Where does my dog come from?

Did you know that dogs were the first predator to be domesticated?

It is thought that our beautiful pets descend from a now extinct wolf variety and that they share many traits with wolves including their scientific name of “Canis Lupus Familiaris”. Wolves being Canis Lupus. Dogs are members of the Canid family and there are 36 living varieties of these today including foxes and coyotes.

The earliest undisputed fossil of a domesticated dog was 14,000 years old and was a jawbone although there have been fossils found that could be as much as 35,000 years old or even 135,000 years ago.

The picture below was taken from the Guardian newspaper in 2018 and shows the fossil of a puppy from circa 18,000 years ago found in Siberia…. It is not known if he was a wolf or a domesticated dog. What do you think?

photograph by Sergey Fedorov/The Siberian Times

There is a huge amount of debate as to the location where domestication took place so for this post I am going to leave that to one side. However, I think it is worth looking at why our dogs were domesticated and how they have ended up as ‘Man’s Best Friend’

The exact origins of dog domestication are still a subject of ongoing research and debate among scientists. The prevailing theory suggests that dogs evolved from a population of wolves that started to scavenge around human campsites for food.

Over time, these wolves became more comfortable around humans, and a mutually beneficial relationship developed. Wolves that were less aggressive and more tolerant of human presence likely received scraps of food and other benefits, while humans may have benefitted from the wolves’ hunting prowess, their alertness to danger, or their companionship.

This process of natural selection gradually led to the emergence of more dog-like traits in certain wolf populations. People began to selectively breed these proto-dogs based on desired traits, such as hunting abilities, herding skills, or even specific physical appearances. This artificial selection, along with natural genetic variations, eventually led to the wide variety of dog breeds we see today.

Dogs played various roles in human societies throughout history. They were initially used for hunting and guarding, but as human civilisation progressed, their roles expanded. Dogs were employed in herding livestock, pulling sleds, and serving as companions and family pets.

Different breeds were developed for specific tasks, leading to the wide diversity of dog breeds we see today.

In ancient Egypt, dogs were revered and considered sacred. They were depicted in artwork, buried with their owners, and even had their own cemeteries.

Statues of Molossian hounds in the Vatican Museums, Rome (Photo Credit: I. Ferris)

In ancient Rome, dogs were used for hunting, guarding, and entertainment in arenas.

As time went on, dogs became more integrated into human society, and their roles continued to evolve. With the advent of modern technology and the rise of industrialisation, the tasks performed by dogs shifted. They were used in military and police work, search and rescue operations, therapy and assistance roles, and as beloved companions. Today, dogs are cherished pets and often considered part of the family in many cultures around the world. They continue to demonstrate their loyalty, intelligence, and versatility, making them one of humanity’s closest animal companions.

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