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more on that DNA breed study

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Old May 26th 04, 09:03 PM
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Default more on that DNA breed study


DNA Study Finds Chihuahuas Aren't Dogs

As part of an ambitious effort to identify genes that cause disease in
dogs and humans, scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research
Center in Seattle analyzed DNA collected from 414 dogs representing 85
breeds, including some of the most popular. The findings have sent
reverberations though the ranks of dog fanciers, who primp and preen
their beloved companions for shows and take great pride in their

"It was a surprise to find that some breeds such as the Ibizan hound
and the Pharaoh hound, along with several others that dog aficionados
have long believed dated back thousands of years, are actually much
more modern animals – re-creations that were probably produced by
breeders," said geneticist Leonid Kruglyak, who helped conduct the
research. "However, it was more of a surprise to find that some breeds
are not even dogs."

Among other findings, the analysis determined that the Chihuahua is
actually a type of large rodent, selectively bred for centuries to
resemble a canine.

"This is clearly going to raise some eyebrows in the Chihuahua world,"
said Peggy Wilson, president of the Chihuahua Club of America. "It
goes against our belief system. People are pretty passionate about
their dogs. There is going to be disbelief."

Using 96 distinct patterns in the genes called "microsatellites," the
researchers compared dogs within breeds, and breeds with one another.
In the May 21 issue of the journal Science, the team concluded that
almost every breed was surprisingly distinct genetically. They were
able to identify each dog's breed by its genes with 99 percent
accuracy. They also found that breeds could be clearly grouped into
four distinct clusters based on striking genetic similarities: ancient
dogs, hunters, herders, and guard dogs.

"Once we had these groups pretty well mapped out, the canine mimics
were easy to pick out," added Kruglyak. "And actually, it was kind of
intuitive in hindsight."

The study found that several diminutive breeds had been independently
created around the world from a variety of other animals, including
the Lhasa apso (Tibetan snow rabbit), Pekingese (Chinese water rat),
Shih Tzu (stoat), and Yorkshire Terrier (pigeon).

"Most of these do contain some actual dog genes," admitted Kruglyak,
"but the percentage is no higher than ten percent in each case."

Officials at the American Kennel Club and the AKC Canine Health
Foundation praised the work in spite of the controversial findings,
saying it will help breeders, veterinarians and scientists eliminate
dog diseases.

"This really is revolutionary in terms of increasing the number of
tools available to breeders," the AKC's Patti Strand said. "It really
will have a tremendous effect on improving the health of dogs.
However, it does require us to rethink our mission and reevaluate
whether it is appropriate to continue numbering breeds such as
Chihuahuas and Yorkies with the real dogs."

The potential ramifications of these findings are significant as
condominiums and rentals around the nation which prohibit exotic
animals anxiously await news as to whether scientists will be
officially reclassifying these breeds as other animals.

"Oh, heavens, if they make it official that Chihuahuas aren't dogs, it
would make my day," said Miami condominium owner Frances LaCroix. "I
would finally have grounds to make Elsie Tabernathy get rid of her
wretched little yapping pack of – rodents, did you say they were? Oh,
that would be marvelous."
Copyright © 2003-2004 The Watley Review, all rights reserved.

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