Small Dogs Traced Back to Middle Eastern Wolf

FRIDAY Feb. 26, 2010 -- Small domestic dogs probably originated in the Middle East more than 12,000 years ago, new research suggests.

The researchers concluded that a version of a gene called IGF1 is a major determinant of small size in dogs. The gene variant probably developed as the result of the domestication of the Middle Eastern gray wolf, according to the study, published online Feb. 24 in BMC Biology.

"The mutation for small body size postdates the domestication of dogs," study author Melissa Gray, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a news release from the journal's publisher. "However, because all small dogs possess this variant of IGF1, it probably arose early in their history. Our results show that the version of the IGF1 gene found in small dogs is closely related to that found in Middle Eastern wolves and is consistent with an ancient origin in this region of small domestic dogs."

Gray noted that a reduction in body size is a common feature of animal domestication.

"Small size could have been more desirable in more densely packed agricultural societies, in which dogs may have lived partly indoors or in confined outdoor spaces," she said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has information on pet health.

Posted: February 2010


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