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2014 is drawing to an end. It was a successful year, with great achievements for the FCI and for dogs worldwide.

2015 will be a challenging year for our Federation. We are indeed faced with anti-canine legislations and different issues that might badly affect our beloved 4-paw friends. However, I am convinced that, working together, the FCI team, all over the world, will succeed in overcoming those difficulties, for the benefit of dogs worldwide.

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Rafael de Santiago
FCI President
The domestication and first utilizations of the dog (part 4/5)

Read the whole article and more in the FCI Centenary Book

Bernard DENIS, France
Honorary Professor, National Veterinary School, Nantes
Ex-member of the FCI Scientific Commission
Translation: J. Mulholland

Genetic consequences

They are relative, on one hand to the evolution of genetic variability and, on the other hand to the beginning of a raciation process.

From the beginning, the domestication process implies a loss of genes due to the limited number of the founders of the domestic species, to the necessary selection of animals (even in a pre-disposed species, some subjects must be declared inapt for life in captivity), to a modification of reproduction habits and to the beginning of selection by Man. However, as we have already discussed (see above), the visible ge- netic variability increases because of the accumulation of colour mutants (muta- tions). On the long term, with an important increase in numbers, the domestic species will progressively see its genetic polymorphism increase yet again.

Simultaneously to these modifications, we observe a redistribution of the genetic variability across a first “raciation” (creation of breeds) process, that is to say the constitution of large groups having the value of primary breeds or forefathers. If in- deed we keep to the classic idea according to which there were several domestication centres, it is logical to believe that mankind exerted his action on a sub-species of wolf present in his region21. Different opinions were voiced on the nature of the primary breeds which were gradually founded. They only partly concord but the common dominator is that all retain only four or five groups22. Until a consensus is obtained, it is not without interest to keep to the classification of dog breeds as “lupoïd, brachyoïd, molossoïd and graioïd” which, even if it dates back to the end of the XIXth century, has logical merit and was also intended to correspond to four “original sources” of dogs to which it may be useful to add a fifth to include the Dingo and other primitive dogs23. Obviously one must not imagine that the mor- phological differences existing between these large groups were evident at the time they began to assemble: it is ulterior selection, especially that of the past two cen- turies, which is responsible. It must also be pointed out that if the existence of these groups of dogs, supposedly considered as primary breeds, is evident today if we refer to morphological resemblances, molecular genetic research cannot yet confirm this: there appears to be difficulty in identifying the groups of different breeds geneti- cally24.


Apart from the afore-mentioned presence of dog skeletons in human tombs, which at least indicates a certain degree of intimacy between humans and the dog, we are faced with hypothesis. Two of them are regularly put forth: the dog, man’s hunting partner; the dog, companion animal. The observation of what the present-day hunter-gatherer communities do with this animal is of great help for imagining what may have happened at the time of domestication.

The use of the dog as an auxiliary for the hunter is put forth to justify domestication, on the basis of complementary methods of hunting; the canines force the prey to run, the humans hide in ambush along the latter’s track. From being tenuous as it was at the beginning, the two species being rivals, it gradually became more regular with humans leaving a share of the captured prey for the dogs26. Obviously there is nothing to be said against the logic of this idea but it must be balanced in view of the secondary role which dogs play in present-day communities during the hunt. With the Aboriginies it is even kept at a distance from the hunting ground; in other communities, it accompanies the hunters and shares the excitement of the hunt but cannot, properly speaking, be considered as an auxiliary. Perhaps this companion- ship reflects, at the least, a certain degree of domestication but what was the exact use of the dog when hunting?

The sociability – a better term than “companionship” in these early times – consti- tutes the other first utilization of the dog. Numerous present-day communities live surrounded by dogs without paying particular attention to them but, punctually, re- lationships are established: breast-feeding, followed by the taming of the puppies generate privileged relationships which could explain the presence of dogs in human tombs, independently of ritual functions already mentioned. In the Aborigine com- munity, it has been observed that when it is very cold at night it happens that the humans cuddle up to the dogs for warmth. In the end, it is perfectly plausible that familiarity was one of the paths to domestication of dogs and one of the first uti- lizations.

Peinture rupestre, Pha Taem National Park, Thailande (2.000 à 1.000 AC)

21 : According to MECH (quoted by LIGNEREUX, see note 8), 45 sub-species of wolves have been identified but only a small number of them have been subjected to do- mestication and produced an equally small number of primary breeds.

22 : As an indication, without referring to the sub-species of the Wolf which is suspected of being the origin, FIENNES., R and FIENNES. A. (The natural history of the Dog, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1968) retain the “Dingo” (many primitive breeds), the “Nordic” (Nordic and shepherd dogs), “Greyhound” (sighthounds), “Mastiff” (molossoïd, scenthounds, pointing dogs) groups. It is also classical to refer to CLUTTON-BROCK, J., (“Dog”, in MASON, I.L., Evolution of domesticated animals, Longman, London and New-York, 1984, 198-211), whose hypothesis are quite different. Molecular genetics will probably help to provide a clearer picture but, for the time being, it has not been able to link such and such a breed to any sub-species of the Wolf.

23 : This classification is the work of the great French cynologist, Pierre MEGNIN;

24 : LEROY, G., “Diversité et gestion génétique des races canines: le bilan de trois ans de travail de recherché” (Diversity and genetic management of dog breeds: the result of three years of research), Cynophilie française, n°143, 2008, 16-19 (The data given in this article are taken from a Doctorate thesis presented in 2008 at AgroParis- Tech).

25 : In this chapter, the information is taken essentially from: DIGARD, J.P., “Essai d’ethno-archéologie du chien” (Essay on ethno-archaeology of the dog), op.cit. (see note 16).

26 : The “quarry ritual” which ends the hunt, perfectly illustrates this practice.