The skeleton of a dog buried in a crouched or sitting position is shown in this undated handout photo. This dog's grave, believed to be 7,000 years old, was one of several dug up by archeologists in Siberia and became part of a genetic study on the history of humans and dogs. Co-author Robert Losey from the University of Alberta in Edmonton says the study provides new insight into how far back the relationship between dogs and humans goes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - University of Alberta, Dr. Robert Losey

‘They came with dogs:’ Genomes show canines, humans share long history

‘They came with dogs:’ Genomes show canines, humans share long history

EDMONTON — Somewhere near Lake Baikal on the Siberian steppes, archeologists were opening 7,000-year-old graves.

The bodies had been carefully interred. One was buried with a long, carved spoon. Another had been honoured with a necklace of elk teeth.

“They look like people being buried — except they’re dogs,” said Robert Losey, a University of Alberta archeologist.

Those ancient pets are not only moving evidence of their owners’ esteem, they’re now part of research hinting at how far back dogs and humans go.

“We don’t just have a human history that’s independent of everything else on Earth,” said Losey, one of 56 international authors of a paper published Thursdaythat links human and canine genetics.

“We’ve been successful by relying on and altering the histories of other species.”

The first dog probably emerged from a type of wolf, but no one knows when, or where, or who domesticated it. It was a while ago. The oldest dog burial dates back about 14,000 years.

Losey and his many colleagues sequenced the genomes of 27 ancient dogs — including the one with the elk-tooth collar — with a maximum age of about 11,000 years. They compared them with genomes of 17 ancient humans who lived in roughly the same time and place as the dogs.

The dog genomes showed that 11 millennia ago, dogs had been domesticated long enough to produce five separate genetic lineages. That suggests the relationship between humans and dogs was old even then.

“They’d already been around for a long time, enough to differentiate groups by the end of the ice age,” said Losey.

Scientists also found the movement of those different dog genomes tracked the movement of the human genomes.

“When people migrated, they didn’t migrate alone,” Losey said. “They came with dogs, often a genetically distinct form of dogs.”

When the first farmers came to Europe from what is now eastern Turkey, they didn’t adopt the dogs already living there. They brought their own. The genomes of both species track together nicely.

That didn’t always happen. But Losey and his colleagues found that throughout most of prehistory, humans lighting out for new territory preferred companions they already knew.

The differences between the genetic strands weren’t breeds. Losey said the variation between dogs then was much less than it is today and that most of them would have looked much alike.

“They would have been somewhat diverse,” Losey said. “Most or all of them would physically mix right in with a modern dog — some all-black dogs, some all-white dogs, some with floppy ears. If my neighbour were walking one of these dogs from 10,000 years ago, you wouldn’t blink an eye.”

Losey, a dog lover himself, said studying the relationship between humans and dogs gives him a little insight into that long-ago pet owner who laid his friend to rest by the shores of Lake Baikal.

“There’s such a huge public interest in dogs,” he said.

“Every time we learn even a little bit more about their long history with people, we get additional insight into what it means to live with these animals.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2020.

— Follow @row1960 on Twitter

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Dogs

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

Collin Orthner, manager at McBain Camera in downtown Red Deer, stands behind the store’s counter on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
A few Red Deer businesses happy with Black Friday results

While this year’s Black Friday wasn’t as successful as it was in… Continue reading

Le Chateau Inc. is the latest Canadian firm to start producing personal protective equipment for health care workers, in a July 3, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Hundreds of millions of dollars for frontline workers yet to be released, says Alberta Federation of Labour

Information recently released by the Alberta Federation of Labour suggests more than… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP say a 30-year-old man faces sexual charges against a teen. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Man killed in two-vehicle collision near Penhold, says Blackfalds RCMP

A 46-year-old man is dead following a two-vehicle collision on Highway 42… Continue reading

Banff National Park. (The Canadian Press)
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

EDMONTON — A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths on railway tracks… Continue reading

Cows on pasture at the University of Vermont dairy farm eat hay Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Burlington, Vt. Canadian dairy farmers are demanding compensation from the government because of losses to their industry they say have been caused by a series of international trade deals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lisa Rathke
Feds unveil more funding for dairy, poultry and egg farmers hurt by free trade deals

OTTAWA — Canadian egg and poultry farmers who’ve lost domestic market share… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Canada's top doctor says the country is still on a troubling track for new COVID-19 infections as case counts continue mounting in much of the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
COVID-19 cases in Canada remain on troubling course, Tam says, amid rising numbers

Canada’s top doctor says the country is still on a troubling track… Continue reading

hay
Hay’s Daze: Giraffe knows filling wishes can sometimes be a tall order

Last weekend, I had a lovely breakfast. “So what?” you may say.… Continue reading

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says tonight's public video gaming session with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is about reaching young people where they hang. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP leader stoked over ‘epic crossover’ in video gaming sesh with AOC

Singh and AOC discussed importance of universal pharmacare, political civility, a living wage

A south view of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf breaking apart is seen from Ward Hunt Island, Nunavut, in an Aug. 20, 2011, handout photo. The remote area in the northern reach of the Nunavut Territory, has seen ice cover shrink from over 4 metres thick in the 1950s to complete loss, according to scientists, during recent years of record warming. Scientists are urging the federal government to permanently protect a vast stretch of Canada's remotest High Arctic called the Last Ice Area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CEN/Laval University, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Scientists urge permanent protection of Last Ice Area in Canada’s High Arctic

Tuvaijuittuq has the thickest and oldest ice in the Arctic

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $55 million Lotto Max jackpot

No winning ticket was sold for the $55 million jackpot in Friday… Continue reading

Most Read