Dog types and characteristics unique to asia
December 5, 2011 7:46 AM   Subscribe

This article says that there is more variety in Asian dogs than in western dogs and that there are some dog types and characteristics that are unique to Asia. What are they? The article talks about DNA diversity, but doesn't talk very much about how the differences are actually expressed.
posted by empath to Pets & Animals (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There are some Japanese breeds that aren't seen much outside of Japan - here's a small map of their distribution and links to profiles of different Japanese breeds.
posted by illenion at 8:13 AM on December 5, 2011

The article talks about DNA diversity, but doesn't talk very much about how the differences are actually expressed.

The thing is, the DNA diversity and the morphological differences mentioned in that blog post are separate entities.

Here is the original paper (Ding et al, 2011: Origins of domestic dog in Southern East Asia is supported by analysis of Y-chromosome DNA). The authors are looking at Y chromosome sequence data. Not only are they not specifically looking for genes that underlie known phenotypic differences between dogs, they're better off looking at neutral differences in the genetic sequence -- markers that are under as little selection as possible.

So that Y chromosome sequence data probably doesn't underlie very much, or any, difference that is actually expressed. I took a look at the sequences (god, I love living in the future), and they're super fragmentary, so it's hard to get any sense from them whether there's any functional difference being encoded, but my bet is not.

Meanwhile, the blog post you cite makes the following tantalizing statement: If you go back a thousand years or so ago, before world commerce exploded, there was more morphological diversity in dogs in East Asia than anywhere else. Whereas in the west there were a relatively small number of types and characteristics, e.g. mastiffs, coursing dogs, etc., in Asia there were all of those characteristics and more, some of which have barely filtered to the rest of the world even today. Rather than the East Asians getting mastiffs from the Romans (a claim I’ve read over the years) I think it’s much more likely that Alexander’s troops brought them back from Asia.

It's an interesting point, and is consistent with Ding et al., but it's a separate argument. The only real tie-back is the idea that dogs were domesticated in southern east Asia first; but, given that dog breeds can be developed over the course of mere scores of years, and dogs had been domesticated both in the the Mediterranean and SE Asia for thousands of years, attributing greater morphological diversity to SE Asian dogs in Classical times on the basis of the Y chromosome sequence data presented (or the similar mitochondrial dataset) is a stretch from a scientific standpoint.
posted by endless_forms at 8:51 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

The study referred to by endless_forms is a reply in part to a recent claim that dogs had an earlier origin in the Middle East from an indigenous wolf:

Researchers at Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology say they have found further proof that the wolf ancestors of today's domesticated dogs can be traced to southern East Asia -- findings that run counter to theories placing the cradle of the canine line in the Middle East.

Another study argued that small dogs in particular came from a Middle Eastern small wolf
posted by jamjam at 10:26 AM on December 5, 2011

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