Dr Greger Larson, Durham University.
Dr Greger Larson, Durham University.
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EXPERTS at Durham University have discovered it is almost impossible to sniff out a lead about the ancestors of today’s dogs.

A team of international scientists has looked at the genetic make-up of modern- day canines and compared it to archaeological dog remains.

And they found that the pooches of today have little in common with their four-legged ancestors.

The study found that although many modern breeds look like those depicted from the past, cross-breeding across thousands of years has meant that it is not accurate to label any modern breeds as ancient.

Dr Greger Larson, an evolutionary biologist in Durham University’s department of archaeology, said: “The study demonstrated that there is still a lot we do not know about the early history of dog domestication including where, when, and how many times it took place.

“We really love our dogs and they have accompanied us across every continent.

“Ironically, the ubiquity of dogs combined with their deep history has obscured their origins and made it difficult for us to know how dogs became man’s best friend.

“All dogs have undergone significant amounts of cross-breeding to the point that we have not yet been able to trace all the way back to their very first ancestors.”

In total, the researchers analysed genetic data from 1,375 dogs representing 35 breeds. They also looked at data showing genetic samples of wolves, with recent genetic studies suggesting that dogs are exclusively descended from the grey wolf.

The study also suggested that within the 15,000-year history of dog domestication, keeping dogs as pets only began 2,000 years ago and that until very recently, the vast majority of dogs were used to do specific jobs.