Everyone knows that dogs are man’s best friend, but there has been an ongoing debate over where and when that friendship was first forged. Researchers believe that dogs were domesticated 15,000 years ago — the first species to be domesticated — but the exact region where dogs first sat, stayed and fetched has been a source of contention for scientists. Until now.
According to a new report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), there is now “strong evidence” that dogs were first domesticated in Central Asia, near the current locations of Mongolia and Nepal. The researchers say that dogs as we know them consist of two separate groups, one which includes more than 400 pure breed and a larger, more wide-ranging collection of “free-ranging animals adapted to a human commensal lifestyle” known as “village dogs.”
The researchers studied the DNA and genetic markers of 5,225 dogs — 4,676 purebred dogs and 549 village dogs — which included 161 different breeds and representatives from 38 different countries. They discovered that “both isolation and gene flow” contributed to the diversity of the village dog populations.
As they explained in their cleverly titled paper, “Genetic structure in village dogs reveals a Central Asian domestication origin,” village dogs from some regions were almost completely European in “stock” or origin, while others were a mix of indigenous and European dogs. But perhaps their most interesting — or significant — finding was that the dogs from Vietnam, India and Egypt did not show many (if any) signs of being mixed with European dogs. That discovery supported their theory that dogs were first domesticated in Central Asia.