As far as has been discovered, dogs were domesticated before any other species. This makes them not only our “best friend” – but one of our oldest friends as well.
Modern dogs are certainly distant to their non-domesticated past of over 11,000 years ago. However, we still see strong similarities at a genetic level as well as in appearance and behaviour. Recently, an international team of researchers probed into ancient canine genetic material. It’s hoped clues in DNA may unlock more of the domesticated dog’s possible history.
Ancient dogs of past
DNA samples were compared to each other and modern dogs. From these findings, it was found that breeds like the Rhodesian Ridgeback in southern Africa and Chihuahua and Xoloitzcuintli in Mexico still retain genetic traces of ancient indigenous dogs from those regions.
Modern dogs are thought to have evolved through domestication and selective breeding from ancient wild canines. Likely originally from wolves that ventured into human camps. These hunter-gatherer groups tamed them, and they became companions for hunting and guarding.
All domesticated dogs today can trace their lineage back to a single (now extinct) wolf population. Or perhaps, just a handful of closely related ones. While of course species changes have occurred through domestication, in almost all the ways you can imagine – a modern dog is compelling closely to ancient dogs.
Today’s modern dogs
This has important considerations for how we feed, house, protect and interact with dogs. In our deep appreciation of dogs today, we can’t get lost in our own desire to humanise them completely. There are clues in the past that we need to discover and respect when thinking about their appropriate care.
It’s an unusual paired bond we have formed with dogs. Originally only a carnivorous predator in our ancestors’ life. Now they still retain those makings and also so much more in the shared life they’ve formed with humans. Let’s not forget what makes them unique and their own species living alongside us.
Further reading of the original article from the BBC that inspired this summary can be found here.