where wolves were hunted until they no longer exist in the wild on the British Isles. But for a few select researchers, the links between wolves and dogs are important enough to dedicate their research towards the history of dogs.
It is generally understood that dogs came from grey wolves but when, where and those little intricate details of domestication are not so clear cut. It’s one of those great debates within this area. Previously, domestication was thought to have came from either the Middle East or South China but new evidence suggest the Altai Republic holds an older dog. To give you an idea of the timeframe, specimens found in South China were around 16 thousand years old and specimens in Altai Republic are around 33 thousand years old. Whilst specimens around 30 something thousand years old are around, its was presumed that they were wolves or failed domestication.
Previously thought to be a wolf, the Altai Canid (from the Canidae Family), has now been confirmed as a primitive form of today’s dogs using DNA analysis by Druzhkova et al. (2013). These researchers compared the Altai Canid DNA to those of wolves found in the same cave and found that they were too different to be closely related. There was also no big similarities in the analysis of the Altai Canid DNA with the wolves and dogs in today’s society.
However, the Altai Canid was found to be more Altai Dog than Altai Wolf in a closer examination of the DNA. This primitive dog will be a starting point for further research as scientists will now have to consider that domestication of dogs might have happened outside of either the Middle East or South China and way before 16,000 years. The debate has changed and even though Druzhkova et al. (2013) stated that more sequence data will be needed to further support their findings, what they have found shows that DNA analysis will be very important in the mapping of the history of dogs and their domestication.
Source: Druzhkova AS, Thalmann O, Trifonov VA, Leonard JA, Vorobieva NV, et al. (2013) Ancient DNA Analysis Affirms the Canid from Altai as a Primitive Dog. PLoS ONE 8(3): e57754. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057754