By Stephanie Little Wolf
Indeed, the Mtdna (mitochondrial) studies strongly support the hypothesis that paleoamerican and Eurasian domestic dogs share a common origin, both evolving from the Eurasian gray Wolf. No evidence of a separate domestication of dogs from North American Grey Wolves was discovered. Although the haplotypes found in paleoamerican dogs were closely related to Eurasian dogs, some of them formed a unique clad within the main genetic group, (clad 1), which is found only in paleoamerican dogs. This indicates that dogs were present and isolated in the new world for a considerable amount of time. This long period of isolation led to the appearance of a group of genetic sequences (haplotypes) that are similar but very easily distinguishable from dogs from other parts of the world, or from any modern dog population in America today. Indeed, no surveyed modern population of dogs in the United States carries these unique genetic markers in their DNA. American Indian Dogs were extinct early on by the inbreeding and replacement by European dogs. Only the Eskimo dog has survived. Dna evidence links the Eskimo Dog with the Australian Dingo, the New Guinea Singing dog, and the Shiba Inu. The Mexican Hairless or Xoloitzcuintle was present in the Americas long before Europeans arrived, but the genetic lineage shows extreme mixing with European dogs and may not genetically resemble its pre-Columbian ancestors anymore, although reduced dentition and hairlessness are extremely dominant traits, so the dogs strongly resemble their forebears in appearance.
Dogs, Wolves, and Coyotes
At the time of European contact, American Indians were groups of diverse and widely dispersed nations. It is common yet inaccurate these days for them to be discussed as one single population and their dogs do not escape this inaccuracy. In fact, there were many different types of Indian dogs and they were used for a variety of reasons that were as diverse and unique as the people they inhabited the land with. It is also common for modern researchers to site early explorers from the late 1600s to the late 1800s and their anecdotal interpretations of Indian dogs as being almost impossible to distinguish from the wolf. This is also a common mistake and misinterpretation today. Countless times I have heard children, and adults refer to my Alaskan Village dogs as wolves. In fact, Eskimo dogs, huskies and other sled dogs may have fur and vocalizations that resemble their wolf ancestors, but that is about it. Dogs have a shorter stockier build, wider chests and shorter faces and muzzles, with short steep "stops" or angle from forehead to the bridge of the nose.
In all, many dogs filled roles within Indian cultures. Some tribes had rather loose associations with their dogs, some were extremely attached and involved with dogs as pets and or using them for various tasks. Dogs probably tracked game, and packed meat after a hunt. Dogs were eaten by some groups as a food source and some were only consumed ceremonially. Dogs were the playmates of young children and companions to the elders.