American Dog Breeds Trace their Ancestry to Asia

First Posted: Jul 11, 2013 06:16 AM EDT

A latest finding reveals that the Native American dogs have an Asian ancestry.  The finding is based on a comprehensive genetic analysis of different dog species.

Earlier it was assumed that the arrival of the Europeans in American led to the extinction of the indigenous dog breeds. This is because European colonization came along with extended periods of starvation, warfare and diseases like smallpox that wiped out most of the indigenous population.

But a novel comprehensive genetic study reveals that the original population of the Native American dogs has been completely preserved.

This report was produced by Peter Savolainen, a researcher in evolutionary genetics at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

According to Savolainen, the results of the study show  that these native breeds have approximately 99.9 percent of their DNA in common with  European dogs, indicating the dogs entered America with the ancient humans who established the pre Columbian civilizations.

"Our results confirm that American dogs are a remaining part of the indigenous American culture, which underscores the importance of preserving these populations," Savolainen said in a press statement.

To proceed with the finding, Savolainen's team worked in collaboration with a team in Portugal. They examined the mitochondrial DNA samples from Asian and European dogs, ancient American archaeological samples, American dog breeds as well as Chihuahuas, Peruvian hairless dogs and Arctic sled dogs. They compared all the DNA samples.

On comparing the samples they tracked the origin of the American dogs back to East Asian and Siberian dogs. Apart from this, they identified a strong association between American dogs and modern breeds.

The team made an interesting discovery that the Chihuahua, the smallest dog breed, was in fact an indigenous Mexican dog.

"It was especially exciting to find that the Mexican breed, Chihuahua, shared a DNA type uniquely with Mexican pre-Columbian samples," said Savolainen. "This gives conclusive evidence for the Mexican ancestry of the Chihuahua."

They even conducted DNA analysis on stray dogs and confirmed that they were European dogs. But the stray dogs of Mexico and Bolivia had a genetic build up similar to the indigenous breed. They also suggested that a stray dog population in the U.S., the 'Carolina dog', might have an association with the indigenous American dog.

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