Sep 11 2014

Dogs – The most varied of any species on Earth

Jack Russell

Dogs – The most varied of any species on Earth

Did you catch the National Geographic episode on Canine Eugenics recently? It was a fascinating look at the amazing variety of dog breeds. Did you know 80% of the breeds today, from Chihuahuas to Mastiffs, were molded and developed by humans since the 19th Century? Yet they are all one species, Canis familiaris. Dogs started as hunting companions to early humans about 15,000 years ago. The Saluki is one of the modern breeds that most resembles the early hunting dogs in northern Africa. It is blindingly fast and agile. So in the 1800’s, as man developed new architecture, new inventions, and new fashion styles, so too did he see the need for dogs with certain characteristics. With a fast reproductive rate and great variety in appearance, changes were easy to develop: rabbit hunters, small house pets, protection dogs, etc. Did you know that all breeds of dogs are 99.8% identical in their DNA code? All the different breeds come from variability in that last 0.2% of their DNA.

Today, we are still developing breeds that excel at very specific tasks. Examples in the broadcast were: A Labrador retriever that could do a broad jump of 10 yards (!), a jackal cross in Russia developed by Aeroflot to detect minute amounts of explosives in airports (they were shown to find an explosive component the size of a grain of sand in a carry on bag), the Dogo Argentino that can bring down wild boars that threaten crops in Texas, and the dogs that can sniff out cancer from patient’s urine samples better than medical tests.

Dogs – what an amazing creature!

Dr. Lorin Lawrence
Ebenezer Animal Hospital

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