Date: April 14, 2014. Source: American Genetic Association.
Summary: Hybridization of wolves with shepherd dogs in the Caucasus region might be more common, and more recent, than previously thought, according to new research. Scientists found recent hybrid ancestry in about ten percent of the dogs and wolves sampled. About two to three percent of the sampled wolves and dogs were identified as first-generation hybrids.


Upper panel: This is a livestock-guarding shepherd dog. Middle panel: This is a livestock-guarding dog with inferred wolf ancestry (first-generation hybrid). Lower panel: This is a wolf (all from Kazbegi, Georgia). Photos courtesy of David Tarkhnishvili and Natia Kopaliani

Dog owners in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia might want to consider penning up their dogs more often: hybridization of wolves with shepherd dogs might be more common, and more recent, than previously thought, according to a recently published study in the Journal of Heredity.
Dr. Natia Kopaliani, Dr. David Tarkhnishvili, and colleagues from the Institute of Ecology at Ilia State University in Georgia and from the Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia used a range of genetic techniques to extract and examine DNA taken from wolf and dog fur samples as well as wolf scat and blood samples. They found recent hybrid ancestry in about ten percent of the dogs and wolves sampled. About two to three percent of the sampled wolves and dogs were identified as first-generation hybrids. This included hybridization between wolves and the shepherd dogs used to guard sheep from wolf attacks.
The study was undertaken as part of Dr. Kopaliani’s work exploring human-wolf conflict in Georgia. “Since the 2000s, the frequency of wolf depredation on cattle has increased in Georgia, and there were several reports of attacks on humans. Wolves were sighted even in densely populated areas,” she explained.
“Reports suggested that, unlike wild wolves, wolf-dog hybrids might lack fear of humans, so we wanted to examine the ancestry of wolves near human settlements to determine if they could be of hybrid origin with free-ranging dogs such as shepherds,” she added.
The research team examined maternally-inherited DNA (mitochondrial DNA) and microsatellite markers to study hybridization rates. Microsatellite markers mutate easily, as they do not have any discernible purpose in the genome, and are highly variable even within a single population. For these reasons, they are often used to study hybridization.
“We expected to identify some individuals with hybrid ancestry, but it was quite surprising that recent hybrid ancestry was found in every tenth wolf and every tenth shepherd dog,” said study co-author Tarkhnishvili.
“Two dogs out of the 60 or so we studied were inferred to be first generation hybrids,” he added.
The study also found that about a third of the dogs sampled shared relatively recent maternal ancestry with local wolves, not with wolves domesticated in the Far East, where most experts believe dogs were first domesticated.
The research team used several alternate methods to confirm their results, and came to the same conclusions with each approach.
The shepherd dogs studied are a local breed used to guard livestock. “Ironically, their sole function is to protect sheep from wolves or thieves,” Kopaliani explained. “The shepherd dogs are free-ranging, largely outside the tight control of their human masters. They guard the herds from wolves, which are common in the areas where they are used, but it appears that they are also consorting with the enemy.”
Story Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140414092144.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Ftop_news%2Ftop_science+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Top+Science+News%29 The above story at ScienceDaily.com is based on materials provided by American Genetic Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Journal Reference: N. Kopaliani, M. Shakarashvili, Z. Gurielidze, T. Qurkhuli, D. Tarkhnishvili. Gene Flow between Wolf and Shepherd Dog Populations in Georgia (Caucasus). Journal of Heredity, 2014; 105 (3): 345

DOI: 10.1093/jhered/esu014

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‘Our Debt to the Dog’ by Bryan Cummins Wins Top Award~!

Our Debt to the Dog: How the Domestic Dog Helped Shape Human Societies, by Bryan Cummins (Carolina Academic Press, 2013; ISBN : 978-1-59460-720-2). Reviewed for LiteraryDogs.com by Don Messerschmidt on September 22 2013


Back on September 22, 2013, we wrote (reviewing this book) – “Every so often a block-buster book, a big book, comes along takes the dog world by storm. I don’t know yet about the size of the storm, but I predict that when Bryan Cummins’ Our Debt to the Dog becomes more widely known, it will be classified as a major contribution to cynology, the science of dogs; and, more specifically, to the rich sub-field of ‘ethnocynology’ –the study of dogs in human culture and society from an anthropological perspective.”

Now, we are pleased to announce that at the recent annual convention of Dogs Writers Association of America, Our Debt to the Dog realized our expectations and was awarded  the prestigious ‘Maxwell Medallion for Excellence‘. Congratulations Bryan~! Medallion_2


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Books About Dogs, Suggested By Readers


UNLEASHED: POEMS BY WRITERS’ DOGS’ edited by Amy Hemple and Jim Shepard (Three Rivers Press, 1995).

The editors write:“There is a tradition of writing in the voice of a dog that begin, as best we can tell, with Alexander Pope in the eighteenth century:

I am his Highness’ dog at Kew;

Pray Tell me, sir, whose dog are you?

Then, they present several dozen poems written by writers. Here’s a snippet of one by Charles  Baxter entitled ‘Dog kibble: A villanelle’ –

Live is never meaningless: there is always food.

All day I sit upon the stairs, nose between the bars,

And consider kibble – its smell, its taste, its mood …

If you have a copy of this book, and wish to review it, please do, and send it to Don at LiteraryDogs@gmail.com.

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Mummified and Other Dog Burials Worldwide


For a fascinating look at mummified dogs in Peru, and a map of dog burial sites worldwide, see the article ‘Peruvian Mummy Dog‘ posted earlier this month by Doctor Barkman at http://doctorbarkman.blogspot.com/2014/02/peruvian-mummy-dogs.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DoctorBarkmanSpeaks+%28Doctor+Barkman+Speaks%29. Intriguing! (Photo, above, dug up from Doctor Barkman’s blogsite)

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Hypoxia Adaptation to High Altitude in Tibetan Mastiff Dogs

ImageJust as studies have revealed that Tibetans (humans) living at high altitude have undergone genetic hypoxia adaptation (to levels of oxygen lower than at lesser altitudes) recent study of Tibetan dog adaptation to high altitude indicate similar findings. You can read the whole story online at ScienceDaily.com in the article entitled ‘Tibetan mastiffs equally adapted to high altitudes of Tibet‘. It’s not a startling revelation, but confirms what makes sense. Humans and (other) animals are highly adaptive to the stresses and strains of varying environments. Read the Tibetan mastiff adaptation story at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140211174803.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fplants_animals%2Fdogs+%28Dogs+News+–+ScienceDaily%2. (Photo, above, courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org)

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All About Dog Parks


For a comprehensive review of the dog park phenomenon, pros & cons and associated information, see the article entitled ‘Dog Park People‘ on The Science Dog blog at http://thesciencedog.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/dog-park-people/. (Photo, above, from The Science Dog blog.)

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Dog Poo Used to Run Lights at Dog Park

Back on January 5 we posted an article about dogs depositing their Do-Do on a north-south axis. (Scroll down for the story.) Now here’s another Do-Do story, one we shouldn’t Poo-Poo! It’s ingenious, from our friends in South Australia. Reprinted from: http://www.news.com.au/national/south-australia/dog-poo-could-be-used-to-run-lights-at-north-adelaide-dog-park/story-fnii5yv4-1226806294414.

The smelly scourge of suburban parks and footpaths

could soon, literally, be seen in a whole new light.


Public lighting powered by dog poo is among improvements Adelaide City Council is investigating for its award-winning North Adelaide Dog Park, in parklands off Robe Tce.

The idea was trialled in 2010 to power a lantern at a dog park near the US city of Boston.

The contraption, called the Park Spark, was devised by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate. 295243-9b19b368-81aa-11e3-9ce1-b10e1a59eb0cPark Spark users put their dogs’ waste in biodegradable bags and then into tanks, where a wheel turns to break it down and release methane, which powers a gaslight-style street lantern.

Melbourne company Poo Power is working on a three-tank system for collecting dog faeces, biogas generation and storage for running park lights.

In Adelaide, city council recreation planner Ray Scheuboeck said it made sense to look at dog poo as a resource because “there’s obviously plenty being generated”.

“The park is very popular, so it would be great to turn something seen as a negative into a positive and achieve something the community wants,” he said. “It’s exciting to look at turning it into a renewable energy resource.”

The Friends of the North Adelaide Dog Park Facebook group, which has 550 supporters, is lobbying for lighting, which was also the top user priority identified by a review UniSA did for the council a year ago.294359-cf08836a-8165-11e3-9ce1-b10e1a59eb0c

Mr Scheuboeck said if the idea proved feasible it was likely to partially power new lights and would be another improvement for the park, crowned the nation’s best by Leisure Australia in November.

Poo Power founder Duncan Chew, who was tied by grant funding to working with Melbourne councils until the end of 2013, said he would be happy to talk to the Adelaide council about the possibility of the parklands having Australia’s first poo-fuelled lights.

    He said biogas lighting from dog poo and food scraps also had potential for schools, dog kennels and other businesses.

Dog park user Lexi Reimann, 23, backed the idea.

“If it’s a good way to use up something that isn’t so pleasant, that’s pretty clever,” she said. “The dog park needs lighting during the winter months.”

“You can’t go there very late after work in winter because there’s no lighting.”

The council is also looking at adding “low cost” natural play features to the park using logs and stones and planting trees.

Cr Anne Moran’s idea of a wading pool for dogs is likely to be ruled out on safety grounds, given young children visit the park, but water misters are an option.


Photos, top: The first Park Spark project is installed at Tudor St in Cambridge in Bostonm, Massachusetts. (Photo by Matthew Mazzotta). Above: Lexi Reimann with her dog Russell at the dog park in North Adelaide, South Australia.

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