Location Found: Nebraska
Age of Bone: circa 1650
While not a fossil at under 400 years old, our Native American Indian Dog skull is still impressive in its own right. The skull and mandible is intact, with only the zygomatic bones being restored from the original specimen. These bones are relatively fragile, and are often found broken and have to be repaired or restored. This skull comes from a Native American campsite in Nebraska dated to around 1650.
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish and their horses in the late 1400’s, dogs were the primary (perhaps only) beast of burden for the Native North Americans. These dogs would have done everything from pulling loads, guarding children and campsites, and occasionally serving as food. All of these dogs were descended from a small founding population that accompanied the first North Americans that came across from Asia, and as such many NAID remains show evidence of inbreeding.
Our skull is no exception. A closer look at the first premolar tooth on the upper jaw shows that it is rotated almost perpendicular to the next tooth. This is even more evident in a side view of the skull (seen above). Dental abnormalities such as this are very common in NAID remains, some severe. Our NAID also shows an extra tooth on the upper right jaw. I am not sure our dog would have been entirely able to close its mouth, as the rotated tooth comes into direct contact with the one underneath it.
I compared this skull to the dental structure of my female greyhound, Rhea, since she is closest in size to what this NAID would have been. After careful examination of Rhea’s dental pattern (which earned me a look of profound disgust from her), I found no rotation or extra teeth. This is not surprising, as greyhounds are very carefully genetically managed to avoid such issues. Having a relatively small population to work with, the First Americans would not have had that luxury of close control. Whatever the case, it is still an interesting study in dental pathology.
The original lineage of the NAID is extinct. However, it is possible to purchase “Native American Indian Dogs” from breeders in the United States. These are not true NAIDs as would have been seen centuries ago, but are bred to resemble their extinct counterparts. They seem to be an intelligent, trainable, pleasant breed with relatively few health problems. They are considered a “designer dog,” meaning they are crosses of certain other breeds (much as a Labradoodle is a cross between a Labrador and a Poodle). Most of the images I have seen of modern NAIDS look to be German Shepherd or Husky crosses, with some retriever possibly mixed in as well.
Modern NAID: http://www.nativeskykennel.com/#!our-pack/kmj1n