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Science Confirms: American Dogs Are American As It Gets

Researchers used to believe that the dog population in America had been wiped out by European breeds

Adorable, and All-American Image Credit: Kevin via Flickr

The arrival of Europeans in America led to dramatic and often devastating changes to native societies, wildlife and the landscape. But now scientists have discovered that many dog species native to America managed to survive to the present day, without being overwhelmed by the European dog population.

Researchers used to believe that the dog population in America had been wiped out by European breeds, but Swedish researchers announced recently that many native dog species survive to the present day. And, like the indigenous peoples of America, their roots can be traced all the way back to Asia. From LiveScience:

To trace the roots of American dogs, Savolainen and his colleagues collected cheek swabs from 347 kennel club purebred dogs from the Americas. That sample included Alaskan malamutes, Chihuahuas, Peruvian hairless dogs and several signature American breeds. They then compared that DNA with 1,872 samples from dogs in Asia, Europe and Africa. They also tested 19 free-roaming strays from the Carolinas as well as a few other free-roaming dog breeds from South America.

Most of the American dogs had ancestry tracing back to Asia, with only 30 percent of their ancestry from Europe. That suggests their ancestors arrived in the Americas in one of the migration waves across the Bering Strait.

These all-American canines include a wide variety of breeds, including sled dogs like the malamute and peruvian hairless dogs.

In the press release, geneticist Peter Savolainen said: “It was especially exciting to find that the Mexican breed, Chihuahua, shared a DNA type uniquely with Mexican pre-Columbian samples…This gives conclusive evidence for the Mexican ancestry of the Chihuahua.”

More from Smithsonian.com:

Top Dogs
People Can Accurately Read Dogs’ Facial Expressions
Tracking America’s First Dogs

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