On this page you will find a comprehensive collection of genetic studies and publications related to wolves, wolfdogs, and domestic canines. Understanding the genetic composition of the Canis lupus species and the current capabilities of DNA testing is a vital part of education for wolfdog owners and enthusiasts.
To better assist you, we have grouped these publications by topic beginning with the introductory article “Canine Genetics, Simplified” and then expanding into broader categories.
Are you new to the field of genetics? Are you interested in obtaining a better understanding of how genetic inheritance works in wolfdogs? Start here. This article provides a basic overview of the similarities and differences between wolves and dogs, describes how DNA is passed down from parent to off-spring, and answers some of the most frequently asked questions from wolfdog owners and enthusiasts.
Genetics of Domestication
As a result of the domestication syndrome, canines have undergone phenotypic modifications that are not observed in their wild counterparts. Some of these traits include increased docility and tameness, juvenile reduction in tooth and brain size, shortened snouts, alterations in ear and tail form, more frequent and non-seasonal estrus cycles, and shifts in hormone levels. This study explores the underling development and genetic causes of the domestication syndrome, in addition to the modification of morphological and physiological traits as effected by the neural crest cells.
After wolves and dogs diverged 11,000-16,000 years ago, the pool of genetic diversity from which domestic dogs arose was substantially larger than what is represented by modern wolf populations. This study explains how a sharp bottleneck in wolves occurred soon after their divergence from dogs and how this has had a significant effect on dog domestication. Additionally, they reveal how several lines of evidence supports a single geographic origin for dogs, disapproving alternative models in which dog lineages arise separately from geographically distinct wolf populations.
This scientific paper has played a pivotal role in the direction and advancement of wolfdog DNA analysis. It has also allowed a greater understanding of the genetic process critical to phenotypic evolution in canines under domestication. This study has demonstrated that small panels of ancestry-informative SNPs have significantly divergent allele frequency distribution between wolves and dogs. Due to this discovery, the SNP panels discussed with in this paper have been deemed suitable to use in diagnostic testing to detect recent hybridization.
The domestic dog is the most striking example of rapid domestication and phenotypic diversity through artificial selection. To better understand the canine evolutionary process, researchers conducted a genome-wide scan in 275 dogs from 10 phenotypically diverse breeds. DNA samples were then genotyped for over 21,000 SNPs to systematically identify which regions of the canine genome have been influenced by selective breeding during the natural history of the dog. Results of this study provide a glimpse into the numerous genes that potentially contribute to breed-specific differences in behavior, morphology, and physiology.
Wolfdog Genetic Studies
Originating in the 1950s, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog (CSV) was created as a military experiment by crossing German Shepherd Dogs (GSD) and wild Carpathian wolves. The objective of this study was to compare the genetic composition of the CSV to its known source populations to determine the genomic effect of artificial selection in aiming to keep a wolf-like phenotype but dog-like behavior. The findings of this research reveal a unique example of the interactions between the dog and wolf genome.
This research study was developed with a focus on the importance of having genetic testing available to identify wolfdogs. It is stated that the capability to rapidly and accurately obtain these diagnostics will support conservation, federal action, and legal enforcement efforts when an animal lacks prior ancestry information. In turn, geneticists developed a panel of 100 unlinked ancestry-informative SNP markers with the ability to detect mixed ancestry within four generations of wolf-dog hybridization.
In 1923, Russian biologist Dr. N.A. Iljin began a breeding experiment to collect data on the genetic inheritance and morphological attributes of wolfdogs. Over the course of eight years, 101 wolfdogs were evaluated beginning with 13 first generation (F1) puppies that were out of a sheep-dog female and a wild-caught male wolf. The F1s were then bred back to one another, producing F2s, and continued through to the F4 generation. Dr. Iljin studied and recorded the inheritance of coat and eye color, hair texture, behavioral/external characteristics, skull characteristics, and physiological perplexities of the wolfdogs.
Coat Color Genetics & Dog-Wolf Hybridization
In this study, researchers examine the genetic markers in wild and domestic canids that specifically govern coat color to determine whether the agouti genetic sequence mutation occurred prior to or after domestication. Wild wolves, coyotes, and certain domestic dog breeds share similar coat coloration of banded hairs, known as “wild-type” agouti. These dog breeds include German Shepherd Dogs, Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes; the most commonly found breeds in wolfdogs. In this study you will discover how these genetic similarities and differences have provided scientists additional information to further detect recent hybridization through DNA analysis between wolves and dogs.
There has been a great deal of debate about whether black coat color found in wolves derives from recent introgression of hybridization between wild wolves and domestic canines. This study addresses the correspondence between coat color variation in North American gray wolves and their habitat, particularly in densely forested populations. Additionally, researchers seek to better understand the k-locus mutation (responsible for black coat color), if it was introduced to wild canids through introgression between them and domesticated dogs, and if this integration occurred before or after domestication.
This article is a response to above article on the hypothesized origin of the black color in wolves and points out some issues and questions pertaining to the hypothesis that the black color in wolves originated from dogs which require further study and/or substantiation.