For thousands of years, sled dogs have been used to roam the Arctic under complex weather conditions that other breeds would not endure. A study has revealed that their cold resistance and ability to run is due to a gene inherited from wolves.
Sled dogs represent an ancient lineage that dates back to at least 9,500 years ago. Back then, their ancestors were raised with wolves.
The study published in Science included applying a genomic approach to research the genes of 10 Greenland sled dogs, the archaeological remains of a 9,500-year-old Siberian dog, and those of a 33,000-year-old Siberian wolf. The genomes were sequenced and compared to 114 ancient and current dog and wolf genomes from all continents.
As a result, a remarkable genetic similarity was found between the genes of ancient and current sled dogs. Scientists detected the gene flow of Pleistocene Siberian wolves in today’s sled dogs. This means that sled dogs’ greatest ancestry comes from Siberia, where specific gene haplotypes were established that potentially relate to adaptation to the Arctic 9,500 years ago.
Laikas, malamutes, Huskys, and a few other Arctic dog breeds have changed little genetically over the years. It is now scientifically proven that these dogs are naturally adapted to live in the cold.