The anatomy of dogs varies tremendously from breed to breed, more than in any other animal species, wild or domesticated.
And yet there are basic physical characteristics that are identical among all dogs, from the tiny Chihuahua to the giant Irish Wolfhound.
Like most predatory mammals, the dog has powerful muscles, a cardiovascular system that supports both sprinting and endurance, and teeth for catching, holding, and tearing.
The dog's ancestral skeleton provided the ability to run and leap.
Their legs are designed to propel them forward rapidly, leaping as necessary, to chase and overcome prey.
Consequently, they have small, tight feet, walking on their toes; their rear legs are fairly rigid and sturdy; the front legs are loose and flexible, with only muscle attaching them to the torso.
Although selective breeding has changed the appearance of many breeds, all dogs retain the basic ingredients from their distant ancestors.
Dogs have disconnected shoulder bones (lacking the collar bone of the human skeleton) that allow a greater stride length for running and leaping.
They walk on four toes, front and back.
The dog's ancestor was about the size of a Dingo, and its skeleton took about 10 months to mature.
Today's toy breeds have skeletons that mature in only a few months, while giant breeds such as the Mastiffs take 16 to 18 months for the skeleton to mature.
Dwarfism has affected the proportions of some breeds' skeletons, as in the Basset Hound.
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