new world dog
Many popular canine breeds in America came to us from Europe


Have you ever wondered how dogs became the loyal, domesticated creatures that they are? The theory is that way back when wild dogs began to linger on the periphery of human encampments in hopes of scavenging scraps for the makings of an easy meal. Wild animals still do it today, whether its bears, monkeys or what have you. Humans were nomadic back then and early canines followed at a safe distance. Once the animals were more or less adopted into the fold, they could follow openly and gradually became domesticated.

Evolutionary Tree of Dogs

In a new study published back on April 25, 2017, researchers documented their use of gene sequences relative to 161 modern canine breeds in an effort to create what they’re calling an evolutionary tree of dogs. The map they were able to produce — which is by far the largest assembled to date — provides new evidence that man’s best friend traveled with him across the Bering land bridge, ultimately leading to the "New World Dog," an ancient canine sub-species that migrated to the Americas with the ancestors of Native Americans over 20,000 years ago.

Popular American Dog Breeds

Not surprisingly, the majority of popular breeds found here in North America have come to us from Europe. What is interesting in this study is that new evidence points to breeds from both Central and South America (Peruvian Hairless and the Xoloitzcuintli) that in all probability descended from those canines that faithfully followed their masters across the Strait. Past investigations pointed to evidence that the New World Dog existed, but this study provides the first living proof of their heritage in modern breeds.


hairless dogs
Mexican Hairless, aka Xoloitzcuintli

National Institute of Health

The enlightening study also looks at how the oldest breeds have evolved and/or were bred for particular roles. "First, there was selection for a type, like herders or pointers, and then there was admixture to get certain physical traits," notes study co-author and dog geneticist Heidi Parker of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "I think that understanding that types go back a lot longer than breeds or just physical appearances do is something to really think about."

New World Dog

"What we noticed is that there are groups of American dogs that separated somewhat from the European breeds," Parker continued. "We've been looking for some kind of signature of the New World Dog, and these dogs have New World Dogs hidden in their genome." Future investigations will examine which genes in modern hairless dogs are from Europe and which are from their New World ancestors, but for right now researchers are hoping that the evidence they’ve gathered thus far will help in identifying disease-causing genes in canines and humans.


Source: Cell Reports