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.