Tuesday, April 9

We have always thought that the breed predicted the character of a dog. Science already knows we were wrong

Everyone knows that when we talk about dogs, there are breeds and breeds. There are aggressive races, the kind that can sever your arm in the blink of an eye; There are also breeds that are pure love, all affection, pampering and companionship, or even breeds that are the quintessence of obedience and loyalty. That, as I say, everyone knows. What happens is that, according to a huge study of behavioral genetics that has just been published in ‘Science’, all that world is wrong.

The century when we invented dogs. The fact is not well known that, despite the fact that dogs have been accompanying us for several tens of thousands of years, almost all modern breeds were invented only about 200 years ago. For centuries, dogs were selected based on the role they were going to play: there were hunting, guarding or herding dogs. But, as can be seen from the pictorial (and fossil) records, humans didn’t begin selecting dogs for their physical and aesthetic traits until the 1800s.

Stereotypes and other fantastic animals. Realizing this, Kathleen Morrill and her colleagues wondered if selecting animals for physical appearance (as had been done for the past 200 years) had been effective in also selecting for a particular temperament and set of behaviors. . That is, are our stereotypes about race justified?

When evolution becomes

An understudied topic. What they discovered, to their surprise, was that no one had extensively studied this relationship between genetics and behavior. So they got down to it. The basic idea was to use genome-wide association studies to find common genetic variations that could predict specific behavioral traits.

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They analyzed the genome of 2,155 purebred and mixed-breed dogs (about 78 breeds) and combined all that information with surveys from 18,385 pet owners. The result was 11 genetic loci strongly associated with behavior. The surprise is that race had little to do with those genetic variations.

Your dog is genetically designed to love you: the science behind it

The races: little more than an aesthetic matter. What’s more, according to the authors, not only could no breed-exclusive behavior be found, but the breed itself only explained 9% of the behavioral variation in individual dogs. To give us an idea, the age or sex of the dogs were better predictors of the behavior of the dogs than the breed.

The key, as Elinor Karlsson pointed out, is that it appears that “these inherited traits predate our concept of modern dog breeds by thousands of years” and thus “most of the behaviors that we consider characteristic of dog breeds were probably due to thousands of years of evolution. Be that as it may, these types of studies are the clearest confirmation that what matters is the interior.

Image: Matt Nelson

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