Anthropawlogy: A look at Dog Breeding throughout the Ages

Pet Health, Uncategorized
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I’m Cindy Romero, an animal activist, blogger, and “mother” of two dogs, a cat and a bunny.

Do you know anything about the genetic history of your pet, other common dog breeds and part of what it means to breed a dog in the world today? Before getting a dog, most people wonder what kind of breed best fits their lifestyle and personality, but not many consider the cultural ramifications of a well preserved dog breed lineage, the shifts that can happen in a dog’s brain or the dangers of poor dog breeding.

Until recently, the melting pot of American dog breeds has been explained as originating from Asia along with humans as we brought our pets with us.  These original dogs were believed to have largely mixed with European breeds, most dying off from the introduction of European illnesses, leaving them unrecognizable from the Native American dogs before the days of Magellan and Christopher Columbus.

Chihuahuas: More native than you are!

According to a 2013 NPR article, some North American breeds have a purer pedigree than evolutionary geneticist formerly thought. North American dogs have actually not mixed so much with European dogs after all.  The modern Chihuahua actually still has the same DNA that it did 1000 years ago in Mexico meaning it is a breed untouched by European influences.

Aside from the Chihuahua there are other dogs that have remarkably little European genetic influence including the Greenland dog, the Mexican hairless dog, and the Peruvian hairless dog. This shows that most American breeds are the result of the native cultures that made them, mostly before Europeans arrived. For some Indian and Inuit cultures these dog breeds are an important signature of their ancestors and they must be preserved.

Dog breeding today

A 2010 study found that one of the dangers of dog breeding is that on top of altering a dog’s behavior, personality, and physical traits, dog breeding also can affect how a dog perceives its environment. Breeders can decide to select two dogs with different skull lengths, shifting the dog’s skull and rearranging the brain. Dogs with short skulls such as the pit bull have a brain much different than other dogs. The part of the brain for smelling is rotated forward making it near the base of the skull instead of at the front of the brain.

There are of course other dangers of dog breeding, so it’s best to do your research and find a humane breeder so that you don’t inadvertently support cruelty and ignorance. Adoption is always a great option too, and it happens that 1 out of every four dogs in the US is a purebred (if that is important to you). Adopting a dog also doesn’t mean anything about how the dog will behave or how easily they will be trained. I always advocate adoption first because it saves lives and a there is a huge over-population of pets needing homes.

Now that you know more about breeding, go fourth and choose the best dog for you. Readers, how did you decide on your current pet? Is there anything you regret about buying from a breeder?

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