Have you ever wondered where dogs come from?
Well, when a mommy dog and a daddy dog love each other very much…just kidding…we all know that part by now (hopefully).
Obviously, I’m speaking more towards where it all started.
How did the first domesticated dog come to be?
Tomato Soup For The Dog Lover’s Soul…Sort Of
Unfortunately, when it comes to the history of dog genetics much of what is known is just speculation.
Dr. Greger Larson, biologist, archaeologist and one of the leading researchers on the most current doggie origin project compares canine DNA to tomato soup.
No, not in a delicious kind of way.
Basically, the reason for the lack of clarity is due to the DNA being such a mess from interbreeding over the last 15,000 years combined with the 19th century Victorian dog breeding frenzy.
The Big Reveal
Luckily for curious personalities everywhere, researchers have been in the process of unraveling the mystery for quite some time.
The newest study is currently being held at Oxford University with contributors from across the world—including Dr. Larson.
Dr. Larson believes that the best starting point is to acquire as much doggie DNA as possible and to then create a database.
This database will include ancient and modern specimens from bones and measurements of teeth and jaws.
So just what will all of this information reveal?
It should give scientists a better grasp on if the domestication process occurred 15,000 or 30,000 years ago.
Not what you expected? Me either, honestly.
However, scientific discovery is a process.
According to the NY Times, even this seemingly small information will be a huge advance in comparison to the little that is currently known.
Furthermore, it will pave the way for further discovery. More specifically, Dr. Larson hopes for the identification of DNA in ancient wolves that will link them to modern dogs.
He also hopes that identifying changes in skull and jaw structure will show the shift from wild animal to domesticated darling.
The Cavemen Drew Straws
So what exactly is known currently?
There are actually quite a few theories on your pupster’s origin.
It is believed that one of Fluffy’s closest ancestors is the wolf.
One of the most popular theories regarding this ancestry is that the early people domesticated the wolves, leading to the modern version of the dog we know and love.
Dog Listener explains that a young wolf was likely taken and raised among the community—making for a slightly more domesticated animal.
Eventually, the pups that were raised among people would mate with one another producing more and more domesticated animals with each litter.
In my mind, of course, I can’t shake the image of a caveman drawing the short straw (or twig) and having to be the one to reluctantly sneak into the wolf den to nab a pup.
The Fault In Our….Dogs?
The fault in this theory, according to Dog Listener, is that wolves technically can’t be domesticated.
They can be tamed to a degree—allowing for some human contact—but domestication is a whole other animal so to speak.
In order to achieve domestication of a wolf, it would have to be hand reared from birth and in constant physical contact with the human.
Even then, if you took this animal and another hand reared “domesticated” wolf and mated them, the animal would still be born wild.
The hand rearing would have to essentially continue with each new pup defeating the meaning of being domesticated.
From Feral To Fuzzy
With these things in mind, some people believe it is more likely that ancient wolves domesticated themselves.
National Geographic explains that this would have caused an evolution in one group of wolves into the floppy eared pups we know and love today while the other group maintained their feral attributes.
The theory is that some of the less timid wolves took advantage of the scraps they would find near the edges of human settlements.
Over time the wolves would become more and more integrated into the lives of humans.
Changes in their psychological nature and their natural dwellings led to an overall softer appearance.
Altai vs Wolf
There are also those who believe that dogs actually descended from a different type of canine altogether.
A skull specimen dating at 33,000 years old and found in the Altai mountains of Siberia seems to have more in common with modern dogs than with wolves according to Live Science.
Proponents of this theory find the differences between modern dogs and modern wolves to be one of its main backing factors.
For example, modern dogs actually do not live in pack structures when they are on their own.
Modern dog’s skulls are wider and they exhibit shorter snouts.
Also, male wolves are monogamous and help rear their young while modern male dogs are promiscuous and do not play much of a part with their pups.
To further support this theory, a group of researches found that after analyzing the mitochondrial DNA, the Altai dog is genetically more similar to modern dogs and prehistoric New World canids as opposed to contemporary wolves.
So where does all of this information leave us?
While Dr. Larson is enthusiastic about the discoveries currently being made, New York Times tells us he isn’t quite ready to spill any secrets.
In my opinion, secrets don’t make friends. But I guess we’ll just have to speculate and wait patiently until the barking—I mean breaking—news is revealed.
Until then, here’s some more doggie history to hold you over.
And don’t worry, if you’ve had your history lesson for at least the next year, you can check out this article on songs for you dog instead!