Dogs and Our Ancestors

DogsAndOurAncestors

As I write this, I have a little Chihuahua-mix dog resting her chin on my knee. Her name is Hazel and we adopted her from the Home At Last Dog Rescue. She has been an awesome pet. She has been a wonderful companion and unintentional alarm clock. She loves to play with squeaky balls and rope toys. Our experience with Hazel has not been unique to just us. Many of our ancestors have been touched by these four-legged furry beasts and this has gone on for centuries. Dogs have long been partners to their human masters. 

Dogs And Our Ancestors

The modern domesticated dog shares the same DNA as the wild wolf that stalks alone in the forest. The wolf is a dog; or rather, a dog is a wolf. However, while they share the same basic DNA, several millennia  of contact with mankind have left the dog as a clearly different being from the wolf.

The wolf began its path to domestication sometime during the dawn of human civilization.  Scientists have found the earliest instances of human and canine remains buried together, carbon dated to about 12,000-14,000 BCE. The burials of these humans and canines are believed to show the first close relationships, demonstrating the preliminary steps in how a relationship formed between man and dog. What has been found in physical evidence left by artifacts of the time period, shows that less fearful wolves began to get closer to human settlements so that they could scavenge through refuse left from food preparation. 

As less fearful wolves became accustomed to the presence of humans, those genes and the matching canine psychology were passed on to subsequent generations. Not all wolves were afraid of humans; those that could not become accustomed to their presence stayed in the wild. However, wolves that came in closer contact with humans, began to interact with them and were fed in return. Some dogs soon began to exhibit traits that were not present in the wild. They became more skilled and more social; easier to give direction to. 

The ability to teach and train these animals led to dogs being put to work by our ancestors. By the 7th centry BCE, early dogs were put to work in a war capacity, paired with horsemen in conflicts between the Ephesians and the Magnesians. Some time prior to 500 BCE, dogs began to be employed as herding animals, helping to guard and pen in cattle and sheep. In the Medieval Ages, dogs were used to punish poachers and were also taken on hunt of deer and wild boar. More recently, police dogs began their use in the United States in early 1908. Obtaining five specially trained dogs from Europe, Lt. George R. Wakefield started the first American canine unit. Patrol Squad 1 hit the street as part of the NYPD, allowing for an expansion of the police force while reducing costs.

Our ancestors also kept dogs as pets. These social animals could provide some amount of protection to an owner while providing warmth and companionship. Some historians believe that their role as pets can be traced as far back as the Eastern Mediterranean culture around 12,000 BCE. The modern role of dogs as pets became more common following World War 2 with the economic growth and suburban sprawl that allowed for greater pet accommodation.

I suppose what I’ve been trying to say is that Dogs were a part of our ancestors’ lives, and they are a part of our lives today. Our little dog, Hazel, approves of this post. Four paws up!! Which means it’s time for belly rubs.

 

Interesting Links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog#Early_roles
http://archaeology.about.com/od/domestications/qt/dogs.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogs_in_warfare#Timeline
http://www.ehow.com/about_6582445_history-k_9-unit-police-dog.html
http://www.bsca.info/history/herdingHistory.html
http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/schwartz-dog.html
http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-life/medieval-hunting-history.htm


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