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June 23, 2021 2 min read
When we see all the different types of dogs out there from the Pug to the Burmese Mountain Dog, it is hard to imagine that they are all related to the wild wolf and other wild canines. But how did this happen? Why do our doggy fur friends look so different from their wild cousins? Why is it so hard to believe my little Maltese dog, who is lounging on the sofa cuddling with a pillow, would seem like an alien in the eyes of a wolf?
It seems that scientists are arguing different ideas about how our faithful companions came to be domesticated. Consensus indicates that approximately 20,000 and 40,000 years ago, the dog and the wolf split from a common ancestor. A dog and a wolf’s DNA is similar, differing by about 1-1.2% of their DNA. This means that they could breed with each other. This explains some of the wolf-dogs that you see today.
Some research suggests that hunter-gatherers came across wolf puppies and adopted them. These tamed wolves were shown to have excellent hunting abilities so the humans kept them around to help in hunting.
Another suggests that some dogs survived by scavenging off scraps and garbage discarded on the outskirts of these early human camps. This suggests that more “friendly” wolves would have been given some extra food and therefore were more likely to survive and pass on their genes. Aggressive wolves were either driven off or killed when they got too near human encampments, leaving only the more friendlier ones.
Whichever way dogs and humans started interacting, it is interesting that friendliness caused strange things to happen in the appearance of wolves. They started to look different. The act of domestication where they were bred selectively and intensively by humans, gave them splotchy coats, floppy ears and wagging tails. Not only changes happened physically, the changes also occurred in their psychology. Dogs eventually evolved the ability to read human gestures. This is what sets dogs to be different from any other animal.
Whichever way this happened, this happy accident is something that we all are grateful for. Being able to enjoy a bond with a dog is one of the most rewarding and wonderful symbiotic relationships one could experience.
Give your special fur friend a hug today!
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