Before dogs came in a variety of shapes, sizes, and fluffiness levels, ancient human domesticated Eurasian gray wolves. Scientists agree that the first dogs appeared at least 15,000 years ago, but where in the world they originated has proven trickier to pin down. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science indicates that dogs were first domesticated in Central Asia, near what today would be considered Mongolia and Nepal.
Previous genetic analyses of canine species has variously placed the origin of dogs in southern China, the Middle East, or Europe, while the earliest archaeological evidence is found in Europe and Siberia. This latest genomic study, conducted by Adam Boyko and his team at Cornell University, looked at the genetic markers of 5225 dogs—4676 purebreds from 161 breeds and 549 "village dogs" that roam freely around human settlements in 38 countries. The highest concentration of genetic diversity was found in Central Asia, which suggests that Canis familiaris was first domesticated in the region.
Genetic diversity in dogs gradually narrows as you move further from Mongolia and Nepal, with Vietnam, India, Egypt, and Afghanistan being part of the next highest “ring” and diversity decreasing from there. This same genetic ripple pool can be observed in humans, with our epicenter of genetic diversity beginning in East Africa.
What set the results of Boyko’s study apart from similar analyses that had been done in the past was the type of dogs that were sampled. Village dogs are the least studied group of domestic canines, but they’re also the most numerous and genetically diverse, which indicates they've been around a long time. Compare that to the genetic thumbprint of a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, which while adorable is only about 900 years old.
[h/t Popular Science]