How Us Dogs Came About

On the surface I may appear to be just good looks, wit, charm, and an irresistible hunk of meat to the ladies. But hey, there’s more to me than that. Occasionally I like to engage my philosophical side and even learn a bit about history.

On my downtime I do a lot of reading and watch quite a few documentaries. From my knowledge I thought I would share with you what I have learned.

Dog on a Computer

Let’s start at the beginning. Where did us dogs come from?

Well, the answer is most obviously that we evolved from wolves. In fact, dogs have 99% the same genes as our long-lost relatives. I have to say, I feel sympathy to our wild counterparts. It’s ironic, and sad, how the dog is man’s best friend, but wolves (like sharks) are one of the most persecuted animals in the world..

I thought I might be able to channel some energy between me and my ancestor by sitting next to this wolf skull. I was trying to meditate but kept getting distracted by how big those chompers are..

Compare Dog to Wolf Skull

So how did the wolf actually evolve into the dog?

Back when you humans were still hunter/gatherers, wolves would smell the yummy aromas of your dinners. They would hang around the campsites and fend for the scraps. After a while the distance slowly closed between wolves and humans until they eventually became domesticated. It was a mutually beneficial agreement. Humans would benefit from our superior hunting & tracking skills, as well as our protective nature such as keeping watch over the camp. In return, dogs got free meals, a warm place to sleep, and a little love.

Take a look at this floor mural located at the entranceway to a house in the Roman city of Pompeii. It’s the first ever recorded sign in the world to say, ‘Beware of Dog’.

Oldest Beware of Dog Sign in the World - Pompeii

Another interesting question which has baffled people for a long time, was why did dogs come to take so many different shapes and sizes? And it’s true, dogs come in more diverse forms than any other single species. So why is that?

If you look at a litter of wolf pups, you might find one or two that are black or white, or somehow different from the rest. Well, it’s the human nature to want what is unique. So through selective breeding and by always coupling the most unusual with the most unusual, you start to get more unique results. The difference is that in nature this is not the case – it is the average or the ‘norm’ of a generation which carries on.

But it goes farther than that. By breeding the smallest dog from one litter with the smallest of another, you will eventually create a smaller dog. As ancient humans lived around the world, they would breed their dogs as optimal hunters for their specific region and the game they liked to hunt – creating the first ‘breeds’.

As modern-day society came along, for the most part we stopped breeding dogs for hunting purposes and more for looks and aesthetics. This is good, because we are essentially designing dogs the way we want them to look, but it also has some downsides. Some breeds have been over-engineered to the point that their body structure is not healthy. A prime example (and no offense to them), is the bulldog. You humans seem to like the squished face look, but now the bulldog has plenty of airway and breathing problems because of this. And there’s plenty more examples. You might even say that us dachshunds are getting a bit too ‘long’ for our own good. There’s a new movement sprouting up to re-engineer these dogs to have healthier anatomies.

It’s interesting to know that dogs would never have existed without humans – and their whole evolution has been engineered not by nature, but by another animal. Dogs are more in sync with humans than you might imagine. Did you know that a dog will almost always look at the left side of your face to read your emotions? But dogs don’t do this for other dogs.

If this interests you further, here are some great dog documentaries I would recommend:

National Geographic -And Man Created Dog

PBS Nature – Dogs That Changed the World: Dogs by Design

BBC Horizon – The Secret Life of the Dog

PBS Nova – Dogs Decoded

Anyway, I hope you learned something.

Keep howlin’,

~ Crusoe

Keep ballin’,