They owe their name of 'Carolina dog' to Lehr Brisbin, a zoologist at the University of Georgia, who first discovered and named them, and set up a group to monitor and study the Carolina dog.
Several theories exist to explain their origin. The first hypothesis sees in them aboriginal dogs that have occasionally interbred with wolves, coyotes and modern domestic dogs but without altering their phenotype to such an extent that they would no longer be able to survive in the wild.
The second theory defends the point of view that the Carolina dog is a domestic dog that evolved in North America from crosses of the aboriginal dogs (that came across the Bering Strait with the Paleolithic hunters) with North American wolves and/or coyotes. In that case it could be a type of dog domesticated exclusively from North American wild canids, thus free of Asian or European genetic material up until the introduction of Eurasian domestics by European settlers. Many accounts of early explorers mention Indians capturing wolf cubs and raising them up.
According to the third theory they would be descendents of European (domestic) dogs who have reverted back to a primitive behavioral/morphological/ecologicaI phenotype. Should this hypothesis prove true, the carolina dog would represent a unique case of domestication in reverse, i.e., a return to the original dog type.
(North American Native Dog, The Dixie Dingo,
The American Dingo, Southern Aboriginal Dog, Southern Dingo, The Indian's Dog)
Current studies try to demonstrate whether these dogs could be the descendents of the first dogs which crossed the Bering Land Bridge with primitive humans. These studies have highlighted a number of traits that have never before been recorded among other members of the genus Canis and that would suggest some form of adaptation to the ecological niche in rural areas of the southeastern United States, where these dogs live. One of these traits is an unusual frequency of estrus, extraordinarily high for young females (up to three cycles per year), followed by longer interestrous periods at older ages. Scientists theorize that it may be a population-level adaptation, ensuring that the next generation is born before the old is afflicted with diseases like heartworm. The cycles also follow seasonal patterns, apparently timed to coincide with the times of birth of easy and abundant prey-young rodents and other small mammals. (1)
The Carolina Dog is a medium built dog, similar to the dingo and other pariah dogs. They have large, erect ears, designed for optimal sound retrieval and possibly body temperature regulation. Their long and curved tail is used for signaling and communication. Their short, dense coat have been naturally selected for to ensure survival under free-ranging conditions. It is now extremely rare in the wild state, but can still be found in the remote lowland swamp and woodland areas of the southeastern United States.
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