A Canine Family Tree

I recently came across this great chart, a canine family tree, from Daily Mail showing the diversity of 181 dog breeds revealing how all these breeds are so interconnected. You can see the cattle dog towards the middle bottom of the chart. It shows the cattle dog’s connection to Collies, other herding and working dogs.

dog ancestry

Despite the great diversity in dogs, we may tend to forget that all dogs regardless of their size, shape and color are all members of the Canis Lupus Familiaris species. It can be hard to fathom that when looking at a Chihuahua next to a Great Dane. And while we may like to think all the amazing variations in dog breeds are naturally occurring, they are predominantly the result of dog breeding by humans. Dog breeders have taken advantage of the simple genetic coding found in dogs compared to other animal species. All of the many changes which result in breeding dogs appear to be managed by a single variation in their genetics as compared to us humans where a much more complex network of genes dominates just about every single characteristic we have. More so, the complexity involved in the human genetic network combination provides a greater challenge for predictable and specific outcomes. All of the differences we see in dogs today are apparently able to be controlled by just one of about fifty genetic variations.

The article further states that between eleven thousand and thirty thousand years ago, there was a common ancestor from which both wolves and dogs evolved. It explains the following: “U.S. scientists said that part of the genetic overlap observed between some modern dogs and wolves is the result of interbreeding after dog domestication and not a direct line of descent from one group of wolves. They believe their research reflects a more complicated history than the popular story that early farmers adopted a few docile, friendly wolves that later became our modern canine companions. Instead, the earliest dogs may have first lived among hunter-gatherer societies and adapted to agricultural life later, according to the study. Researchers from the University of Chicago said that dogs are more closely related to each other than to wolves, regardless of geographic origin as they do not descend from a single line of wolves.”

While I have yet to read a concise story as to how our dogs descended to become our trusted companions, I think we are all glad they did. Every time I meet a new dog breed for the first time, I am so intrigued by the unique personalities that seem to go along with their specific characteristics. Though all dogs are part of one family, I suppose I question the depth of interconnectedness. I consider myself part of one human family, but when I travel into the back country of Peru and make new Peruvian friends, I cannot say I feel a close relation in ancestry. Perhaps due to the more complex human genetic coding, I feel an enormous ancestral difference with people of other cultures though I recognize our human similarities.

While I have always considered the Blue Heeler cattle dog to be a relatively pure breed, I have read some articles that trace its lineage back to a handful of other dog types along with the wild dingo. I believe this connection to the dingo sets the Blue Heeler apart from other dog breeds. Yet, I guess as this chart shows, no matter how unique our dogs may be, perhaps they are all connected to one big happy family of dogs everywhere in some way.

You can view the full article here.

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