The Japanese wolf (Canis lupus hodophilax) is a smaller subspecies of grey wolf distinctly known for its small, border collie–like stature. In the early 20th century, they went extinct about 100 to 120 years ago following a rabies epidemic in the 17th century that caused a purge of the species.
After comparing genomes, the researchers found the Japanese wolf is part of an evolutionary branch of wolves that arose 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. Some of the wolves from this branch evolved into the Japanese wolves, while others branched off and gave rise to modern dogs.
However, Western dogs, like Labrador retrievers and German shepherds, share much less genetic material. Scientists suspect that Japanese wolves may have bred with dogs migrating East, and later, those dogs bred with Western dogs, leaving the Japanese wolves' genetic signature.
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