Dog Breeding and Genetic Variability


Catalburun, one of the rarest dog species. Only breed to have a split nose and hanging ears. 

I had no idea the extent of dog breeding and the human interference in genetic manipulation. It’s almost as if we’ve played god, and created combinations of species that never really would have actually existed. I found it particularly interesting how we’ve bred the trait of love, compassion, or “docileness” in dogs. How is that possible? There has to be some genetic explanation, maybe within the chemistry of the brain that has, over generations, increased the ability of dogs to follow. What wolf genes were we extracting from the dogs? Were we breeding the followers instead of the leaders? What’s the difference psychologically between dogs that lead verses dogs that follow? I imagine there must be some hormone or serotonin differences in the brain. Could we isolate these cause and effect relationships to inspire compassion in humans?

The other question I had after watching the film was, what does the future of dog breeding look like? What are the limits of genetic manipulation? What type of framework can we work within? Could we keep breeding larger and larger dogs over generations? As for the limitations, I can see of course why it takes hundreds of years for the manipulation, we’re chained by how quickly dogs can reproduce, when they can start reproducing, and the limits of generational mutations, and for every attempt at creating a “new” breed of dog, you’re working within a very low population subset.

Some pretty interesting new studies have been made within the genetics field. Genetic scientists have been able to extract specific aging genes within worms to double and in some cases, triple the prime youth of their life span. Hopefully one day we can prolong the lives of dogs!


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