Patagonian sheepdog: Genomic analyses trace the footprints of extinct UK herding dogs to South America
Most modern dog breeds were developed within the last two hundred years, following strong and recent human selection based predominantly on aesthetics, with few modern breeds constructed solely to maximize their work potential. In many cases, these working breeds represent the last remnants of now lost populations. The Patagonian sheepdog (PGOD), a rare herding breed, is a remarkable example of such a population. Maintained as an isolated population for over 130 years, the PGOD offers a unique opportunity to understand the genetic relationship amongst modern herding breeds, determine key genomic structure of the founder PGOD populations, and investigate how canine genomic data can mirror human migration patterns. We thus analyzed the population structure of 159 PGOD, comparing them with 1514 dogs representing 175 established breeds. Using 150,069 SNPs from a high-density SNP genotyping array, we establish the genomic composition, ancestry, and genetic diversity of the population, complementing genomic data with the PGOD’s migratory history to South America. Our phylogenetic analysis reveals that PGODs are most closely related to modern herding breeds hailing from the United Kingdom. Admixture models illustrate a greater degree of diversity and genetic heterogeneity within the very small PGOD population than in Western European herding breeds, suggesting the PGOD predates the 200-year-old construction of most pure breeds known today. We thus propose that PGODs originated from the foundational herding dogs of the UK, prior to the Victorian explosion of breeds, and that they are the closest link to a now-extinct population of herding dogs from which modern herding breeds descended.