By Peggy R. Lott on May 20 2018 15:10:55
Dog breeds are dogs that have relatively uniform physical characteristics developed under controlled conditions by humans, with breeding animals selected for phenotypic traits such as size, coat color, structure, and behavior. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale recognizes 337 pure dog breeds. Other uses of the term breed when referring to dogs may include pure breeds, cross-breeds, mixed breeds and natural breeds.
The study found distinct genetic clusters within modern dogs that largely corresponded to phenotype or function. These included spitz-breeds, toy dogs, spaniels, Mastiff-like breeds, small terriers, retrievers, herding dogs, scent-hounds, and sight-hounds. There were 17 breeds that conflicted with phenotype or function and these were thought to be the result of crossing some of the other phenotypes. As in a 2004 study that found 9 ‘ancient breeds’ to be genetically divergent, the study found 13 breeds that were genetically divergent from the modern breeds: the Basenji, Saluki, Afghan hound, Samoyed, Canaan dog, New Guinea singing dog, dingo, Chow Chow, Chinese Shar Pei, Akita, Alaskan malamute, Siberian husky and American Eskimo dog. Results also indicated that the Basenji had recent admixture with Middle Eastern wolves.
What you may not know is that many breeds today have very small populations. If some breeds were any other kind of animal they would be considered endangered. You may find it hard to believe, but breeds can become extinct. If you read any histories about dog breeds, you will find lots of references to breeds that are gone now. Countless breeds have become extinct over the centuries. In some cases we have some of their descendants because they contributed to newer breeds, but not always. Some people might not care if particular breeds become extinct, but if you are a fan of a breed, then this might matter to you. From a genetic viewpoint, it’s always good to have a wide selection of dogs that contributed to a breed’s foundation. You never know when it might be necessary to reintroduce some of the genes from an older breed for health reasons. If those breeds are extinct, that’s no longer a possibility.
That’s why we need breeders of purebred dogs today. People who breed to preserve dog breeds are usually hobbyists. They may participate in dog shows or companion/performance events with their dogs. The dogs that they can’t keep are usually placed in pet homes. Yet cities and state legislatures are passing laws that can make it virtually impossible for smaller breeders to continue this important work.