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, 6 (7), e22821

A 33,000-year-old Incipient Dog From the Altai Mountains of Siberia: Evidence of the Earliest Domestication Disrupted by the Last Glacial Maximum


A 33,000-year-old Incipient Dog From the Altai Mountains of Siberia: Evidence of the Earliest Domestication Disrupted by the Last Glacial Maximum

Nikolai D Ovodov et al. PLoS One.


Background: Virtually all well-documented remains of early domestic dog (Canis familiaris) come from the late Glacial and early Holocene periods (ca. 14,000-9000 calendar years ago, cal BP), with few putative dogs found prior to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, ca. 26,500-19,000 cal BP). The dearth of pre-LGM dog-like canids and incomplete state of their preservation has until now prevented an understanding of the morphological features of transitional forms between wild wolves and domesticated dogs in temporal perspective.

Methodology/principal finding: We describe the well-preserved remains of a dog-like canid from the Razboinichya Cave (Altai Mountains of southern Siberia). Because of the extraordinary preservation of the material, including skull, mandibles (both sides) and teeth, it was possible to conduct a complete morphological description and comparison with representative examples of pre-LGM wild wolves, modern wolves, prehistoric domesticated dogs, and early dog-like canids, using morphological criteria to distinguish between wolves and dogs. It was found that the Razboinichya Cave individual is most similar to fully domesticated dogs from Greenland (about 1000 years old), and unlike ancient and modern wolves, and putative dogs from Eliseevichi I site in central Russia. Direct AMS radiocarbon dating of the skull and mandible of the Razboinichya canid conducted in three independent laboratories resulted in highly compatible ages, with average value of ca. 33,000 cal BP.

Conclusions/significance: The Razboinichya Cave specimen appears to be an incipient dog that did not give rise to late Glacial-early Holocene lineages and probably represents wolf domestication disrupted by the climatic and cultural changes associated with the LGM. The two earliest incipient dogs from Western Europe (Goyet, Belguim) and Siberia (Razboinichya), separated by thousands of kilometers, show that dog domestication was multiregional, and thus had no single place of origin (as some DNA data have suggested) and subsequent spread.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Although SC is afiliated with a commercial company (Pacific Identifications Inc.), this does not alter the authors' adherence to all the PLoS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.


Figure 1
Figure 1. The Razboinichya canid.
A) aerial view, B) profile, C) palate, D) left mandible, E) left lower tooth row (scale on ruler in cm). Sub-triangular hole in the skull is the place of initial sampling for 14C dating in 2007.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Coronoid process (mandible) profiles, clockwise from bottom left.
Thule-age dog (<1000 years old) from Devon Island, central Canadian Arctic ; modern Alaskan malamute (Univ. Victoria, Canada 90/28); Razboinichya canid; and Neolithic Chinese dog from Jiahu site . Many Neolithic dogs from the Middle East and North American wolves have a straight profile like Arctic Thule-aged dogs illustrated on the left, while dingo and Chinese wolves have the slightly hooked profile shown on the right. Prehistoric North American dogs outside the Arctic , have a profile with a more pronounced hook than the Razboinichya and Jiahu specimens above. Photo credits: Jiahu dog, Yuan Jing; Devon Island dog, Robert W. Park; modern Malamute, Susan J. Crockford; Razboinichya canid, Nikolai D. Ovodov.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Comparison of some cranial dimensions of the Razboinichya canid (diamonds) and other similar sized canids to a designated “standard” (crosses) comprised of ca. 31,000 cal BP wolves from Předmosti .
The other canids include modern wolves from North America , ancient Greenland Eskimo dogs <1000 years old , and two putative dogs from the post-LGM Eliseevichi I site . Negative values are smaller than the ancient wolf standard, positive values are larger. The measurement data are log10 transformed and include (top to bottom): dimension #1 (total length), #3 (basal length), #12 (snout length), #30 (zygomatic breadth), #34 (maximum palate width) .

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