DNA Reveals Chihuahua and Carolina Dog originated in America and Asia

New DNA testing has proven definitively that several Native American dog breeds, including the Chihuahua and Carolina Dog, have been in North America for thousands of years and can trace their genetic heritage back to Asia not Europe as was previously conjectured.

A year ago my research report entitled “Ancient Chihuahuas in Southeastern U.S.?” produced significant criticism when I argued that artifacts found in Mexico as well as the southeastern United States represented the Chihuahua breed. Academics argued here and here that DNA analysis showed that Chihuahuas had no “native American” dog genes and that their closest genetic kin were from Europe. Thus the artifacts that I suggested depicted Chihuahuas were dismissed.

Side-by-side comparison of a dog effigy pot unearthed in Georgia dating to 1325 AD and a modern Chihuahua
Side-by-side comparison of a dog effigy pot unearthed in Georgia dating to 1325 AD and a modern Chihuahua

For instance, I had argued that dog-shaped pots unearthed at the Bull Creek site in Georgia dating back to 1325 AD matched the American Kennel Club’s breed description for only one dog: the ‘applehead’ variety of Chihuahua. Other dog pottery dating back to 1250 AD unearthed at the site of Casas Grandes (aka Paquime) in Chihuahua, Mexico were shown to match the ‘deerhead’ variety of Chihuahua. Coincidentally, modern folklore maintained that the first modern Chihuahuas were discovered running around these very same ruins of Casas Grandes in Chihuahua, Mexico which is the origins of the dog’s name: Chihuahua.

Wheeled toy representing “apple head” Chihuahua  from Tres Zapotes, Veracruz dated ca. 100-200 AD.
Wheeled toy representing “apple head” Chihuahua from Tres Zapotes, Veracruz dated ca. 100-200 AD.

Another depiction of a Chihuahua at the Tres Zapotes site in Mexico dating back to 100 AD showed that the dog breed was present in Mexico for at least two thousand years, long before the arrival of Europeans. As I concluded in my research paper:

“Many theories argue that the Chihuahua is a modern breed created after the arrival of Europeans which resulted from a cross between a Techichi with dogs from China or Europe to achieve the modern toy-size Chihuahua. Yet the appearance of these Chihuahua effigies in Mexico by 100 AD and the dog effigy pots in Georgia by 1325 AD seems to refute those claims and suggests the Chihuahua has purely New World origins.”

Yet none of this physical evidence convinced the skeptics. They attacked the American Kennel Club breed descriptions as faulty and irrelevant. They attacked the comparison of physical traits between the artifacts and living Chihuahuas as fanciful.

Yet the latest genetic analysis has proven definitively that the skeptics were wrong. As noted in the research article “MtDNA analysis confirms early Pre?Colombian origins of Native American dogs”:

“Dogs were present in Pre-Columbian America, presumably brought to the New World by early human migrants of Asian origin. However, the extent to which historical Arctic, North and South American breeds, e.g. the Alaskan Malamute, Inuit, Eskimo and Greenland dogs, Xoloitzcuintli, Chihuahua and Perro Sín Pelo del Peru, are descendants of these original dogs or were replaced by European dogs remains to be assessed.”

The researcher, Mattias Oskarsson of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, analyzed the mtDNA of these native American breeds looking for markers indicative of either an East Asian or European origin. Oskarsson’s research revealed,

“Evidence for a Pre-Columbian origin was found for all… American breeds….[and their genetic markers were] distinct from European [markers], exclusive to America, shared only with East Asia, or identical to ancient American sequences.”

Furthermore, Oskarsson’s research revealed that identical markers between “ancient and modern samples showed geographic continuity over time in Mexico (Chihuahua) and Alaska (Alaskan Malamute).” In relation to the Chihuahua, Oskarsson further stated in his dissertation:

“We can also for the first time present evidence for continuity between the ancient and extant dog population with e.g. exclusive sharing of a haplotype between a modern sample of Chihuahua and an ancient Mexican sample.

Thus the Chihuahua was a purely indigenous dog of the Americas whose presence could be traced back for thousands of years and whose only genetic cousins were in East Asia not Europe.

The Carolina Dog indigenous to the Southeastern U.S.

Additionally, Oskarsson found that the Carolina Dog, a native dog of the Southeastern United States long believed to be indigenous was, in fact, an indigenous dog whose closest genetic relatives were also in East Asia. Oskarsson noted that his research “provide the first DNA-based evidence for an ancient Asian origin of the Carolina Dog, a dingo-like free-ranging population in the USA. Numerous dogs were probably brought from Asia, since totally 13 mtDNA haplotypes among extant and ancient American dogs were distinct from haploypes found in Europe.”

This should put to rest once and for all the origins of both the Carolina Dog and Chihuahua. Both artifactual evidence and DNA prove that the Chihuahua is a native dog of the Americas with a deep ancestry on the North American continent and traces of an East Asian origin suggesting this breed’s ancestors came with Native Americans over 10,000 years ago when they first migrated to North America from Asia.

Gary C. Daniels

Gary C. Daniels is an award-winning, Emmy-nominated television, video and multimedia writer and producer. He has a M.A. degree in Communications from Georgia State University in Atlanta, a B.F.A. degree in TV Production from the Savannah College of Art and Design and an A.A. degree in Art from the College of Coastal Georgia. He has appeared on the Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, Science Channel and History Channel. His History Channel appearance became the highest-rated episode in the network's history. He has a passion for Native American history and art. He is the founder and publisher of LostWorlds.org.