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Maybe it's 20/20 hindsight...

But what's reported in this article from the New York Times (free registration required) makes sense to me as an observer of dogs:
More surprising to dog lovers might be some of the relationships among breeds that the research revealed. The German shepherd, for example, is closer genetically to mastiffs, boxers and other "guarding" dogs than to herding dogs.
Makes sense. What German shepherds primarily do, in my experience, is stand and watch. Herding dogs are always running around.
The fleet greyhound, Irish wolfhound, borzoi, or Russian wolfhound, and lumbering Saint Bernard count herding dogs among their closest kin.
Similarly, makes sense: The sight hounds have a strong prey drive, and the prey drive is part of what makes shepherds herd. (I have to admit the St Bernard's belonging to the same group isn't particularly intuitive, though.)
And the pharaoh hound and Ibizan hound, often called the oldest of breeds, are really recent constructions, as is the Norwegian elkhound.
It makes sense that pharaoh hounds and Ibizan hounds can't be "the oldest of breeds." They look entirely unlike wolves, which dogs are bred from.

I'm looking forward to hearing whether the Animal Planet dog show announcers change some of their patter in response to this information.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 21st, 2004 11:01 am (UTC)
Ibizans are crazy dogs. I like them.
May. 21st, 2004 02:54 pm (UTC)
They look entirely unlike wolves, which dogs are bred from.

Yes, but so do Shar-pei's, which in the article about the study I read in the San Jose Mercury News, are genetically "ancient dogs." And I don't think that chows, another ancient dog breed, look much like wolves, either, but YMMV.
May. 21st, 2004 10:57 pm (UTC)
True. I guess that part is more 20/20 hindsight.
May. 21st, 2004 07:00 pm (UTC)
Sounds like the writer was thinking more about the name "German shepherd" than about the dogs themselves...

As for the "old" breeds, I'd believe that a breed that looks particularly unlike wolves, while unlikely to have been around in that form all that long, might be descended from some of the earliest offshoots (more time to evolve in a different direction that way), which makes me wonder if that might have something to do with their being thought of as old breeds. (Unless, of course, all domesticated dogs share a common point of divergence from wolves, in which case my thought makes no sense at all.)
May. 21st, 2004 10:59 pm (UTC)
I think German shepherd dogs do actually herd, but they don't seem to act like a lot of other herding dogs.

They may be thinking these days that all dogs share a common wolf ancestor or five, but ancient breeds could still have diverged and then been maintained more or less as they were.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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