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The Origin of An Everlasting Friendship: The Beginning of Dog Domestication

04. December 2018

We see our dogs right now as a companion, a friend, part of the family, and a cheerleader in our lives. We love our doggies from the bottom of our heart to the point that we would instead cry over them than another person’s demise. These lovely canines became part of our lives and our society for quite a long time that we often forget that they were once vicious and dangerous beasts which were enemies of humankind. You might see them now as harmless beings who loves to play fetch and cuddle with you all day, but they were once wild animals who competed with humans in the food chain.

How did a wolf transform from a vicious and wild beast to snuggly and obedient furballs? It has become one of the mysteries of everyone that somehow, we were able to tame such dangerous animals. Several theories are surrounding the beginning of humankind’s greatest friendship such as taking in puppies and nurturing them to adulthood, wolves would sometimes sneak in human civilization which led to humans taking care of them, and many more theories.

The history of the domestication could be summarized in a partnership that existed way before we learned how to create a gun — a connection that revolved around hunting and herding, where the intellect of humans complemented well the speed and ability of the wolves. The dogs also helped with the herding of cattle which became a massive help through alarming the owners of dangers coming ahead and disallowing any animals from wandering off. It’s a symbiotic relationship where the dogs received protection, shelter, stable food source, and friendship in return.

Wolf the Father

If two breeds of dogs are placed side by side, one could not really tell the difference. For example, if you compare a chihuahua to a Siberian husky, one would think that they are two different creatures. A more significant case would be if you compare a pug to a wolf, you could say that the cute pug did not come from the giant wolf. Tracing the lineages of house dogs would prove your observation wrong since they all descended from wolves. The earliest domesticated dog that was confirmed through comparing the age of all dog fossils is located in Germany which goes by the name Bonn-Oberkassel. It’s said to have lived 14,000 years ago which goes to show how long the pooches have been around in our society.

There’s no precise date as to when they were first domesticated, but we’re confident that they came from wolves through DNA evidence. When the early dogs got tamer and domesticated, they adopted physical features that would account for their tameness and removing their elements that would make them dangerous. It is where our dogs got their tiny paws, adorable cheeks, and cute bodies that make our knees go weak.

Multiple Domestication

Several kinds of research by various scientists suggested that around 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, there are already domesticated dogs living with humans. Through analyzing the mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) sequences from the fossils of 59 dogs that originated from Europe and comparing these genomes with each other, they were able to come up with a suggestion that the domestication of dogs began in Asia around 14,000 years ago. From there, the origin of their lineages could be traced to Western Eurasia and Eastern Eurasia.

Domestication Process

We talked so much about the mystery of their origin, but there’s an even greater mystery when it comes to the relationship of dogs and humans. How did these canines become man’s best friend? Theories regarding the domestication process are flooding the minds of people. There’s no specific documentation of how the early humans tried to tame the ferocious beasts, and we’re left to wander by ourselves how they did it in the first place.

There’s a popular theory about the conception of tamed puppies, and it argues that the early humans managed to capture wolf pups from their dens and kept them as pets. Through taming them, they thought that they might be able to use them for their hunting and securing the peace in their villages. Another popular theory recently showing up is the “survival of the friendliest” which argues that the large, fierce and ruthless wolves somehow went to the humans and allowed themselves to get tamed. Seeing as how large and scary wolves are, there’s no way we would be able to domesticate them through soft methods.

The process of self-domestication then followed, where the tamed doggies undergo physical changes wherein, they have blotched fur, smaller bodies, and different alterations throughout their bodies. The argument here is that we did not domesticate the dogs, but instead, they domesticated themselves.  

Post-Domestication

The numerous alterations within their body are one of the results of domestication. From the change in their coat, bone structure, framework, and many more, there are tons of changes that would set them apart from their wolf ancestors. The changes do not stop from the physical appearance only since there are studies which prove that ever since they got attached to our society, they lost communication with their own species. Through working together with humans, they lost the pack lifestyle that they used to have which is now less prevalent in tamed dogs than it is in wolves. The dependence towards humans dulled their instincts and intellect. 

There’s just so many confusing data about the topic that you might have a headache trying to understand the origin. One thing is for sure though, the dogs that are currently in our homes drinking and eating the food that we provide, providing us with love and affection, and cheering us up when we feel down, originated from its opposite.  What’s important is that they are living with us now and we have to provide them the best care possible since they did so many things for us. We have the world at our hands when a lovely furry companion accompanies us.

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