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How did dogs became Man's Best Friend

Posted on April 28 2016

So how did our dogs came to be in our homes, eating our food, sleeping in our beds and being considered as family ever happened? And when and why? Does that cute story of hunters falling in love with the wolf puppies and adapting them were true?

Dogs have shared a long narrative with their human companion. The National Geographic Channel has long tracked the history of the relationship of dogs and humans. In fact, recent studies have shown that new evidences point out that dogs were the first ever domesticated animals, which was a phenomenon since the early 3,500 BC. During these times, men were not yet very tolerant of the carnivorous competitor. History shows that on the contrary, humans during that time were rather eradicating the wolves, instead of befriending them and adopting them. There are numerous evidences pointing out that over the last few centuries, almost every culture and society has hunted wolves into extinction.

So how did they end up being man’s best friend today if that’s the case? According to historical research, it all has something to do with the survival tactics of the wolves during that prehistoric period. Dr. Brian Hare, director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, theorizes that what happened between ancient wolves and humans were the survival of the friendliest—instead of the meanest, leanest and fittest. Dr. Hare suggests that it was the wolves who first approached scavenging humans, acknowledging the fact that attacking them would eventually mean death. The brave ones who approached the humans were fed—and later on kept as companions.

People began to realize the benefits and advantages of owning a dog during those times. They were depended on during hunting. Even today, some tribes in Nicaragua and Congo greatly relies on dog during hunting trips. They believe that they gather more with the help of the canine’s ability to prey and stalk. Also, hunters believe that they will starve without their dogs.

Prehistorically, Dogs have always served as a warning system whenever they bark at hostile and suspicious strangers from unknown and neighboring tribes and cities. Not only that, long they have defended their human counterparts against predators and attackers.

And finally, though this is not a pleasant thought, when times were tough, dogs could have served as an emergency food supply. 

As the advantages of dog ownership became clear, we were as strongly affected by our relationship with them as they have been by their relationship with us. Dogs may even have been the catalyst for our civilization.

Because of this evolutionary change, the wolves had lost the need for sharp teeth, strong jaws and longer snouts. According to studies made by archaeologists, our canine furry friends during the ancient times are distinctly different with the present day dogs. The skeletal arrangement of the pre-historic dogs shows smaller teeth, a reduced “Sagittal Crest”—the bone ridge that runs down the forehead and connects to the jaw. These were linked with the earliest dog bones unearthed in Belgium in 2008, which are believed to be from 31,700 years ago. Until recently when much older dog bone skeletons were discovered in western Russia and across Europe, Asia and Australia.

There was this phenomenon of “self-domestication”, which explained why the prehistoric canines have stuck with their human counterparts, instead of attacking them when they had a chance. Humans have started utilizing dogs in with hunting, herding, standing guard, and carrying stuff.

Humans had also deliberately bred dogs to be more adorable. The once intimidating, scary-looking wolf is now a splotchy coated, floppy eared and wagging tailed canine that was notably became more submissive and loyal to their human masters.

Psychological changes also occurred as the domestication of wolves and prehistoric dogs commenced. These canine started to develop the ability to read and understand human gestures and follow commands. This ability is not even seen on chimpanzees and bonobos—with which humans have closer sets of DNA and considered to be our closest relatives. Humans grew fondly of dogs because of the way they pay attention to us, allowing the extraordinary connection we have for our dogs.

Collective scientists from China, Canada, Finland, Singapore, Sweden and the US has published a report in the journal Cell Research comparing the genomes, or genetic inheritances, of 58 canids or canine breeds. Out of the 58 types, 12 were grey wolves, 12 were indigenous dogs from the north Chinese countryside, 11 were from south-east Asia, four were village dogs from Nigeria and 19 were specimens of selective breeding from Asia, Europe and the Americas, including the Afghan hound, the Siberian husky, the Tibetan Mastiff, the Chihuahua and the German Shepherd.

Professor Savolainen of the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden said the domestic dog, one of our closest companions in the animal kingdom, has followed us to every continent of the world and, as a single species, embodies one of the largest collections of DNA diversity for any on earth.

Today, aside from the help they provide us with our daily work, dogs have been scientifically proven to make people happier and more comfortable during crucial situations. This resulted to a new ground of doggy service—their use for medical health and recovery. Some dogs began being a service dog for people with chronic diseases, while some were therapy dogs for those in rehabilitation centers.

So if ever you wonder why people have generally have a soft spot for puppies and dogs, it is safe to say that it is deeply embedded in our personality that was molded and shaped over time. Dogs were more than helpers and companions, even before they were known to be domesticated and bred. With this kind of historically-intertwined connection, the fact that dogs came to be man’s best friend is no longer debatable. In fact, nobody ever really questions why they are and how they came to be man’s bff, we just accepted it. Maybe it has something to do with our special bond and connection to them which is wired to our system as human beings.

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