Recent DNA research has indicated the transition from wild Canis lupus (wolf) to its domestic form: the dog (Canis familiaris), took place in South-Eastern China more than 15,000 years ago. From this cradle, the domestic dog, in its generic form, traveled with nomadic prehistoric people across the entire populated world. 

During these journeys and influenced by the local geographical and ecological conditions, these nomads and their dogs adapted to the demands of their new environments.

The generic dog evolved into several heterogeneous geographical landraces for thousands of years.

The western (Eurocentric) fancier should reflect on the effect of the establishment of The Kennel Club (London) in 1873 on these landrace dogs. This was the first organization to register dogs and issue breed standards officially. Within two or three decades, this example was followed worldwide, and national kennel organizations were established in many countries.

The idea behind this movement was to improve the existing regional dog and change it to create dogs based on selective breeding from small foundation stock. And to compare these results, conformation shows were established. Consequently, most of the circa 350 recognized breeds were artificially developed after 1873.

As a result, most regional dogs that existed before and prevailed as landraces were selectively inbred to obtain homogeneity for specific breed-standard-related characteristics. However, the good news is that these landrace dogs are still found in isolated traditional areas worldwide.

What is a landrace?

Succinctly stated, a landrace is an indigenous population of domestic dogs that emerged as an ecotype within a specific ecological niche.

They are primarily the result of environmental adaptation, mostly under conditions of natural selection, but influenced by human preferences to fit the requirement of a specific human society in a particular ecosystem.

Landraces are heterogeneous but with enough characteristics in common to permit their recognition as a group.

The following points bear reference to this topic:

  • The name aboriginal, native or indigenous dog has the same meaning as a landrace. However, the name aboriginal, native, or indigenous is used for people and landrace only for animals.
  • Landraces are often mistaken by people as being mongrels.
  • The word “Pariah” is often used mainly for dogs indigenous to Africa and India.

What is a breed?

The Oxford dictionary defines a breed as:

“A particular type of animal that has been developed by people in a certain way, especially a type of dog, cat, or farm animal.”

A more in-depth description of a dog breed is as follows:

A dog breed is a specific type of Canis familiaris obtained by human manipulation through strict selective breeding for a particular morphological trait. These physical characteristics have been laid down in a prescriptive breed standard since the institution of modern dogdom in 1873.

Dog breeds are the creations of the world’s kennel club establishments, breed specialist clubs, and dog fanciers, not of nature. They do not represent the genetic diversity of the original landrace population. Breeds are sexually-isolated descendants of a tiny and select sample of individuals adopted from regional landrace populations.

The breed standards are always a description of how each dog breed should look (phenotype), not their functionality or genetic diversity (genotype).