Tag Archives: sled dogs

Sledge Dogs are Closely Related to 9,500-Year-Old ‘Ancient Dog’

Sledge Dogs

Photo: Carsten Egevang / Qimmeq

Dogs play an important role in human life all over the world – whether as a family member or as a working animal. But where the dog comes from and how old various groups of dogs are is still a bit of a mystery.

Now, light has been shed on the origin of the sledge dog. In a new study published in SCIENCE, researchers from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, show that the sledge dog is both older and has adapted to the Arctic much earlier than thought. The research was conducted in collaboration with the University of Greenland and the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Barcelona.

“We have extracted DNA from a 9,500-year-old dog from the Siberian island of Zhokhov, which the dog is named after. Based on that DNA we have sequenced the oldest complete dog genome to date, and the results show an extremely early diversification of dogs into types of sledge dogs”, says one of the two first authors of the study, Postdoc Mikkel Sinding, the Globe Institute.

Until now, it has been the common belief that the 9,500-year-old Siberian dog, Zhokhov, was a kind of ancient dog – one of the earliest domesticated dogs and a version of the common origin of all dogs. But according to the new study, modern sledge dogs such as the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute and the Greenland sledge dog share the major part of their genome with Zhokhov.

“This means that modern sledge dogs and Zhokhov had the same common origin in Siberia more than 9,500 years ago. Until now, we have thought that sledge dogs were only 2-3,000 years old”, says the other first author, Associate Professor Shyam Gopalakrishnan, Globe Institute.

The Original Sledge Dog

To learn more about the origins of the sledge dog, researchers have further sequenced genomes of a 33,000-year-old Siberian wolf and ten modern Greenlandic sledge dogs. They have compared these genomes to genomes of dogs and wolves from around the world.

“We can see that the modern sledge dogs have most of their genomes in common with Zhokhov. So, they are more closely related to this ancient dog than to other dogs and wolves. But not just that – we can see traces of crossbreeding with wolves such as the 33,000-year-old Siberian wolf – but not with modern wolves. It further emphasises that the origin of the modern sledge dog goes back much further than we had thought”, says Mikkel Sinding.

The modern sledge dogs have more genetic overlap with other modern dog breeds than Zhokhov has, but the studies do not show us where or when this occurred. Nevertheless, among modern sledge dogs, the Greenland sledge dogs stands out and has the least overlap with other dogs, meaning that the Greenland sledge dog is probably the most original sledge dog in the world.

Common Features with Inuit and Polar Bears

In addition to advancing the common understanding of the origin of sledge dogs, the new study also teaches the researchers more about the differences between sledge dogs and other dogs. Sledge dogs do not have the same genetic adaptations to a sugar and starch rich diet that other dogs have. On the other hand, they have adaptations to high-fat diets, with mechanisms that are similar to those described for polar bears and Arctic people.

“This emphasises that sledge dogs and Arctic people have worked and adapted together for more than 9,500 years. We can also see that they have adaptations that are probably linked to improved oxygen uptake, which makes sense in relation to sledding and give the sledding tradition ancient roots”, says Shyam Gopalakrishnan.

The study Arctic-Adapted Dogs Emerged at the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition has been published in SCIENCE.

Source:  University of Copenhagen

Unique Sled Dogs Helped the Inuit Thrive in the North American Arctic

Inuit sled dogs have changed little since people migrated with them to the North American Arctic across the Bering Strait from Siberia, according to researchers who have examined DNA from the dogs from that time span. The legacy of these Inuit dogs survives today in Arctic sled dogs, making them one of the last remaining descendant populations of indigenous, pre-European dog lineages in the Americas.

Inuit sled dogs

A team of Greenland sled dogs pulls in Greenland’s Disko Bay. The ancestors of these dogs arrived with the Inuit to the North American Arctic. (Courtesy/Tatiana Feuerborn)

The latest research is the result of nearly a decade’s work by University of California, Davis, researchers in anthropology and veterinary genetics, who analyzed the DNA of hundreds of dogs’ ancient skeletal remains to determine that the Inuit dog had significantly different DNA than other Arctic dogs, including malamutes and huskies.

Dogs continue to play role in Arctic communities

Qimmiit (dogs in Inuktitut) were viewed by the Inuit as particularly well-suited to long-distance hauling of people and their goods across the Arctic and consuming local resources, such as sea mammals, for food.

The unique group of dogs helped the Inuit conquer the tough terrain of the North American Arctic 2,000 years ago, researchers said. Inuit dogs are the direct ancestors of modern Arctic sled dogs, and although their appearance has continued to change over time, they continue to play an important role in Arctic communities.

Experts examined the DNA from 921 dogs and wolves who lived during the last 4,500 years. Analysis of the DNA, and the locations and time periods in which they were recovered archaeologically, shows dogs from Inuit sites occupied beginning around 2,000 years ago were genetically different from dogs already in the region.

According to Sacks “the genetic profiles of ancient dogs of the American Arctic dating to 2,000 years ago were nearly identical to those of older dogs from Siberia, but contrasted starkly with those of more ancient dogs in the Americas, providing an unusually clear and definitive picture of the canine replacement event that coincided with the expansion of Thule peoples across the American Arctic two millennia ago.”

Preserving an important history

Research confirms that native peoples maintained their own dogs. By analyzing the shape of elements from 391 dogs, the study also shows that the Inuit had larger dogs with a proportionally narrower cranium to earlier dogs belonging to pre-Inuit groups.

The National Science Foundation-funded portion of the research at UC Davis was inspired by Inuit activist and author Sheila Watt-Cloutier, who told Darwent about Inuit sled-dog culling undertaken by Canadian police in the 1950s and asked if there was a way to use scientific methods to tell the history and importance of sled dogs in the Arctic. Preservation of these distinctive Inuit dogs is likely a reflection of the highly specialized role that dogs played in both long-range transportation and daily subsistence practices in Inuit society.

The article, “Specialized sledge dogs accompanied the Inuit dispersal across the North American Arctic,” was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Source:  UC Davis media release

Hunting dogs may benefit from antioxidant boost in diet

Free radicals, those DNA-damaging single-oxygen atoms, are produced in spades during exercise. Dogs that exercise a lot, like hunting dogs, may need to consume more antioxidants than their less-active counterparts to protect against this damage. But what diet formulation best meets the needs of these furry athletes? A new University of Illinois study provides some answers in a real-world scenario.

Hunting dogs

Researchers visited a kennel of American Foxhounds in Alabama over the course of a hunting season, providing one group a high-performance commercial diet and another group a test diet similar to the commercial diet, but with added antioxidants (vitamins C and E, and lutein), zinc, and taurine. During the study, dogs from both groups went on two to three hunts per week, each 2 to 5 hours in length.

“We think of it as unstructured endurance exercise. They’re not running the entire time. They might stop to sniff or go more slowly to pick up a scent,” says Kelly Swanson, corresponding author on the study and Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at U of I.

Before starting the diets and on four occasions during the seven-month study, researchers took blood samples from the dogs to examine oxidative stress markers and other blood metabolites.

“We hypothesized that dogs fed the test diet would have a lower concentration of oxidative stress markers and improved performance compared to the dogs fed the commercial diet,” Swanson says. “It turns out performance wasn’t affected by diet, but the test diet did improve indirect measures of oxidative stress. Therefore, improved performance may be expected with more strenuous exercise when metabolic demands are higher.”

The amino acid taurine, once thought to be non-essential for dogs but now recognized as an important nutrient for heart health, declined over the course of the season for dogs fed the commercial diet. The same pattern occurred with vitamin E. Although one dog did come close to a critically low level of taurine during the study, all dogs fed the commercial diet stayed within the normal range for all blood metabolites.

For dogs fed the test diet, taurine and vitamin E levels were maintained at or above the baseline. The results suggest to Swanson and his co-authors that these compounds are compromised in athletic dogs over months of unstructured exercise, and more-active dogs such as sled dogs may experience greater depletion.

“We can conclude that athletic dogs may benefit from supplementation of vitamin E and taurine to minimize oxidation and maintain taurine status,” he says.

The article, “Longitudinal changes in blood metabolites, amino acid profile, and oxidative stress markers in American Foxhounds fed a nutrient-fortified diet,” is published in the Journal of Animal Science [DOI: 10.1093/jas/skx070]. Funding was provided by The Nutro Company.

Source:  University of Illinois press release

Unseasonable weather affects the Iditarod

 Kelly Maixner's team charges out of the chute at the 2015 ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race in downtown Anchorage, Alaska March 7, 2015. Credit: Reuters/Mark Meyer


Kelly Maixner’s team charges out of the chute at the 2015 ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race in downtown Anchorage, Alaska March 7, 2015.
Credit: Reuters/Mark Meyer

It’s been an unseasonably warm winter in Alaska (unlike in Boston, which I have featured on my Facebook page a number of times since I have family and friends there).  And for only the second time in the 43 year history of the Iditarod dog sled race, the race route has had to be shifted due to lack of snow pack and unsafe conditions.

The 1,000 mile race has begun following a new route that has never been used before – starting in Fairbanks instead of Willow.

The race takes about 9 or more days to complete and will finish in Nome.

Mush!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

What Dog Sled Teams Can Teach Us About Leadership

Sled dogs

Dr Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, an international business networking organization, wrote this really interesting piece on leadership.  For where you work now, ask yourself – who are the leaders?

SuccessNet Online – What Dog Sled Teams Can Teach Us About Leadership

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

The ancestral roots of your dog

A genetic study by Peter Savolainen, a researcher in evolutionary genetics at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, has found that dog breeds from North and South America have Asian ancestry.

The Chihuahua definitely has Mexican heritage

The Chihuahua definitely has Mexican heritage

The native breeds have 30 percent or less modern replacement by European dogs.  It had been thought, prior to this study, that when Europeans settled in the American continent their dog breeds successively replaced the genetics of the native breeds.

Savolainen’s research group, in cooperation with colleagues in Portugal, compared mitochondrial DNA from Asian and European dogs, ancient American archaeological samples, and American dog breeds, including Chihuahuas, Peruvian hairless dogs and Arctic sled dogs.

They traced the American dogs’ ancestry back to East Asian and Siberian dogs, and also found direct relations between ancient American dogs and modern breeds.

The research confirmed conclusively that the modern day Chihuahua has Mexican roots.  The breed shares a DNA type uniquely with Mexican pre-Columbian samples.

The team also analysed stray dogs, confirming them generally to be runaway European dogs; but in Mexico and Bolivia they identified populations with high proportions of indigenous ancestry.

Source:  AlphaGalileo Foundation news release

Caring for Nunavik’s sled dogs

Andréanne Cléroux, a veterinary student at the University of Montreal International Veterinary Group, is conducting a project to design and deliver a first aid guide for dogs in northern Quebec.

A family with their dog in Nunavik. (Credit: Sylvie Ricard)

“The problem relates mainly to animal health care, immunization, and dog population control,” Cléroux explains. “We wanted to create a guide that would provide basic tools for pet owners so they can provide care to their animal while waiting to contact the remote veterinary consultation service to get advice from a veterinarian at the CHUV (University of Montreal Veterinary Hospital).” 

Cléroux spent time developing the guide before travelling to northern Quebec to work on the draft with residents.  One of the challenges has been to develop a product that was good for those unfamiliar with dog care and still make it useful to mushers, who tend to know more about their dogs.

Cléroux has also created a first aid kit that includes all the necessary material to provide the care described in the manual and delivered it to several villages, with a goal to make it more widely available to all 14 communities in Nunavik.

Source:  University of Montreal press release

 

Racing dogs wear leggings to prevent injuries

Sled dogs are appearing this season wearing a spandex legging that extends from ankle to shoulder, according to a new article in the Anchorage Daily News.

The leggings protect against “chicken leg” which is a problem when snow builds up on the back of the leg and balls up, eventually pulling the fur out, leaving raw spots that are prone to infection.

Dogs competing in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race are amongst the first wearing the new invention, which has received praise from the head veterinarian in the competition.

Isn’t it great to see new products coming on the market that help dogs?

Sled dogs from Vancouver Olympics murdered

The Winter Olympics in Vancouver officially were closed on 28 February 2010. Less than a year later, news has broken that 100 healthy sled dogs were brutally murdered because tourism had dropped off post-Olympics.

More shocking is that the murders have only come to light after the worker who shot and, in some cases slashed the throats of the dogs, filed a worker’s compensation claim for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Attorney Corey Steinberg told Vancouver radio station CNKW “It wasn’t always a clean, one-shot kill. Inevitably, (the employee) ended up seeing and having to put the end to some horrific scenes.”

The SPCA is investigating.

Read more here.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand