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How closely related is my beagle to that basset hound? Are herding dogs all closely related? What is the history of man’s best furry-faced friend?

Sure, commercial DNA testing has been around for a few years so people can find out their origins and who their ancestors are. But this genetic study has gone to the dogs!

By studying the genomes of 1,346 individual doggies, researchers have come up with an amazing new family tree of dogs that shows how closely related 161 breeds are! 

Heidi Parker and Elaine Ostrander are biologists helping to run the Dog GENOME Project at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda Maryland. Its study sequencing and comparing doggy genomes (and the amazing new family tree of dog breeds) just published in the journal Cell Reports.

The tree shows the kinds of dogs that humans crossbred for our modern breeds and maps the dogs’ history including where they came from.

Some surprise findings came up in the study. For example, while you’d expect that dogs grouped in either the working or herding breeds would be closely related, some don’t share the same ancestors. Parker and Ostrander say this is because these useful breeds came about through selective breeding at several different times and from several different places!

And while almost all modern breeds come from dog groups from Europe and Asia, the study indicates that two South American breeds—the Peruvian hairless and the also bald xoloitzcuintli—are unique from those other dogs and whose ancestors may have arrived here by crossing the Bering land bridge with humans thousands of years before Christopher Columbus’ arrival to North America.

While the study shows how closely related dog breeds are, this research also can help with diagnosing diseases linked to specific genes in both dogs and humans!

May 2017