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Dog´s place and date of birth identified

Published Sep 01, 2009

Earlier studies of this field have shown that Eastern Asia is the place where the wolf was tamed to become the dog. More detailed information has not been available. Now researchers at KTH have succeeded in further specifying the birthplace of man's best friend.

"For the first time in history it is now possible to provide a detailed picture of the dog including birthplace, point in time and the number of wolves that were tamed," says Peter Savolainen, biology researcher at KTH.

Together with Swedish colleagues and a Chinese research group he has made a number of new discoveries concerning the history of the dog. These discoveries have recently been published in the scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, and establish that the dog arrived 16 000 years ago in Asia, south of the Yangtze River in China. This is considerably earlier as concerns time and place than had previously been established.

"Our previous discoveries from 2002 have not been fully accepted; however with this new data acceptance will probably be greater. The picture is much more detailed," Peter states.

The point in time when the dog emerged is well in line with the point when the population of this part of the world changed from hunting and gathering to farming as a way of life – this was 10 000 to 12 000 years ago.

According to Peter this research indicates that the dog has only one geographical origin, but is descended from a large number of animals. At least several hundred tame wolves, probably even more.

"Considering that it involved so many wolves, this indicates that this event was important and a major part of the culture," he asserts.

He adds that research results have produced several exciting theories such as the fact that the original dog, in contrast to its younger relatives in Europe who were used for herding and as guard dogs, probably ended up in people’s stomachs!

The research result comes from genetical analysis of mitochondrial DNA from 1 500 dogs, from all over the earth.

For more information, please contact Peter Savolainen at or +46 8 55 378 335.

Read all about the research results at Molecular Biology and Evolution´s web page.

Peter Larsson

Belongs to: About KTH
Last changed: Sep 01, 2009