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.