New DNA testing has proven definitively that several Native American dog breeds, including the Chihuahua and Carolina Dog, have been in North America for thousands of years and can trace their genetic heritage back to Asia not Europe as was previously conjectured.
A year ago local researcher and Georgia State University graduate Gary C. Daniels wrote a research report entitled “Ancient Chihuahuas in Southeastern U.S.?” that produced a firestorm of criticism from the academic community when it argued that artifacts found in Mexico as well as the southeastern United States represented the Chihuahua breed. (One such pot is on display at the Columbus Museum of Arts & Sciences in Columbus, Georgia.) These academics argued here and here that DNA analysis showed that Chihuahuas had no “native American” dog genes and that their closest genetic kin were from Europe thus the earliest possible presence of Chihuahuas in the Americas could have dated no earlier than 1492. Yet these same academics were at a loss when asked to show any evidence of native populations of Chihuahuas in Europe. They were also at a loss to explain artifacts found at several archaeological sites in Mexico and America which dated back 2,000 years and depicted Chihuahuas.
For instance, dog-shaped pots unearthed at the Bull Creek site in Georgia dating back to 1325 AD were shown to match the American Kennel Club’s breed description for only one dog: the ‘applehead’ variety of Chihuahua. Other dog pottery dating back to 1250 AD unearthed at the site of Casas Grandes/Paquime in Chihuahua, Mexico were shown to match the ‘deerhead’ variety of Chihuahua. Additionally, modern folklore maintained that the first Chihuahuas were discovered running around these very same ruins of Casas Grandes in Chihuahua, Mexico which is the origins of the dog’s name: Chihuahua.
Finally, a depiction of a Chihuahua at the Tres Zapotes site in Mexico dating back to 100 AD showed that the dog breed was present in Mexico for at least two thousand years, long before the arrival of Europeans. Yet none of this physical evidence convinced the skeptics. They attacked the American Kennel Club breed descriptions as faulty and irrelevant. They attacked the comparison of physical traits between the artifacts and living Chihuahuas as fanciful.
Yet the latest genetic analysis has proven definitively that the skeptics were wrong. As noted in the research article “MtDNA analysis confirms early Pre‐Colombian origins of Native American dogs”:
“Dogs were present in Pre‐Columbian America, presumably brought to the New World by early human migrants of Asian origin. However, the extent to which historical Arctic, North and South American breeds, e.g. the Alaskan Malamute, Inuit, Eskimo and Greenland dogs, Xoloitzcuintli, Chihuahua and Perro Sín Pelo del Peru, are descendants of these original dogs or were replaced by European dogs remains to be assessed.”
The researcher, Mattias Oskarsson of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, analyzed the mtDNA of these native American breeds looking for markers indicative of either an East Asian or European origin. Oskarsson’s research revealed, “Evidence for a Pre‐Columbian origin was found for all… American breeds….” His research found genetic markers “distinct from European [markers], exclusive to America, shared only with East Asia, or identical to ancient American sequences.” Furthermore his research showed that identical markers between “ancient and modern samples showed geographic continuity over time in Mexico (Chihuahua)….” Thus the Chihuahua was a purely indigenous dog of the Americas whose presence could be traced back for thousands of years and whose only genetic cousins were in East Asia not Europe.
Additionally, Oskarsson found that the Carolina Dog, a native dog of the Southeastern United States long believed to be indigenous was, in fact, an indigenous dog whose closest genetic relatives were also in East Asia. Oskarsson noted that his research “provide the first DNA‐based evidence for an ancient Asian origin of the Carolina Dog, a dingo‐like free‐ranging population in the USA. Numerous dogs were probably brought from Asia, since totally 13 mtDNA haplotypes among extant and ancient American dogs were distinct from haploypes found in Europe.”
This should put to rest once and for all the origins of both the Carolina Dog and Chihuahua. Both artifactual evidence and DNA prove that the Chihuahua is a native dog of the Americas with a deep ancestry on the North American continent and traces of an East Asian origin suggesting this breed came with Native Americans over 10,000 years ago when they first migrated to North America.
If you would like to see the pottery in question just visit the Columbus Museum in Columbus, Georgia. It’s a six hour drive south of Atlanta and makes for the perfect road trip to learn more about the ancient history of Georgia.