The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

Domestication of dogs

The history of our fluffy companions

Dogs are presumed to be one of the best animal companions that are loved and adored by people all over the world. These fluffy canines brighten our day with their silly antics and their loyal and protective personalities. However, what most do not think about are the ancestral predecessors of dogs  who were once wild and aggressive, survived on the rough terrain, and hunted for their survival. 

The evolution of the wolf dates back to a weasel-like common ancestor in Asia. This ancestor, the Miacis, eventually evolved into the first true dog, the Cynodictis. The Cynodictis genus eventually split into two evolutionary branches, known as the dogs and foxes of the modern world. 

Wolf dogs and dogs have been seen throughout history as hunting companions or protectors for the nomadic people who hunted and gathered at the time. Back then, wolves were considered a dangerous predator to humans, but oftentimes, in actuality, these wolves would simply follow behind human hunters to consume any remaining food left behind. 

As these wolves produced pups, their pups learned from their parents to follow humans, and eventually beg for scraps. Some wolf pups steered clear of humans, while some were more willing to interact with humans for a free meal. Humans eventually began to realize these furry four legged animals were great at sensing danger, and eventually accepted them as companions. 

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The domestication timeline has widely varied across the world, and it is extremely difficult to pinpoint the exact date and location wolves began to become more docile. In China, dogs were domesticated around 16,300 years ago to help herd and maintain livestock.

Dogs in the Americas date back to only 10,000 years ago. There is also evidence that wolves and dogs in Africa could have descended from a type of jackal, which explains the exotic and unique canine breeds in Africa. 

Fossil remains from the Bronze Age have shown five distinctive breeds of dogs, the mastiffs, wolf dog hybrids, sight hounds, pointing dogs, and herding dogs. Dogs were originally bred and used to be working companions to herd animals and livestock, to help assist in hunting, or to work as labor intensive dogs to pull sleds and cargo.

The origin of the gray wolf domestication has brought forth more than 400 breeds of dogs, especially as humans began to selectively breed dogs for certain traits. Early domestication traits included pointed, erect ears and wedge shaped muzzles. As we continued to breed domesticated canines, these features were associated with pure breeds, as the more common traits turned into shorter muzzles and floppy ears. 

As the need for working animals continued to expand with the technological advancements in agriculture and ranching, more breeds were created to meet the needs of labor-intensive, working people. Working dogs such as hunting dogs, herding dogs, and dogs trained for combat increased in popularity. As agriculture and hunting needs began to dwindle with the industrial revolution, some people no longer felt the need for working dogs.

Humans began to selectively breed dogs not just for their working traits, but for their physical appearance and loyal companionship. Breeds like the golden retriever, chihuahuas, and labradors were bred for their social and affectionate personalities,  their preferred size, and their appearance. 

Dogs today widely differ from their wolf-like ancestors, but still seem to possess loyalty and protective personalities. They are our fluffy companions who assist us in everyday life, and warn us of potential dangers surrounding us, but nonetheless, we should not forget that these majestic, fluffy creatures were once fierce and merciless hunters. 

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