Heads up – for those newcomers (or oldies who missed it) with questions about my personal breeding program (Backcountry Companions), I wrote this last month.

My Personal Breeding Project BradA1878Posted on February 16, 2020 Posted in Behavior, Breeding, Dog Related Articles, Dogs, Genetics, Health, History, Puppy I’m often asked to explain my personal breeding project. Sometimes it’s people who are against crossing dog breeds asking, and other times …


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I’m often asked to explain my personal breeding project (Backcountry Companions). Sometimes it’s people who are against crossing dog breeds asking, and other times it’s people who are open minded and interested in what I’m doing.

Recently there has been some misinformation floating around the interwebz about it, so I figured it was time to write down what I’m working to create. This blog post will act as a temporary place to share my thoughts on my program until I have completed my website.

About me

My name is Brad Anderson, I am a dog lover and breeder. I have worked with many different breeds, but the breeds I have focused the most attention on is the Kai Ken (Yamabushi Kennel), Kishu Ken (Hakuzan Kennel), Central Asian Ovcharka, Caucasian Ovcharka, and the West Siberian Laika. My efforts in these breeds has always been focused on increasing diversity in the North American populations via introgression with dogs from their country of origin.

About The Project

First, I want to be clear about something – I’m not working to create a new dog breed. I never plan to give a name to this cross or work to get it registered in any type of club. This project is a personal project – I’m working to create the type of dog I want.

Also, I am not trying to “fix” things I don’t like in other dog breeds. I am not trying to improve on any of the dog breeds I use in the cross. That’s not the point of this project.

What I’m working to create is a weather tolerant spitz-type backcountry companion, with natural predator aggression, that’s biddable and easy to hike off-leash, quiet, and clean. Size is not very important to me, however I would like the dog to be large enough to pack, but small enough to be carried out of the backcountry if injured. It’s my goal to minimize dog aggression and reactivity, and breed for solid nerves and health.

I want this cross to be efficient (not requiring large amounts of food or water) and able to spend weeks in the bush with their companion without the need for much gear – comfortable in hot and cold, rain or snow.

While some of the pups produced will likely make good hunting dogs, I am not actually trying to create a hunting dog cross.


I’ve owned and loved many dogs of many breeds, some of which, on paper, one would think would fulfill the role I am looking to fill with this cross. However, in my experience that is not the case. Dog aggression, quarrelsome behavior, weak nerves (fearful behavior) and hypervigilance, poor health, no “off” switch, and obsessive barking are just a few of the things I have seen in dog breeds I’ve owned in hopes of fulfilling this role. Sure, one could find a dog that could fill this role, but I would like to be able to produce dogs where the majority consistently fit this role.

Dog aggression is a particularly difficult thing to deal with in a dog meant to be a backcountry companion and/or a hunting dog. Hiking along a trail, or even off trail, there’s always a chance you’ll run into a fellow hiker/camper/hunter with a dog. Often this happens when you are least expecting it and not prepared for the encounter. Having a companion dog who acts indifferent toward the random dogs you run into is a huge advantage.

The Cross

People in dogdom tend to obsess over what breed is used in a cross. I’m not one of those people. The dogs I have selected to be used in my project have less to do with their breed and more to do with the individual dog. If I have a dog that I feel will add some traits I am looking for, without compromising other traits, then I will use it in my program – breed doesn’t matter that much to me.

With that said, because I know people still want to know the breeds used in the cross, here is a list of the breedings I have done so far. Please keep in mind I am in the very early stages of creating the foundation for my project so all the crosses so far have been using Smokey as a base for the foundation. I’m looking forward to reaching the point where I can start crossing my foundation dogs while adding some new dogs to the cross. My hope is to keep a COI of below 5% – so I will be working to minimize inbreeding.

Breeding 1: Juko (KBD) x Smokey
DOB: 05.13.2018
Embark example: http://embk.me/flash30

Breeding 2: Kaiju (Shikoku Ken) x Smokey
DOB: 01.23.2019
Embark example: http://embk.me/aurora92

Breeding 3: Ike (WSL) x Smokey
DOB: 10.25.2019
Embark example: http://embk.me/sothis

Tentative future litters…
Riki (Yushoku Kishu Ken) x Smokey
Flash (Juko x Smokey) x Vega (Dogo x Kangal x Dane x Tosa)
Picasso (Ibizan Hound) x Aurora (Kaiju x Smokey)


Backcountry Companion

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write a blog post. I guess it’s because I’m a little burnt out on all the topics I’d typically write about: tech stuff, programming stuff, photography, and dogs.

With that said, I still get asked a lot about these topics, especially dog related topics. One topic I get asked about frequently is guard dogs and guardian breeds. So, I thought I’d take a few minutes and put my thoughts on owning guard dogs down in a blog post in case others might find this info helpful.

First, let’s summarize what exactly “Guard Dog” means. A guard dog is a dog that guards your property, possessions, and/or livestock. He/she, at the very least, should be expected to scare off a potential threat or “bad guy”. Guard dogs differ from “Watch Dogs” and “Personal Protection Dogs” in many ways, and if you’d like to read more on this subject check out my post “Guard Dog vs. Watchdog”.

Before I dive into what I’m about to write, I want to make it clear that these are my opinions. I’m not an expert on anything. What I am is a guy with an above average understanding of canine behavior & training who’s owned and worked with many different types of dogs – most of which have been those in the “Guardian Breed” and “Hunting Breed” categories.


The harsh reality of owning a Guard Dog
When deciding to get a Guard Dog I feel it’s important to answer these questions first before you select a breed or a breeder:

  1. Do you want this dog to be social with guests at your home?
  2. Do you expect this dog to engage (bite) an intruder? And by “bite” I mean a real damaging bite, not a nip or fear bite – one that sends the person to the hospital with potentially life threatening injuries. Most dogs will fearbite if pushed; few will actually give a real bite.
  3. Are you really willing to accept the liability associated with owning a dog who might bite an intruder (like the fact it will likely mean the dog will be PTS once he/she performs his/her role IRL)?

If you answered yes to 1 and 2, then, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but you’re shit out of luck. There is simply no such thing as a dog who is 100% safe around guests who can also be trusted 100% to bite an intruder. That’s the simple reality of a guard dog. A dog who will bite a potential threat will need to be put away when you have company over. Takes the romance out of it a bit, huh?


Maybe reconsider your options?
Before you get upset and stop reading my thoughts here, maybe stop and consider the fact you may actually be interested in a watch dog and not a guard dog? Let me give you some statistics that might help you reconsider getting a dog that will bite an intruder.

From Key domestic burglary crime statistics (at January 2007) by Andrew Kent…

Based on findings from a small sample of burglars in a study in Kirkholt (Forrester et al., 1988xviii; n=76), over half of the offenders felt deterred by occupancy, visible burglary alarms or high visibility at the point of entry. Findings from a small group of active burglars (Cromwell et al., 1991xix; n=30) indicated that for a sample of 30 active offenders, 90 percent stated that they avoided selecting houses that appeared to be occupied and 70 percent were deterred by the presence of a dog.



A. Ask the experts about home security. Jack MacLean (Secrets of a Superthief) reports the results of a survey of over 300 prison inmates who’d been convicted of burglary or other residential crimes. Three of the questions were about dogs and home security:

Would dogs scare you away?
65% said that dogs of good size and unfriendly persuasion would scare them away
35% said no dog would scare them away.

Based on reassessment of responses, MacLean concludes that over 95% would indeed be scared away.[5]


From Burglary of Single-Family Houses

Houses without dogs. A dog’s presence is a close substitute for human occupancy, and most burglars avoid houses with dogs. Small dogs may bark and attract attention, and large dogs may pose a physical threat, as well.31 On average, burglarized houses are less likely to have dogs than are non-burglarized houses, suggesting that dog ownership is a substantial deterrent.32 (Security alarms, discussed below, are also a substitute for occupancy.)


Based on my research, it seems that 90% of criminal activity directed at your home and occupants would be eliminated by having ANY dog. But the effectiveness of the dog increases based on color and size of the dog. A large black dog, of any breed, is considered a better deterrent than, say, a small white dog.

With that, perhaps an English Mastiff, Leonberger, Tosa Inu, or Newfoundland would suit the needs of someone who answered “yes” to questions 1 & 2 but “no” to question 3 above.


Don’t buy into the hype
Most of the guardian dog breed descriptions are filled with hype and historical bias written by breed purists and enthusiasts hoping to “sell” the breed. This is really no more than mental masturbation. I think it’s important to connect with honest and down-to-earth owners of the various breeds to get a real understanding of owning a breed before you base your decision on what info you can gleam from the interwebs and breed purists. Even better – go meet a few breed representatives yourself.

I’ve come to realize that most breeders have a biased view of the breed. The breed for them is what they want the breed to be, or what they produce in the breed. This is why it’s important to find a breeder who shares your views on the breed you’re interested in. If a breeder gives you any reason to doubt that their views are in line with yours, then I’d pass on that breeder – or breed.


Don’t set a dog up for failure!
In the guardian dog world – especially the large molosser-types – it’s become a trend to try and “sell” the breeds as “all purpose” guardian dogs. Many go as far as to test their dogs in activities that are alien to the original function of the breed. For example: testing a Livestock Guard Dog (LGD) in Personal Protection Work (like biting a sleeve) or herding work. These breeds were not “designed” to take the human-pressure associated with PPD work or to have the energy and drive to do herding work. In this situation, the dog (breed) is being set up to fail, and that’s a shame. I’d stay away from any breeder who tries to sell their dogs for work in something they were not originally meant to do.

I would avoid breeders who claim their breed will excel in work it wasn’t meant to do – unless they have solid proof. A great example of this can be found in the Ovcharka breeds, where they’re regularly tested in a man work scenario. Sure Ovcharka are human aggressive dogs, but they are not dogs selected to have the temperament needed to take real human physical pressure, and therefore shouldn’t be worked (or expected to work) in a man work type of scenario. Put them behind a fence and let them give a big scary display – this is something they excel at like no other breed. Set these dogs up for success and to display their best qualities!


So you want a “maneater”?
Now let’s say you answered “no” to question 1 (being friendly with guests), and “yes” to question 2 (biting an intruder). Assuming you’ve done the research to understand the liability associated with owning a dog who WILL bite an intruder and are ok with it, you’ll also need a safe and secure place to put your Guard Dog. You’ll need to be diligent in how you manage a dog like this – always thinking ahead of potential situations that might trigger them to act aggressively so you can set them up for success.

It’s also important to understand that a true guard dog – a dog who will engage an intruder – will likely not be a dog you want to treat as a “normal pet”. This is a dog who will have certain natural instincts and fixed behavior patterns (FAPs) that could trigger their aggression in situations where it’s not appropriate – especially with young dogs. So you will need to use your judgment when doing things like playing rough and introducing the dog to high stimuli environments and situations.

A dog expected to perform a function like this needs to come from a breeder who tests and selects for a stable working dog – focused on this specific type of work. Many breeders will go to extremes to convince you that their dogs will perform well in this role, but if they’re not testing their dogs to engage human threats then you cannot trust them to produce a dog that will work for your needs/wants. And, unfortunately, most breeders do not test their dogs in a way that will give you any hope of a guarantee the dog will perform the role you’re interested in him/her performing.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Protection Sports is NOT the same as Personal Protection work or guarding work. Protection sports is built around training the dog to bite under very specific and obvious conditions. A dog trained like this knows it’ll be biting a thing (usually a sleeve or bite suit) the second it’s taken out into that specific environment or under those obvious conditions. This is useless for someone looking for a PPD or Guard Dog. Be wary of breeders who work their dogs in Protection Sports (ringsports and Schutzhund) and claim they will protect – one does not equal the other – a dog trained in protection sports, or a pup from dogs tested in protection sports, will give you NO guarantee that the dog will actually protect in a real world scenario.

I write this info from personal experience, having purchased dogs from breeders who “worked” their dogs (in protection sports) only to end up with a dog who’s a great sporting dog, but not a guard or protection dog. There are very few breeders left in the world working and selecting their dogs in roles that are suitable for a guard dog. If you think you’ve found a breeder who produces dogs who will suit your need, be sure to get a second opinion as it’s very easy to be caught up in the idea of getting a new pup – hell, feel free to contact and ask me my opinion. At the very least you’ll be pointed to someone who knows a thing or two about real aggression and not just simply a person doing sport work with their “protection dogs” or trying to sell you a false promise.

Ike’s and Anya’s puppies were born on June 26th 2014, they’re 45 days (6 weeks) old in these photos. The pups are growing fast and are very active. They spend their days outside and their evenings inside. They really love being outside!

Puppy 1 (male)





Puppy 2 (male)





Puppy 3 (male)





Puppy 4 (female)





Puppy 5 (female)





Puppy 6 (male)





Puppy 7 (male)





Ike’s and Anya’s puppies were born on June 26th 2014, they’re 30 days old in these photos. The pups are doing well, they’ve started eating real food and are very active. We’ve moved them to the living room so they are getting accustomed to all the sounds of an active household. In a week or so, they’ll start having time out in the yard too.

Puppy 1 (male)




Puppy 2 (male)




Puppy 3 (male)




Puppy 4 (female)




Puppy 5 (female)




Puppy 6 (male)




Puppy 7 (male)




Ike’s and Anya’s puppies were born on June 26th 2014, they’re 27 days old in this video.

Ike’s and Anya’s puppies were born on June 26th 2014, they’re 20 days old in these photos. Anya and her pups are doing really well. They’ll be moved to our livingroom this week so they will be socialized to all the sounds of our home (our 4 year old daughter, other dogs, the TV, the Kitchen, the Vacuum, etc…)

Puppy 1 (male)




Puppy 2 (male)




Puppy 3 (male)




Puppy 4 (female)




Puppy 5 (female)




Puppy 6 (male)




Puppy 7 (male)




Ike’s and Anya’s puppies were born on June 26th 2014, they’re 10 days old in these photos. As you can see, their eyes are starting to open. My wife and I are both impressed by this litter, the pups are nice and robust.

Puppy 1 (male)




Puppy 2 (male)




Puppy 3 (male)




Puppy 4 (female)




Puppy 5 (female)




Puppy 6 (male)




Puppy 7 (male)




“On the problem of the origin of the domesticated dog and the incipient (aboriginal) formation of breeds”
By Alexander Vlasenko (Moscow, Russia)
Translation By Vladimir Beregovoy [ www.laikabreeds.com ]

Source: http://www.bradanderson.org/pads/Journal-of-PADS-36-English.pdf

In search for an answer to the question about the ancestors of the domesticated dog and where and when it originated, it is not enough to use an approach from the standpoint of one branch of biological science, such as genetics, morphology, comparative anatomy or ethology. Controversial results of genetic investigations and paleontological findings require the use of a complex analysis of obtained data.

Manwell and Baker (1983) wrote that the investigation of the origin of the dog is hampered by “disciplinary dogmatism” and that the origin of the dog out of the wolf is still a hypothesis. Coler-Matznick (2002) thinks that dogs originated from small Pleistocene wolf similar to the Dingo. Not sharing completely the traditional or the innovative point of view, I will try to explain and substantiate my position. To start with, I will discuss aspects of the biology of the wolf (Canis lupus) as a primary candidate to be an ancestor of the domesticated dog, which is supported by phenotypical (including behavior) similarities, the results of investigations of DNA and the fact that easy interbreeding between dog and wolf results in fertile offspring.

The contemporary species of wolf is subdivided into 25 subspecies, one of which, the Indian wolf, is separated by some researchers as a different species, based on DNA studies. All subspecies of wolf are capable of breeding with dogs and, moreover, different data indicated that from 5% to 40% of wolves of European populations actually are wolf/dog hybrids. There are breeds of dogs obtained by deliberate interbreeding with wolves: Czech Vlach, Saarloss Wolf-dog, Italian Lupo and currently developing in Russia the Volkosob. Certain wolf subspecies of North America have certainly resulted from interbreeding with dogs. Besides, based on DNA analysis, it is well known that the American Red Wolf (Canis rufus) is a result of the natural interbreeding of gray wolf with coyote, which took place during the last 12,500 years (most likely during the last 2,500 years). In captivity, jackal/wolf, jackal/dog and even coyote/jackal hybrids were obtained, although the natural ranges of jackal and coyote do not overlap. Thus, the fertility of mixed offspring alone cannot be considered as evidence of the origin of dog from wolf.

Furthermore, we should take into account that the contemporary gray wolf evolved under powerful anthropogenic pressure. The wolf became a permanent foe of humans and was subject to extermination since the emergence of livestock. This pressure influenced the wolf’s behavior. We know from publications by I. A. Arshavsky (1982) and G. Kh. Shaposhnikov (1966) that the environment with intensive functional stress results in changes of both phenotype and genotype. In other words, environmental stress is a driving force of evolution. Another side of the environmental pressure is the systematic extermination not only of the most bold and trusting wolves in the population, but also whole subspecies and, possibly, species. Besides, a considerable decline of wolf populations often results in the appearance of feral wolf/dog mixes, which become absorbed by the rebounding wolf population. Therefore, it is highly probable that the contemporary wolf is different in many qualities from that wolf, which existed at the time of the origin of the domesticated dog and the results of DNA analysis of their affinity should be treated with caution.

During recent years, international group of researchers led by P. Savolainen has shown that all dogs originated during a short time period between 5,400 and 16,300 years ago in the southern part of eastern Asia (south of the Yangtze River) out of small group of a few hundreds of individuals of small Chinese wolves. Based on archeological data this time range is between 11,500 and 16, 300 years. The idea of the east Asian origin of the dog out of an extinct Asian subspecies of wolf, Canis lupus variabilis Pei, 1934, is shared by other researchers (Olsen and Olsen, 1977) based on studies of morphology of skulls of wolves and dogs of different populations. However, Tsuda and co-authors (1997) came to conclusion that the dog was domesticated multiple times in different geographic regions.

This point of view is corroborated by the fact that mt- DNA extracted out of skeletal remains of pre-Columbian dogs revealed sequences not detected in samples taken from more then 350 contemporary dogs (Leonard et al. 2002).

Parker et al. (2004) distinguished four groups of dog breeds with definitely different fragments of mt-DNA. They described the process of the evolution of dogs of east Asian origin like the sequential divergence from a primordial wolflike ancestor, first, the Australian Dingo, then the Basenji and, finally, Laika-like northern dogs. They consider Asian sighthounds the last group diverged from the dog’s ancestral species.

Lindblad-Toh with co-authors (2005) determines the age of the domesticated dog within range of 15,000 to 100, 000 years and proposed multiple domestications. Finally, the group of researchers of R. Wain (2010) published their results suggesting that the haplotypes of dogs are the closest to haplotypes of the Middle Eastern wolf and that wolves of the Middle East were the source of the genetic diversity of the domesticated dog. How can we understand these controversial results, if it is well known that the radiocarbon method determined the age of the oldest fossil skulls of domesticated dogs as 26,000 years (Cauvet Cave, France), 33,000 years (Razboinichya Cave, Altay) and Predmosti (Czech Republic) and even 36,000 years (Goye Cave, Belgium)?

There is no clear answer to this question so far. One possible and most likely cause of the discrepancy in the data is the extinction of several ancient populations of dogs caused by epidemics, such as distemper. In the past century, in the vast territories of the Russian north and in the Far East distemper almost wiped out nearly all dogs. If dogs originated in southern Asia and then they were first to pass selection for resistance to a virus caused disease, then these dogs migrated to other countries, where their chances of survival would be considerably higher than those of local dogs. It is also possible that the mechanism of “the molecular clock” works not quite as well as modern geneticists believe and the process of domestication and evolution of the dog in different regions of the Earth might be accompanied by a parallel channeled process of recombination of DNA, and likewise the recombination of DNA might take place in the wolf. As a result, the comparative analysis of DNA produced an error.

The results of the Russian-Vietnamese Tropical Center expedition, 2006-2009, the purpose of which was to run a survey of the variation of the aboriginal dogs of Vietnam, allowed the analysis of the origins and evolution of the domesticated dog from a different perspective.

In 2008, in the Ma River Valley (Khanh Hoa Province) I discovered a very small population of wolf-like dogs, extremely similar to Indian and Arabian subspecies of wolves. The distribution of this variety of dog is limited in a small territory populated by Man people, one of the tribes of Miao (Hmong). According to available data, these people are one of the first ethnic groups to have settled in contemporary Vietnam, which took place about 1000 years ago, near the once large principality of Champa. A high percentage of the people of this principality originally came from India. If 150 years ago Ch. Darwin had reliable information, one of his sources reported that in the upper Gung River the local people had similar dogs. We can believe that this was one hypothetical way of populating Indochina with wolf-like dogs. According to paleontological data, the gray wolf never existed here. However, Dinesh K. Sharma, Jesus E. Maldonado, Yadrendradev V. Jhala and Robert C. Fleischner (2003) are sure that the Indian wolf (from India and Pakistan), which they consider a separate species and part of Himalayan wolves, did not leave a trace in the mt-DNA of the dogs of Vietnam and, therefore, could not originate from their populations. This does not matter. The fact of the survival of an aboriginal population of dogs with considerably greater similarity to wolves than to the breeds of wolf hybrids created by breeders, who were trying to maximize their similarity to wolf by selection, is most interesting. This indicates that the presence of morphological characteristics of domestication is not a necessary feature of domesticated dogs. The very fact of the existence of relic wolflike dogs tells us that at the first stages of the domestication of the wolf morphological (phenotypical) changes did not exist. It was simply a socialization of wolf to life with humans. This is done by Australian aborigines with the Dingo until present time. Probably in the past, the behavioral makeup of the wolf allowed this to be done without many difficulties. Thus, a wolf could become a dog and at the same time remain a wolf and even continue interbreeding with free feral wolves.

Based on the description above, I can say that some variety of wolf was one of ancestors of dog, but it was not enough to claim that only one wolf subspecies was the dog’s ancestor. Fossil remains of wolves cannot be considered a priori as belonging to the same species, because identical skeletons could belong to animals with different soft parts, systems and behavior, including way of life in general.

The development of morphological characteristics typical of domesticated dogs could appear at a considerably later time, after the wolf became domesticated. Perhaps, the traits of domestication in skeleton appeared last. Comparative morphology shows that in domesticated dogs of different breeds the same muscles can be attached not only to bone, but also with an expanding area of attachment, involving other muscles, tendons and skin and differ in the degree of differentiation and integration without changes in the shape of the bone.

Analyzing incipient breed formation (performed by the methods of primitive peoples’ selection), general trends in changes of dogs’ phenotype should be taken into account. Such markers of domestication as piebald color, lop ears, changes in shape of tail and structure of coat, etc. appear spontaneously as a result of systematic selection for behavior. These changes cause a shift in the chain reactions of regulatory mechanisms of homeostasis (D. K. Belyaev and L. N. Trut, 1989). The emergence of these characters in the offspring is not necessarily accompanied by their fixation in the subsequent generations, unless they are deliberately selected for breeding. The direction of selection depends primarily on the practical needs of life and economic activity of a particular ethnic group. Therefore, I see two basic types of selection for visible phenotype, deliberately or not, used in the process of breed formation, depending on the purpose of keeping dogs.

The first type includes cases, when dogs were needed for guarding or hunting. These dogs should retain a body size for optimal performance and have new conspicuous characteristics of the appearance, allowing them to be quickly distinguished from other animals. In this instance, the choice of traits for selection is determined by the benefits for working qualities and survival.

fig 1

The second type of selection includes cases, when dogs are considered as food. Then, the best result is achieved by selecting for juvenile traits. Infantile behavior is displayed as dependence on a higher ranking individual in a social group, in this case on the human owner, and a reduction in the size of the territory in which it roams. In physiology this selection favors neoteny, the acceleration of development and the ability to breed at a younger age. In the body structure, preferential traits are a shorter head with a dish face, a stronger pronounced stop, a domed skull and a smaller body size. A smaller dog requires a smaller amount of valuable protein rich food and it shortens the period of susceptibility to diseases caused by malnutrition. Besides, a small dog can be eaten by the family at one meal time, which is also important in an environment with a hot climate and without refrigerators. Such dogs become better adapted to survive on poor quality food, refuse and even coprophagy (Coppinger, R, and L. Coppinger, 2001).

fig 2

Because the ancestor of domesticated dogs with its characteristic “wild type” met the requirements of humans, it means that at that time there was no need to distinguish domesticated dog from its wild relatives. This is because they did not present any danger and did not cause any harm to humans. Therefore, the most likely reason for breeding dogs with a different appearance emerged with the appearance of livestock and poultry, subjects to depredation by wild Canidae. At the same time, there was an additional reason for selecting in favor of different dogs. Under conditions of a shortage of hunting grounds and conflicts between adjacent tribes, it was important that hunters could tell apart their own dogs from dogs of neighbors and conspicuous variation in dogs became beneficial. However, in either case, the cause-effect link is traced between population increase, transition to a settled way of life, deficit of food resources obtained by hunting and gathering and the establishment of certain complexes of domestication traits in local populations of dogs.

fig 3

This is well illustrated by comparing the pattern of the distribution of dogs of certain aboriginal breeds with the dispersion of different peoples in North Vietnam. The aboriginal dogs of Vietnam represent a unique model for study of microevolution, the mechanisms of domestication and the primitive formation of breeds.

In general, the dogs of North Vietnam are represented by a population with very diverse composition, in which all morphological markers of domestication are present. Persistently inherited morphological types are characterized by their own peculiar and limited complexes of characters. Many of Vietnamese breeds are absolutely identical to some old well known breeds, or their original types, of the world in their appearance and body structure. The regions of the world, where these breeds are traditionally bred, are separated by thousands of kilometers from the region of our study. The majority of the breeds we found in North Vietnam can be united in groups of close origin, in which transitional types and ancestral forms can be clearly observed, and they are represented by a series of forming variation.

fig 4

The dogs I named “Viet Dingo” are smallish dogs with infantile traits. These dogs are associated with the culture of rice paddies and typological traits of local populations allowing the tracing of directions of development of land for this form of agriculture. Thus, the maximal number of typological variants of Viet-Dingo is found in the eastern provinces of Lang Son and Tainguen, where Tai people live. Dogs of Viet-Dingo type are most numerous in North Vietnam, but their share in the local population declines from east to west and to north-west. The frequency of Viet-Dingo is highest mainly in the fertile valleys cultivated for rice production, but also in other regions with conditions unfavorable for agriculture, where people are poor and do not keep big dogs, because of food shortages. Moving along the river valleys to the west and north-west, the typological diversity of Viet-Dingo dogs declines and local populations are represented only by one-two types instead of the six types found in the eastern provinces. Judging by the variation series, this group of dogs originated as a result of the interbreeding of small Dingo-like dogs with Laika-like dogs either in north-eastern Vietnam or in the border territories with China.

fig 5

A large type of aboriginal dog is bred mainly by the Hmong, who until recently made a living by hunting, and the distribution of these dogs is clearly associated with the distribution of the Hmong people.

fig 6

It is possible to say that most probably the bobtail dogs of the Hmong, which are very similar to the now lost bobtail type of Karelian Bear Dog, called Shong were distributed from the Northern Province of Ha Gyang along the Shonglo River and further to the south into the province of Son La. Dogs that are phenotypicaly similar to Siberian Laikas and Arctic sled dogs (Figs. 1-5) are distributed in the form of a semicircle from the northern part of Lao Cai province, along the Shongda River, across northern part of Yen Bai, Tuyen Quang and Bac Can provinces to the center of Cao Bang province, in other words, from northwest to southeast and further to the east. These dogs are most typical in Lao Cai province and are rather common, but they decline numerically to the east. In Lao Cai, we found the best looking representatives of this breed, very similar to big Japanese Laika-like dogs, and populations of ancestral Chau-Chau (Bakha Dog) are concentrated here. Smallish Laika-like dogs similar to Karelo-Finnish Laikas and Spitzes are most likely the product of mixing with small Dingo-like dogs (Fig. 6).

fig 7
fig 7

The series of variation is best represented in the group of hound-like dogs, starting from a primitive type identical to the hounds of Tibet, West China, known in Russian literature as Mahugou (Fig. 7), to a primitive sighthound type (Fig. 8) and to various variants of analogs of ancient Russian scent hounds (Fig. 9) and dogs similar to the modern Foxhound (Fig. 10), Labrador Retriever ( Fig. 11) and to dogs very similar to herding dogs of Scotland (Fig. 12) and also to types of livestock guarding dogs of Tajikistan and Tibet (Figs. 13), Caucasian and Karakachan Dogs, but relatively smaller in size (Figs. 14-16).

fig 8-11
fig 8-11

fig 12-15
fig 12-15

fig 16
fig 16

Different forms of dogs I included in the scent hound type dogs group are distributed mainly in provinces of Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Tuyen Quang. They were most diverse in Lao Cai province. The uniqueness of this series of variation is in the fact that there is nowhere else in the world a continual transition between types of dogs considered by cynologists as breeds of absolutely different origin and purpose. The theoretical projection of the series of variation in both groups in the direction of diminishing specialization of the appearance brings us to a prototype (archetype) common to both Laika-like and hound-like dogs. I was lucky to find a type of dog that combined in its appearance basic traits of both groups. I think that the pictures alone show that this prototype is one step different from the wolf. However, if we consider the variation series of the scent hound group, selecting only light and medium built dogs, their hypothetical ancestor would be very different. In this case, the variation series will be ascending to dogs that I tentatively named the Big Chinese Dingo.

fig 17
fig 17

The North Vietnamese type of Big Dingo (Figs. 17-18) has differences from the South Vietnamese Dingo, which were probably caused by interbreeding with Laika-like and scent hound-like dogs. I can say that this type is closer to the wolf, especially to the Tibetan wolf. The big Indochinese Dingo is not numerous in Vietnam, although it occurs in most of the regions surveyed by the expedition.

Its southern morphological type (Fig. 20) is very similar in the appearance to the basic, not mixed, type of Australian Dingo. However, the Australian Dingo often has domestication markers and pedomorphic traits characteristic of the North Vietnamese “Viet-Dingo”. According to the results of molecular genetic studies, the time of divergence of the Australian Dingo from Dingo-like dogs of Southern China, Taiwan and Polynesia, belonging to the same form as the “Viet- Dingo”, was determined as 5,000 years (Savolainen, 2002). The Big Indo-Chinese Dingo is probably considerably older than the age of populations in the regions surveyed.

fig 19
fig 19

fig 18
fig 18

The Australian Dingo had been secondarily changed to running wild during several thousands of years until recent times, when a considerable part of its population became mixed with stray dogs of European and American breeds. Nevertheless, it retained and possibly even obtained new, stabile morphological traits identical to the Big Indo-Chinese Dingo. Under conditions of genetic isolation and feral life, the Australian Dingo did not develop traits similar to the wolf or jackal, surpassing those in variation of the Big Indo-Chinese Dingo.

fig 20
fig 20

On the other hand, it is even more surprising that in the territory of Indochina a form of the Big Indochina Dingo survived. In the best representatives of it, “wild” traits are even more pronounced than in the Australian Dingo. While being selected for behavior under conditions of domesticated life, the Big Indochinese Dingo should be subject to destabilizing selection and, living among Dingo-like, Laika-like and houndlike dogs, it should be genetically influenced by interbreeding with them. However, for some reason, some of the Big Dingos, living in different corners of Indochina, remain absolutely identical to type and have the same measurements, body structure and appearance. Such stability of morpho-type most likely tells us that other morpho-types, occurring around these dogs, are its descendants.

Based on these observations and considering the origin of dogs diligently, it would be reasonable to suppose that the Big Indochinese Dingo retains an unchanged complex of morphological characters of its ancestor, just as the wolf-like dog of the province of Thanh Hoa retains the traits of the wolf.

fig 21
fig 21

Unfortunately, the program of studies of the aboriginal dogs of Indochina was cut short at half way and we did not have enough time to the complete survey of dogs of Southern Vietnam. Now, using fragmentary and scarce data we can restore the general pattern of typological diversity of the dogs of the southern center of formation of breeds in Vietnam. Probably, its center was near the shores of the Siam Gulf or Andaman Sea. If the Australian Dingo carries intermediate traits of southern and northern Vietnamese dogs, then New Guinea Singing Dogs belong to the southern center of breed formation, to which dogs of Southern and Western Indochina also belong, as well as the dogs of the eastern shores of India (Figs. 21).

The result of the comparison of morpho-typical traits of dogs of the southern center of breed formation compels us to accept that the northern morpho-type of Big Indochinese Dingo was primary in relation to the southern one. The northern morpho-type was almost certainly ancestral to the variation series of big Dingo-like dogs. However, with small Dingo-like dogs of the southern center, the picture is not that simple. Among small southern Dingoes, there is one type, which represents the regular result of the reduction of body size, but it is relatively rare. The majority of small dingoes are represented by the variation with too big a hiatus, separating them from the Big Dingo, and, according to known regularities of changes in body structure caused by diminishing size; they cannot be drawn directly out of the Big Dingo.

In the example of the longhaired variation of small Dingo-like dogs of the southern center of breed formation , it seems that the ancestral form of this group had much in common with the morpho-type of red wolf.

The southern morpho-type of Big Indochinese Dingo could be the result of interbreeding the northern morpho-type with an ancestral form of small southern dingoe. Because nothing is known about the existence of hybrids of the Dhole with dogs and nobody ever checked the possibility of such crossing, we can propose that at some time in the past either a sibling species of Dhole was domesticated or the evolution of big and small Dingo-like dogs of the southern center of breed formation was going on independently at a different time and in different regions.

The origin of small Dingo-like dogs out of wild ancestors is corroborated by the unusual physical peculiarities of the New Guinea Singing Dog that are poorly specialized in running but are well adapted to climbing and agility. Dissection of a small Dingo-like dog killed by an accident, purchased during the work of the expedition, showed that the amplitude of rotation movement of the forearm was about 1.5 times that of an ordinary dog. This dog was very similar to the New Guinea Singing Dog. Study of the proximal radius-ulna joint allowed us to discover the presence of a sesamoid bone, which protects the joint on the lateral side. Unfortunately, I could not confirm the presence of this trait in other representatives of this morpho-type, because of the premature closure of the research program. A similar and not constantly present structure in about the same part of body, the sesamoid bone in the tendon of musculus supinator, is found in the coydog (coyote and wolf hybrid, “Miller’s Anatomy of Dog”).

While discussing topics of comparative anatomy, I will make clear the following: we are interested in the possible inheritance of anatomical peculiarities from wolf to dogs of different breeds, because we have chosen the wolf as the “gold standard” of a healthy anatomy. The goals of my work are rather practical, they are usually considered as topics of veterinary medicine. First, until now, I had in my possession corpses of wolves sampled from populations of Tver, Rostov and Voronezh provinces, all territories known as places where in recent times wolves and dogs have interbred. In two cases I found characteristics of possible crossing with dogs. Second, these territories are very close geographically, and, therefore, I cannot extend the obtained results to all subspecies of wolf across its vast geographic range.

Evaluating the direction of morphological changes, I assume that specialization to running (both wolf and dog are specialized runners) always results in the reduction of the complexity of the locomotion apparatus numerically, for example, the structural consolidation of originally separate muscles with the enhancement of their integration.

Anatomically, dogs of different breeds conspicuously differ from each other. It is not quite a joke, when we say that the anatomy of dog does not exist; there is only morphology, because the range of variation is too big for one species. When we compare dog with wolf, supposedly dog’s ancestor, sometimes we find a mismatch. Some of the traits may be inherited and some may be lost. There are known cases of the loss of muscles as a result of dwarfism or specialization and some muscles can become hypertrophic. Finally, a new trait can emerge, not existing in the ancestral form. However, if we find an archaic trait in some breed of dog, which is absent in the supposedly ancestral form, but is typical of a higher taxonomical rank, then there is reason to doubt whether the modern wolf was ancestor of the dog.

Speaking of hereditary succession, not all found discrepancies can be easily explained. Thus, in sighthounds, whose locomotion apparatus is more similar to that of the wolf than that of other dogs, peculiarities of the integration and differentiation of the muscle-tendon system could be inherited from the wolf or obtained independently in the process of specialization. Therefore, comparing wolf and dog anatomically, I offer only one example, which in my opinion is vulnerable to criticism.

As I mentioned above, some scientists draw a line between wolf and dog based on craniological indexes. I paid more attention to the structure of the frontal bone. As a result of research of skeletal material in our collection, I found the following:

fig 26
fig 26

– The posterior chamber of the frontal cavity of the wolf (Figs. 22-23) has a complex architecture, which is relatively low at the medial margin, curved and higher positioned at the entrance and opening into the anterior chamber, which is connected with the dorsal nasal passage.

fig 23
fig 23

– In dogs (except the Hortaya, German Shepherd Dog and East European Shepherd Dog, which are similar in these features to the wolf) the posterior chamber of the frontal cavity (Figs. 24-26) is large and high, with a simpler architecture and has a wide, straight and low positioned entrance opening immediately into the nasal passage.-In the wolf, the area of the perforated plate is approximately 1.5-2 times as large as that in the dog, proportionally to body size.

fig 24-26

fig 25
fig 25

The differences described above are easy to explain by functional anatomy. Frontal cavities, besides their function of a protective cushioning of the frontal bone, serve as an important part of the thermo-regulation of the body. One major problem of marathon runners is the disposal of excess heat generated in the muscles (Coppinger, L&R. Coppinger, 2002). In the process, maintaining the optimal temperature of the brain is most important (Schmidt-Nielsen, 1972). The main way of cooling the body of the dog and the wolf is by evaporation from the surfaces of the tongue, mouth and nose. However, the perforated plate, bordering the hard wall of the brain and with the rostral epidural net, serves as an effective radiator of heat as well. This way of cooling the brain is important to such an extent that in puppies, from birth to about one month, when heat loss is dangerously high, the perforated plate is separated from the brain wall with pads of fat (Fig. 27). Under conditions when the air temperature is significantly lower than body temperature, the role of the frontal cavities is to protect the brain from hypothermia.

fig 27
fig 27

A thin layer of warm air with its low circulation becomes beneficial and this is what we observe in the wolf. However, in the tropics, when high air temperature is combined with high humidity, conditioning the body temperature with this mechanism does not work. In the thermo-regulation of the aboriginal dogs of Vietnam, compared with breeds of European origin, perspiration from the abdominal skin and the reduction of heat generation in the body become very important. In the tropical environment, there is a high danger of overheating shock caused by strong insulation even when weather is cloudy and foggy. Short hair on the forehead of the dog cannot protect the brain from overheating. The surface of the body exposed to the sun can heat up to 10-20° C higher than the ambient air temperature. In such a case, to prevent the transmission of heat from the surface of the forehead to the brain, the frontal large cavities with fast air circulation coming from the nasal passages through a wide entrance opening is very helpful. Thus, the analysis of the structure of the frontal cavities in dogs and wolves shows their original adaptation to different environments, which required different mechanisms of thermoregulation. In my view, this is a strong argument in favor of J. Koler-Matznik’s view that Dingo-like dogs did not originate from the wolf.

Summarizing the results of our work, I think that most likely the domesticated dog originated from several subspecies of wolf and a now extinct wild form of Dingo, not excluding other ancestral forms.

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I’m very late sharing these. Below you will find links to download the latest PADS journals (in English).  These journals include some great articles on the color genetics of spitz-type dogs as well as information on the Norwegian Lundehund and an article on the Traditional Dog Breeding Of The Nanai People.

PADS Journal #34 | PADS Journal #35 | PADS Journal #36

For more information on the Primitive and Aboriginal Dogs Society (PADS), please visit the PADS website at www.pads.ru.