November 26, 2018

Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog

This study, published in May, 2004, analyzed the genes of 85 different dog breeds to determine whether individual dogs could be catagorized into the correct breed using only genetic markers. First, 96 microsatellite loci which are certain repetitive pieces of DNA, from 414 dogs were clustered together and it was found that 99% of the dogs were correctly grouped into their breed. Because Bullmastiffs are known historical relatives to Mastiffs, it was not suprising that the two dog breeds clustered together when the microsatellite loci were grouped. To test whether or not there were significant enough differences to classify the two breeds as genetically distinct, the authors applied further structure to the group and as a result, it was found that the two breeds seperated into two populations meaning that bullmastiffs are in fact their own breed. 

Next, the researchers used an algorythm to create an evolutionary analysis of the different breeds and were able to classify most of the 85 breeds into four distinct groups of genetically similar dogs. The group contining Bullmastiff also contained: Boxer, Mastiff, Bulldog, French Bulldog, Miniature Bull Terrier, Perro de Presa Cannario, Rotweiller, Bernese Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, and German Shepard.

The paper concluded that dogs can accurately be grouped into breed by genetic variation and that many of the assumed traditional breed grouping were correct and some other unexpected similarities between certain breeds were uncovered as well.


Heidi G. Parker, Lisa V. Kim, Nathan B. Sutter, Scott Carlson, Travis D. Lorentzen, Tiffany B. Malek, Gary S. Johnson, Hawkins B. DeFrance, Elaine A. Ostrander, Leonid Kruglyak. “Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog” Science. 21 May, 2004 : 1160 – 1664.


Reviewed by: Ethan Ariowitsch, 11-26-18