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Mumbai, India
I am an animal person. I own two lovely dogs and two gorgeous cats. I work with the wildlife conservation NGO Satpuda Foundation in the tiger reserves of central India. Before that I worked for 14 years with the street dogs of Mumbai. I created and manage the INDog Project www.indog.co.in and the INDog Club.

This blog is for aboriginal breed enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah) and INDog-mix mongrels are featured here. The two are NOT the same, do please read the text on the right to understand the difference. Our aim: to create awareness about the primitive natural breed called the Indian Pariah Dog/INDog.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Genetic study of Indian dogs

In 2009, blood samples were collected from dogs all around India, for a large-scale study called the "Village Dog Genetic Diversity Project." The study is being carried out by Cornell University's Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology, and aims at using modern genetic tools to understand the origin and history of domestic dogs. There's a description of the study in the project website.

A number of indigenous dog enthusiasts (me included) assisted the research team. I accompanied them to Orissa, where we collected samples from dogs in tribal villages around Satkosia Tiger Reserve. They also collected samples in the shelter of In Defence of Animals, Mumbai. Among numerous other sites they visited were Katwa (in West Bengal), Hazaribagh in Jharkhand, Chennai and Delhi. Other than India, the team collected samples from six other Asian countries, some African countries including Namibia, and North, Central and South America. Take a look at their sample map for details.


Above, below: One of the dogs sampled in Orissa, belonging to villagers living on the periphery of Satkosia Tiger Reserve.



The analysis is still ongoing, but we just got some of the results from Dr Adam Boyko, the geneticist heading the project. This is via email (March 3, 2011):
"We've looked at over 30 dogs from India, including street dogs, Indian Native dogs (INDogs), and breeds such as Caravan hounds, Santhal dogs, Kanni and Chippiparai. In terms of genetic structure, all of these dogs group together into a population that is highly differentiated from dogs from the other countries we sampled. In general, Indian dogs are more closely aligned with dogs from the Middle East than they are with dogs from East Asia, although dogs from Eastern India (Central Orissa and West Bengal) do have some affinity with East Asian dogs. Caravan hounds from India seem to be more similar genetically to other Indian dogs, including Indian street dogs, than they are to Middle Eastern sighthounds such as the Afghan hound and saluki.

After excluding a very small number of recently breed-admixed dogs, we did not find significant genetic differences between INDogs and street dogs from India, although we could detect a small amount of genetic differentiation among street dogs in different Indian cities (e.g. Mumbai, Chennai, West Bengal and Central Orissa)."


The team anticipates being able to generate genome sequences for these dogs soon, and once the sequencing is completed and analyzed, they hope to be able to estimate how ancient the Indian dog population is.
Meanwhile, we do know that Indian dogs of the types mentioned are genetically highly distinct from dog populations of other countries studied by the team.

A note on the types and breeds sampled:

INDog
- Indian Native Dog or Indian Pariah Dog, the primitive dog type still found in many parts of India, mostly rural or remote. Indian street dogs are descended from this race. Read about INDogs in this site.

Caravan hound
- the local name is Karwani and it is also known as the Mudhol Hound. Major W V Soman called this breed "the greyhound of Maharashtra" in his book "The Indian Dog" (1963). A sighthound bred in the Western Deccan to hunt gazelle and hare.

Santhal Dog - aboriginal dog traditionally used by the Santhal tribe for hunting. Read an earlier post in this blog about them. Santhal Hounds are similar to the INDog. Cultural conservationist Bulu Imam has done an enormous amount of research on these dogs and the role they play in Santhal society. He gave them the name "Santhal Hound." Read Mr Imam's article on them in the INDog site (Articles section).

Kanni and Chippiparai - rare sighthound breeds from South India.

7 comments:

Sarah said...

So interesting! Could the Canaan than be even more closely linked to the InDog than I thought? So great that you were a part of this study!

duncanerd said...

Interesting indeed. Did they include Canaans? While this mentions middle east dogs only sighthounds seem to be specifically mentioned and not Canaans. We are gaining more genetic info all the time and have a long long road to travel still.

Rajashree Khalap said...

They've been sampling "non-breed affiliated" village dogs in all the countries Duncan, and I remember they mentioned visiting some shelters in the Middle East, where they would have sampled free-born Canaans. I believe he means our aboriginal/pariah dogs are more similar to their counterparts in the middle east than to East Asia. In the case of the Indian sight hound mentioned (Karwani), it's commonly believed by fanciers here that they are descended from saluki type dogs brought to India by Arab caravans. He is referring to that theory I suppose. However it seems they are more similar to Indian dogs (including street dogs) than to west Asian sighthounds after all.

Yes there is still lots to find out and we're just at the beginning, but it's really great that all this is happening finally. Domestic dogs are such a neglected subject of research. There is so much ignorance in this country about our native dogs, and so much blah floating around.

Sarah, perhaps Pete and Jorja are more similar than we thought :-) There is a member of our group who is studying in Cornell right now btw, and she says there are lots of discussions and presentations on this village dog project going on there. She plans to attend when she can.

Myrna Shiboleth said...

Very interesting! Will be most interested in hearing more about this research in future.

Rajashree Khalap said...

It's nice to know urban street dogs don't seem significantly different from village INDogs, barring those that are obviously mixed of course! I hope people here will stop indiscriminately calling all street dogs "mongrels" now.

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drkarna kishor said...

what type genetic parameters going to be study in this project, really happy to hear this news, if is there any update abt this project kindly in box me at drkarnakishor@gmail.com