Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More analysis on the Genetic study

Alaskan Sled dogs cluster with the "Ancient Asian Group" which is the group closest to wolves and believed to have branched off from wolves the earliest.

So to me that intuitively makes sense. That shows the genetic relationship between alaskan sled dogs and Asian pariah dogs believed to have crossed the Bering land bridge with the First Americans, the ancestors of the native people.

So Alaskan sled dogs have this unique genetic signature, but its related to Asian pariah dogs, which basically resemble dingos. That's basically what a primitive dog is, a dingo basically. You see these dogs throughout Asia, New Guniea, the Sinai Peninsula(Canaan dogs), and even in North America(Carolina dogs) and Korea (Jindo).

So these pariah dogs are around. They aren't really valued, where they still occur, but rather tolerated, but some modern breeds have been created from them, such as Japanese Breeds such as the Shiba Inu and the Akita, the Canaan dog of Israel, and the Basenji of Africa.

Basenjis and Shiba Inu's are closely related, which may seem strange given the geographic distance, but not so strange when you consider the basic phenotype of the two dogs. Basically they are identical with the exception of the coat length. The Basenji has a short coat in keeping with the hot climate its found in and the Shiba has a warm coat. Both are cat like, primitive behaving dogs, with a tightly curled tail. Both are predatory and territorial and would probably be too much to handle for most pet owners in a larger size. Of, course, a larger version of the Shiba, is the Akita Inu, which actually is too much to handle for most pet owners, the same with the Chow. These are primitive dogs.

The dogs of Jindo island in korea are intermediate in size between a Shiba inu and Akita and these dogs have their wild hunting instincts completely intact and can and do take down deer and eat them just like a wolf.

These primitive dogs, represent the first domestication event of primitive dogs. Its belived these first dogs were descended from wolves that began to hang around human camps and formed a symbiotic relationship with humans. It wasn't really a master slave relationship, which is what the relationship of modern breeds and human's resembles. It was more of a partnership.

That is why these pariah dogs are less domesticated. Its because they are less dependant. They are semi feral. They breed on their own, raise pups on their own and hunt and scavaenge for their own food. The modern breeds are totally dependant upon humans and are the result of planned breedings and strict artifical selection and genetic isolation.

Modern sled dogs, however, are not pariah dogs. They aren't free ranging, the breedings are carefully planned, they are well fed (and thus don't hunt and forage for their food) and they are bred to a standard, which is a performance standard.

The diffeence between them and modern AKC style breeds, is that the standard is a performance standard and that the "breed book" is open and not closed, so there is much more heterogeneity in the gene pool.

But I think going back in time, the ancestors of the Alaskan sled dog, would more closely resemble pariah dogs found else where in the world in its way of life. This way of life is still seen in the Arctic, or was seen in recent memory, where eskimo dogs were relegated to islands in the summer and left to fend and scavange for themselves and breeding was more or less random.

But modern racing dogs aren't Greenland dogs and they aren't pariah dogs and they are bred to a strict standard a standard that didn't really exist before the advent of modern sled dog racing.

With racing sled dogs, Some human athletic analogies break down. For example iditarod dogs are compared to marathon runners and sprint racing dogs are compared to sprinters, but really the highest level of sprint racing resembles a human marathon, beyond the capacity of human endurance. Its basically like running three marathons consecutively over the course of three days at a spped of over 20 mph. Its a feet that no human being can perform. Its a feat of extreme endurance.

Pariah dogs aren't subject to such extreme selection pressure. Many, were and still are used as primitive hunting dogs, so this is reflected in a certian level of athletic ability that is superior to most modern breeds. In Russian Laikas this ability have been developed further. Historically Alaskan Native dogs were used for hunting also.

So among this pool of primitive dogs, the Alaskan sled dog was created. There was a lot of culling for racing. So this changed the gene pool. traits associated with extreme athleticism were chosen and traits associated with primitive behaviors like aggression were weeded out. This has been going on for nearly a hundred years, at least 60 years for really serious racing. Dogs used for general transportation have more or less died out.

But with specialization, there have been some trade offs. One of the trade offs has been breeding for short coats. The short coats prevent over heating, in events such as open class sprint racing. Open class sprint racing is more demanding than other types of events with a slower tempo, such as mid distance racing, so winning animals from open class events have been more in demand for breeding.

Open Class sprint dogs are the most gifted athlitically, dogs going back to these lines are the most successful in distance events. So the upshot is that Alaskan husky sled dogs of today are more athletically gifted than their more primitive ancestors. The downside is that most of the really athletically gifted dogs are too short coated to perform their original jobs of providing winter transportation and running traplines. But still, the genetic link to the past is still strong. Genetically, open class dogs are not mostly hound dog. Pure hounds can't do what they do.

I have seen throwbacks to a more traditional husky phenotype, among sprint racing dogs and there are also a few of the husky phenotype competing at the highest level.

The best distance dogs go back to older less houndy sprint lines.

So based on this gentic evidence I would the best sled dogs, for winter transportation would be dogs from long distance racing kennels, possibly outcrossed with more old fashioned expedition type dogs.

A dog with a background like that would probably be superior than the sled dogs of yesturday, running traplines in the Bush, becauase these dogs would have 60 years of performance breeding behind them.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

I miss my sled dogs

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Alaskan Huskies are a Breed Apart

From the study, it can be concluded that the Alaskan Husky has a unique genetic signature, as well as obvious contributions from other breeds.

The Alaskan husky is composed of two sub populations:
Sprint and Distance

Of the two the Sprint population shows the greatest heterogeneity, but interestingly the highest percentage also of the unique Alaskan sled dog genetic signature.

The distance sub population show less heterogeneity but also has more contribution from Siberian husky and Alaskan malamute genetics, in qualities related to endurance. Also the most successful distance racing dogs are more closely related to the sprinting sub population dogs. It can be concluded from this that the best Sprint racing dogs can be successful in distance racing also whereas the reverse is not true.

Another interesting finding is that there appears to be no correlation between pointer genetics and athletic performance in terms of speed, endurance or work ethic.

Some other findings weren't so surprising to me, such as the sprint population having more contribution from hounds than the distance dogs.

One point I find that needs clarification is the distance sub population having more contribution from what the study calls "Anatolian shepherd."

I don't believe that the AKC breed known as the Anatolian Shepherd has made any contribution whatsoever to the Alaskan Sled dog gene pool, and neither have sharpeis, shitzus nor tibetan terriers, whose genetic markers also showed up in the study.

The "Anatolian shepherd" is just a breed of dog with a closed studbook, based on some People that brought some Flock Guardian dogs back from Turkey in the 1970's.

I think what these genetic markers are for are just flock guardian/mollosser genes in general. These types of dogs historically spread all over Eurasia and are believed to be descended from the Tibetan Mastiff. So I think it was various types of Mastiffs, St. Bernards, Newfoundalands, great Pyrenees etc. that made the original contribution to the Alaskan Husky gene pool, during the Gold Rush.

The genetic markers from the lapdogs showed up basically because these breeds come from Asia, and that is no doubt where the indigenous huskies in the Alaskan husky gene pool came from also, when they crossed the land bridge in the Berring strait with the first native Americans.

But what is most interesting to me is that there really is a unique Alaskan sled dog signature and that its stronger in the top sprint lines.

I chalk this up to the fact that these dogs originate with alaskan husky village dogs used by the Athabaskan indians around Huslia. These are indians not eskimos, not white people. So that would make sense why they would have had unique indian type dogs originally. The Eskimos would have had Malamutes along with the whites and the whites would have had Siberian huskies and also dogs with more of a mollosser content.

When the Iditarod was started these long distance lines were created from the Indian dog gene pool but also with big contributions from malamutes and Siberian huskies. So now the genetics of the two sub populations reflect that. Also historically Athabaskan sprint racers in the villages would trade many dogs back and forth pooling their dogs collectively to field big teams in the races like the Rondy and Open North American. Whereas when you picture what Iditarod mushers do, its usually white people that are fairly well off, financially who own their own land and keep more to themselves, in their breeding programs. So that's reflected in distance lines being more genetically isolated, though still not as isolated as AKC pure breds.

Its also interesting about elite dogs transitioning from sprint to distance being one way. A "good dog is a good dog" in terms of a good sprint dog being a good distance dog, but not the reverse.

As far as what to conclude from this in terms of creating a breeding program that could potentially win distance races: I think its obvious that distance racers should breed their dogs to top ONAC bloodlines, that don't contain too much pointer and they should probably out cross to the fastest siberian huskies they can get a hold of.

I think the fact is that the level of competition between elite sprint teams is greater than what you find in the distance games and that this creates a more severe selection criteria.

But still, though, Iditarod/Quest dogs still really need a certain amount of Siberian/malamute genetics.

Also if you wanted to create a really tough draft dog that pulls really hard to recreate a Gold rush type freight dog an anatolian Shepherd Malamute cross would be something to consider.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Old Timey Village dogs

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Looking for an all purpose hiking and skijoring dog.

I am thinking of buying a dog. This will be a hiking companion and skijoring dog. Plus an all around all purpose type dog to have with me out in the Bush when I go to Alaska. I really like huskies in terms of sled dogs. That would be a good choice for skijoring. But in my experience, huskies, especially siberian huskies and more primitive type alaskan huskies aren't especially good "all around dogs."
Generally they can't be trusted off leash, have no watch dog ability, they have a prey drive, but not in any kind of a way that I have seen, that can be channeled into being a hunting dog.

What I mean, by an "all around dog" is basically an all purpose farm dog. There is a breed of dog from down south that is more of a "type" than an established breed, called a "cur." there are different varieties- "Black mouth cur" "Yellow black mouth Cur" " "catahoula leopard dog" "mountian cur" They are used as hunting dogs, cattle and sheep herding dogs, and watch dogs. They can tree coons like a coon hound, or be used to hunt wild hogs.

They are obedient and somewhat protective and can also be used as a "varmint dog" that kill rats and other pests around the farmstead. The ancestors of these dog seem to be the ancestors of the Great Dane that came to the Americas with the Spanish, that were then crossed with local indian dogs. They are actually quite similar to Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Which are a cross of the same type of Great Dane type dog with indigenous dogs from Africa.

The Great Dane is just a show dog and a pet today, with little or no working ability. But originally it was a bear and boar hunting dog combining the best qualities of mastiffs and sighthounds.

Curs are kind of like a smaller more driven version of a great dane. They are lithe and muscular, with a learn wiry build and a bigger sized head and strong jaws. The catahoula leapard dog has an unusual coloring, related to the merel gene, similar to a harlequin Great Dane, but they also come in solid colors. The other cur varieties come in brindle or tan or red with a black mask.

These aren't cold weather dogs. They have a coat like a pointer or a hound, so it would sleep indoors with me. I was considering a german Shepherd also, but they have so many horrible health problems. Its really sad to have a beautiful German shepherd with a great temperament totally break down and become a cripple after just a few years. This has happened to me and to so many other people I have known. I had one I paid $1,200 for from German import parents that had to be put down at 4 years because of severe hip dysplasia. I had a neighbor with one that lost all its fur to allergies, and also knew a person with two that could barely get around due to various structural problems.

Just seems like too much of a gamble.

I would imagine that a cur with have similar abilities as a pointer in skijoring. They are similarly athletic and driven and probably even have higher intelligence than a pointer since they are used for herding.

Speaking of herding dogs, I have also considered a border collie or a blue heeler, but I tend to like bigger dogs. I have also considered a Chesapeake bay retriever or a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I exclude labs, because I like hiking dogs that are a little aloof with strangers. Its inconvenient to hike around with a dog and have it go berserk with affection every time I encounter another person on the trail. Plus they are just so darn common. I'd like something a little different.

I would also consider a mutt with the above characteristics I am looking for or even an alaskan husky with the right qualities. There are so much variation with alaskan huskies. I have encountered some that were trustworthy off leash and very trainable and intelligent. I have also seen some that were very much like a typical siberian in temperament and some are dumb as rocks. Which in a sled dog, its not always bad to have a dumb dog as long as it is a good runner that is an easy keeper that eats and drinks well and keeps its line tight. Thinking too much isn't always a good thing.

I imagine a Russian Laika, might be what I am looking for, they are similar to a cur in purpose, but with beautiful husky looks. Seems like it might take some doing to find one, though and would be expensive. I also have never seen one in person, and it may be they they are not as trainable as some other breeds.

The few belgian sheepdogs I have seen were nice. Having a similar temperament as a good German Shepherd in a slightly smaller package without the massive amount of health issues.

Monday, February 11, 2008

This year Siberians might win it!!!!!!

Like a lot of guys, my head is filled with useless obscure sports trivia. Except in my case, its sports trivia about a really obscure sport: Long Distance dog mushing. Of which, there are really only two events: The iditarod and the Yukon Quest.

Also within that obscure sport, I root for an even more obscure segment: Siberian husky mushers. They are the ultimate underdogs. Literally. Every year there are one or two teams in either race, carrying the torch, but they usually get the red lantern.

So why do they always get the red lantern You ask? Well the easy answer is because siberians are slow. But that doesn't really answer the question. It goes deeper than that! Because to get the red lantern, first of all you have to complete the race and not give up! You have to be mentally tough and stubborn! People that scratch, never get the red lantern!

Time and time again, these rookie mushers running siberians, get the red lantern. I think it says somthing about them. People tend to value the qualities in their dogs that they value in themselves. Like their chosen breed, these people are tough and stubborn! And loyal! They simply won't give up on their chosen breed even if statistics say they have no virtually no chance of beating the speedier crossbred sled dogs!

You gotta love people like that.

But this year, there is somthing happening that most people may not know. There is a guy, Mike Ellis, running a team of dogs, that are actually of the same bloodline, of dogs that were run in 1998, by "Hall of Famer" Andre Nadeau, who almost won the race, but lost a showdown with Bruce Lee, but managed to win rookie of the year, First to Dawson and First across the border.

These were siberian huskies from the kodiak bloodline. Neadeau, had let their registrations with the CKC slip. But that is what they were. Some people have argued that, once you don't register a litter of siberian huskies, they automatically become alaskan huskies. And that is why they came in second place in 1998 because alaskan huskies are faster and his dogs technically were alaskan huskies.

Somthing doesn't seem quite right with the logic there.

But besides that, you may wonder, how can these dogs be that similar to Neadeaus, since its ten years later and Eliis dogs are registered siberian huskies. Obviously they aren't descended from Nadeau's dogs.

True,they aren't but genetically they are very similar. That is because the kodiak bloodline is very inbred. Inbred in a good way. Go back a few generations and you see "Spook of White Water Lake" over and over again. Spook, was himself inbred, so back from Spook, you get a bunch of the same dogs also. Plus people have linebred on Spook. So its almost like Kodiak dogs are all twins. Genetically, they are really alike.

I could spot kodiaks in a line up. They have a distinct look. But the fact is, this is the only line of siberians that cam close to winning the Yukon Quest in recent history.

Mike Ellis is doing well too. Its early in the race, but he is towards the front of the pack. So watch this guy.

But another thing to watch for is that Lance Mackey is also running a dog from Nadeau lines. It may be a bit watered down from the pure husky lines at this point, but still, I am sure those kodiak traits are shining through after all that intense line breeding. And Lnce Mackey is always in contention to win.

Check out "boycuz" on Lance Mackey's website

Sunday, February 10, 2008

end of civilization dogs

That's the bottom line for me in terms of what kind of dogs I want. If civilization were to end tomorrow and I had to rely on my dogs for survival, transportation, etc, and i had to feed them foods I had to procure in the wild, like fish and game meat what types of dogs would I want? Open sprint hounds? By the same token would registration papers do me any good?

I'd want tough easy keepers with efficient metabolisms that can sleep out in the cold and pull a decent amount of weight over long distances at a moderste speed.

Dogs that fit the bill would be older type alaskan huskies, or siberians or malamutes with good work ethics. I see no reason not to get some different breeds and cross breed them like Will Stger did with his polar huskies, but select for traits associated with traveling in the interior rather than the high arctic.

Denali ranger dogs would fit the bill, just fine.

Making me rethink siberians

Don Schmidt

Here is an interesting article it contains an interview with Don Schmidt, a musher who ran the iditarod with registered siberian huskies last year and who is running the Yukon Quest right now with the same dogs.

Most people run these races with mixed breed alaskan huskies but, there are a few dedicated mushers, who still use registered siberians. But anyway, they all generally get the red lantern. I think its frustrating for most of them.

Here is why I think alaskan husky teams win races:

The selection pressure for breeding a winning race team is intense, but this selection pressure is acting upon greater genetic variation because of the cross breeding.

In addition to this, there are just more alaskan husky kennels out there competing in races. Its a numbers game.

There are a few siberian kennels competing seriously but they don't compete successfully at the highest levels, so if they wanted to only breed race winning stock, they would never breed anything. So even though their standards may be high in terms of their goals, compared to top racing teams they aren't.

What I mean is, alaskan huskies that perfrom like siberians in races aren't bred by top alaskan husky kennels.

Also in a closed gene pool, like siberians have, there will only be so much genetic variation. There is much more genetic variation to draw from with an gene pool open to cross breeding. More culling too though.

Personally, though, I don't want to race. So, producing siberians that can win races over alaskan huskies is not a goal I would ever pursue.

I just want really durable working dogs and I like primitive characteristics. It looks to me based on this Guy's performance that he has really tough durable dogs. They are thick furred and medium boned.

I think over time, what has happened is racing kennels acting with the natural variation in the siberian gene pool, have made choices and selected for racing qualities. Longer legs, lighter bone and lighter coat. Not as exagerated as it is in the cross bred alaskans, but by competing with alaskan huskies, I think they have come to resemble them a little.

Its seems to be the case that there is somthing to be said for siberian huskies in their own right according to the standard as it is written.