No one doubts that our loving canines began as wolves … and probably gray wolves from a region straddling Europe and Asia … thousands of years ago. Dog food companies love to tout that your German shepherd’s kin include the wolf and that’s why you need to feed her the food that wolves eat.
But the real question is when did the canines evolve into man’s best buddy? And how did it start?
The Cornell Study
Scientists at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York were the first to have a more definitive answer to the question of when dogs became domesticated.
What fascinated us upon hearing the results of the study is that it is likely canine domestication happened just once in a village in Asia. Scientists have continued to look at whether there were multiple times where domestication occurred but, so far, no hard evidence exists to support that theory.
Dogs made their way around the world and became our protectors and our friends.
The study took a hard look at the village dogs found in history from a number of regions as well as careful study of the canine and wolf genomes. They think the wolves in China, Croatia and Israel interacted with humans at a time when they were all hunters. Dogs may have enjoyed the spoils of the mammals humans killed and, so, domestication occurred gradually.
Through their research, Adam Siepel and Ilan Gronau found that a great divergence occurred which resulted in the thinning of the early canine population around the time when they think dog domestication began.
Dr. Boyko’s Breeds
Part of the Cornell study includes looking at as many as 4,676 breeds of dog as well as over 500 free ranging or “village” dogs.
What was the point of involving the village dogs?
According to Boyko, also a scientist at Cornell, he was able to narrow down the diversity patterns of dogs in central Asia even though prior studies have contradicted this research. Others have stated they found evidence of canine domestication in the Middle East and Europe as well.
The Taimyr Peninsula
A bone found on the Taimyr Peninsula of Siberia shows that the Taimyr lived 35,000 years ago and was a type of wolf. Research published in Current Biology found that the Taimyr represents the most common ancestor of wolves and dogs and that, at some point in time, there may have been a three-way split of lineage between them.
Huskies and Sled Dogs
It’s been found that our modern day Siberian huskies and sled dogs found in Greenland share an astonishing number of genes with the Taimyr wolves.
Exist In Harmony
Most researchers will agree that dogs have padded around the Earth for at least 15,000 years and possibly as long as 40,000 years ago. Dr. Boyko asks this question: What was the first step in a dog’s domestication?
It appears that the genetic changes in wolves that caused them to be smaller and led them to gentleness and earlier reproduction could have been the trigger that moved animals down the path to a less compatible existence with hunting.
Humans and dogs struck an accord that exists to this day. They love us, protect us and worry about us. And, in return, they too are cared for and loved. No matter where or when, domesticated dogs have been and will continue to be a big part of our lives.