Where Did Small Dogs Come From?

Experts and dog-lovers alike have long known that dogs originated as a result of the domestication of gray wolves, but when, where, and how did small dogs get from a wild wolf to a teacup chihuahua? New genetic studies now shine some light on the mystery: small dogs probably originated in the Middle East, say researchers. This finding puts the first known domestication of dogs in the same place as the domestication of plants and other animals, thus strengthening the link between the first animal to enter human society and the subsequent invention of agriculture about 10,000 years ago.

Melissa Gray and Robert Wayne, from the University of California, Los Angeles, led a team of researchers studying the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) gene. In a sample of small dogs from across the globe, the researchers discovered the same mutation in the gene at two specific points, which was mainly absent from larger breeds. The research, published in the journal BMC Biology, found that mutations in this gene had a large effect on the skeletal size of dog breeds.

“The most likely scenario is that the mutation which gave rise to small body size arose in the Middle East prior to geographic dispersal of early domestic dogs, which was then selected for and spread with humans as they moved across the continent,” said Gray.

According to Gray, the version of the IGF1 gene found in small dogs is closely related to that found in Middle Eastern grey wolves. This suggests that domestication of grey wolves in this region in densely packed farms could have led to the evolution of small dogs, which might have been preferred by farmers due to the limited farming space available. Before that time, humans lived as roaming hunters and gatherers for most of their existence. Dr. Wayne proposes that wolves began following hunter-gatherer bands to feed on carcasses and other leftovers. At some stage a group of wolves, presumably smaller and less threatening than most, developed a dependency on humans, and may in return have provided a warning system.

Several thousand years later in the first settled communities that began to appear in the Middle East, people became involved in the breeding patterns of their camp followers, turning them into the first proto-dogs. One of the features they gravitated toward was small size, continuing the downsizing of the wolf body plan. “I think a long history such as that would explain how a large carnivore, which can eat you, eventually became stably incorporated in human society,” Dr. Wayne said.

“Reduction in size is a common event that occurs during the process of domestication,” Gray added. It can be seen in other domesticated animals, such as cattle, pigs and goats.

Archaeological work has found the earliest fossils of domesticated small dogs in the Middle East, dating back to 12,000 years ago. Older remains, dating back as far as 31,000 years ago, have been found in Belgium, Germany and Western Russia. However, these remains are of bigger dogs.

77 comments

Natural P.
Paleo Aabout a year ago

I hate peopl who breed. It's unnatural.

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Fiona T.
Past Member 4 years ago

No matter what, where or in what size, they're truly lovable

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Pat Tyler
Pat Tyler6 years ago

Dog breeding has become tooo small and is unhealthy at some point. THEY SHOULD BE LEFT ALONE to breed .
pat

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Julianna D.
Juliana D6 years ago

neat, but I don't do dogs that I have to sit down to pet.

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Issac R.
Issac Rodriguez7 years ago

Basically it's talking about adaptation correct?
Darwin's theory of evolution

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Sharon Paige
Sharon P7 years ago

I will check that out.The min.fox terrier looks like my Cheyenne,sure you didnt take her picture.

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Taryk R.
Taryk Welburn7 years ago

interesting; answers something I've long wondered at

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gerlinde p.
gerlinde p7 years ago

interesting thanks

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pani p.
pani p7 years ago

smal dogs come from other smal dogs (:

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Jane Angel
Jane Angel7 years ago

Hi everyone.. I juz join as a member in Care2... I wish U guyz can help me in certain issues.. Since this is my first time Im having pets, Im a bit nervous.. I juz bought 2 puppies 2 weeks ago.. One is Angel - 2 months old ( Shih Poo mix breed ) and the other one is Brownie - 1 month old ( Cava Tzu mix breed ). Since Im really lonely, I adopt them, they are my world and my babies..

My problem is my Brownie baby hv a bad habit eating her's own poop.. That is really dirty and disgusting.. Pity my baby, she is too young to understand that she is not suppost to eat it.... Im really helpless.. Plz help me... Thank you very much... I will be very thankful for that...

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