America’s lost dogs

A fascinating story.

A wild dog.

I am a member of AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and pulled a story from their Science journal and to my amazement found that I did this nearly a year ago.

The article, by Linda Goodman and Elinor K. Karlsson, is unavailable for complete republishing owing to copyright.

But on the AAAS website there is a summary, as follows:


Few traces remain of the domesticated dogs that populated the Americas before the arrival of Europeans in the 15th century. On page 81 of this issue, Ní Leathlobhair et al. (1) shed light on the origins of the elusive precontact dog population through genetic analysis of ancient and modern dogs. Building on earlier work, they show that American dogs alive today have almost no ancestry from precontact dogs, a monophyletic lineage descended from Arctic dogs that accompanied human migrations from Asia. Instead, the authors found that their closest remaining relative is a global transmissible cancer carrying the DNA of a long-deceased dog. It remains unclear why precontact dogs survived and thrived for thousands of years in the Americas only to swiftly and almost completely disappear with the arrival of Europeans.

From the article I would add:

It is unclear why there is so little evidence today of this thriving precontact dog population. Early European colonists may have discouraged the sale and breeding of native dogs, or even actively persecuted them (10). Yet, cultural preferences alone seem insufficient to explain their rapid decline. Most dogs worldwide are free-breeding scavengers, with minimal human control and high reproductive rates (11); native American dogs were likely similar.

There is a chart in the same article that shows the first human sites in the Americas were about 15,000 years ago with the oldest dog remains, also in America, being about 10,000 years ago.

Fascinating stuff!

20 thoughts on “America’s lost dogs

      1. Especially this part, “ Most dogs worldwide are free-breeding scavengers, with minimal human control and high reproductive rates “. Although they’ll deny it.


  1. Yes fascinating stuff Paul. Especially the sad fact that no Native American dogs remain today. Your article caused me to look at the history of Australia’s dingo, now regarded as a native animal but apparently only brought into the continent by traders via New Guinea to the north less than 4000 years ago. European settlers in the late 1700’s first noticed dingoes in semi domesticated settings with Australian aboriginals. Fortunately they survive today although many are crossbreeds with European dogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t realise that the dingo was such a recent arrival. And, yes Margaret, the degree of cross breeding with domesticated dogs must be very significant.


  2. Interesting summary. It could be possible that there were few Asian dogs around so easily overwhelmed by 16th Century invasions with European dogs.

    It is also possible that dogs were eaten. While today, the Western world does not engage in such practice, parts of Asia still do.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Dog meat eating actually presents a lot of health problems in terms of transmissible diseases to humans, but I have also seen a lot of malamute, and husky type dogs in Asia. In the rescues from the dog meat industry, many of the dogs have those traits.


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