Why Dogs’ Origins Are Still Mysterious

Salukis appear genetically different from other modern dogs because they were geographically isolated and were not part of the 19th century Victorian-initiated Kennel Clubs that blended lineages to create most of the breeds we keep as pets todayHumans’ close relationship to dogs has so far obscured their history so much that it’s not yet possible to use genetic data to tease out the details of their domestication, new research indicates.

Their complicated history involves being interbred, as well as transported around the world.

“There’s a central irony here which is that because we love them so much, we’ve completely obliterated their early history and made it more difficult to understand their origins,” researcher Greger Larson, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, told LiveScience in an email.

Dogs were the first domesticated animal; however, many major questions about their domestication remain. For instance, it’s still not clear how many times they were domesticated, where in the Old World this happened, and how many different wolf populations contributed to the modern global population of dogs.

Using genetic data taken from modern breeds so far, it’s not yet possible to look back more than about 150 years ago, past the time when Victorians began establishing the tightly defined breeds we know today, Larson said.

For the previous 15,000 years or so, the genetic history of dogs is a “big blurred mess,” he said, explaining that while some selective breeding took place since dogs were defined by their jobs, dogs also breed on their own. In addition, humans transported them around the world and certain varieties even disappeared.

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