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Dog or wolf: the origins of the domestic dog

Oxford, England: Before humans bred livestock or cultivated the land; before they developed written language, or built houses and villages; and before they kept cats, they certainly had dogs.

 

When did the first bond between man and dog occur?

Scholars from the University of Oxford and a team of scientists from around the world agree that the dog evolved from the wolf, but the theory that saw man tame wolf pups does not hold true: wolves, even as pups, are predators and are therefore difficult to tame. It is more likely that bold wolves approached the hunters to find food more easily by forming a mutual collaboration. From here, the theory of self-domestication – the origins of the domestic dog and its relationship to man emerges.

 

The origins of the domestic dog

Some theories trace the origins of Fido back 14,000 years to a time when humans and dogs were buried alongside each other. However, some biologists argue that, on the basis of DNA and the shape of ancient wolf skulls, domestication occurred over 30,000 years ago.

Greger Larson, a biologist at the department of archaeology at the University of Oxford, has proposed the creation of a large genetic database based on old varieties of wolves and canids, so as to be able to study the DNA and identify, once and for all, the origin of the dog.

The research involves scholars from around the world, and its creator, Dr Larson, is convinced that only a concerted team effort will lead to a conclusive result. Robert Wayne, an evolutionary biologist at UCLA who studies the origin of the dogs and is also part of the research team, said: “There are not many people working in canine genetics who are not working hard on this project.” It is already a great success given the many theories in this field. “Almost every group has a different hypothesis,” he added.

The sample collection phase is nearly complete as museums and universities have offered up more than 1500 exhibits, as well as photos and detailed measurements for the research project.

Dogs and wolves jawbone and teeth fragments housed at the Oxford Museum of Natural History

 

Domestication and evolution

More accurately dating the domestication of the dog not only helps us learn more about “man’s best friend”, but it’s timing will also provide an important piece of the puzzle in the evolution of human beings, and this, in turn, may change what we know about man’s interaction with animals and the environment.

A reality that appears very similar to the legend told in The Promise, the short film directed by Oscar winner Gabriele Salvatores and imagined by Almo Nature, which transports us back 22,000 years to when man convinced the wolf to leave the pack to live and cooperate with him.

 

(source New York Times)

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