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View Full Version : Genetic Origins of Terriers - Any thoughts?



JohnHowellsTyrfro
06-02-2017, 08:00 PM
I have an amateur interest in the history of terriers and am looking for some thoughts from someone who understands canine DNA better than I do please.
From my reading it appears that all true terriers (earth working, vermin control and hunting) have their early origins at least in part, in Britain and Ireland and that separate breeds emerged from a couple of types from about 1800 on-wards. The types I mentioned were long-legged and short-legged. Of course the number of breeds expanded rapidly during the 19th century and afterwards.
It also seems that terriers in Britain and Ireland go back to Roman times and possibly/probably earlier as they were supposedly used by the pre-Roman inhabitants of Britain and Ireland.
There are of course dogs in other places which may perform similar functions but they appear to be a separate group from the terrier.
Does anyone know please whether there is anything in analysis of the canine genome which might suggest how the terrier might have evolved and when and why it appears to be specific to a particular geographical area? Could this be partly down to relative geographic isolation?
I suppose at this point it would be difficult to identify what the "original" terrier DNA might look like because of cross-breeding in more recent times. My guess would be that the Irish Terrier might be relatively close to the original. The Welsh Terrier might also have qualified, but it appears to have had more recent influences than the Irish. (Old-type Welsh Terrier below).

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Any thoughts appreciated. John

rms2
06-10-2017, 02:58 PM
I am interested in this, as well. I seem to remember some canine dna papers being talked about here not too long ago. I don't think they had anything to do with terriers specifically, though.

Here's my little Yorkshire Terrier:

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can't_lurk_no_mo'
06-10-2017, 03:40 PM
This is beside the point, but if anyone wants to get his dog's haplogroups and ancestry composition, he can do so here:
https://embarkvet.com/

However, I don't think anyone's dog will get into it half as much as we do though.

can't_lurk_no_mo'
06-10-2017, 03:54 PM
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JohnHowellsTyrfro
06-10-2017, 06:55 PM
16771

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Thank you very much for that. I have seen the circle diagram before, but had difficulty interpreting it, the other chart is helpful if I'm reading it correctly.
The problem with "terriers" in a way is the major expansion in breeds during the 19th century and since, quite often with other breeds and types thrown into the mix. Apparently, there weren't any mainly white terriers much before the beginning of the 19th Century ( Fox Terrier, Jack Russell etc) and the white colour is mainly down to sight hound ( Italian Greyhound?) or bull-type influence. The West Highland supposedly came from breeding from White Cairn Pups. Black and Tan seems to have been more common amongst what I believe may be some of the earlier types, in which I include the Irish, which did have a black and tan variation but has largely been bred-out through selective breeding.
Note the similarities between the Irish and Welsh (apart from the modern colour choice options). The Welsh seems to be basically the same as the Old English black and tan, which maybe lives on in some of the modern Fell Terriers of Northern parts of Britain. I think these may be representative of at least some of the earliest types of maybe Celtic (and earlier) period terriers. Some of the Scottish types, particularly Cairn, may not be far off either. Many other Terrier breeds maybe have too much "recent" influence to draw any conclusions as to early origins.

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Irish and Welsh and Fell Terrier
The terriers seem to fit mainly into the Modern/hunting group but to different degrees, which you might expect, but interestingly the dachshund (badger dog) which is also an earth-working dog from the Continent seems to have less than some of the terrier types.
A drawing of a Romano British Carving showing a small hunting dog - is this a "terrier"? I think quite possibly it is, from the scale against the human figure, the fall of the ears etc. The carving seems reasonably accurate in terms of anatomy. Britain in Roman times was noted for the quality of it's hunting dogs I understand and many were exported. Supposedly Julius Caeser wrote of the Britons using terriers, or small dogs to hunt foxes, but I have been unable to verify that alleged quote as yet.


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I must say I'm a bit dubious about the current accuracy of dog DNA testing. :) Hopefully we will learn more though through the testing process. John

JohnHowellsTyrfro
06-10-2017, 06:58 PM
I am interested in this, as well. I seem to remember some canine dna papers being talked about here not too long ago. I don't think they had anything to do with terriers specifically, though.

Here's my little Yorkshire Terrier:

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Very nice, little rat-hunter originally. :) John

rms2
06-10-2017, 10:55 PM
Very nice, little rat-hunter originally. :) John

She loves to chase squirrels in our backyard. They are just one step up from rats, I guess.

rms2
06-10-2017, 11:41 PM
She loves to chase squirrels in our backyard. They are just one step up from rats, I guess.

BTW, the squirrels are in no danger, for two reasons: 1) we have lots of big trees in our backyard, as well as a six foot wooden fence the squirrels can climb on, and 2) our mini-dachshund usually screeches and whines with delight whenever a squirrel is spotted, which of course warns them to beat a hasty retreat. Otherwise, our little Yorkie would probably catch one now and then. She is fast as greased lightning.

JohnHowellsTyrfro
06-11-2017, 06:10 AM
She loves to chase squirrels in our backyard. They are just one step up from rats, I guess.

Supposedly they were bred to catch rats in the small gaps under the mill machines in Yorkshire , but I don't know if that is true, some of these "origin" stories are a bit dubious. :) It does seem to have evolved, at least in part, from the Scottish type of terrier. John