It is truly fascinating to see a 235-pound Irish Wolfhound standing beside a 5-pound Pekingese, an Alaskan Malamute, and a Dachshund. When different breeds are standing side by side, it is sometimes hard to comprehend that they all belong to one single species of animal. There are over 250 different breeds within that one single species called canine. Each breed is unique; each differs in its appearance, its temperament, and its nutritional needs. How did these many breeds become so differentiated?
To understand the development of the variations found in modern day dogs, we must go back before the time man first became involved with these animals, just a short 10,000 years ago. The actual evolution of modern day dogs began over 40 million years ago! It is by going back and researching dogs' evolution over these last 40 million years that we gain insight into how the modern breeds of today became so differentiated. None of us questions the difference in coats between an arctic breed and a breed from the desert. Most of us also accept the theory of how different breeds developed different coats to survive within a specific environment. In the arctic the extremely low temperatures created a requirement for a thick double coat to protect the dog in its cold climate. In the desert the hot arid temperatures created a requirement for a lighter single coat. Thus, the dog's survival in these different climates dictated the development of a suitable coat.
We also should not be surprised to find different nutritional requirements among breeds from different environments. Like the way an environment's climate effected the development of a dog's coat, that same environment effected the development of a dog's nutritional requirements. The native nutrients found in Nordic tundra and ice are different from the nutrients found in the sand of the desert. Therefore, as each type of dog developed within a specific environment, its survival also depended upon the dog's ability to process that environment's food. Thus exposure to different environments produced breeds of dogs with as many variations in nutritional requirements as they have variations in appearance.
When comparing two breeds, often the differences can be more easily identified if each breed has remained within a specific type of environment for a prolonged time. For example, comparing exterior differences
between any one of the Nordic breeds and the Pharaoh Hound is obvious. The Nordic breeds all developed in cold climates. The Pharaoh Hound developed in the arid regions south of the Mediterranean and was even isolated on a single Mediterranean island for thousands of years. Since we know of this isolation we also can identify the Pharaoh Hound's specific developmental native nutrients. Knowing both the Pharaoh Hound's present nutritional requirements and their native island's specific nutrients, we can see the association between these two known facts. We also can show how this isolation, by limiting the breed to specific nutrients, produced very pronounced breed specific nutritional requirements.
With breeds that are new genetic hybrids, it is also possible to identify the environments and the native nutrients that played a role in the creation of their nutritional requirements. However, to accomplish this we must be able to trace their family tree. An example of this would be our tracing the development of the Sealyham Terrier, which was created by Captain John Edwards in the late 1800's. Since Captain Edwards kept very accurate records of his breeding efforts in the development of the Sealyham Terrier, the process of tracing its family tree is easy. With other genetic hybrids this process can be much more difficult, and with
some breeds all that can be done is offer an educated guess.
When considering the history of nutritional development for the members of the dog family, another lesson we can learn from close inspection of each breed is; be careful not to assume that all dogs from a specific country, as we know it today, have the same nutritional heritage. A dog from China could be from the Mandarin, Hunan, or Szechuan province. A dog from a smaller country, such as Germany, could have come from a mountain environment, middle elevation plateaus, or a lowland area next to the Baltic Sea. A dog from Italy could have come from the Sicilian or the Castilian Province. Within each country there may be different environments. These in turn have their own unique foods. Thus, breeds developing in the different environments of a single country would have developed different nutritional requirements.
Also, to believe that all desert breeds or all mountain breeds have the same nutritional needs is wrong. We would have to be more specific: Are the nutrients found in a high desert or a low desert environment?
Or if you are referring to the Alps of Germany, Switzerland or France as The Mountains, consider this: The tallest mountain in the French Alps is Mont. Blanc reaching 15,771 feet above sea level. The top of this
mountain is lower than the average elevations (16,000 feet above sea level) for the Plateau Area of Tibet. The mountains of Tibet go up from this country's "lower" plateau's to an elevation of over 29,000 feet high. The nutrients found on the mountains of Tibet are very different from the nutrients found on Mont. Blanc. Therefore, when considering the environment where a specific breed of dog developed, we must look beyond the geographic label of mountain, plateau or desert to identify the nutrients from that specific breed's area of origin.
Now let us consider the length of time that it would take to make a genetic change, due to an environmental change for any of today's breeds of dog. Man has written about specific breeds of dog for the last 8000 years, but not one word can be found showing that a single breed of dog has changed its genetic make-up due to a change in its environment in all this time. On the other hand many written accounts of breeds show
they remain the same, even after prolonged exposure to a new and different environment. One example of non-change after prolonged exposure to a new environment is in the written records of the Whippet. These records indicate the Whippet, which was transported from a hot and dry homeland to England's cold and damp climate in 49 A.D., was very much the same then as today's Whippet.
This breed has retained a short sleek coat developed for a hot and dry climate, even after 2,100 years of being bred true in a cold and damp climate. Thus, the Whippet by retaining its short sleek coat, is evidence to us that the length of time it can take to make an evolutionary change due to environmental effect can be over 2,100 years.
The length of time needed to make a nutritional requirement change due to exposure to a new environment's food supply also can take thousands of years. This is why today's Alaskan Malamute (a Nordic breed) still
thrives on fish, the German Shepherd Dog (a low plains farmland breed) still thrives on beef and grain, and the Greyhound (a desert breed) still thrives on rabbit. These breeds, like all the different breeds removed from their native environment and exposed to a single food supply (i.e.. one processed dog food formula), cannot have their nutritional needs satisfactorily fulfilled. Each breed has retained the genetic differences that it developed in its distinctly different native environments and for this reason, each should be treated NUTRITIONALLY as the individual that it is.