One Sibernet-L reader offered a link to an overview article that includes detailed references to a research program on the breeding of
foxes with just one selection criteria -- tameness with people. [Access to the full
article is restricted, but this URL will take you to a Web
page showing where the fox research is published. The research is also
discussed briefly in the Harvard Magazine link below]. This same research was discussed in
"The Dogs of Rarotonga," an article in the June 2004 issue of Discover
magazine. The start of the Dogs of
Rarotonga is online.
Getting to a level of reasonable tameness with the foxes took
many generations of breeding -- again with selection for just one trait, tameness. So
domestication of wolves -- a relative of foxes and dogs -- was not as simple as capturing
a wolf pup, taming it, breeding it and in a generation or three you have dogs.
a reasonable level of tameness with
the foxes took many generations of breeding --
again with selection for just one trait, tameness."
Ray Coppinger, co-author of Dogs:
A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin,
Behavior & Evolution, and others theorize that some wolves partly
tamed themselves by living around human villages for the benefit of scavening for waste
food. Those animals that were least afraid of people and least aggressive got the extra
food, reproduced successfully and over time created semidomestic dogs that people later
more fully domesticated and then developed into many different breeds.
Here again, Siberian Huskies have all the characteristics of
the fully domestic dog -- the full tameness that allows them to live integrated with human
families. Yes, we occasionally see a Siberian that has not been very well socialized and
thus is quite shy. I don't know enough about other breeds to know if poorly socialized
Golden Retrievers or German Shepherds or Cocker Spaniels or Pekingese can be quite shy.
Does anyone know?
some fascinating research has been done on dogs' ability to "read" human cues or
signals. The researchers have compared the following types of animals for that very trait:
· canine puppies
· normally socialized adult dogs
· dogs raised in kennels with little socialization
The test used was fairly simple. The researcher took some
food appealing to the test animals, showed it to the animals, then hid the food under one
of several cups when the animals could not see their actions . They then brought the
animal into the area with the hidden food -- and gave them a "cue" such as
pointing to the cup hiding the food. Which group did the best in finding the food?
Yes, normally socialized adult dogs did well on this task,
"reading" the helpful hint the human provided and finding the hidden food. But
so did the poorly socialized dogs -- and so did the puppies, suggesting this trait is
pretty well "wired" into canine behavior. However, chimpanzees -- thought to be
our own closest relatives in the evolutionary sense -- did very poorly at this -- and
wolves did not do well at all. Harvard Magazine
offers a well written article about this research.
So here is another example of a clear trait that
distinguishes wolves and dogs -- a trait that has apparently evolved over the time dogs
have lived in close company with humans and gained an ability that improves their own
And you can all repeat the test -- at least with your
Siberians or your own breed of dogs -- and report the results to me using the online form
at our Contact Us page. How many of your
Siberians will find the food under the one of the 3 cups that hides the dry dog food
[dry so low odor] -- when you pointed at the correct cup? If you send me your
results, I'll summarize what you send me and I'll report back to the list.
the new research on the discovery of "genetic fingerprints" in 85 pure breeds of
dogs needs to be mentioned to update this article as of May 2004. The Siberian Husky
and the Alaskan Malamute are among 14 breeds grouped in an "ancient
cluster" because their genetic markers are most like the wolves in the study.
Researchers surmise that these breeds are rather like early domestic dogs. But the
cluster includes dogs that look nothing like wolves, from the small Pekingese to the tall
Afghan Hound. And the 5 breeds that are considered to be the very oldest are the
Chow Chow, Shar-Pei, Akita, Shiba Inu and Basenji.
|These 14 ancient dog breeds
with "genetic fingerprints" that are
similar to those of wolves are:
· Afghan Hound
· Alaskan Malamute
· Chow Chow
· Lhasa Apso
· Shiba Inu
· Shih Tzu
· Siberian Husky
· Tibetian Terrier
Click for the full article on this very important
new dog research.
To explore the differences in appearance among these 14
breeds, you can use WorkingDogWeb's new guide to Ancient Breeds that
provides information on the standards and characteristics, including diverse coat color,
in these breeds. It is worth noting that for most of these breeds, their standards allow
all coat colors or at least a wide range of colors and patterns, maintaining their ancient
I hope that this look at some of the recent research on dogs
and wolves is helpful to those on Sibernet-L in knowing for sure that our Siberians --
while their "look" has always been seen as "wolfish" -- are very much
domestic dogs. [And the same for visitors to WorkingDogWeb who may own an Alaskan husky or
Alaskan Malamute or Inuit Dog or Russian Laika or Karelian Bear Dog or Jamthund or Shikoku
or other breeds with something of a wolfish look to them.] Even the new discovery
that the Siberian Husky is in the "ancient cluster" does not mean it is not a
the complex dog legislation that is proposed in different state or provincial legislatures
from time to time, it is really important that we give a clear, firm answer about our
breed when people try to say they are the closest breed to wolves. That's simply not true.
They are one of 14 breeds in the new "ancient cluster." In addition, just
85 breeds were tested, suggesting that more breeds, especially from Asia, will join that
grouping if more research is done.
And in fact, one more point. The genetic research makes it
clear that once domesticated dogs existed, people typically preferred to breed them to
each other rather than starting again with taming wolves or crossbreeding their dogs
frequently with wolves. At least that is what the female canine lineages [based on
mitochondrial DNA genetics] show.
Thus, while dogs' closest relative is indeed Canis lupus, the
wolf, domestic dog breeds have been separated from wolves for a very long time,
except those like the Saarloos Wolfdog,
a breed developed in the 20th century in the Netherlands through a crossing of a German
shepherd dog and two female European wolves as the foundation stock. Or the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog,
another breed developed in the 20th century from German Shepherds and wolves.
I hope some of you will take on the "research
project" with the hidden food under cups and report to me what you find. Should
be fun to see how good Siberian Huskies or any other dog breeds are in reading human cues!
© 2004 Barbara Bradley Petura, WorkingDogWeb.com
To Learn More: [ Top ]
THIS BOOK: Dogs: A
Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior &
Evolution by Raymond & Lorna Coppinger
READ: A Review of Ray & Lorna Coppinger's
"Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine
Origins, Behavior & Evolution" by Barbara Bradley Petura, WorkingDogWeb.com
READ: An Interview with Ray & Lorna
Coppinger with Barbara Bradley Petura, WorkingDogWeb.com webmaster
READ: Humans Brought Domesticated Dogs to New World More Than 12,000
Years Ago, Researchers Report and Dogs Evolved in Asia, by Barbara Bradley
Petura, WorkingDogWeb.com webmaster
READ: Dogs May Date Back 100,000 Years by
Barbara Bradley Petura, WorkingDogWeb.com webmaster, 1997 article
LINKS: Try the following for more
research or journalistic articles:
· A Guide to
the 14 Ancient Dog Breeds
· The family
tree of the domestic dog has now been laid bare
Researchers used nuclear DNA rather than mtDNA to differentiate breeds
· The Origins of the Domestic Dog
By Jessie Zgurski, essay citing important, recent research reports
Evolved to Read Human Cues & More Dog Research
Summaries with links to more details
Origin of Dogs Traced to China
Date: November 23, 2002 | By the Associated Press
Science Update: Stone Age Man Kept a Dog
Date: November 23, 2002 | By
Origins of Dog Traced
Date: November 22, 2002 | By Christine McGourty
· New York Times:
"From Wolf to Dog - Yes But When?"
Date: November 22, 2002 | By Nicholas Wade
Dog Eves: Canine Diaspora from East Asia to Americas
November 23, 2002 | Science News Online
· UCLA News
Release: Humans Brought Domestic Dogs to New World
Date: December 2, 2002 | Contact: Stuart Wolpert,
Progenitor Dog Types Suggested by Researcher with the types
being sight hounds, scent hounds, working/guard dogs, northern breeds,
flushing spaniels, water spaniels and retrievers, pointers, terriers,
dogs, and toy/companion dogs.
· Molecular Evolution of the Dog Family,
· The Multiple and Ancient Origins of the
Domestic Dog, Science
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