Basal Dog Breeds – Definition, Studies & List

basal dog breeds

Basal dog breeds are the sixteen base dog breeds that existed to create all our other dog breeds known today. The breeds that we know today were created through generations of crossbreeding, outbreeding and inbreeding. Every dog breed we know originated from at least one of these 16 dog breeds.

Dogs have existed for many years, and the breeds today like the breeds back then have human influence in their creation. However, the records of our basal breeds are not as in-depth as today’s literature, so let us explain. Confusion still exists between knowing what a basal dog breed is, an ancient dog breed and how these two differ. Let us help to explain each term, the differences and why this information is so useful to us as owners and breeders.

How would we define a basal dog breed?

A basal dog breed is a breed which gave major influence over the development of modern-day breeds. The word basal is defined as the root or base of something. In this case, this means the breeds which were at the base creation of all others. Every breed that exists today had a few of the sixteen basal dog breeds to thank for their creation. Humans would choose two breeds or more that were well adapted in some manner for their chosen task. For example, a breed with natural animal aggression, a smaller build and faster running speed like the Jack Russell would be ideal for ratting. Therefore, combining basal breeds with these traits would allow for this breed to be created.

Scientific research

Larson et al. (2012) researched why these particular sixteen breeds kept their characteristics, both physical and behavioral, to this day. It is important to understand that some of the basal breeds are crossbred, so how does this make them a basal breed? Well, ancient breeds, the oldest breeds known, have not necessarily aided in the creation of other breeds. A breed may be both ancient and basal, but just because they are one of these traits does not mean they are also the other. Originally it was believed that there were only nine ancient breeds and also that basal breeds and ancient breeds were the same. It is only in the past few years that genetics have been able to be researched more in-depth and these terms have been able to be defined and differentiated.

Basal dog breeds have been defined by Larson et al. (2012) as those who retain a ‘genetic legacy‘ in influencing modern dog breeds. The breeds were discovered through three studies of genetic research and morphology in dogs. These were explored and compared to one another to find the sixteen basal dog breeds which combined, created all of today’s modern dog breeds. All these breeds were formed after many generations of wolves breeding to create domestic dog breeds. These breeds became identifiable when multiple individuals retained similar genetic backgrounds, morphology, and without being directly related. Each basal breed had a minimum of thirty percent influence over modern-day dog genetics.

Do basal and ancient mean the same in dogs?

Ancient dog breeds and basal dog breeds have close similarities so confusing the two is easy to do. Both types of dog breeds have helped to genetically create modern dog breeds today. The easiest way to define the differences between the two is that ancient breeds are the oldest dog breeds whereas basal breeds are the breeds who helped to create modern-day breeds.

Basal breeds can be more recently discovered or bred, hence why not all basal breeds are ancient. Some ancient breeds did not have a large influence on today’s genetic breeds and their morphology. However, every dog can trace a genetic lineage back to ancient breeds, because even though they may have not had a huge influence in creating the breed, they are still every dog’s origin. There are fourteen ancient breeds, sixteen basal breeds and all fourteen of these overlap. The ancient breeds are all of the basal breeds disregarding the Eurasier and the American Eskimo breed.

Ancient dog breeds:

  • The oldest known dog breeds
  • All have genetic influence over modern-day breeds
  • Are pure breeds

Basal dog breeds:

  • Breeds which have had the highest-percentage influence over modern-day dog breeds and genetics
  • Some are ancient breeds, some are younger breeds
  • Can be crossbreeds

List of Basal Dog Breeds

Breed
type
Average
study
number
Genetic TypeLocation
Afghan
Hound
6 (3)5th branch basal dog
breed genetically equal in
age to Saluki
South
West
Asia
Akita7 (3)3rd branch basal dog
breed genetically equal in
age to Shar-Pei
Japan
Alaskan
Malamute
8 (2)N/ANorth
America
American
Eskimo
7 (1)N/ANorth
America
(Europe)
Basenji9.3 (3)3rd branch basal dog breedAfrica
Canaan3 (1)N/AMiddle
East
Chow
Chow
8 (2)N/AEast Asia
Dingo12 (1)N/AAustralia
Eurasier49 (1)5th branch basal dog breedEurope
Finnish
Spitz
68 (1)6th branch basal dog breedEurope
New
Guinea Singing
Dog
12 (1)N/ANew
Guinea
Saluki9 (3)5th branch basal dog
breed genetically equal in
age to Afghan Hound
North and
East Africa
Samoyed8.5 (2)N/ASiberia
Shar-Pei22.33rd branch basal dog breed
genetically equal in age to
Akita
East Asia
Shiba Inu5 (1)N/AJapan
Siberian Husky8.5 (2)N/ASiberia

Refer to Figure one of Larson et al. (2012) for a neighbor-joining tree explaining this table summary. The branches refer to how closely related a breed is to grey wolves, old world and new.

Key: The average study number is written in the second column and tells us the sample size between the three studies. In brackets, the table explains how many studies used that breed for research. A higher average number increases the general validity of the results and the number of studies increases the reliability of the results and reduces possible anomalies. Their location can show us how the breed types have come from all over the world.

Afghan Hounds

This breed was studied across all three studies and was one of six basal breeds studied in Larson et al. (2012) and compared in a genetic tree. They were found to be a breed discovered in the nineteenth century in South West Asia. They went extinct during world war one and had to be reintroduced.

This breed ranges around 26 inches in height and is well known for its narrow frame and long straight coat. Their main coat colors are varying types of white and cream with an ideal of a pure black face. Behaviorally they are docile individuals with sweet tendencies.

Akita

This breed is closely related to grey wolves. They only began to thrive in Japan in the early 1900s when efforts were made to preserve the breed. This breed is known for its loyal behavior and exerted level of aggression towards strangers and dogs, hence why they make brilliant guard dogs. Their coats range from whites, oranges and blacks with fluffy hair and their signature curly tail.

Alaskan Malamute

Discovered in the 18th century, this is a North American breed studied in two of the studies, thereby having a reasonable amount of validity and reliability. Their aesthetics is very similar to a wolf in size and coloring but their tail and coat type are more like Akitas. These dogs are known for their confidence and curiosity and remain one of the strongest basal breeds. They were originally bred to be sled dogs.

inupiat people alaskan malamute
Picture of an Alaskan Malamute with an Inuit family (dated 1915).

American Eskimo

A crossbreed brought to the USA in the 19th century, this breed is a combination of Keeshonds, Volpinos, and Pomeranians. A smaller companion dog with a pure white coat. These dogs have high intelligence but therefore require a lot of stimulation.

Basenji

With their fine coat and strong build, this breed uses their adapt sense of smell to be ideal hunting dogs. Initially discovered in the late eighteen hundreds, Basenji is one of the older basal breed types (3rd branch). Bred to not have a bark, this breed is well-known. Basenjis come in colorings of tri-color, chestnut and white and black and white.

Canaan

Known as the Belgium sheepdog, this breed is one of the oldest basal breeds. With their high intelligence and affinity for learning, it’s not a surprise they are so popular and have such desirable traits. Their coat colors vary widely but their tail is always a little curled and their ears always pointed.

Chow Chow

Chow Chows are world-renowned for their fluffy coats, wrinkly faces and, chestnut colors. One of the most well-rounded breeds in temperament, the chow chow spans back to 150 BC in China. They can be a companion, guard dog and even work due to their high intelligence and calm nature.

Dingo

Argued to be the oldest breed in existence. These Australian natives are great for hunting and herding with their high energy levels. Often they have natural coat colors such as sandy brown or darker.

Eurasier

The Eurasier is one of the more modern basal breeds and has been studied in more depth in their single study. An ancient breed with Chow Chow blood, Eurasiers have similar temperaments and morphology to Alaskan Malamutes. Although their coloring is usually darker.

Finnish Spitz

Both an ancient and basal breed, the Finnish Spitz is a bark pointer and hunter. Bred for their speed, animal aggression, and narrow frames, these individuals were used especially for ratting in Europe.

New Guinea Singing Dog

As the name suggests, the New Guinea Singing Dog has a wide range of unique and recognizable vocalizations. Although found in New Guinea, these dogs are closely related to the Australian Dingo genetically and share many similar physical and behavioral traits to them.

Saluki

The Saluki is a sighthound with a natural ability for running, this is why the breed was used in Egypt in the 1800s for picking up bird corpses and bringing them back to hunters. Their speed and agility comes from their narrow frame and long legs. Furthermore, their short coat hair was ideal for hot temperatures.

Samoyed

Both herding and sled-pulling dogs, the Samoyed originated from (supposedly) twelve individuals. Physically, they are smaller with heavy white coats and curled tails.

Shar-Pei

With a similar genetic age to Akitas, Shar-Peis were founded in the early 1900s. They are recognizable for their black tongues, facial wrinkles, and large head. Their large jaws aid perfectly towards their role of being a guard dog.

Shiba-Inu

The modern version of the Japanese Shiba Inu breed has been combined through breeding the Mino Shiba, the Sanin Shiba, and the Shinshu Shiba. They are native to Japan and are well-known hunting dogs due to their natural speed and aggression.

Siberian Husky

Bred as a sled dog by the Chukchi tribe for hundreds of years, western cultures only started to breed Siberian Huskys in the 20th century. Known as one of the most beautiful and wanted breeds, the husky has a powerful body, a wide range of coloring, fluffy coat, and often different colored eyes.

Existing literature and studies on basal dog breeds

Many scientific journals have directed their studies at basal dog breeds to understand the genetic development in modern-day breeds. Here are just a few that have helped us understand basal dog breeds.

As previously analyzed, Larson et al. (2012) is one of three dominant studies concerning basal dog breeds along with Parker et al. 2004 and vonHoldt et al. 2010. These three studies have looked at different areas of dog breed genetics such as basal dog breeds, ancient dog breeds, and modern-day breeds.

Dog Breeds - Evolution From The Grey Wolf
There are over 400 dog breeds; only add one to the list if there is a void to fill.

Each journal analyzed here has increased ethologists and biologists’ knowledge on what a basal dog breed is, how it comes to be and their (almost) complete genetic heritage. As scientists, behaviorists, breeders, owners, and dog lovers, we must continue to expand our knowledge to understand our fluffy companions. Each individual has their own family tree and genetics comprised of thousands of years of influence from location to human selection. To understand the physical and behavioral traits of our dogs now, we have to understand their past. By knowing how basal dogs have helped to create each breed, we can note their desirable traits and undesirable ones. Furthermore, we can track where in their genetic past these came from and work towards breeding these out of the line. Thereby creating healthier, happier and a more beneficial dog and breed overall.

Parker et al. 2004

The oldest study was conducted in 2004 by Parker et al., this demonstrates how recent basal dog breeds have been researched in the past fifteen years and evidence has been discovered in the past ten more so. Validity is defined as how accurate research, whether this is from recent data (from the past few years), a large sample size to eliminate anomalies or multiple ethologists to minimize bias. This study is recent, but not enough to be considered to have high validity in age.

Testing method and results

Molecular markers were used to identify different genetic types, this means their testing methods were biological and therefore quantitative. Quantitative testing are defined as research that leads to numerical data or results without opinions and therefore minimal bias. The good points about using quantitative testing is that because the molecular markers were definite results, so not applicable for opinion influence, this means the results are accurate and are not open to bias. The results presented in Parker et al. (2004) were numerically compared to track modern-day breeds’ genetics and ancient breeds genetics, thereby discovering and confirming basal dog breeds.

85 domestic dog breeds were compared in this study, this brings a benefit of both a large sample size to compare and therefore identifying basal breed types would have been easier as more modern-day genetics can be compared. The downside to their sample is that without using all breed types that exist, there is a possibility that there may be both a location origin bias or a basal breed type that may be missed due to genetic types being missed or statistically misrepresented.

Results

The results identified four genetic clusters within the breed types researched which affects their phenotypic breed differences, also known as the physical characteristics in dogs. These results help us to identify what modern breeds originate back to which basal breeds. This allows us to track their geological origins and ancestral breed types. Furthermore, the four genetic clusters identified showed four summarised breed types based on location, physical traits, behavioral traits and bred ‘job roles’ such as herding. This enables us to classify current breed types, basal breed types and leaves room for further research.

vonHoldt et al. 2010

VonHoldt et al. (2010) expanded the original research on phenotype evolution by Parker et al. (2004) and how basal dog types built all our well-loved breeds today. They based their research around ancient breed types and grey wolves, this enables us to understand the differing genetics of older breed types and how they relate to dog ancestors. They mention that the advances in genome technology have allowed the researchers to find more detailed genetic categories for dog breed development.

Over 48,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms from dogs and grey wolves were tested in this study. A simplified manner of explaining this is 48,000 pieces of DNA were analyzed and compared from 912 dogs, 85 breeds and 225 Grey wolves.

With a sample of nearly 1000 dogs, the validity of the study is high but on average each breed was represented by only six individuals. This is such a small proportion of a whole breed, bearing in mind for a fair sample you would need individuals from different areas, ages, gender and color types. But the difficulty in recruiting this sample and the time management would be very difficult. Similarly, the number of wolves in the sample did not have their individual details disclosed such as coloring, age, and location. This means the sample may be biased towards a breed or characteristic.

Findings

This study focuses on wolf genetics and their influence on creating modern-day breeds. With the SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) depicted, vonHoldt et al. (2010) managed to not only find a physical lineage between wolves and domestic dogs but also how different geological packs had an influence on different breed types. But how does this relate to basal dog breeds? Those breeds that are most closely related to wolves are usually those that have also had a larger influence on current dog breed genetics. The older the breed, the higher the probability that they have had a strong influence on modern-day genetics, hence why fourteen of the sixteen basal dog breeds are ancient.

Furthermore, their study found breeds have evolved to have three structured genetic levels: origin breed, breed groupings, and divergent lineages. Origin breed depicts where the breed initially was produced and what groupings played into their development. We can also tell from genetics the level of inbreeding and the rough number of groups and generations that it took to create the breed. Breed groupings have been found that physical presentation (coloring, size, ear shape e.t.c.) and behavior (aggression, nervousness, docile e.t.c.). Therefore, we can conclude that genetics can influence dogs’ choices in groupings and relationships. Finally, divergent lineages explain that some genetic lines and breeds are both more closely related and retain more physical and behavioral traits to that of wolves.

Larson et al. (2012)

The most recent and well-known study of basal dog breeds is that of Larson et al. (2012) with their research on dog domestication in links to genetics. The study was published only six years ago and currently gives us the most recent insight into basal dog breeds and their links to modern-dog breeds that we have to date. They studied 1375 dogs concerning 35 breeds and 19 wolves. Larson concludes that ancient dog breeds are defined by their ‘stand-alone’ genetics, meaning for hundreds if not thousands of years they have not mixed with other breeds.

Conclusions

Both basal and ancient dog breeds are minimally affected genetically by outer breeds, this means their genetic line is relatively purebred in the last few hundreds to thousands of years. The study deems that a lack of introgression between basal and non-basal breeds was discovered. However, this study labels ancient dog breeds and basal dog breeds as the same, this shows either a weakened understanding of the terminology or does not reflect the development in terms of the recent years, either of which weaken the results and conclusions presented.

A further fact that has weakened the validity of the study is regular contradictions in the discussion. Their explanations of the ancient dog breeds alternate between them being the same as basal dog breeds or isolated from the term, whether this is poor summaries in writing or confusion on the terms as previously mentioned is unknown. However, it is important to recognize how this study not only did their own research but compared the data and findings of the two most praised journals on the topic to present well-rounded results. This explains why this journal is the current recognized summary of basal dog breeds, but like any data, we must continue to expand our knowledge on it and compare the results to other scientific journals.

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