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Study Says Patagonian Sheepdog Is The Closest Living Relative To Herding Dogs’ Extinct Ancestor

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Image from Rodrigo Muñoz via Forbes

The Patagonian Sheepdog was bred for sheep-herding activity in the Magallanes Region of southern Chile in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They have a long, thick coat that provides them with protection from the harsh weather of the steppes and mountains. Currently, their fundamental duty is as working dogs for sheep in the Chilean Patagonian region. Now, a team of geneticists is identifying how the Patagonian sheepdog breed came into being. 

In the research published in the journal PLOS Genetics, 159 Patagonian sheepdogs from Chile and Argentina were genotyped and compared with published genetic data from 175 recognized dog breeds and two species of wild dogs. Genotyping was used for the study. It’s a technique wherein an individual’s DNA make-up as a whole is analyzed and gives useful overviews instead of sequencing individual genes. 

They discovered that modern Patagonian Sheepdogs are most closely related to Border Collies and Australian Kelpies and that they have a common ancestor with current herding breeds from roughly 150 years ago in the United Kingdom. Authors said that the Patagonian Sheepdogs are the closest living representative of the common ancestor of modern herding breeds from the United Kingdom, who most likely appear and act similarly to them. 

“Using a variety of genomic approaches, we ascertained the relationship between this dog population and modern herding breeds,” said one of the study’s authors Natasha Barrios, within the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences at the Universidad Austral de Chile.

“We propose that the Patagonian sheepdog is the closest living relative of the common ancestor of modern UK herding breeds. These findings, in turn, increase our understanding of human migratory events at the time.”

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