Four dogs of various breedsFrom short to tall, furry to bald, wrinkled to smooth, and everything in between, there are a lot of dog breeds out there. Are they from the same line, or multiple species? And how did all of these adorable pups come into being?

Just walking to the park these days, you are likely to encounter a number of unique breeds, and it would seem there are new kinds of dogs every few years. If you have ever wondered why there are so many dog breeds, the team at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services is here to explain the nature of our wide world of unique dogs.

The Evolution of Breeds

With the over 400 recognized dogs breeds, it’s amazing that each of these varied breeds came from a single ancestor, the grey wolf. Hard to imagine that little Chewy the Chihuahua shares DNA with one of the most formidable mega-species, but it is true indeed. Your modern day Fido is thought to have originated in East Asia, and what we consider the common domesticated doggo occurred through the process of selective breeding and natural evolution over the course of 14,000-17,000 years (or more).

Dogs and humans seem to be simpatico since the time when humans started to form settlements. Dogs quickly realized that we were a source of food, while we realized, in turn, that they offered protection, aids in hunting, and companionship.

Why Breeds Are So Different?

While selective breeding is something that most suspect is the reason why we have so many breeds (and that’s right), there is more to the story. Factors such as terrain, climate, and food availability also have impacts on the types of breeds that we see today.

So, while Canis lupus familiaris can be a Great Dane or a Dachshund, their differences are substantial. In fact, most of the breeds we see today are a result of selective breeding over the past few centuries.

Selective Breeding

Dogs that don’t bark, dogs that hunt burrowing animals, dogs that are furless, dogs with smooshed faces, dogs that are a mix of two purebred breeds to create a “designer dog”… Why all of the meddling in what nature should do on our behalf? Well, for a number of reasons, but it mostly boils down to what humans want in a dog.

From aesthetics to trends, behavior to function, there seems to be a breed for everyone. As we continue our quest for the next best breed, are these breeds giving us better dogs? The noted author and animal behaviorist Stanley Cohen answered, “The nature of humans is to want unique things, but a unique thing is not necessarily a better thing.”

By this, Cohen likely means to suggest that purebred dogs, while unique, often suffer from behaviors and illnesses specific to their breed. We agree that some breeds are at greater risk of certain diseases, and oftentimes the price of finding a purebred breed can come with more issues. This is why loveable mutts are sometimes your best bet in finding fewer health issues (and cost) in a four-legged friend.

Nonetheless, as the demand for new breeds increases, we will see more and more wonderfully eclectic doggos out there. And, we always love to see all of our diverse canine companions! If you would like more information on dog breeds, or would like to schedule an appointment, please don’t hesitate to contact us.