Wolf genes - fourteen ancient dog breeds!

Narrated from: Dog Breeds

Today, dogs are everywhere. It’s hard to imagine that they are descendants of wild wolves – especially when a loving spaniel drools in your lap.

However, all dogs are related to wolves – more or less remotely. The common ancestor of nearly 95% of all modern breeds is the Asian Grey Wolf. 12 millennia ago, humans started to domesticate the first dogs – and that’s a long time! So it’s no wonder that dogs look nothing like wolves – after 12 000 years of breeding, it is hard to imagine that poodles would start hunting in packs.

According to modern science though, there are dog breeds that have remained unchanged for centuries – and still bear a genetic similarity to their howling predecessors. A genetic research of 85 dog breeds has identified 14 breeds that can be considered “ancient”. Some of them may look nothing like wolves whatsoever - but blood does not lie!

Tibetan Terrier – bred by Tibetan monks for 2000 years, they have been used as companions, lucky charms, watchdogs, and gifts to highly respected individuals. It was considered that Tibetan Terriers bring good fortune.

Afghan Hound – sometimes styled “a king of dogs”, these majestic canines have been used by the Afghan tribes to hunt gazelles, deer and even leopards.

Shih Tzu – this breed was developed in the 17th century, but it is said to be a cross between the Tibetan Lhasa Apso and the Pekingese which would explain the ancient genetic code. The Shih Tzu was regarded as a holy dog in China.

Lhasa Apso – another Tibetan entry. According to legend, the Lhasa Apso guarded the Tibetan monasteries 2 000 years ago!

Saluki – a royal dog of Egypt, the Saluki is named after an Arabian city that vanished centuries ago.

Pekingese – they were glorified in China because of their resemblance to lions.

Samoyed – cousin to the Siberian Husky, this dog is sometimes nicknamed “Smiley dog”.

Of the fourteen breeds, seven have been marked as the most ancient, and thus deserve a separate entry!

Alaskan Malamute – one of the most famous breeds in the world. Those sturdy dogs have been bred by the Alaskan tribe of the Mahlemuts and are descendants of the Arctic wolf.

Siberian Husky – another breed of notorious sled-pullers, Siberian Huskies have also been used by the Chukchi for herding actual reindeers.

Akita – The Akita is the National dog of Japan. Akitas were once used as Imperial Guard dogs.

Shiba Inu – another Japanese entry to the list. Hunting dogs, originally brought from China about 2 000 years ago.

Shar Pei  - an ancient Chinese breed, best known by its distinctive, wrinkled skin.

Chow Chow – nowadays they are popular companion dogs, but they have been present in China for more than a thousand years and used for all sorts of tasks from hunting and guarding to (ouch!) clothing and eating.

Basenji – these ancient dogs have been used as pack hunters by the native tribes of Africa. The Basenji is famed for being able to make a variety of noises outside normal barking – actually, the Basenji cannot bark.

Of course, this list is the result of research covering only 85 dog breeds – and there are more than 400 out there! So, who knows – maybe there are pure breeds even closer to wolves!

to top of the page
Previous Next

Other articles that might interest you::