Evolution and Development of the Domestic Dog

The origin of the domestic dog has long been the subject of controversy. It is difficult to believe that dog breeds as different as Pugs and Greyhounds, Chihuahuas and St Bernads are all descended from a single common ancestor. Even Charles Darwin, father of modern evolutionary theory, was as bemused by the sheer variety of domestic dog breeds that he readily accepted the idea of a mixed descent from several different wild species. During the 1950s the Australian ethnologist Konrad Lorenz narrowed the field of arguing that all dog breeds could be divided into two parts, one derived primarily from the Wolf (Canies Lopes) and from the other primarily from the golden jackal (Canis aureus). Other authorities rejected both the jackals and Wolf as possible progenitors and proposed instead a hypothetical Wild-Dog ancestor (canis ferus) which has since become extinct.

Today the result has become considerably clearer as the result of much careful research. Detailed study of anatomy has virtually eliminated the golden Jackal from anything but a minor contribution of Canine ancestry; the bones of its Skull and the size and structure of its teeth differ markedly from those of the dog in contrast, the skull and the tooth remains of early domestic Dogs have been found to be a similar to and, nearly identical to those of small Wolves.

Research on comparative behavior patterns has also provided convincing evidence of Wolf ancestry. In one study it was found that of a total of ninety different behavior patterns recorded in domestic dogs, only nineteen were absent in Wolfs and those missing were all competitively minor activities which probably do occur in Wolves but have never actually been observed but now in dogs arose in special hunting context which domestic dogs do not normally encounter. Based on available evidence it is probable that all modern dog breeds are indeed descended from the Wolf most probably one of the smaller subspecies which today inhabit parts of south Asia.

Canis Ferus, the hypothetical Wild ancestor proposed by some authorities never gained many adherents, mainly because no fossil remains have ever been unearthed to confirm its existence. Indeed the invention of this apparently mythical beast as an alternative to the wolf and jackal may have arisen largely from prejudice. Since time immemorial, Europeans have traditionally, and erroneously, regarded jackals as miserable, cowardly scavengers, and the unfortunate Wolf has been unfairly branded as a symbol of diabolical cunning and ferocity-the proverbial bane of innocent little girls in red riding hoods.

The First Domestication:
The earliest domestication of the wolf probably took place in southern Europe or Asia Minor. A fragment of jawbone recovered from a Paleolithic in west Germany and thought to be 1400 years old may prove to be the oldest known remain for domestic dog. This Jaw is relatively short compared to that of the wolf and consequently the teeth are more crowded together. Both these attributes are typically of early dogs and probably reflect changes in the quality of the animal’s diet as a result of domestication. Other important finds include bone fragments from Iraq and the entire skeleton of a four to five month old puppy which was buried together with its human owner some 12000 years ago in northern Israel. These and other discoveries indicate that the wolf was domesticated before any animal species.

Although no record has survived of the precise events which led to the eventual domestication of Wolves a verity of imaginative reconstruction have been written on the subject. Most of this domestication as the deliberate outcome of human ingenuity: our ancestors perceived the optional value of wolves for hunting and guarding. For scavenging or for consumption and therefore took the necessary steps towards domesticating them. There is little evidence that our prehistoric forebears were gifted with such insight and it is more likely that the enduring partnership between man and beast was initially the product of chance rather than design.

The people unabated Europe and near East during the Paleolithic period (14000 to 12000 years ago) lived entirely by hunting and foraging for food on a day to day basis. Such pets are generally baby birds or mammals brought home alive from hunting forays and usually adopted by the women in the settlement who may suckle young mammals at the breast like orphaned children. At this stage a adopted animal requires a special status within the community it may be given a personal name or treated like a member of the family and when it dies it may be mourned and buried formally. Ordinarily the killing and eating of such pets is taboo.

Aboriginal pet:
keeping of this type is no matter understood than the pet-keeping in western societies However it is thought to originate from so called cute response the almost reflex protective and parental reaction that human and animal infants seem to excite in most adult. whatever its origin and function the pet keeping tendency probably played a major part in the process of Wolf domestication during the first few months of their lives Wolf pups are as appealing or cute as a dog pups and it is more than likely that our stone age ancestors occasionally succumbed to their charms and made their pets of these animals. The widespread belief that Wolves are utterly savage and un tamable is entirely erroneous.

A pet female Wolf during Paleolithic might have owned it’s primarily allegiance to humans, but would also have been capable of responding in a normal social and sexual manner to wild wolves it encountered near its human foster settlement. Provided in mated successfully with a male of the same species such a Wolf could at least in theory become the ancestor of a domestic line. One possible explanation is that Wolves were already predisposed to life in partnership with humans.

A bond of Similarity:
Like human hunting and forgetting society’s wolves packs are generally small containing an average from ten to twenty closely related individuals. These packs also specialize in the cooperative hunting of large game animals, as did our ancestors at the time wolf domestication. Life within closely Knit social groups of this kind depends upon a relatively sophisticated system of communication and a high level of mutual understanding between group members. Through a constant exchange of signals individuals express their intention and emotional states to others serious conflict is thereby avoided, and the groups are able to function as a single co-operative unit. The wolf has only a limited range of vocal signals, but nevertheless among this most visually expressive of all canids, able to convey a wide range of clear and unambiguous message through subtle change in its attitude posture and facial expressions. Much of human communication is also in the level of non-verbal signal and in a sense the two species possess a common language of gustier and nuance which can be used as basis for a co-operative relationship.

These then were the basic ingredients for a recipe which culminated in wolf domestication
1: Human pet keeping tendencies or more precisely the human habit of generalizing social and parental responses to include member of other species.
2: The natural amiability of young wolves and other and other willingness to accept human domination
3: The extra ordinary behavioral and ecological similarities between wolves and hunting peoples which enable these two species to live harmoniously together.

Gradually through trial and error domestic wolves acquired special important economic functions such as hunting and guarding within human society but it is unlikely that such practices consideration played any major part in their original domestication.