August 17, 2021

Your dog has an unexpected relative

Your dog has an unexpected relative
Dr. Chris Brown

Better leave a space at Christmas lunch. Researchers just discovered where your dog’s unique pattern and colouring comes from. And it’s not where we all thought. Here’s who’s just been discovered in your dog’s family tree…

Does your dog have a unique colour or pattern?

Well this is a shock. Head down to your local dog park and you’ll instantly see the huge variation in patches, spots or solid colours between dogs. Considering dogs are all one species, it’s remarkable that such a huge variation in size (1-100kg) and colouring exists. And while it was thought that the five colours and multiple patterns dogs possess came from their main ancestor, the Grey Wolf, researchers just found that’s not entirely true.

In fact, not even selective breeding or mutations could explain the yellow colour so many dogs have. Just look at Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Airedale, Pugs, Cavaliers, Poodles and Basenjis to name a few.

So where does the yellow colour come from? It’s actually a snow dwelling white wolf. But this distant relative that never writes or calls but gave the gift of this yellow colour has a very good reason for avoiding contact. The white wolf became extinct around two million years ago but still managed to pass on this light-coloured coat that they used for camouflage in the arctic environments they called home.

So while so many of our little mates have happily swapped the arctic for air-conditioning and the tundra for a doona, some quirky wolfy remain. Just watch for the howly happenings when a siren goes past your house!

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