Since 2013 dog researcher Malin Widlund and Professor Peter Savolainen at KTH The Royal Institute of Technology/SciLifeLab, Stockholm have been collaborating studying the Nenets Laika and the Swedish Lapphund.
Peter Savolainen who is a professor in gene technology with specialization towards evolutionary genetics has for long been studying the evolution of the domestic dog.
– We are currently studying the genetic relations and history of the Nordic arctic spitzdog breeds, and arctic dogs in general. It is of special interest to compare the genetics of dogs related to the indigenous reindeer herding peoples of Russia and Scandinavia. The reindeer herding dogs across the arctic regions have a very similar phenotype and reindeer herding is an obvious cultural link.
It is therefore of interest to investigate the contingent relations of these dog populations. We base our analyses on very comprehensive reference samples: several hundred dogs from across the Arctic, and several thousand dogs from across the world. Hereby we are able to compare the relatedness of the different arctic breeds to each other, and in comparison with other dog populations globally.
At present the team is especially interested in dogs on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas as earlier studies have suggested that these dogs seem to be the most aboriginal of the Nenets Laikas.
Field studies are planned as soon as travel restrictions have been lifted.
– We recently took part on-line in the Round Table talks in Salekhard of the “Nenets Laika – Russia’s Legacy” project and we now look forward to a very close collaboration with Russian organisations and scientists, in that we together can obtain a comprehensive picture of the history of reindeer herding dogs, and other dogs from across the Arctics, says Professor Savolainen.
– Our aim is also that this knowledge will aid in the preservation of threatened indigenous breeds, making sure that they will live on for future generations through facilitating breeding programmes, Malin Widlund adds.
Peter Savolainen, PhD, Professor Head of the Department of Genetic Technologies, Science for Life Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
Malin Widlund, Researcher & External Assistant to Professor Peter Savolainen, Sweden