The Middle East was a centre of dog breeding


Working dogs we now call shepherd dogs and sighthounds have existed in the Middle East for over 10,000 years. MtDNA studies show that not only the modern sighthound, the Saluki, but also the Turkish guarding breed the Akbash and the indigenous Israeli ‘pariah’ dog, the modern Canaan Dog, all share their mtDNA with a large group of dogs from China and Indonesia. By biblical times shepherd, guarding and feral dogs were sufficiently numerous throughout the region to be mentioned, often with distain, in the Old Testament.

Dogs migrated slowly throughout Africa??There is considerable evidence that dogs arrived from Asia into Africa via Egypt. The modern Basenji, although it eventually became isolated in the Congo, doubtlessly traveled to that region of Africa from Egypt. Archaeological and pictographic evidence shows that dogs similar to these have been resident in Egypt for almost 7,000 years. During the dynasties of the pharoahs, dogs were selectively bred for speed. These have the form of the modern Pharoah hound. Through trade, migration and conquest these sleek hounds were taken throughout the regions north of the Sahara Desert. While the sighthound of northwest Africa, the present day Moroccan Sloughi, is genetically partly related to the Saluki, it curiously shares more of its mtDNA with the Basenji. The Moroccan livestock guarding breed the Aidi, shares little mtDNA with Spanish or Portuguese breeds, suggesting that it evolved long ago in the Atlas Mountains from Asian and African dogs rather than being the descendant, as has been suggested, of a more recent import of guarding breeds from Europe.?Archaeological records show that dogs spread rapidly along the Nile into the Sudan and eventually beyond into ‘black Africa’. The Sahara however was an overwhelming obstacle for them. Not until 3,000 years after they arrived in Egypt did they make their way across it.?Dogs arrived in Southern Africa with the migration there of the Early Iron Age Bantu speaking people. Dogs of Egyptian origin joined human migrations, traveling along Africa’s Great Central Rift, following corridors through Zambia and Zimbabwe to reach Botswana and finally South Africa. The earliest evidence for the presence of a domestic dog in South Africa is relatively recent and comes from remains dated 570 CE found near the Botswana border. By 650 CE the house dog was established in the Lower Thukela valley and by 800 CE it was part of a Khoisan settlement in Cape St. Francis. Throughout South Africa, modern European dogs have now replaced indigenous African dogs, but descendants of the original dogs are still found in tribal areas where people maintain their traditional lifestyle.

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