DNA from scrappy dogs in African villages is raising doubts about a theory that dogs first became “man’s best friend” in East Asia.
Based on DNA evidence, scientists believe that domestic dogs originated from Eurasian gray wolves sometime between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago. The history of how dogs became human companions, however, remains muddy.
In 2002 researchers had examined DNA from hundreds of dogs around the world and found that East Asian dogs are the most genetically diverse.Since the highest diversity should exist in the region where dogs first went from wolf to woof, the study seemed to suggest that the dog-human bond was forged in East Asia.
That study included almost equal numbers of East Asian “breed” dogs and “village” dogs, said study co-author Adam Boyko, a biologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
Breed dogs include purebred and mixed-breed animals. Village dogs are those that are indigenous to a specific region and “were not subject to the same degree of intense artificial selection and closed breeding practices that characterize modern breed dogs,” the study authors write.