The world is full of mysteries, and some of them are right in front of us. For instance, the huge variety of dogs: Long dogs, large dogs, tiny dogs. Most “toy” breeds have larger “standard” sizes that they were bred down from (poodles are one of the best known examples of this). One exception is the Chihuahua: Where is the big ancestor to the tiny dogs of today? Maybe there ISN’T one, maybe these little dogs, which are about the size of a steak, were originally bred for FOOD.

September 8th edition of the New York Times, Nicholas Wade reports that ALL dogs may have originally been bred to eat. Only later, after humans had them around for awhile, did we realize they could be useful for other specific tasks, such as hunting, herding and pulling sleds.

When geneticists sampled the mitochondrial DNA of dogs worldwide, they team found that all dogs, no matter where they were found, have similar DNA, which means that they were domesticated in one place at one time, then spread throughout the world from there (the same as early man did from Africa). If various species of wolves had been domesticated in different places, DNA would be much more varied. They have traced this domestication to southern China 11,000 to 14,000 years ago, because the dogs found there have more DNA diversity there than anywhere else. This is analogous to Africa, where humans DNA is the most varied. There is also a long tradition of eating dogs in southern China.

Meanwhile, researchers have used data from Portuguese water dogs (like Obama’s) to help find a gene that gives some dogs curly hair and others long, wavy hair.

It turns out that variations in only three genes account for the seven major types of coat seen in purebred dogs. Researcher K. Gordon Lark says, “We were part of a team that found three genes that control 90% of the seven coat types that characterize different breeds of purebred dogs.”

And the kind of dogs that most of us have? Lark says, “We don’t know enough about the genetics of mutts.”

There many legends that the beings we call the Visitors have traveled from the galaxy known as Sirius, or the “dog star.” We don’t know if that’s true or not, but if they show up at our Stargate conference, we’ll ask them!To learn more, click here and here.

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