These animals are officially called “Carolina Dogs.” A less poetic name would be “Carolina Swamp Dogs,” since until 1970s, the Carolina swamp is pretty much where they lived. Early tests of their DNA show that they might be what the first dogs in America looked like.

Dogs have been here for thousands of years, but have only gained cherished (and frequently inbred) pet status in the last few hundred. Some dog breeds made the transition later than others. Carolina swamp dogs come in different colors — some are black and white, and most puppies have black masks that fade away as they age to adulthood — but their standard look is what you see above. Until the 1970s, they were simply lean, yellow dogs that lived in the pine woods on the edges of swamps in Carolina.

In the 1970s, breeders caught a few members of a wild pack. The Carolina Dog is now an established breed, but Carolina maintains a wild population. The wild population is of considerable interest to scientists. The Carolina Dog has a few behaviors, like communal raising of pups and regurgitation of meat for their young, that imply domestication of any kind is further back in its history than it is for most dogs.

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In 2012, a DNA analysis indicates that these dogs are of Asian origin, rather than European. It’s quite possible that these dogs are pre-Colombian, which means long before European settlers arrived, this may have been what the first population of American dogs looked like.

Top Image: Noloha, Puppy Image: Flaxseedoil

[Source: Tracking America’s First Dogs.]