domestication

A Few Fun Facts about the Domestication of Dogs

Dogs are such a part of our lives these days that we call them ‘man’s best friend’ or our ‘fur babies’. Many of us could not image life without a dog in our lap or without lint rolling our clothes before we leave the house. But how did dogs turn into our constant companions? Here are a few fun facts and theories:

  • From the time of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), there has been discussion about how dogs came to be man’s best friend.
  • The dogs we know and love as our family members today came from a group of wolves whose path intersected with that of European hunter-gatherers thousands and thousands of years ago, according to new research published in The Scientist.

  • This new research suggests that dogs were probably domesticated sometime between 18,800 and 32,100 years ago when this intersection with humans happened in Europe.

  • Until recently, many researchers believed that dogs were domesticated by humans no more than 13,000 years ago and that this took place in East Asia or the Middle East.

  • This is not to say that dogs could not have been domesticated separately in East Asia or the Middle East, it’s just that there is not any current evidence that they were in these areas as early as they were in Europe.

  • There are several theories about how the lives of dogs and humans became intertwined:

    • One theory suggests that humans valued and wanted to spend time with dogs because they were able to help kill large prey animals for food, such as wooly mammoths.
    • Another theory is that early dogs started to spend time near humans due to the access to leftover animal carcasses when humans were finished with them.
    • Still other people speculate that puppies, even wolf puppies, have always been so dang cute that humans were naturally attracted to them since the first time they saw them.
    • Finally, some people believe that dogs may have originally been a food source for humans and were raised for that purpose as cattle are raised today.
  • Once the tamest wolves started to spend time near humans, it is theorized that each new generation of wolf that associated with humans after that became more and more tame. This is due to those original wolves living near humans and breeding with each other to produce even more tame offspring.

  • Dogs and wolves are closely related to this day. Their genes have not had enough time apart, especially due to continued interbreeding over the years, to separate into distinctly wolf and distinctly dog lineages.

  • The earliest remains of dogs found in North America are about 8,700 to 14,000 years old.

After centuries of domestication, dogs seem to be fully intertwined with our lives today. Some dogs are still used to assist humans in hunting or for protection, but the majority of dogs in our homes are just couch potatoes or running companions that keep us warm in the winter and keep smiles on our faces.