Dogs have evolved to become one of humankind’s closest companions. It is widely believed that the domestication of dogs from their probable ancestors, wolves, began some 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, the first example of animal domestication. Genomic studies performed on the dog specimens obtained from archeological sites in Germany and Ireland, indicate their age to be 4,000 to 7,000 years old and reverse calculating the rate of evolution leads to an approximation of 20,000 to 40,000 years for early dog domestication. Some theories even postulate that canine domestication was instrumental in the eventual domestication of livestock and necessary for the shift of human societies from hunter-gatherer to agrarian. Evolutionary signatures in early European dog specimens also indicate shared ancestry with modern European dog breeds.
A brief timeline for dog breeding
Dog breeds currently in existence have been cross bred frequently in the past. Most often, canids were bred for specific behavioral traits – e.g., alertness, herding capacity, sense of smell. Interestingly, the cross breeding was so random even in nearby geographical regions, that determining the true ancestors by trait or even by genome sequencing has been a difficult task.
Since the Victorian era, however, the focus has been more on the development of desirable physical traits as opposed to behavioral traits. In that era alone more than 400 dog breeds cropped up. Sadly, breeding for physical traits has led to an inadvertent association of numerous genetic diseases, such as aortic stenosis, atopic dermatitis, gastric dilatation volvulus, ophthalmic cataract, cardiomyopathy, hip dysplasia, epilepsy, hypothyroidism, intervertebral disk disease, and vertebral portosystemic shunt.
In the 21st century, development of sophisticated genomic technologies has elucidated genetic diseases of dogs, some of which appear to have similar genetic basis in their human companions. These findings have the potential to revolutionize the healthcare of dogs.
Organizations for maintaining registry of dog breeds
Numerous organizations exist worldwide to preserve the cynology and the evolutionary history of dogs, among them the American Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club, United Kennel Club and the Australian National Kennel Club. France, Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands founded the Federation Cynologique Internationale in 1911, which contains the pedigree information of all dog breeds worldwide. This organization classifies breeds into ten functional groups:
1. Sheepdog and Cattledog
2. Pinscher and Schnauzer
5. Spitz and Primitive Types
6. Scent Hounds and Related Breeds
7. Pointing Dogs
8. Retrievers - Flushing Dogs - Water dogs
9. Companion and Toy dogs
The FCI currently recognizes 354 breeds based on the above classification. Owing to extensive cross breeding for developing particular behavioral and/or physical traits, most of the breeds present today cannot be classified as true pure breeds.
Dog health-product conceptualization at Genofax
Pet dogs are often used for comfort, supporting the mental health of human companions. The importance of behavioral and physical traits for this provision of comfort is fueling growing interest in accurate breed identification and pet health.
Our first product provides a solution to breed classification.
We have demonstrated that dog breeds, even crossbreeds, can be identified by our state-of-the-art machine learning technology. From just a snapshot of your dog, our smartphone-based app can currently classify dog breeds with an accuracy of 90%. With time, more accuracy will be possible as beta-testing improves data.
Our second product for dog owners is to facilitate pet health, improving not only the dog’s well-being but also its longevity.
We are developing a database of breed specific diseases, including about 150 currently known genetic diseases related to dogs, with automated updates as more genome-level information becomes available. The information in our database will be integrated with the image-based breed classifier app, and the integration engine will serve both dog owners and veterinarians with relevant information in real-time. We will provide a health score for your dog, and, in the case of any health changes, the pet owner can be connected to the nearest veterinarian.
Pet health is an area of immense interest these days. We at Genofax, are determined to provide smart and easy solutions. We are looking forward to collaborating with veterinarians and dog breeders in Australia and the US to provide us insights on digitizing dog healthcare.
Man’s best friend can, at long last, benefit from the genomic revolution.