An extraordinary amount of genomic variation is contained within the chromosomes of domestic dogs, manifesting as dramatic differences in morphology, behaviour and disease susceptibility. Morphology, in particular, has been a topic of enormous interest as biologists struggle to understand the small window of dog domestication from wolves, and the division of dogs into pure breeding, closed populations termed breeds. Many traits related to morphology, including body size, leg length and skull shape, have been under selection as part of the standard descriptions for the nearly 400 breeds recognized worldwide. Just as important, however, are the minor traits that have undergone selection by fanciers and breeders to define dogs of a particular appearance, such as tail length, ear position, back arch and variation in fur (pelage) growth patterns. In this paper, we both review and present new data for traits associated with pelage including fur length, curl, growth, shedding and even the presence or absence of fur. Finally, we report the discovery of a new gene associated with the absence of coat in the American Hairless Terrier breed.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Evo-devo in the genomics era, and the origins of morphological diversity’.