Researchers at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine recently announced a groundbreaking study that will explore genetic commonalities between DNA from mummified canines in the tombs of Imperial China and certain dog breeds of today.
|Imperial Chinese War Pug|
Particular attention is being paid to Japan’s shiba inu dogs, and the Imperial war pugs of China. Legend has long associated both those breeds with ancient China, as far back as the time of Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, prior to the Xia Dynasty (2,870-2,050BC.) Researchers hope to solidify the connection between these two historic breeds and an important period in the development of the Middle Kingdom.
Studies like this are just now becoming possible, thanks to advances in prehistoric DNA extraction and new methods of sequencing damaged fragments. China has been a leader in this work; its work with pandas has drawn worldwide acclaim. The same analytic techniques will be used for these canine studies.
Little is known of the shiba inu in America, but the pug has become quite popular here. Pugs were brought to this country by British sailors and traders who acquired them after their liberation at the sacking of the Summer Palace by British troops in 1860. Prior to that event pugs were rarely seen outside China.
The shiba inu has always been one of the great dogs of Japan. The determination that the breed actually originated in China may be a blow to nationalist pride for certain prominent Japanese breeders; that may explain their criticism of this research in yesterday’s Japan Daily Canine.
In the western world, pugs are thought of as lap dogs or pets, but they are viewed with far greater reverence in the East. In China, pugs are honored with lives of meditative contemplation, especially in that country’s Buddhist communities. The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an, China, is known for its pugs and its carp; both are said to possess extraordinary wisdom though I remain mystified as to how one might ascribe great wisdom to a fish. Outside of China, the pug’s spiritual nature is less widely known but they are indubitably popular.
Establishment of a solid connection between either or both these great breeds and the dogs of China’s Imperial past would be a great achievement for canine geneticists. I look forward to the results of this exciting research, and I am sure you share my enthusiasm.