A mutation in the canine multidrug resistance gene, MDR1, has previously been associated with drug sensitivities in two breeds from the collie lineage. We exploited breed phylogeny and reports of drug sensitivity to survey other purebred populations that might be genetically at risk. We found that the same allele, mdr1-1Delta, segregated in seven additional breeds, including two sighthounds that were not expected to share collie ancestry. A mutant haplotype that was conserved among affected breeds indicated that the allele was identical by descent. Based on breed histories and the extent of linkage disequilibrium, we conclude that all dogs carrying mdr1-1Delta are descendants of a dog that lived in Great Britain before the genetic isolation of breeds by registry (ca. 1873). The breed distribution and frequency of mdr1-1Delta have applications in veterinary medicine and selective breeding, whereas the allele's history recounts the emergence of formally recognized breeds from an admixed population of working sheepdogs.