Your four-legged friend has been on quite a journey. Or at least his ancestors have.
Where is your dog from, exactly? New genetic research has found the answer. Dogs worldwide share more genes with a breed of wolves from the Middle East than with any other type of wolf. The region of the Middle East where this likely happened is known as the fertile crescent, and includes parts of modern-day Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.. Since the Middle East is where agriculture first started and cattle was first domesticated, it makes sense that wolves became dogs over time in that region, too. Scientists also point to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Iran as possible locations for the domestication. But they haven’t been able to pinpoint a specific location. Scientists previously thought wolves in Europe or Asia were the first to become our pets.
One thing we do know is that ancient dog-lovers were just as passionate about their pets as we are. Archaeologists found the remains of a man with a small dog in his arms. So we know that these dogs were not used exclusively as work animals, but at least some lived in the home.
Scientists are quite confident in their new theory of origin. The study that gave these results sampled 900 dogs from all recognized breeds, and over 200 wild wolves. For each DNA strand, they analyzed over 48,000 genetic markers! The study was published in the journal Nature last month (March 2011).
Not all dog breeds have such a long history. Nearly 80 percent of all recognized breeds today are modern breeds of the last few hundred years. While this seems pretty incredible, keep in mind that traits are bred rather easily in dogs, compared to humans. For example, with humans several genes determine their height, and with dogs only one gene is responsible for 50 percent of his height. Over years, just a few genes can produce a lot of variety.
Are you curious about the history and background of your dog’s breed? If you did research, what interesting information did you discover about the origins of your dog? Please share your discoveries with us in the comments below.