From Wolf to Dog: The Story of How Dog’s Became Man’s Bestfriend

Man’s Best Friend

Dogs have been our canine companions for thousands of years, predating recorded history. According to the World Canine Organization, there are 339 breeds of dogs that are divided into10 groups based on the dog purpose and size. Each group is a classification for the dog species purpose. For example, Terrier dog breeds were intended to hunt vermin. Unsurprisingly, domesticated dogs are not the same as wolves. While they are both canines, they are actually a different species. The scientific name for domesticated dogs is Canine lupus familiaris. I personally have two dogs that are Terrier mixes. While most dog breeds are extremely friendly towards people and other dogs, stereotypes and false information have put certain dog breeds such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers in a negative light, and several governments have outright banned them.

english cocker spaniel puppy sitting on ground beside grass
Photo by Johann on Pexels.com

Common Ancestor: How did wolves evolve into the friendly dogs we know today

It is not known for certain when and where dogs were first domesticated. Scientists have looked into the correlation between Gray wolves and dogs and found that they share much of the same DNA. It has also been confirmed that dogs and wolves share a common canine ancestor. However, around 27,000 years ago, dogs and wolves split from this common ancestor and evolved into their own respected species.

The accepted theory is that around the time of the Ice Age, the scarcity of food prompted this ancient canine to search for other alternatives of finding food. These ancient wolves slowly began to approach human settlements and eat their scraps. The friendlier wolves of the pack may have even allowed these ancient hunter-gatherers to pet them. This created a survival of the friendliest type scenario where the friendliest wolves of the pack began to rely on humans more and more for survival. Therefore, it is believed that ancient wolves domesticated themselves for survival purposes.

grey and white wolf selective focus photography
Photo by Steve on Pexels.com

Selective breeding followed the newly created partnership between man and wolf. The offspring of the friendliest wolves started to become tamer and more cooperative with humans than the wolves that never accepted human cooperation. Each generation of tamed wolves grew more and more reliant on humans for survival and evolved into a new species of canine, Canine lupus familiaris, or the modern domestic dog. Recent studies on foxes have shown that it only takes around 3 to 4 generations of selective breeding to change a populations behavior and appearance. Further selective breeding over the course of hundreds of years have created the dog breeds that we know and love today.

Research into the Geographic origin of dogs

There have been several scientific attempts that have been made to find the origin of dogs and where wolves were domesticated for the first time. Science now accepts the theory that wolves were domesticated twice. Fossil studies show that wolves were domesticated once in Western Europe and in Asia, but the Western European dog died out at some point. The domesticated Asian dogs moved over to the West with humans and either took over the region or interbred with the Western dog. This is the breed that evolved into the many modern dog breeds that we have today.

dog wearing crochet scarf with fringe while sitting on snow selective focus photography
Photo by Benjamin Lehman on Pexels.com

Cornell University Research on the Origins of Domesticated Dogs 

Thank you for reading this article! Tell me about your dog and the adventures you might go on with them, I’d love to hear about it! If you would like to read more in-depth articles on wildlife, check out trailtrekca.com and click wildlife spotlights in the menu! Or just click below!

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Citations

Strauss, Bob. “Your Dog’s Pedigree Goes Back 40 Million Years.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 17 Aug. 2019, http://www.thoughtco.com/prehistoric-dogs-1093301.
Alt, Kimberly, et al. “Dog Evolution History: Where Do Dogs Come From?” CanineJournal.com, 13 Apr. 2017, http://www.caninejournal.com/dog-evolution-where-do-dogs-come-from/.
Handwerk, Brian. “How Accurate Is Alpha’s Theory of Dog Domestication?” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 15 Aug. 2018, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-wolves-really-became-dogs-180970014/.
Newitz, Annalee. “Where Do Dogs Come from? Genetic Evidence Offers a New Origin Story.” Ars Technica, 2 June 2016, arstechnica.com/science/2016/06/where-do-dogs-come-from-genetic-evidence-offers-a-new-origin-story/.
“Where Did the First Dogs Come from?” EarthSky, earthsky.org/earth/where-did-the-first-dogs-come-from-2.
7, Rebecca on September, and RTFord on November 12. “Dogs Evolved From Wolves – Fact or Myth?” Fact / Myth, factmyth.com/factoids/dogs-evolved-from-wolves/.
“How Many Breeds of Dogs Are There in the World?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201305/how-many-breeds-dogs-are-there-in-the-world.

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