The Universal Dog - Part 2
Click for Part 1 of The Universal Dog Series
All breed judge’s photos from around-the-world show wild, stray, mutt, purebred or mixed breed, all dogs are of this type just as a horse is a horse…
In Part 1, I gave an introduction to the tendency in almost every part of the world for dogs to revert to a very similar type and size range when human selection pressure was absent. So much so, that you could see great similarities if you were to gather such geographically widely-separated breeds as Carolina Dog, Cirneco, Dingo, Formosa Dog, Peruvian Inca Orchid, Podengo, Telomian, Thai Ridgeback, Xoloitzcuintli, etc.
You can add a group of similar primitive “universal-type” dogs that mostly have tails curled over the back or erect, such as Shiba, Jin-do, Chow, Buhund, New Guinea Singing Dog, Norbottenspets, various “Eskimo” and similar spitz-type breeds, Lundehund, Eurasian, Iceland Dog, Keeshond, Lapphund, and the several medium-size Japanese native breeds.
As selection for useful partnership with humans increased, breed type emerged. One result of man’s interference in what would ordinarily continue as homogeneity is fixation of more diverse “types”. Man blended the native primitive Dingo with European herding dogs and came up with the Australian Cattle Dog and its cousins. The combination of Arctic spitz dogs with German Shepherds resulted in the Karelian Bear Dog.
Nature (geography, climate) tends to isolate gene pools. Mankind (commerce, travel, conquests) tends to cross “native” breeds or select by whim, and create more diversity. When cross-types “settled down” in a region and their wanderers decided to put down roots, differences between those canine families generally increased. The further that colonies of humans and their animals are from trade routes, the more “pure” the “look” becomes.
But at the same time, some domesticated dogs became feral when they were not controlled. These “runaways” or wanderers interbred without human direction, the result is homogenized type. In most cases, this great mixture of medium-size and slightly smaller dogs reverted to “primitive type.”
The dog is not the only species that has been “crossbred.” A large percentage of humans are, as well. You know that we are classified as Homo sapiens, but you might not be aware that most of us (Euro-Asians, but not most people of pure African descent) have some small genetic makeup stemming from Homo neanderthalis and Denisovan species — otherwise-extinct Homo species that appeared about 500,000 years ago. Denisovans probably split off from a Neanderthal population about then.
Like dog breeds, humans have developed into recognizable types. Such as Negroid, Caucasian, Aboriginal, Oriental, etc. But DNA studies frequently show very surprising elements of unexpected ancestry. Both our and our dogs’ progenitors typically did a lot of crossbreeding, so claims of breed purity (“pedigreed dogs”) should be viewed with a knowing smile. Still, the observant can usually identify differences between Frisian-Dutch and other west-central Europeans, or between Adriatic Slavs and Baltic Finns. After judging so many times in the Far East, I became fairly able to tell a Korean from the Japanese or Malay most of the time.
As one travels deeper into geographical areas, the physical differences due to isolation (think Tibetan Mastiff, for example) become more obvious. Whether we study human physiognomy or various animal species, or language similarities, or the parts of the light spectrum where one rainbow color blends gradually into another. we learn that physical-geographical boundaries become indistinct. Trade and travel simply muddy those differences even more.
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