The analysis of dogs’ DNA shows that their domestication can be traced back 11,000 years to the end of the last Ice Age.
“Dogs are really unique in being this quite strange thing if you think about it, when all people were still hunter gatherers, they domesticated what is really a wild carnivore – wolves are pretty frightening in many parts of the world,” Dr. Pontus Skoglund, co-author of the study and group leader of the ancient genomics laboratory at London’s Crick Institute, told BBC News. “The question is, why did people do that? How did that come about? That’s what we’re ultimately interested in.”
The results of the study confirms that dogs were domesticated before any other species.
Since then, European dogs during the colonial era has expanded and its ancient indigenous breeds still survive today in Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
“If we look back more than four or five thousand years ago, we can see that Europe was a very diverse place when it came to dogs. Although the European dogs we see today come in such an extraordinary array of shapes and forms, genetically they derive from only a very narrow subset of the diversity that used to exist,” Anders Bergström, lead author and post-doctoral researcher at the Crick, told BBC News.
The DNA of 27 ancient dogs that remain associated with a variety of archaeological cultures were analuzed by an international team, and compared their whole genomes to each other and modern dogs.
The report reveals that breeds like the Rhodesian Ridgeback in southern Africa, and the Chihuahua and Xoloitzcuintli in Mexico still retain genetic traces of the ancient indigenous dogs from the regions.
“Dogs are our oldest and closest animal partner. Using DNA from ancient dogs is showing us just how far back our shared history goes and will ultimately help us understand when and where this deep relationship began,” added Gregor Larson, co-author from the Universoty of Oxford.
The study has been published in the journal Science.