|Chinese Shar Pei - Most Ancient Breed of Dog?|
I was recently reading the article "Genetic Structure of Purebred Domestic Dog" from a 2004 edition of the journal Science (I have never disputed my interests have a geek bent.) As a former Chinese Shar Pei owner and breeder I was, I admit, a little delighted to see that genetic studies have established that the Shar Pei is in fact the oldest breed currently known (or to be precise -- of all known breeds tested has shown to be the earliest split off from the Wolf...but let's not pick nits.)
For those of you who aren't as geeky or as into breed history the obvious response is, so what...? For those of us who amongst other things admire the ancient roots of some breeds, there has been some controversy over the years -- bear with me here I've already admitted we're dog geeks! -- about which breed is really really old, and which is oldest. Now it hasn't been disputed that the Chinese Shar Pei is really really old, but a lot of the hound people were claiming that it was in fact hounds like the Ibizan and Afghan that were oldest. To which scientific studies currently allow me to politely respond - in your face!
Yes, alright, the Afghan is an ancient breed...even if not the most ancient...but it turns out that some breeds who thought they were ancient are actually - uhoh - slightly more modern recreations of ancient breeds. In other words, yes, there are Ibizan like hounds in ancient art but the Ibizan in your living room isn't related to them. The breed was recreated based in part on fanciers who were inspired by that ancient art.
Interestingly, and perhaps not too surprising if you think about it, the most ancient breeds are from China followed by Africa - the Basenji is the most ancient non-Chinese dog. There are other very old breeds. From China the Chow Chow, from Japan the Shiba Inu and Akita, from Arctic north the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute, and from the Middle East, the Afghan and the Saluki.
|West Highland White Terrier|
|Afghan Hound pup|
|Chinese Shar Pei|
In the meantime, Shar Pei lovers get to take a little pride in co-habituating with possibly the earliest breed developed specifically to live with people. Just in case that means anything to you :-)