The History Of Dogs

The History Of Dogs

How The Friendship Begin

Ever wondered who taught your dog how to flop his ears and cock his head to the side? Or how you come to feel that rush of dopamine every time you see him? Not surprisingly enough, history has proven to be the best teacher when it comes to tracing the answers to such questions. Dogs weren’t always programmed or even physically made this way.

Domesticated dogs as we know them today trace their origins back to domesticated wolves about 36,000 years ago, or more commonly, 15,000 years ago. More interestingly though, it was the domestication of dogs that brought about these evolutionary changes from the original wolf species, such as shorter paws, floppy ears, blunter teeth, and a docile disposition.

How It First Began

What comes as a surprise is the fact that nobody really knows exactly where domesticated dogs actually originate from. Sure, there are accounts and evidence that predates them back to the grey wolf but the actual wolf species that both dogs and today’s Grey Wolves might have evolved from is extinct and hence, varying theories exist on how domesticated dogs came to be.

grey wolf
Grey Wolves and Dogs share a common ancestor that became extinct.

Scientific evidence suggests that dogs were actually the first animal to be domesticated by humans; long before chickens, cows, goats, pig and sheep came to be domesticated. One thing is for certain though; everybody agrees that domesticated dogs are the descendants of wild wolves, originating from Eastern Europe. How this domestication came to be is however, another story.

history of dogs farm
Dogs might be the first few animals humans domesticated.

Some theories claim that wolves started being domesticated around 12,000 years ago due to climate change. The claim goes like this; due to climate change, wolves began to wander closer to human camps, looking for extra meat to eat which could very well be garbage. Humans might have tried to keep them away but also soon realized that by giving them scraps and garbage to eat, the campsites became cleaner and less diseases spread.

Thus began this symbiotic relationship between wolf and man, leading to the commonly known bond between dog and man. The wolves that could be tamed and live in harmony with the humans won the race of natural selection, and continued to breed. With each tamed generation, the wolves finally became companions for the humans.

Larson’s Claim On Double Domestication

There is another theory by Greger Larson, famous archaeologist and geneticist. His recent theory and results from numerous fossils, bones and DNA testing reveals that dogs were first domesticated separately in both Europe and Asia, and their gene pools started mixing due to migrations across both continents which suggests that several domestications must have happened to give us the modern day dog.

Through his studies he suggests that wolves were first domesticated by humans in Western Eurasia and at the same time, domestication was happening in the far, far east (China). Now some of the dogs (or wolves) in the Eastern part of the world decided to migrate, with their humans, to the west. Here they encountered the tamed species of the West and mated with them and took over this gene pool. This would explain why Eastern dogs still have Eastern origins and why Western dogs also have Eastern origin (because of the mating that took place around the Bronze Age). And obviously, there are those who disagree with this theory as well.

Earning Their Keep

Domestication theories aside, we can trace a rough estimation of how dogs came to be domesticated. After being tamed, dogs must have proven themselves pretty useful to keep around. Apart from getting rid of the garbage, humans quickly realized they were good protectors as well.

These furry, four legged creatures had a sharper bite back then and a louder bark. They looked nothing like the adorable Labradors of today; they were leaner, meaner and faster. Dogs were helpful in farming and protecting cattle. Generations later, as human needs evolved as well, the status of dogs began to change simultaneously.

Even today, we see dogs helping humans in their everyday tasks. From helping with public security and rescue work, to assisting those with special needs.

A Brief History Of Dogs As Pets

Murals and painting depict dogs being used as status symbols and companions for royalty in Ancient Greece and Egypt. Even the Romans had pets.

history of dogs ancient egypt
A Pet Cemetery exists in Abydos, Egypt.

In fact, there have been numerous findings in Egypt of mummified remains of dogs. The belief back then was that their lovable dogs would be able to see them again in the afterlife.

history of dogs china
An illustration of women in China with a ‘lap dog’

The Chinese Emperors however, really take the cake. According to records, the dogs kept by emperors enjoyed a status better than most subjects; the pups had wet nurses and the adult dogs had servants of their own.

history of dogs queen victoria
A picture of Queen Victoria and her Collie named Sharp

Europe had a different story to tell. Up until the 15th century, dogs as pets were not a concept well-known. Around this time, noble women and some men of higher ranking would keep dogs for either protection or purely as companions. This is where the concept of ‘lap dogs’ originates from. Around the 18th century, dogs became a household accessory for the middle classes. More importantly, the Victorians really helped introduce dogs as pets to the Europeans, with Queen Victoria being the biggest patron. She was a well-known lover of dogs, with her own dogs as an integral part of her life.

The Dogs Of Today

The dogs of today have different roles to play. While they are all lovable companions in the end, modern day humans have modified their roles to some extent. Some dogs are used for hunting, some for protection, some for ornamental purposes, and some as guides and more recently, some are being used for therapeutic purposes. Research have been done on the effect a furry companion can have on the mental well-being of us humans. Through all the centuries of domestication, it has been proven that dogs are indeed a man’s best and most loyal companion.

history of dogs baby daschhund
Dogs have evolved to be one of our most loyal companions!

Stories of a dog’s loyalty and bravery are not uncommon; from a Shiba Inu waiting years for his owner, even after his owner had passed, to a Labrador guiding her visually-impaired owner out of the World Trade Center on 9/11, there are endless stories of dogs proving their unwavering loyalty, and dogs rescuing humans from danger.

history of dogs hachiko statue
The Hachiko Memorial Statue in Japan

So the next time you’re thinking about whether to talk to your dog or not, know that they are intelligent species that have a much deeper understanding of your companionship with them than you might believe. Also, the fact that they have gone through years of evolution and breeding to reach this point says a lot of the friendship between man and dog.