Securing A Healthy Future and Long Life For -- The American Indian Dog:
New Research on the "Ultimate Mutt" by Kim La Flamme
The recent advances in biotechnology and genetics have brought much understanding to the research being done on Canines.
By sharing information with other researchers, such as:
Canine Diversity Projects--who are trying to save the "blue blood", pure AKC type, modern breeds of show dogs, from being inbred to the point of no return.
Tahltan Indian Research on the Reservations Rare Domestic Livestock Breed Conservancy Biologists that are working to identify pure almost extinct wolf populations.
Anthropologists, Geneticists, Biologists working at wolf Dog rescues.
Naturalists trying to save our almost extinct wild life.
Native Americans, Dog & Horse whisperers; trying to bring back the Natural Old ways of training & communicating with animals…. etc …etc,..
New understandings about the various canines, their origins, and health, are beginning surface, and helping us to make sense of evidence that we had, but could not bring together.
Just one example: In the past, states within the U.S. trying to save their wild, pure Wolf populations, were forced to create laws banning the sales and breeding of Wolf hybrids...and for good reason.
Some unsuspecting and unprepared owners, that could neither train nor contain their hybrids, finding the rescues full and the Humane Societies, unwilling to place these animals, would turn their Wolf dogs loose to mix with the wild populations. Not only does this ruin the Wolves' gene pool, it also creates another Wolf dog that ends up getting shot for killing livestock, because of it's willingness to move in close to Man's domain.
Biologists have spent many years of study, to make sure that the pure and original populations, that were once present in those areas, are identified and replaced.
With all the cross breeding of subspecies, and inbreeding done by zoo's and Wolf breeders, it has taken a lot of research to identify and unravel the pure lines. If they are to be saved, they must have a diverse and healthy population as a gene pool.
In the process, researchers have found a chromosome that only appears in Wolves over the age of 8 months. Known as the "Fear Factor", this gene is expressed as fear of man, keeps it aloof ( a legendary trait in Wolves), and helps it to survive. This chemical is only found in Wolves, and can be passed as far as the F10 generation--that is ten generations down the line from a Wolf cross.
Up until recently, the Departments of Fish and Game, Animal Control, and the Humane Societies, have had only their Wolf dog experts to rely on, in their fight to stop these unscrupulous hybrid breeders from filling the Wolf dog rescues with the poor "stuck in the middle", neither wild nor domestic animals. Although there are many ways for an expert to tell the difference, it has been difficult to prove in a court of law. Especially if they call them and advertise them as something they are not.
Last year, 2005, there were over 1.2 million Wolf hybrids, put to sleep. All Wolf hybrid and Wolf Rescuers are full. Here in my area, in the state of Oregon, it will be at least three years, before they can accept any new Wolf or Wolf hybrid rescues, and it is even longer in most other areas and states.
These same researchers, that have identified DNA markers to distinguish subspecies, can identify Wolf blood in any diluted amount. This technique has also enabled them to tell the percent of Coyote in the Red Wolf.
Not too long ago, researchers thought we still had plenty of Red Wolves. But these new techniques showed that what they had thought were pure Red Wolf, were actually recent Coyote X Red Wolf crosses. Although the Red Wolf of thousands of years ago, was already more Coyote than Wolf, through DNA markers, they found they only had about 30 actual old Red Wolves, to begin a breeding program for conservation of the species.
In my opinion, this is nature--the process of natural selection. When the canine species in an area are killed off, the more adaptable Coyote starts to fill that niche. It is Man that has caused this to happen, and it is up to Man to fix it. And our new abilities to tell the percent of Wolf mixed with any canine, including Coyote, are a large step toward attaining this goal.
If Wolf was used, as some experts have believed, in the creation of the domestic dog, this chemical would be in all our modern breeds. Also, we would see it in the Coyotes, Dingoes and Jackals that naturally fill the niches where Wolves can no longer survive. An Old Indian story tells that “Whether Man domesticated Coyote, or Coyote domesticated itself and man”, is another question & another story.
As I've discussed in other articles, Coyotes, Jackals, Ethiopian Wolves, Asian Wolves, Red Wolves, and even the Gray Wolves, are more Coyote and Jackal types, then Wolf type. In my opinion, this shows, without a doubt, that our first dog derived from the Coyote/Jackal, rather than the Wolf. And I am not alone in this opinion.
Our Native American Elders have told me, and common sense and research support the theory that our modern dog did not come from the domestication of wolves. My own research into Dog/Wolf hybrids, versus Dog/Coyote hybrids, backs this completely. The differences and similarities are too obvious to deny. For instance, Wolves have no sweat glands between their toes, whereas the domestic Dog, Coyotes, Jackals, and Dingoes all share this trait.
Using these new techniques, it is possible to tell the difference between the typical, modern, inbred dog breed, and the more variable primitive breed. As well as to what extent each has been inbred. Some other examples of primitive breeds that are still with us today, are the Canaan Dog, Salukis, Basenjis, Finish Herders, Pharaoh Dogs, Puffin Dogs, Icelandic Shepherds, Inuit Dogs, New Guinea singing Dogs, Dingo’s, and there are more.
In order to save some of these breeds, they were forced to do some very close inbreeding, as their gene pool was quite small. I question whether this is actually saving the breed--making carbon copies of one or two individuals. This is considered an unhealthy primitive breed, no better than the modern unhealthy breeds, because of the lack of diversity in it's gene pool. Bred into a corner, once the breed is accepted into the AKC Registry, it is allowed no outcross, but instead must remain "pure". Rather than educating the breed clubs and breeders, this demand for "purity" robs the line of diversity and the variables necessary to maintain it's health, both mentally and physically. The very elements that would "save" the breed.
Luckily, some of these breed clubs, and the foundation breeders, have maintained control over the breeding practices within their breeds, and have chosen to recreate their breed by bringing related, and similar types into their program, providing this much needed diversity. Bringing in similar or slightly related types, that have been used originally, to create the breed, or types that came from that breed (if available), is much better for the breed's continued genetic health.
This gives the founding breeders those out crosses necessary for the diversity that is essential for it's future health. The Canaan Dog, for example, is now, and will remain healthy, as long as they are "allowed" or continue to bring in similar types with unrelated ancestry, from the desert farmers and nomads that still breed them.
Now, with the ability to identify DNA Markers, chromosomes & inherited unwanted deceases & treats … these autonomous breed clubs and founding breeders have the opportunity to know exactly what they are starting with, what is necessary to "save" their breed, and how much line breeding they can safely do.
As for the American Indian Dog, we now know, without a doubt, that the AIDog does not have Wolf blood, nor recent Coyote. We also know that it is an extremely healthy primitive breed, with more diversities and variables than most of the primitive breeds alive today.
Corresponding with The First Nation's Peoples, on the Tahltan Reservations, people who are biologists, Anthropologists, and Linguistic researchers in Canada, have added much to my theories, and answered some things that I have puzzled over, through the years. I could see obvious similarities between the Tahltan Indian Dogs, and the Southern Pueblo type Indian Dogs, but could not connect them historically.
They have found, starting as I did, with old myths and stories handed down through generations of both cultures, then coupled with evidence from linguistic cultural studies, and DNA tests, that the Southern U.S. Nations, including the Apache and Navaho, are actually related to the Tahltan way up in northern Canada.
Further research shows, that those known as the "Dene Peoples", traded culture, goods, people, and dogs, as recently as a few hundred years ago, and going back thousands of years. This shows that dogs were highly prized, and that they were more related, and purposefully bred, than was commonly thought. This selective breeding and trading, was also told to me by the Elders that I interviewed in my younger years. So it seems that we, as well as the dogs, are much more closely related, than many previous researchers imagined....and the world is getting smaller.
In conclusion, the American Indian Dog is well, and healthy, and heading in the right direction. However, in order to remain so, people must take the time to research and to understand, and they must leave the breeding to those who do understand the genetics needed to save and maintain their health. Both large populations of closely related dogs, and back yard breeders that breed for aesthetic reasons or money, will weaken and ruin the breed.
They are our best friends, our therapists, and our teachers. They have helped us evolve for thousands of years, and we can learn from them how to bring back some of those natural instincts & education that we have neglected and discarded. It is up to us to listen to them, and to take responsibility for their health and well-being, thereby helping them to survive into the future. Helping them as they have helped us, sharing our niche--this symbiotic relationship from the past into the future.