Sunday, June 3, 2018

What came first Pedigree Canaan dogs or desert pariahs?

Whether the chicken or the egg came first depends on how we look at it. If the question refers to eggs in general, the egg came first. The first amniote egg — that is, a hard-shelled egg that could be laid on land, rather than remaining in water like the eggs of fish or amphibians — appeared around 312 million years ago. In contrast, chickens are domesticated descendants of red jungle fowl and probably arose little more than eight thousand years ago, at most. Simple? Well no! If the question refers specifically to the chicken egg as it exists today, the answer may be different. Chickens produce a protein, ovocleidin-17 (OC-17), that is expressed in the uterus and causes the formation of the thickened calcium carbonate shell around modern chicken eggs. Because OC-17 is expressed by the hen and not the egg, the bird in which the protein first arose, though having hatched from a non-reinforced egg, would then have laid the first egg having such a reinforced shell: the chicken would have preceded this first 'modern' chicken egg.

So what came first the pedigree human controlled modern Canaan breed or the true natural pure ancient free-living dogs found in the Arabian peninsula, north Africa and eastern Mediterranean countries? 

Unlike many people who have never been to the areas where these dogs exist and yet make unsupported claims, I worked in the middle east, in Saudi Arabia between 1990 and 2007 in a number of wide spread places and travelled throughout the country and neighbouring ones. During that time I spent most weekends cross country walking and driving off road to remote areas that had no roads so have some first-hand personal experience of the region and the pariah dogs found there. I have continued my strong interest in these dogs ever since.

I noticed that everywhere I went in Saudi, within a few hours walking time of human habitation, there were dogs to be found.  While occasionally some were seen in towns, more often at night when people were not around, most were around the outskirts or near picnic areas, where they could scavenge for discarded food, and of course near rubbish dumps. They were also to be seen with the still nomadic Bedouin at their camp sites and with their goat or sheep herds.  Not once did I see them herding, they were watch dogs giving warning of the presence of strangers. No one breeds them. If someone wants a dog they simply collect a pup from a den. Saudis were all aware of these dogs and referred to them as their wild dogs that had always been there and they were also aware that the Bedouin often kept them.  Most of these dogs had the same overall appearance of upright ears and curled tail, the typical appearance of Long Term Pariah Morphotype (LTPM) wherever they are found. I do not believe they should be referred to as “village dogs” since by far the majority were not to be seen wandering the streets as do village dogs elsewhere. However call them what you will desert dogs, wadi dogs whatever that is not important. They are not strays since they have not strayed from homes, they are not mixed mongrels since there are no other dogs to mix with. Many people were only aware of the relatively few that were sometimes seen in the streets and the others kept a low profile and were easily missed. While this general LTPM type is found on many continents they are not all identical, having been separated geographically for thousands of years and we know that not all genetic markers found their way to all areas of the world. Those people who are familiar with them can recognise the differences. For example I have sometimes been asked in Australia if my middle-east dogs are dingoes but anyone who knows dingoes recognises immediately that they are not.  A less common type had floppy ears but were otherwise similar. Colours were varied but mostly cream to brown with some black or black and white. There have been claims that the black dogs are predominant in mountain areas but this was not my experience. At any given time the predominant colour could differ depending more on random breeding patterns. Saudis have traditionally not kept dogs as pets and have been actively discouraged from doing so in the past, although this is changing. Most of the euro breeds of dogs in Saudi at the time I was there were brought in, owned and re-exported by expats and were kept in closed compounds so there has been little chance of any breeding between these free living pariahs and what westerners know as dog breeds, unlike the situation in other nearby countries where euro-breeds have now been popular for some time. This also is changing, particularly in the large cities such as Jeddah and Riyadh.

Occasionally on our walks someone would want to take a puppy from a den we found. I used to discourage this, particularly with Australians, due to the difficulty of keeping them in apartments, for those not living in a villa, and because of the quarantine requirements taking a dog to Australia.  On my last contract I eventually took in some of these dogs myself after they found their way into our compound and some people were calling for these “wild” dogs to be killed. One of these dogs took 6 months of many hours spent each night in his presence, coaxing and encouraging him before he would allow me to contact him. I had no idea what sort of dog they may be until I chanced on an Encyclopaedia of dogs while browsing in a Sydney bookstore and spotted a photo of what looked exactly like one of my dogs. Armed with the name “Canaan” I then came across Myrna Shiboleth, contacted her and sent her a number of photos and videos of my dogs and described to her their behaviour. She acknowledged to me that if she was to see them in a show ring she would consider them very good examples of a Canaan dog.

Lady Anne Blunt, the granddaughter of Lord Byron, was one of the first westerners to travel through the Jubbah area of Saudi Arabia, in January 1879, with her husband, Wilfrid.  They were en-route to the city of Hail to see the famous horses of Ibn Rashid, then ruler in Najd. In the 19th century westerners where mainly interested in looking for writings on rocks but Wilfred noted that there were “a few of those simple designs one finds everywhere on the sandstone, representing camels and gazelles.” Fast forward to March 2001, when a Bedouin told Mahboub Habbas al-Rasheedi, a teacher in the nearby town, about rock images he had spotted while grazing his camels. Al-Rasheedi and his brother went looking for them and found many others. They showed the carvings to the school superintendent, Mamduah Ibrahim al-Rasheedi, who immediately reported the find to the provincial director of antiquities in Hail.1
After initial reports of the re-discovery of extensive rock carvings in Saudi Arabia and concerns of the wildlife authority that dogs could be having a number of negative impacts on wildlife I pointed out to both the Saudi archaeology society and the wildlife authority, as well as a number of individuals, the similarity to the dogs now registered by breeders as Canaan dogs.  These petroglyphs have now been carefully examined and documented in a book published by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in 2013 in conjunction with the Saudi Archaeology Society. 2 As well as other animals the petroglyphs depict dogs of the typical LTPM we see in Canaan dogs as well as sighthounds.2  
Photo below courtesy Lars Bjurstrom.

More recently a publication in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology has concentrated on the dog petroglyphs.4   These are believed to date to times when man was still a hunter gatherer and are the oldest known images of dogs and people anywhere.  This article states: “All of the dogs display characteristic pricked ears, short snouts, deeply-angled chests, and a curled tail, appearing to be of the same type. These phenotypic traits were also noted by Olsen and Bryant (2013). Like those authors, we suggest these canids bear a close resemblance to the modern Canaan dog. This Levantine dog is also proposed from archaeological (Wapnish and Hesse, 1993) and historical contexts (Stager, 1991) and has been identiļ¬ed as a basal dog breed (Larson et al., 2012; vonHoldt et al., 2010). The previous earliest depictions of dogs in the archaeological record come from two agricultural villages in southwestern Iran, dated to around 6000 BCE (Delougaz and Kantor, 1996; Hole and Wyllie, 2007). Both are painted on pottery and similarly depict dogs with short snouts, pricked ears, and up-turned curled tails (Hole and Wyllie, 2007).” Dating rock carvings is difficult but the scenes of dogs with hunters suggest a period before the start of agriculture, often considered by some as when dogs were domesticated.  Archaeologists have found evidence of four major periods of settlement at Jubbah stretching back through the Middle Palaeolithic period, 80,000 to 25,000 years ago. 1

We may never be absolutely certain as to where, how or why dogs were first domesticated but current genetic studies point to South East Asia since that is where the greatest genetic diversity has been found. From there it seems most likely that they spread  to the rest of the world and through the middle-east into Europe and Africa. Most of what are now recognised by kennel clubs as distinct breeds have come about only in the past few hundred years due to human desire to produce dogs suited to particular work or simply for a certain appearance. This selective breeding has resulted in breeds that have lost much of the genetic diversity dogs had naturally. In some cases some breeds are in reality deformed and should not be bred at all.

Today’s borders between countries of the middle-east are very recent and in the Neolithic period and even before that people and dogs moved freely throughout the whole region. More recently goods were traded along well known camel train routes throughout the Arabian peninsula, north Africa and the whole region. We know dogs accompanied Bedouin on long overland voyages.  Richard Minto, while not the first to bring this type of dog into the UK, was given a wild born Canaan in Libya by Bedouin. These Bedouin had moved from Jordan and were followed on their move by a pack of free living dogs including the parents of the pup given to Richard. This is a good illustration of how the dogs can and have moved around the region. In the past, even more recently than the Neolithic times there were a number of trade routes used by people and camels or donkeys. These routes traversed the region and there was bi-directional trade between Egypt and the land of the Canaanites during a period when Egypt controlled the area. To the north the Nabateans controlled these routes at their cities of Petra, Mada’in Salah and other smaller sites. The Nabateans expanded into the Negev desert and Sinai prior to 200BC and Bedouin in these areas also trace their origins to the Arabian peninsula. 6

Menzel, who wrote the first kennel club style description of Canaan dogs, recognised more than one type of these dogs and initially both types competed in show rings but later she decided to narrow in on the type now considered Canaan dogs.  Considering the early history and migrations of humans it seems highly unlikely that the free living LTPM dogs in this region are not all the same ancient type. The Canaan dog breed was established by selecting a relatively small number of free living dogs, mostly from what is geographically a very small area with a few added, even recently by Myrna Shiboleth,  from Jordan.
We also know dogs were buried at Ashkelon in ancient times but quite why is debated. 3 Also found in Ashkelon was this sarcophagus that shows a dog of familiar LTPM appearance.

Israel's area is approximately 20,770 km2, which includes 445 km2 of inland water. Israel stretches 424 km from north to south, and its width ranges from 114 km to, at its narrowest point, 15 km. So a total land area is 20,325 km2. Israel was established in 1948.
Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,485 square kilometres in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in north eastern South Africa, and extends 360 kilometres from north to south and 65 kilometres from east to west. Areas of the park were first protected by the government of the South African Republic in 1898, and it became South Africa's first national park in 1926.
The pedigree Canaan dog was created and named by Menzel by capturing a few of the free living pariahs in Israel.  While it matters not to me what these dogs are called it seems a strange choice considering that the original Israelis were often at war with the Canaanites having invaded their land. Menzel also wrote the kennel club description accepted by the Israel kennel club in 1953.
On a similar scale if someone collected a few lions in Kruger national park caged them and started breeding them for sale, would the lions in the rest of Africa then not be lions? It would of course be possible that due to the human imposed selection, resulting in a genetic bottleneck, that these bred lions would show some difference in DNA analysis compared with the rest of African lions, after some generations due to having artificially limiting their genetic makeup. I suggest they would all still be lions just as all these pariah dogs are the same whatever we call them. If these ancient dogs are to have a long term future it is time to recognise the reality and importance of them ALL.  They need to be recognised by the IUCN and we need to forget about the closed book imposed on “breeds” by kennel clubs, and rely on DNA testing to choose dogs that can be added. There are still thousands of dogs available and it should be possible to completely eliminate all dogs with known genetic health issues, including carriers, while still keeping and indeed concentrating on maintaining genetic diversity rather than what a judge in a show ring happens to like. After all how difficult is it to win in a show where there are only 2 or 3 dogs shown? Already there have been health problems passed on as a result of inbreeding (called line breeding by breeders) by “famous” breeders. It may be that when these pariahs were first bred for sale in Israel that having a dog claimed as Israeli could have been a way of interesting Israelis to purchase them and that they would not have wanted them if they were “Arabic”.  I don’t know and am not nor ever will be a breeder but I think there would be greater interest in them by telling the complete story. It may also be that the best chance for long term survival of these dogs would be to set aside a large area similar to national parks, where these dogs could be allowed to continue to live much as they always have but possibly assisted with food, water and basic health care. Such a park could even become a tourist attraction. To have any hope of achieving that we need to have genetic evidence published that can be presented to authorities in support of such a park.

Among some registered dog breeds there are recognisable genetic differences in different continents.
A number of claims are made relating to pedigree Canaan dogs without supporting evidence.
“Canaan dogs accompanied Moses when he and his followers moved from Egypt to what is now Israel and introduced them to Israel where they were abandoned when the Israelis were dispersed.” While it is possible dogs were with Moses it is thought he took some 40 years to reach Israel so the dogs reaching Israel would not be the ones that were originally with them and would likely have bred with others along the way.  There are pariahs of the same LTPM in Egypt today, known locally as baladi dogs, a term used in Egypt for a local (non-euro breed) dogs but also for various other “folk” dances, music, bread etc. However evidence also shows that similar dogs were already in the whole region well before the time of Moses. Egypt ruled Canaan for 3 centuries after defeating the Canaanites at Megiddo in 1458 BC. Egyptian trading posts existed at Ashkelon, where a dog graveyard was found, and Gezer, 3 millennium BC. Donkeys were being used to transport goods overland in trade between Egypt and Canaan before sea routes were later established. It is likely dogs would have followed in both directions.
Dogs were indeed known in ancient Israel. In fact, dogs are referred to forty-one times in the Bible. However, most times, the word “dog” is used as a word of contempt. One of the few exceptions where dogs are presented as a useful animal was when they were used to protect the flock. Job said: “But now they laugh at me, men who are younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the dogs of my flock” (Job 30:1).
In general, however, Israelites used the word “dog” as a word to express contempt. “You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 23:18). The mention of the dog in this Deuteronomic legislation is a reference to the male temple prostitutes who served in the cult of Baal.
Isaiah scorns the leaders of the nation by calling them “dumb dogs” (Isaiah 56:10) and “greedy dogs” (Isaiah 56:11). The psalmist calls an evil man a “dog” (Psalm 22:20). Dogs were considered unclean animals because they ate the flesh of unclean animals (Exodus  22:31) and because they ate human flesh (1 Kings 14:11). The breaking of a dog’s neck was a pagan religious practice condemned by the prophet (Isaiah 66:3). This does not imply that all people at the time hated dogs as even today it is not uncommon for some people to refer to dogs in derogatory ways.
Some Canaan websites state that the name of Abel’s dog was Benoni. This comes up in a fictitious book “The Book of Lies” by Brad Meltzer and there does not seem to be any factual evidence of this.
“Canaan dogs were selectively bred to herd.” There is no evidence today of these dogs being used to herd and genetically they do not fit with herders.  Bedouin, who have been the people most commonly using these dogs more recently, laugh at the idea of selective breeding. If they needed an additional dog they simply collected a puppy from the den of a free living dog. Dogs living with Bedouin and accompanying their flocks do so as watch dogs to alert to the presence of intruders. In recent times Bedouin moved freely throughout the region and dogs followed them with no regard to present day borders. Even earlier in Neolithic times dogs with this same LTPM were living and moving around with man and may have helped hunters to chase antelope into traps (desert kites)but this is not truly herding.
“Canaan dogs are the national dog of Israel.” No. To be officially a national dog, flower, bird, tree etc. there needs government recognition. Sadly this has not happened. Israel does have an official national bird, the Hoopoe, but no official national dog. This is an un-official claim made by the kennel club and breeders.
“Canaan dogs are an ancient breed, bred by nature as nature intended.” That is true of the free living pariah landrace but the pedigree Canaan is one of the most recent breeds to be accepted by kennel clubs. As with all kennel club breeds they are now bred largely with a view to winning shows and mating’s are controlled by breeders not nature. Bringing new freeborn stock into the genetic pool is, in general, difficult and costly due to kennel club regulations. The dogs used were chosen purely on looks so it is not known if they could have had any modern breed in them or not.
“The free living pariahs are genetically different to Canaan dogs.” No study has been published yet to support that claim. It is possible there could be a difference but this is likely to be due to the human created bottle neck effect of the small number of dogs used to establish the breed.  
From : Nature, April 2010. 5

“Applying the Bayesian clustering method implemented in STRUCTURE we found strong evidence for admixture with wolves only in a minority of breeds. Neighbour-joining trees reveal that most of these breeds (basenji, Afghan hound, Samoyed, saluki, Canaan dog, New Guinea singing dog, dingo, chow chow, Chinese Shar Pei, Akita, Alaskan malamute, Siberian husky and American Eskimo dog) are highly divergent from other dog breeds. These highly divergent breeds have been identified previously and termed ‘ancient’ breeds (as opposed to ‘modern’) because, consistent with their high levels of divergence, historical information suggests that most have ancient origins (>500 years ago). The limitation of evidence for admixture to only a few breeds is striking given that backcrossing between dogs and wolves is known to occur and dogs and wolves coexist widely. Given that modern breeds are the products of controlled breeding practices of the Victorian era (circa 1830–1900) the lack of detectable admixture with wolves is consistent with the strict breeding regimes recently implemented by humans.”
Note that this article seems to refer to “middle–east dogs” as Afghan hound and saluki only and that Canaan dogs do not group in the herding dogs.
We also know that as dogs evolved in parallel with man they gained additional copies of the AMY2 gene enabling them to better digest starch with Australian Dingos and New Guinea Singer, probably the last dogs truly living completely wild, have the fewest copies. 9 Canaan and these pariahs have yet to be analysed for this. As is often the case a look at the map in this article shows a glaring absence of results for dogs of the Arabian peninsula.
I have been trying to get these dogs DNA properly looked at since 1990 by contacting geneticists whose publications suggested they might be interested. The usual response was in general that they lacked the time and resources. More than 3 years ago I finally received what appeared to be a positive reply from Niels Pedersen at UC Davis. “We have collected many dogs from Iran and have also received samples from Saluki-like dogs kept by the Bedouins in Israel and Jordan.  We would be interested in working with you on sampling dogs from Arab countries.” He also stated that the reason was difficulty in getting samples. Like many others their knowledge of geography seems limited at best. However after further correspondence I purchased swabs he approved and travelled at my own expense and with much appreciated support of others collected some samples from some 50 dogs, 3 swabs from each dog. Then followed an incredible amount of exchanges such as that the swabs had not been received (they had been signed for and were sitting in his office.) A heap of spelling errors that he blamed on writing not always being clear, in fact all the information sent was typed not hand written. Eventually after deciding to move the swabs to Elaine Ostrander at the National Institute of Health I received some raw data and this note “Here is the STR data for your dogs.    We used amelonogen markers (AMELX; AMELY)  to identify gender, five Y-STR markers to identify patrilines,  33 STR markers on 25 chromosomes to look at genomic differences,  plus 4 markers to identify DLA class I haplotype(DLA1-3cca, 4ac, 4bct, 1131)  and 3 markers for the DLA class II haplotype (5aca, 5act, 5bca).  The results in red indicate that the DNA we extracted was of poor quality and/or the samples were either mold or bacterial  and the results of not much value.  Samples in yellow had either poor quality DNA or insufficient DNA, but did provide meaningful results for several of the genetic parameters.  We only kept one of the three swabs, so it is possible that Dr. Ostrander fared better with her samples and her extraction techniques.  As expected, there is a great deal of heterozygosity at every locus and in the DLA class I and II haplotypes.  None of the alleles for the 33 genomic markers were unique, i.e., they can be found sprinkled among a number of modern breeds.  Some of the DLA class I and II haplotypes have not been seen among the 5 breeds we have looked at so far with this test format, but they will almost certainly be found in our indigenous dog collection when we get time to test them in the same manner.  The Y chromosome haplotypes were also varied in the group, as expected, and none were unique.  However, if this were 30+ dogs from any given pure breed, you would usually see only one patriline.  In brief, this was a very heterogeneous group of dogs with a lot of diversity.  Hopefully, Elaine will be able to offer you additional information on these dogs.  Thank you for allowing us to complete our testing and we will add this information to what we have already obtained for village dogs from this and other regions. -Niels" 
Some results were questionable since a known male dog was marked as female and a female as male according to the results provided.  This was passed off as “they must have been contaminated”. Since both dogs were the only animal in the family this was not possible. He claimed it made no difference anyway!
So moving on it was agreed that we now have a project in a collaborative study initiated by me with Elaine Ostrander at NIH and Adam Boyko (who also runs the Embark program) and that we would all be fully kept informed as work progressed. NIH received the swabs “in good condition” but additional swabs were requested. Again a lot of people were involved helping to comply and even some blood samples were collected.  Having collected all the emails involved into one continuous document I have some 77 pages (without the headings). Remarks included were that the amount of DNA extracted was too little. I don’t understand that since as an experienced laboratory scientist myself I know that with modern PCR amplification even one strand of DNA can be copied to give as much as anyone could want. Another remark was that cotton swabs are not good – the swabs initially used were Dacron and designed specifically for forensic DNA use, big difference. Also mentioned was that it does not store well, again hard to understand since the swabs were “received in good condition” and I had been told they were excited to do them, were fully funded and would do them immediately. I of course am entirely reliant on NIH to come good and do this and not in a position to do anything but accept what they say if I ever want anything done in my life time. 
After some time of zero replies to my requests for information of what was happening I was contacted via someone else’s FB with a request to email Carol Beuchet. She wanted to know where she could get some Canaan type dogs other than from Myrna Shiboleth. Carol runs a money making website and FB page offering genetic studies even though she is not a geneticist. That in itself is not my problem, people have to make a living and can set up websites and FB groups called anything they choose and good luck to anyone willing to pay for such courses by an institute that actually exists only on the web. In the real world I have been informed that there is no registered “Institute of Canine Biology”. Attempts to register it were not accepted by authorities. Be aware that any DNA tests collected by her are not done by her. She also offers a certificate of the coefficient of inbreeding (for a charge) to people who have done DNA tests via her. The Embark program that does the testing already includes such data in their results. The reason she contacted me via some other FB page was that I had long ago blocked her for her rudeness I saw to many and her followers who dared ask or question anything she said and her constant attempts to advertise on my FB groups, despite my repeatedly asking her not to. She told me that the NIH was "fully funded and ready to test immediately”. Heard that somewhere before. Anyway I told her NIH already had some 50 samples from these dogs. She implied that she thought they had been lost and told me I was not to contact NIH she would, that NIH may know genetics but don’t know about dogs and that she intended to take over MY project. Naturally I immediately contacted NIH.
The Canaan Dog Club of America made a “substantial donation” to her “institute” back in 2014 and until now nothing has been done. 
From Elaine Ostrander at NIH on 5th December 2017 “So I have no idea why on earth Carol would say you should not contact me?  That is so weird.  Of course, you can contact us anytime.  I love hearing about what you are doing.  So I’ll double check with Heidi, the problem was the swabs did not give us DNA or enough good quality to do anything.  I’ve cc’d Heidi to respond.  The samples were no lost or mishandled. They simply didn’t give us DNA.  In cases like this where the samples have been stored this way---sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.  We get swabs from small dogs on occasion when the owner does not want to have blood drawn, but in those cases we process them right away.  I think we might have gotten lost at my end in terms of communication and not let you know right away.  That is our fault.  But it is never (!) the case that you  should not contact us.  I’ll follow up.”
From Dayna Dreger at NIH on 8th December 2017 “We’ve done a few things with the latest pariah dog samples that you have sent us. We were able to get sufficient DNA from approximately 47 of them, enough to run on the 170K SNP chip. When we added these dogs to a phylogeny tree that includes 161 other breeds, most of the pariah dogs cluster into two separate groups near some of the Asian/African sighthounds (Basenji, Saluki, Afghan Hound, Azawakh, etc.). One appears very similar to a Saluki, and one clusters with the Siberian Huskies.
When we have additional relevant dogs from the area, we will include the pariah samples in further haplotype and geographic ancestry analyses.
Unfortunately, we haven’t done much extensive analyses with the samples, as we are still actively collecting relevant populations from that general area of the world.”
I asked what other relevant dogs they are actively collecting as I could probably arrange some and received no reply.
Now suddenly Myrna after only a few weeks ago telling people DNA testing to identify breeds is a waste of money, is offering to swab Canaan dogs of anyone who attends her paid weekend and has confirmed to me that this is in response to Carol having contacted her.  From Myrna: “21/5/2018  We are now working on developing a project to research Canaan DNA and to see if it is possible to find identifying markers in the Canaan which would help to identify free born dogs as Canaans. This is possible, for example, with the Australian dingo. I tried to start this project several years ago, but unfortunately the lab that was supposed to do the work stopped working with animal DNA, and the many samples I had collected were lost. But we now hope that we can go on with this project. This will be one of our topics at the Canaan Dog Weekend, so we hope many people will be interested in attending.”  I think this weekend is not until September 2018!
 “Pedigree” Canaan dogs already can be identified in more than one good company (Not MARS Wisdom panel). Yes numbers of Canaan dogs that have been tested are small so it would be good to see more done. A publication co-authored by Elaine includes Canaan dogs (see the above chart). And Embark also can do this already. Breeders can get the full Embark test for (from memory) about $100 about 85euro. In my opinion a lot better value than getting individual genetic issues looked at. My suggestion is to either do that or contact Elaine directly as she may well send you the swab at no charge. IF this is to be a part of the project I initiated it would be good if it had been discussed and I and Adam had been informed. Anyone chooses to send swabs to NIH don’t expect results in a hurt if at all for individual dogs. If After the amount of effort and cost put into this by myself and others it is really poor if anyone is now trying to muscle in without any prior discussion and perhaps as a way to make money out of it by attracting people to their own money making projects.
Three desert dogs or village dogs tested by embark for me were 100% pure. Of other results  available publically that I have seen the most mixed one was actually from Israel!
Australian dingoes are a totally different case. They have very limited genetic variation and only one haplotype.
5: Genome-wide SNP and haplotype analyses reveal a rich history underlying dog domestication
Bridgett M. vonHoldt, John P. Pollinger, Kirk E. Lohmueller, Eunjung Han, Heidi G. Parker,, Pascale Quignon, Jeremiah D. Degenhardt, Adam R. Boyko, Dent A. Earl, Adam Auton, Andy Reynolds, Kasia Bryc, Abra Brisbin, James C. Knowles, Dana S. Mosher, Tyrone C. Spady, Abdel Elkahloun, Eli Geffen, Malgorzata Pilot, Wlodzimierz Jedrzejewski, Claudia Greco, Ettore Randi, Danika Bannasch, Alan Wilto, Jeremy Shearman, Marco Musiani, Michelle Cargill, Paul G. Jones, Zuwei Qian, Wei Huang, Zhao-Li Ding, Ya-ping Zhang, Carlos D. Bustamante, Elaine A. Ostrander, John Novembre & Robert K. Wayne

Friday, January 13, 2017

When is a Canaan not a Canaan?

Perhaps the first of a number of factors that needs to be understood is just what a dog is and this is well described by Coppinger and Coppinger in their latest book “What is a dog” and so I will not expand here other than to point out that the Coppingers estimate on best available figures that a mere 15% of dogs live under human control, even fewer of these being “pure”, with some 850 million living free world wide with varying levels of human contact.

What is a breed? Modern Breeds have only existed for the last couple of centuries as a result of human interference in nature to bend dogs to human uses or for a particular look. Regardless of where they originated they are mostly found in isolated homes
 of the worlds richer people in north America, Europe and other “developed” countries. This in all cases leads to a genetic bottleneck in registered breeds. Strictly speaking, far from being the “ancient” breed claimed for Canaan dogs the “pure pedigree” Canaan is one of the most recently registered breeds, as the stock they came from were never selectively bred. All modern breeds at some point came from natural stock or by mixing already selected “breeds” that, if we go back far enough, come from such landraces.  It is wrong to suggest now that these landraces are mixes of modern breeds. The reality is quite the opposite.

Dogs do not know boundaries drawn up by people, mostly very recently in the middle-east. Evidence in recently re-discovered rock carvings at Shuwaymus in Saudi Arabia, believed to be Neolithic shows 2 dog type – sighthounds and typical Canaan like dogs.  They are seen with people hunting Aurochs, lion and other animals.  Dogs spread around the world with people and were clearly in this whole region long before the time of Moses, who some claim introduced these dogs to Israel. There may have been dogs that accompanied his group as they wandered about for 40 years but by definition they would then be Egyptian dogs. Looking backwards where do todays Canaan breed come from? Simply by capturing a small number of the landrace of pariah dogs found living free in the whole region today, even if the ones captured were only from Israel and Jordan.  Menzel who initially established them as a breed recognised 3 different appearances in the dogs she saw and selected the ones she preferred. Therefore there is no reason at all that all the free living dogs should look identical.

There have been and still are many introduced modern breeds in Israel whereas in Saudi Arabia away from the major cities of Riyadh and Jeddah very few if any such dogs exist. Those that do are generally owned by expats and live in fenced compounds and are taken out of the  country again when the  expat leaves, so if anything the free living dogs are less likely to have any genetic feedback from modern breeds. They are likely to have most of the genetic material found in modern breeds simply because these real natural dogs are the stock modern breeds are derived from.  Breeds do not create new genes  but rather eliminate some. Apart from Saluki like sighthounds, that are less common, these dogs are NOT “mixed with breeds” since as I said such breeds are rare and don’t survive well  free in these areas. Sadly many people from the “developed” countries see things through eyes used only to seeing “breeds” and make the same mistake, thinking free living dogs derive from “breeds” when the opposite is in fact true.

To say that “the terrian over there (Saudi) is not the same like israel/jorden (Jordan)/sinai. Much harsher in saudi.” shows lack of knowledge of Saudi. It is a large area with anything from sand dune in the “empty quarter” to fertile farming areas. The biggest single dairy farm in the world is in Saudi.  None so blind as those who will not see.

Commercial genetic tests used to determine breeds in dogs of unknown mix are of little value other than to make money for the one company doing this. They are sold under various brand names but all are under control of MARS. Other companies were sued out of business under copyright laws and MARS refuses to publish any data to show the effectiveness of breed identification. There have been many examples published of impossible results, including totally different ones from the same dog tested twice.  Copied from the companies own site “It is not designed to validate the purity of a purebred dog, and test results should not be relied upon as official certification of your dog's genetic make-up”.   They DO claim Canaans on their list but my advice to anyone would be save your money or give it to a dog rescue group.  STR markers have been looked at on a number of these dogs of the Arabian countries by a top Veterinary university in the USA and further work is ongoing at another institute and it is planned to select some for a full genome study. This is NOT aimed at identifying their ”breed” since “breeds” are in sense a modern anomaly.  As would be expected there were markers present that are found in modern “breeds” – not because those breeds have mixed with these dogs but because those markers in modern breeds came from the worlds natural dogs. In establishing breeds genetic material is lost not created. Some markers found were not on the data base at this veterinary university. There was NO evidence of wolf hybridisation.  Hybridisation is of concern in efforts to preserve the rare wolf population in Saudi but to date no dog DNA has been found in wolves studied. (Unpublished data from personal correspondence with a past director of the wildlife department.)  

Are Canaans introduced to the “pure” breed in Israel only from remote areas? May be so but Just look at a map of the size of Israel to see how remote such areas are in that country  compared to many areas in Saudi.

After seeing many photos and videos and my description of the behaviour of the dogs I had in Saudi Myrna Shiboleth told me that if she had seen them in a ring she would have considered them to be at least “very good” examples of Canaans. At a talk she gave in Israel on Canaans she included this photo of one of my dogs from the Asir region in Saudi and commented that they may exist in Saudi. They do and in large numbers and are widespread.

 Another dog I posted, without details, that originated in the Eastern province of Saudi, but now lives in Hawaii, drew comments from breeders asking who she was as they would like to breed with her.

Yet another male dog in Oman attracted people interested in breeding with him.

So far as “baludi” or to use the more common spelling, baladi is Egyptian Arabic and used in relation to dogs, describes common or general (not breed) dogs. Quite possible the same ancient stock again but with a greater chance of being mixed than those in Saudi. Ruth Corner who spent time working with Myrna and played a major role in introducing Canaan dogs to the UK  before living in Egypt, so was as capable as any at recognising a Canaan was convinced these were the same dogs in Egypt.

It seems strange to me that people walking down a street in the “developed” countries are able to point out dogs of certain appearance and call them, for example, a Border collie or German shepherd etc. and no one would tell them they are not, even if the dog had no pedigree papers, yet the same people cannot accept the dogs in Saudi as being referred to as Canaan yet no one I know of claims to have a pedigree record or wants to have them judged in a ring against breeders dog. I for one prefer it that way.

These dogs may be rare among breeders who wish to keep it that way as it adds to their potential value but they are far from rare in surrounding countries.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Getting Roxx home

The process of getting Roxx home was not without some glitches. I was contacted by someone who advised me that Roxx would never accept being in a travel crate. He had spent some time in a place where he had been placed into a crate overnight and had destroyed it. Of course he had never experienced being left in a crate previously so had been desperate to get out. Fortunately the K9 friends instructor at the time took over his preparation starting with an open wire cage then covering it with blankets and even sitting in it with him until he knew it was a safe place to be.

Australia has some of the strictest quarantine regulations in the world, quite rightly as a number of diseases do not exist in Australia, Rabies being just one of these infections of dogs. There are two basic requirements as far as rabies is concerned for dogs entering Australia, vaccination has to be up to date and the dogs blood has to be tested for rabies antibody to prove that the vaccination has been successful. At the time Roxx was adopted regulations meant he would not be released until 6 months after  blood was collected for a satisfactory rabies test.  I approached a number of companies for quotes on handling the relocation and initially accepted a veterinary practice. There were communication problems with them from the start when trying to get an appointment, but this was arranged and the blood drawn. They then refused to send it away for testing claiming that they did not have Roxx’s vaccination records even though I had myself sent them this. Lack of such a certificate does not in any case prevent the sample from being tested. Later they claimed that the vaccination record was not acceptable and would be rejected in Australia, also nonsense. I found them to be extremely arrogant and the owner even accused me of attempting to undertake a “dodgy relocation”. Eventually the owner admitted to the kennel that they were mistaken and blamed the staff of the veterinary practice and apologised but they never made any attempt to apologise to me. As an experienced microbiologist and with colleagues working in Australian biosecurity I understand the requirements well. It seems to me that certain vets in Dubai are not answerable to anyone and are used to being able to tell clients who have no microbiology background anything they like and expect to be believed without question.
I decided I had no option but to start the process again. This time choosing a company registered with IPATA the International Pet and Animal Transport Association which the vet was not. This time the company I used handled it all well with me looking after the Australian side of things. However the vet hey used for the veterinary requirements again demonstrated arrogance and took offence at my asking if he had given Roxx the required Frontline treatment. I needed to know this since I was handling the Australian side of things and he had not recorded this on the kennels records. As a result he refused to sign the required official documents stating that he had done this! The lady at the relocation company put in a big push to get this done and I was up all night exchanging many emails with all concerned until he eventually signed it off.

So Roxx said farewell  to Saskia and began his trip to Australia on the non-stop flight of some 14 hours to Sydney.

Waiting to board the early morning flight at Dubai.

At the time Roxx needed to spend 4 weeks in quarantine in Sydney and I flew down to visit him not knowing if he would recognise me. He certainly seemed to be happy to see me and the kennel staff were clearly animal lovers and taking good care of him.

Finally on the 25th November 2013 Roxx was collected from Sydney quarantine and flown to Brisbane airport then driven to me at the ferry terminal by Jetpets for the ferry ride home.

Happy to have a home at last, under-weight, but he soon regained it and was fascinated by the picture  of Digger on the wall.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Finding another desert dog

In April 2013 I at last had an opportunity to combine a number of separate options into one trip, to attend a symposium on Canaan dogs, a visit to South Africa, a visit to Dubai to attend the K9 Friends shelter fund raising ball and of course most importantly to choose a desert dog. Dates all seemed to come together ideally.  It was a great trip, meeting new and old friends and a thoroughly enjoyable ball at Raffles Dubai.

K9 Friends puppy ball 2013

The shelter itself is an excellent facility with over a hundred dogs in air-conditioned kennels. I was shown a number of beautiful dogs, each and every one of them lovely and deserving of a home. I found it impossible to select one dog so discussed it with the senior instructor and would have been happy to take any dog they seemed to have had trouble homing for whatever reason. The suggestion was that I take Roxx who had been there for over 3 years. Of course the various other volunteers all had their own favourites but I decided to spend a bit more time with Roxx. I had some one on one time with him in one of the exercise areas and he was a little unsure at first but seemed to warm to me. When I threw any of the toys in the yard, he quickly collected them and placed them neatly back in the toy box. Back in his kennel that he shared with another dog he reached out to me through the fence and I went and sat in the kennel for a time hoping that the longer I spent with him the better the chance that he would remember me after the long journey he had ahead of him. And so the process began. The paper work for adoption was completed and I once more I would would have a Canaan type desert dog in my life. 

Some of the other dogs I considered

Formal introduction to Roxx
Naturally in the exercise yard Roxx was more comfortable with someone he knew than  me
Reaching out to me from his kennel
Contact made
Will you take me home? How could I not?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The gap years

After the loss of my dogs in Saudi I took some time to come to terms with the reality that I would not be able to return to search for them. Visas are not issued to casual visitors and without a relative, company sponsor or suitable conference in the area that I might attend it was simply not possible. Even companies attempting to promote group tours under supervision found it difficult to obtain visas for potential tourists and halted efforts to promote tours.

I became interested in a welfare dog shelter in Dubai that I had chanced upon while looking for somewhere to house my Saudi dogs during the process of getting them to Australia. Australia did not accept dogs directly from Saudi Arabia due to poor rabies control in Saudi so they would have needed to stay in an acceptable place like Dubai for 6 months. It seemed to me from the photographs of dogs available for adoption that some of them were probably also Canaan dogs, picked up off the streets.  I noted a number of them as such and had some contact with the kennel, K9 Friends, Dubai. I transited through Dubai a couple of times on trips between Australia and South Africa but only allowed a few days hoping to be able to visit the shelter with a view to adopting a dog. Unfortunately I discovered that without a pre-arranged appointment I was unable to visit. One of the dogs I noticed among those advertised as available for adoption and that looked like a Canaan was this one – Roxx.

Meanwhile I was considering a possibility of working in Nigeria with a South African pathology company or Ghana with a South African accredited one. The Company in Nigeria sent me all the papers we thought were needed for me to get a visa to visit them including a letter signed by the Nigerian director inviting me to visit and guaranteeing my financial situation and accommodation for the time I would be there, and a copy of the company registration in Nigeria. I duly submitted my visa application and passport to the Nigerian officials in Canberra. There was a charge for the visa, a charge for processing it and an additional charge for rapid processing. They insisted on using a postal order as the method of payment so I obtained one to cover the 3 costs and included this in my application. I also included, as required, a copy of my return ticket the company had sent me from Nigeria.

After a couple of days I attempted to phone Canberra to check all was in order but found it impossible to get connected. On the website was a message saying that they were experiencing problems with phones (something rare in Australia unless bills have not been paid) and an “alternative” number was given. When I checked this “alternative” was actually the same as the initial one listed. When I finally managed to get a call to them I was asked which of a list of departments they mentioned I wanted. Before I could answer the lady then said that anyway it did not matter as they all go to her anyway! When I asked about the progress with my visa application I was told it could not be processed because they needed 2 separate letters, one inviting me and a second separate one guaranteeing my financial status by the company for my time there. Then I was told that they also could not process my application because it was not a Nigerian company. It was and a copy of the company registration was included in my application. The company letter head said that they were associated with the South African pathologists at the head office in Cape Town. Also they said they could not process it because they needed 3 separate money orders for the 3 payments. I had no option but to call the lab in Nigeria and inform them I would not be able to travel on the booked flight unless they could do something to sort it out. The Ghana Company, after saying they would send an air ticket as soon as I had a visa and health certificate failed to do so

Meanwhile I had been planning to break my trip in Dubai to visit the kennel with a view to adopting one of their Canaan like dogs and they had invited me to give a talk on Canaan, which I had agreed to do. With my determination to get another of these dogs coupled with the thought of having to cancel an already advertised talk I decided a break in Dubai was something I could handle so made my own arrangements to go ahead with that.  The talk went well and helped raise funds for the shelter. My intention then was to adopt Prince, a dog that had been used to publicise my talk or failing that Tiger who had been brought in to the auditorium at the end of my talk to show the type of dog. Yet again difficulties in getting things done by remote control while back in Australia resulted in someone else wanting both dogs as individuals wanting dogs had developed attachments to them.

Work in Australia continued in a position that took me to a number of outback towns in the Northern territory but the need I felt to have another desert dog in my life remained and I was determined to get one. People still working in Saudi were still unable to spot my dogs although of course even if they had found their way back they would certainly not have approached anyone.
Prince in the flyer
Prince in the flyer

A section of the auditorium at K9 friends


Jesse one of the many K9 friends dogs


Some of the other dogs at K9 friends