There is one trait that all dogs share no matter what the breed is. They are all descended from wolves. There are certain breeds where the “wolf like” features seem to be more prominent than others, but all dogs still carry some of the characteristics of their ancestor. Dogs moved from a wild animal to a domesticated one long ago, but a recent study has revealed information that gives us a much clearer picture of which dog breeds most closely resemble the wolf. The study included 85 different dog breeds, and the results may come as quite a surprise.
This is one of the areas that may come as a shock. There are a few small breed dogs that share virtually none of the features of a wolf, but they line up as a very close genetic match to the wolf.
- Shih Tzu – this breed originated in China somewhere near 800 BC. Nobody would ever guess that this dog is closely related to the wolf, but the genetic testing that was done presents a different story.
- Pekingese – The Pekingese is traditionally a lap dog, and it also has its origins in China. The genetic match is once again very close to the wolf, even though there are few visual similarities. This is a breed of dog that has been beloved in China for centuries.
- Lhasa Apso – This breed hails from Tibet and these dogs originally served as watchdogs for monasteries. This breed is one of the oldest at around 4,000 years, and is very closely related to the wolf according to genetic tests.
Medium to Large Breeds
Within these larger breeds, there are a few that will come as no surprise as they most closely resemble a wolf from their physical features. The size of these dogs also makes them seem a more likely match to the genetic makeup of a wolf.
- Saluki – This breed of dog is thought to be among the oldest of the dog breeds. There are stories of these dogs traveling the Silk Road, and rock art that portrays the Saluki that is from 10,000 BC. The genetic testing of this dog showed a very close match with the wolf.
- Afghan Hound – This is another dog that was bred to be a sighthound, similarly to the Saluki. Also similar to the Saluki, this dog is believed to be among the oldest breeds. The genetic makeup of the Afghan Hound follows the pattern of the wolf very closely.
- Siberian Husky – At last one of the breeds that most people would guess has made the list! These dogs were originally bred for dog sledding in the harsh conditions of Siberia. The dogs are still used for that purpose today. Their physical characteristics very closely resemble those of a wolf, and their genetic makeup has changed very little over time. These dogs played an essential role in helping the nomadic tribes of Siberia survive the harsh conditions.
- Shar-Pei – This breed is one of four ancient Chinese breeds that shows a very distinct genetic similarity to the wolf. There are images of this breed on pieces of pottery that are estimated to be from 206 BC.
- Chow Chow – This is the larger of the four ancient Chinese breeds, and the one that is most closely aligned with the genetics of the wolf. The Chow Chow is one of the oldest breeds of dog around, and there main use was that of a guard dog back in the day. They seem to have a more primitive attitude and demeanor.
- Alaskan Malamute – Another dog that most people would guess for the list of dogs that most closely resemble a wolf. The Alaskan Malamute is a large breed that again was bred mainly for dog sledding. This dog is native to Alaska and is still used today for cart pulling and dog sledding. The Malamute has become a piece of the fabric of many Alaskan communities.
The scientific community has believed for quite some time that dogs are descended from wolves. The belief is that once the era of agriculture was introduced, wolves were domesticated and the wide range of dog breeds began. Dogs have served many purposes over the years as companions and work partners for human beings. Today, some dog breeds continue to be work partners, but many are companions that people simply cannot live without. When looking at which breeds genetically most closely resemble a wolf, hopefully there were a few surprises. The range of dog breeds may make it seem as if different breeds are not all that closely related, but the most recent scientific studies would suggest differently. Regardless of the the ancestors of today’s dog, they remain a significant part of our human world.