Everyone knows that second to food, dogs are man’s best friend, but where and how did they actually came to be our spoiled 4 legged children that we love so much today?
This is the question that still baffles scientific minds all over the world and no one seems to be able to come to an agreement about.
Some say the wolves were domesticated around 10,000 to 15,000 years ago from the grey wolf, while others say it happened 30,000 to 45,000 years ago from the Taimyr wolf. Some claim it happened in Europe, others in the Middle East, or in East or Northern Asia. One theory claims that wolves domesticated themselves, by adopting scavenging behaviour near human settlements, growing tamer with each generation until they became permanent companions. Another theory is that human hunters worked together with wolves and formed a bond over generations and subsequently chose characteristics which were more docile. Or they could have merely took in orphaned pups and raised them as their companions.
What is clear though is that dogs were the earliest domesticated animal species in the world and also the most morphologically diverse mammal known today. Over the ages humans selectively bred for behavioural and physical traits in dogs which set them up for massive changes referred to as paedomorphosis. The
selected qualities changed over time from occupational traits to aesthetically pleasing ones that gave rise to the enormous amount of different dog breeds we have today ranging from the tiny Chihuahua to the massive Great Dane.
But how can so many dog breeds develop within a single species? What is important to note is that most of the dog breeds we know today didn’t originate thousands of years ago but were created within the last 500 years. However mutation doesn’t occur with enough frequency to account for all the genetic differences between breeds which suggest the capability to express such a variety of traits has been in dogs all along. This adds to the origin theory that is probably most correct at the moment of a dual domestication event across different continents, at different time periods, possibly from different wolf species with a lot of interbreeding between species as they travelled along their human counterparts across the world.
As their history remains shrouded in mystery, one thing is certain, they are still man’s best friend!