Canis lupus familiaris

Domestic Dog



species list





All domestic dogs are descended from the wolf, Canis lupus, and are treated as a subspecies by Wilson & Reeder (see below), although they admit that this "may stretch the subspecies concept". Intensive selection has created an astonishing variety of behavioural and morphological variants, some distinctly freakish (see boxer and chinese crested below). Whether this is due to high genetic variability, which would be surprising considering the probably limited initial gene pool, or more to the effect of intensive, diverse selection on a responsive genome is unclear.

The dog may have been the first domesticated animal, with archaeological evidence from more than 20 thousand years ago, most older examples assigned to the so-called European Palaeolithic dog, found in various sizes suggesting the existence of different breeds even at that time. (refs. below)

Dogs seem to have inherited the inflated frontal sinuses of wolves, a useful way of distinguishing their skulls from those of coyotes and foxes. (see red fox on this website for further details).  The resulting high forehead may be connected to the importance of facial expression in social interactions between wolves, a possible reason for dogs’ ability to bond with humans and no doubt linked to the emphasis of these bones in child-substitute toy dogs.

Also on this website : Coyote, Wolf, African Hunting Dog, various foxes.

Click on these images to view the breed pages :


boxer dog skull


greyhound dog skull

Greenland (Husky)

greenland dog skull

German Shepherd

alsatian dog skull

Chinese Crested

chinese crested dog skull


wolf skull

Internet Resources

Standard references :
American Society of Mammalogists Monographs
Smithsonian / Wilson & Reeder's Taxonomic List
University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web

Other references :
Germonpre, M.
et al. 2009. Fossil dogs and wolves from Palaeolithic sites in Belgium; J. Archaeol. Sci. 36 pp473–490

Maud, P.C. 2011. New evidence for Upper Palaeolithic small domestic dogs in South-Western Europe; J. Archaeol. Sci. 38 pp2123–2140
Ovodov, N.D. et al (online pub.) A 33,000-Year-Old Incipient Dog from the Altai Mountains of Siberia; Plos One

Order - Carnivora (typical carnivores)
Suborder - Caniformia (dog-like)
Family - Canidae (dogs)

Scientific Name:
Canis "dog" (latin)
lupus "wolf" (latin)
familiaris "domestic" (latin)

Dental Formula
U - L but may be reduced in domestic dogs, especially brachycephalic breeds.

Measurements:  (defined)
See breed pages

Collection Data
See breed pages