Do you know that the adorable little puppy you bought home last week could possibly be a descendent of a wolf? It may well be true! In fact, many theorists believe that wolf is the direct ancestors of domestic dog. Nevertheless, there are just as many who argue that it seems impossible to have over 400 varieties of dogs descended from just one species.
Anatomically, the make-up molecules of the wolf over the centuries have remained unchanged, and research revealed that the DNA of wolf and dog are almost identical! The general pattern of dogs’ skeleton is still very similar to those of wolves in terms of their components, but significant changes can be detected, most obviously in the shape of the skull and the length of some of the limb bones.
The divergence in physical appearance could possibly be the result of mutation or even during cross breeding. Today, breeds such as the Alaskan malamute still retain a strong affinity with the wolf, in terms of their facial appearance and underlying skull structure.
Behaviorally, both dogs and wolves bury bones; turn in circles before settling down for sleep; howl at the moon and frequently leg lift to mark territory. Both gestation periods is 63 days each, and the birth and development of their young is also almost identical
Structurally, dogs and wolves are also extremely similar. Both also live in a pack-like hierarchal system where they are comfortable with a top dog, or Alpha role model. With regards to domestic dogs, Alpha (leader) role should belong to the owner they live with.
Whatever the theory, it isn’t difficult to spot the similarities between dog and wolf. Although, in some cases, the appearance of the domestic dog has diverged significantly from that of its “suspected” ancestor, most dogs still retain many of the traits of their ancestor.
Man’s Best Friend
Early cave drawings show us that wild dogs and wolfs were with humans even in prehistoric time. One of the earliest documentations of man and canine was noted more than 12.000 years ago on an ancient site in Egypt when the fossilized remains of a man and a small puppy were found in a grave in hugging position. Although, it is doubtful whether the puppy was that of dog or wolf, this is not an important issue. Today, Scientists recognize and agree that the process of domestication of the dog has existed for 14.000 years, however they are not in agreement as to how domestication occurred.
Some believe that man adopted offspring of the wolf and through natural selection chose to keep those that were less aggressive and that craftily begged for food.
Others believe that wolves adapted themselves in following man because they could get a good meal.
Whatever the case, it’s hard to distinguish if wolves just tagged along or if they were invited. From ancient time till today, man and dog are inseparable who lived together and changed together. In earlier times man was only concerned with gathering food. However, over time he began to become involved in hunting for food, turning his canine to “friend” as he helped immensely in hunting activities, this occurred some 12 000 years ago.
Later, man realized that not every animal should be his prey, but that some should be kept alive in order to domesticate for his purposes. At that time, domesticated animals needed to be protected from predators, this responsibility was taken up by dog becoming the guard dog, and this new role occurred some 7000-9000 years ago.
Dog breeding began when humans started to emphasize certain characteristics in dogs. Long-legged dogs, for instance, could be used to chase prey, heavy-set animals made better guard dogs. Several types of dogs emerged at the time of the New Kingdom in Egypt (circa 1570 B.C.) and drawings began to show dogs with drop ears, curly tails, straight tails and many coat patterns. Soon people all over the world were breeding and using dogs to suit their own needs.
The Greeks and Romans were training heavy-set dogs for sports, the Far East saw the toy dogs as prized possessions and the Europeans were developing sporting dogs for particular uses – smaller dogs to go to ground, stronger dogs to hunt. Dogs started to be grouped by appearance or function for convenience and were then even further divided into workers, herders and sports.
By 15th & 16th centuries, dogs began to gain popularity, not only for being functional, but by becoming a popular pet. The commercial importance of dogs and dog breeding escalated quickly as they became fashionable. During the 19th century, the number of new breeds grew quickly, with the first dog shows beginning in the 1850s.
Today, although there are roughly over 350 different breeds of dogs acknowledged by the FCI classification, all of them have one common quality that follows them throughout history and that is their unconditional love and loyal relationship to man.
This is without a doubt the oldest friendship recorded in history!