Rethinking dog domestication by integrating genetics, archeology, and biogeography. Academic Article uri icon


  • The dog was the first domesticated animal but it remains uncertain when the domestication process began and whether it occurred just once or multiple times across the Northern Hemisphere. To ascertain the value of modern genetic data to elucidate the origins of dog domestication, we analyzed 49,024 autosomal SNPs in 1,375 dogs (representing 35 breeds) and 19 wolves. After combining our data with previously published data, we contrasted the genetic signatures of 121 breeds with a worldwide archeological assessment of the earliest dog remains. Correlating the earliest archeological dogs with the geographic locations of 14 so-called "ancient" breeds (defined by their genetic differentiation) resulted in a counterintuitive pattern. First, none of the ancient breeds derive from regions where the oldest archeological remains have been found. Second, three of the ancient breeds (Basenjis, Dingoes, and New Guinea Singing Dogs) come from regions outside the natural range of Canis lupus (the dog's wild ancestor) and where dogs were introduced more than 10,000 y after domestication. These results demonstrate that the unifying characteristic among all genetically distinct so-called ancient breeds is a lack of recent admixture with other breeds likely facilitated by geographic and cultural isolation. Furthermore, these genetically distinct ancient breeds only appear so because of their relative isolation, suggesting that studies of modern breeds have yet to shed light on dog origins. We conclude by assessing the limitations of past studies and how next-generation sequencing of modern and ancient individuals may unravel the history of dog domestication.

published proceedings

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

altmetric score

  • 279.244

author list (cited authors)

  • Larson, G., Karlsson, E. K., Perri, A., Webster, M. T., Ho, S., Peters, J., ... Lindblad-Toh, K.

citation count

  • 350

complete list of authors

  • Larson, Greger||Karlsson, Elinor K||Perri, Angela||Webster, Matthew T||Ho, Simon YW||Peters, Joris||Stahl, Peter W||Piper, Philip J||Lingaas, Frode||Fredholm, Merete||Comstock, Kenine E||Modiano, Jaime F||Schelling, Claude||Agoulnik, Alexander I||Leegwater, Peter A||Dobney, Keith||Vigne, Jean-Denis||VilĂ , Carles||Andersson, Leif||Lindblad-Toh, Kerstin

publication date

  • June 2012