You might be wrong to think that dogs were always fetching balls and chewing on your furniture. Long ago, dogs were part of the wild before they met humans and became man’s best friend. Since then, dogs have been helping humans in search and rescue, hunting, and eventually became household members in the contemporary world.
How Were Dogs Domesticated?
38.4 percent of households in America own a dog, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s reports. In this article, we take a look at how dogs and humans became so close to each other.
Who Was The Dog’s Ancestor?
The gray wolf is the main ancestor of the modern-day dog. That is why we can see some resemblance with gray wolves in huskies or the Maremma SheepDog. According to studies dogs were domesticated about 130,000 years ago from the gray wolf. The wolves changed their behavior, temperament and certain body features with time. Their muzzles became shorter and they became less aggressive as compared to how they acted in the wild.
They became less scary and intimidating in appearance and developed a companionship with humans. These wolves learned to read humans and learned to train to obey commands. We do not realize but dogs are very special to humans. They were one of the first animals to be domesticated. According to the Atlantic, dogs were part of human life long before humans learned to grow crops or herd cattle.
Theories Around The Domestication Of Dogs
In simple terms, dogs are basically domesticated wolves. There are numerous theories and myths around the domestication of dogs. Recent molecular studies suggest that dogs were domesticated around 100,000 years ago from wolves while some say that they became human companions 30,000 or 10,000 years ago.
Wolves and humans were in direct competition with each other for food. Both of these species had a social structure and hunted in packs. They had the tendency to kill each other but what crossed paths with each other that led to the integration of wolves with humans?
Here are some theories that bust the myths around the domestication of dogs:
Socialization With Humans
Wolves live in packs and humans live as families or in a larger perspective, as a society. This theory suggests that wolves are social animals and they interacted with humans at one point in history in a non-lethal and non-aggressive manner. This gave way to humans getting along with wolves and eventually they were domesticated. However, dogs have a tendency to be aggressive towards strangers so they are not completely socialized. In our view, this theory does not explain the variety of dog species that we see today.
To support this theory there were several instances that were reported in which wild wolves, such as Romeo, used to get along with locals and tourists.
Interaction With Hunter-Gatherers
Wolves can entirely live on lean meat whereas humans need fats and carbohydrates. Wolves used to feed on the carcasses left by humans or humans might have fed these wolves the surplus or leftover meat that was collected during hunting.
These hunters used to rest and cook in campfires so the wolves might have been attracted to the smell of the meat. This points to the fact that there was some sort of interaction between humans and wolves.
The wolves helped these hunter-gatherers track and trace prey, fend off any potential competing predators such as bears, and in return humans allowed them to feed on the carcasses and the meat. As a result, the wolves grew to be less aggressive around these human camps. That made them favorites for domestication because they provided a lot of benefits for the hunter-gatherers.
As time passed, these semi-socialized wolves reproduced and gave birth to pups. These pups were eventually integrated into the human circle. These wolves grew more comfortable around humans and the interaction grew. This led to the first step towards the domestication of the dog.
How Did Wolves Turn Into Dogs?
In layman’s terms, after wolves became socialized with humans, they turned into dogs. But it is not as simple as it seems. Wolves underwent genetic, behavioral, and dietary changes to evolve into dogs that we love and admire so much today.
1. Genetic Changes
Dogs come in a variety of colors these days but the color yellow is dominant and closely resembles the white fur color of the arctic wolves. As the wolves were domesticated, their muzzles, teeth, and jaws grew shorter, and meat became less stiff. Studies suggest that during the Late Pleistocene era, the diversity in dog coat colors happened due to natural selection.
It should also be noted that the yellow coat was also dominant in dingos(from Australia), dogs and wolves that are classified as the Canidae family.
2. Changes In Diet
Proto-dogs is a term used for the first pack of dogs that dwelled with their human companions and evolved to become modern-day dogs. These proto-dogs were not wolves nor they had completely evolved to be called dogs. With the passage of time, their diet changed and they shifted from lean meats to a more fatty diet.
As they started living with humans, the number of captured prey increased and that led to a more fatty diet. Eventually dogs evolved to digest a variety of nutrition such as carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
The Geography Behind The Evolution Of Dogs
Dogs are believed to be domesticated in Eurasia. Some studies also suggest that dogs originated in Siberia but there is no concrete evidence to support this claim. Some believe that domestication happened in different locations. After the domestication, the proto-dogs mated with wolves and among themselves to produce a variety of dogs. However, this variety can also be explained on the basis of natural selection, positive selection, and evolution.
The genetic study of dogs shows that dogs found in areas around SouthEast Asia and China show greater genetic diversity suggesting that dogs might have evolved and originated from this region.
How were dogs domesticated? Scientists believe that the domestication of dogs has diminished their pack mentality on a species level. However, they have gotten better at making a bond and working with humans. No matter how or when dogs were domesticated, we are glad that they did and became man’s best friend.