Dogs come in different colors and breeds. And sometimes, it’s easy to forget that no matter their shape and size, they are all descendants of wolves.
And even though dogs have been domesticated from over 15,000 years ago, did you know that there are still modern dog breeds closest to wolves genetically?
In this article, we’ll list down some of the dog breeds that are genetically closest to their ancestors. Some you might now, but some might really shock you!
The Domestication of Wolves
While dog breeds like the Pug or Shih Tzu don’t look the part, their lineages show that all dogs are descendants of an extinct and prehistoric wolf species.
Although the when and where these prehistoric wolves were domesticated is still a mystery, a study suggests that our dogs today were domesticated wolves from over 15,000 years ago from two populations – one in Asia and one in Europe.
And while wolves remained wild and steered clear of humans, dogs have transformed and became man’s best friend.
Not only this, but dogs also differ from wolves in form and build, with dogs being smaller, stockier, having shorter muzzles and smaller teeth.
However, no matter how different they are in appearance and behavior, a study by Robert K. Wayne suggest that the two species share 99.8% of the same DNA.
8 Dog Breeds Closest To Wolves Genetically
While any wolf-life physical attribute is long gone in some breeds, their genetic makeup remains similar to that of a wolf. Without further ado, here are eight dog breeds closest to wolves genetically.
1. Shih Tzu
Even though they are small and look nothing like wolves, the Shih Tzu is one of the dog breeds closest to wolves genetically. As a matter of fact, Shih Tzus share more DNA with wolves than most other breed, with the exception of Huskies and Malamutes.
The breed’s name means “Little Lion” in Chinese and they are known for their cute faces, large and round eyes and floppy ears. Furthermore, Shih Tzus were well-loved and respected by Chinese royalty and were bred to spend their days inside royal palaces.
2. Alaskan Malamute
You just need to take one look at an Alaskan Malamute to know that they are one of the dog breeds closest to wolves – genetically and physically.
Thanks to the extensive crossover of the Alaskan Malamute‘s genetic make-up with wolves, it’s no wonder that the two look so much alike.
Fortunately, the breed isn’t unfriendly like its ancestors. As a matter of fact, Malamutes are social and friendly, which makes them popular family companions.
Furthermore, the Alaskan Malamute originated from Siberia. They are immensely strong dogs that were bred to pull heavy sleds and hunt Arctic mammals.
3. Siberian Husky
Another sledding dog from Siberia that is closely related to wolves is the Siberian Husky. Among all the dog breeds closest to wolves, this breed is also the one that is always confused with Siberian wolves.
And the striking resemblance with wolves is because part of their lineage can be traced back to the Taimyr wolves, which also lived in Siberia.
The Siberian Husky, despite not being as big as the Malamute, has great endurance and was bred to pull sleds.
In addition, they are a fascinating dog breed because aside from their physical appearance, they also howl and work in packs, just like their ancestors. However, unlike wolves, they are very friendly and gentle towards humans, and are therefore not very good guard dogs.
4. Shiba Inu
The Japanese breed, Shiba Inu, is also among the dog breeds closely related to their wolf ancestors.
According to researchers at Japan’s Graduate University for Advanced Studies, the Shiba Inu shares as much as 5.5% DNA with Japanese wolves.
And while they do not quite resemble their ancestors thanks to their resemblance to foxes, they are actually one of the dog breeds closest to wolves genetically.
This good-natured and affectionate breed which was once used as a hunting dog, is now the most popular family companion in Japan.
The Pekingese is another lap dog, like the Shih Tzu, that looks nothing like a wolf but is one of the dog breeds closest to wolves, genetically. While their physical attributes say otherwise, their genetic make-up hasn’t drastically deviated from their ancestors.
Furthermore, the ruling classes of ancient China favored and loved the breed as a companion dog. And the name “Pekingese” actually refers to the city of Peking (which is the alternate romanization of “Beijing”).
While they are large, the Saluki is a slender and less slimmer dog breed that looks nothing like a wolf. However, they are one of the dog breeds closest to wolves when it comes to their genetic make-up.
The breed originated from the Middle East. And they are swift and agile, making them amazing hunting dogs.
Furthermore, they are among the oldest dog breeds in existence and often appeared in medieval and ancient art. And they are known to still have a very close relation to their ancestor’s DNA.
7. Afghan Hound
The eye-catching and regal Afghan Hound, which is a relative of the Saluki, is another hound that has close genetic relations to wolves.
So, while Afghan Hounds do not resemble wolves and do not behave like one, the breed’s lineage traces back to the wolf, with very little genetic divergence, just like the Pekingese. And this makes the Afghan Hound one of the dog breeds closest to wolves genetically.
8. Chow Chow
The Chow Chow is an ancient dog breed originating from China. They are believed to be a “basal breed”, which are dog breeds that had a huge influence in the evolution and development of modern dogs.
And because of this, the breed is among the Asian dog breeds closest to wolves genetically.
Furthermore, Chow chows also have a temperament that is closely related to wolves. They are aloof, can be extremely protective of their family and are assertive.
All dog breeds, as we know them, are domesticated wolves. And it’s fascinating to see the differences and similarities of modern dog breeds with their ancestors over time.
But one thing’s for sure, we’re glad that the domestication of wolves gave us furry friends to share our homes and lives with!
Did your furry friend make our list of dog breeds that are genetically close to wolves? Let us know below.