Dogs in the New World
The Book of Mormon mentions dogs (Mosiah 12:2; Alma 16:10; Helaman 7:19), but there were no dogs in the New World until after the arrival of Europeans.
This assertion, though made by a critic who is a biologist, is incorrect. It is a well-established fact that dogs have been present in the New World since the first inhabitants arrived.[i] Dogs were domesticated in Mesoamerica during the Olmec period.[ii] DNA tests have confirmed that the Carolina dogs living in the wild in the southeastern United States are descendants of the dogs that accompanied the first humans to the New World thousands of years ago.[iii]
There were at least two different species of Mesoamerican dog-a large white humped mastiff, used in the hunt, which would fit the wilder variety, and a smaller hairless and voiceless breed, which was castrated, fattened, and then eaten as a delicacy and sometimes sacrificed.[iv] This smaller dog was apparently used on a rather large scale as a source of meat[v] and is said to have been “the principal source of meat for much of Preclassic Mesoamerica.”[vi] There are numerous references to this smaller dog in the descriptions of the early chroniclers.[vii]
[i] Ricardo E. Latcham, “Los animales domesticos de la America precolumbiana,” 37; Felix Webster McBryde, Cultural and Historical Geography of Southwest Guatemala (Smithsonian Institution Institute of Social Anthropology Publication No. 4. Washington, 1945), 37; Michael Coe, America’s First Civilization, 26; Jacques Soustelle, The Olmecs: The Oldest Civilization in Mexico (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984), 23; Jane M. Rosenthal, “Dogs, pets, horses, and demons: some American Indian words and concepts,” International Journal of American Linguistics 51 (1985): 563-65; Michael Coe, The Maya, 167, 182; Michael Coe, Mexico, 29, 45, 52, 58, 69, 78, 104, 199, Figures 28, 95.
[ii] Jacques Soustelle, The Olmecs, 23. Some LDS scholars believe that the Olmec were the Jaredites.
[iii] Christine Mlot, “Stalking the Ancient Dog,” Science News 151 (1997): 400-401; E. Morehead, “The Carolina Dog: Making a Comeback,” Dog World (May 1992): 50-51; R. K. Wayne, “Molecular Evolution of the Dog Family.” Trends In Genetics 9/6 (1993): 218-224.
[iv] Ricardo E. Latcham, “Los animales domesticos de la America Precolumbiana,” 37; Felix Webster McBryde, Cultural and Historical Geography of Southwest Guatemala, 37; Michael Coe, The Maya, 167, 182.
[v] Felix Webster McBryde, Cultural and Historical Geography of Southwest Guatemala, 37; Michael Coe, Mexico, 58.
[vi] Michael Coe, Mexico, 45; see also 69, 78.
[vii] See for examples, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, The Conquest of New Spain, J. M. Cohen, ed., (London: Folio Society, 1975), 143-44, 146-47, 160, 229-30, 232; “The Anonymous Conquistador,” in Patricia de Fuentes, The Conquistadors, 167; Pedro de Alvarado, in Fuentes, 185, 192.