Internal Medicine Service

Forensic Canine Database Solves Old Puzzle

Clinicians at the Hospital for Small Animals and collaborators at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland have recently developed and published a forensic canine database. In addition, they have also published a paper examining the levels of genetic diversity in UK dogs, which revealed that many dog breeds exhibited low levels of genetic diversity.

The original aim behind these projects were to develop a forensic database to assist in the prosecution of crimes involving dogs. An unexpected application of their research has recently being reported in an unusual case of canine genetic detective work.

The researchers aimed to identify the breed of a dog found on the Tudor warship the Mary Rose which sank in the Solent waters between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight on the 19th of July 1545, whilst engaging a French invasion fleet.

The ship was rediscovered in 1971 and between 1979 and 1982 the entire contents of the ship were excavated resulting in the recovery of over 25,000 objects, including the skeleton of a small to medium sized dog referred to as the Mary Rose Dog. The researchers extracted genomic DNA from a tooth of this animal and using our published canine genetic database, they discovered that the dog was of a terrier type most closely related to modern Jack Russell Terriers. The finding that the dog belonged within the "terrier types" is in agreement with historical records of dogs of this type on board ships to kill rodents. Further information can be found on the link below.