Advertisements
Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Tomarchus’

I love reading old breed books. Getting into German shepherds now means that I have a whole new selection of books to read, and in older German shepherd books that are written in English, there is a strong desire to distance this breed from wolves.  At one time, the breed was banned in Australia because of its supposed wolf ancestry, and Australian sheep interests were quite concerned that the breed infuse wolf phenotype and behavior into dingoes if they got loose and crossbred. So there is a tendency to downplay any relationship between this breed and wolves, and this tendency sometimes gets quite ridiculous.

In the first few pages of Jane Bennett’s book on the breed, which had its last printed in 1982, I noticed this image of a wolf.

Jane Bennet Wolf German shepherd

If you cannot read the full caption, check it out here:

Tomarctus wolf Jane Bennett

So I don’t expect to see accurate zoology or paleontology in dog books, especially from old ones. And to be honest, I am skeptical that German shepherds are especially wolf-like dogs with close wolf-like ancestry.   It is possible that some of the Thuringian sheepdogs in the breed’s ancestry had some wolf crossed in, but I don’t think they are wolfdogs in the same way that a Czechoslovakian vlcak is.

But the idea that the most recent common ancestor between a wolf and German shepherd was Tomarctus is not at all accurate. In some of the old dog books I have, Tomarctus is sometimes mentioned as an ancestor of modern dog species.

However, current paleontology places Tomarctus in the Borophagine subfamily of Canidae. Not a single living descendant of the Borophagine dogs exists. These dogs lived only in North America and all were extinct by the end of Pliocene. Tomarctus went extinct about 16 million years ago, which would be in the Miocene.

So it was not even a late surviving Borophagine dog, and it certainly was not the most recent common ancestor of wolves and German shepherds.  If it were the most recent common ancestor, then Czechoslovakian vlcaks, Saarloos wolfhonden, and Volksoby would have been impossible to create. 15-16 million years is more than enough time for two mammalian lineages to lose chemical interfertility, and dogs and wolves simply are chemical interfertile right now.

The most recent common ancestor between a German shepherd and a wolf could have been a wolf kept at the Frankfurt zoo that some think is behind the Thuringian sheepdog Hektor Linksrhein/Horand von Grafrath, which is the foundation dog for the modern German shepherd breed. Or it could have been a wild wolf that mated with a sheepdog somewhere in Germany, and that sheepdog line got mixed into the breed. Further, dogs in Eurasia, some of which may have German shepherd in them, are interbreeding with wild wolves at a much higher frequency than we might have imagined. 

I honestly don’t know, if the GSD breed has close wolf ancestry, and reasonable people can disagree on this issue.  I have not seen definitely proof either way, so I do remain agnostic on this issue. The temperament of the breed, though, is of very trainable herding dog.

But whatever the truth is, I don’t think anyone thinks the most recent common ancestor of the German shepherd and the wolf was a species that outside the lineage of both.

This claim isn’t as bad as the claim that chow chows are derived from extinct digitigrade  bears or from an extinct predatory species of red panda.

Jane Bennett’s book includes lots of good information in pedigrees and care of a German shepherd, but that page of the book indicates a strong desire to distance the dog from the wolf in a way that those of us living in the era of molecular biology and modern cladistics would find a bit bizarre.

The current thinking from full-genome comparisons is that all domestic dogs are derived from a now defunct lineage of Eurasian gray wolf. To keep Canis lupus monophyletic, we must keep the dog as part of that species.

So I have noticed a theme in many of these older books to keep German shepherds as distant from wolves as possible, even if it means making a claim that could easily disproved with a simple look at the Czechoslovakian vlcak or the Saarloos wolfhond, which both existed when this book was last printed.

Jane Bennett bool

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: