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The Origin of Man’s Best Friend


It seems there is one historical friend of man whose ancestral origins have never been fully understood: the canine. While scientists have been found the oldest known doglike fossils on the European continent, there have been DNA tests predating theses fossils indicating an Asian or Middle East origin for dogs. Now thanks to an unprecedented massive study by scientists on the origins of dog, it would seem as though Europe can now claim it. Fossils tested from some 19,000-32,000 year old canines proves the case.

From Wolf to Spot

Scientists agree nearly across the board that the wolf is the original version of the domesticated dog. It has been known for some years now that in prehistoric human civilization, wolves tended to attempt to position themselves near human encampments, most likely in search of leftover food, scraps, and other waste. As the wolves spent more and more time nearby to humans, their behavior eventually adjusted to the presence of humans, thus making the wolves tamer and on the path to domestication. As the wolves changed their behavior, human beings began to look on the wild wolf differently, eventually attempting to domesticate them in to service for activities such as hunting or security.

European Dog Fossils

The scientific effort put forth recently to better understand where the domestication of wild wolves into what we now consider pets for the home began in earnest last year, with their findings being published by the journal Science.In this study, scientists collected more than 18 individual wolf and dog-like species that dated back to as many as 36,000 years ago. The fossils were collected from select geographical locations across the world and then used to test against dog DNA samples from modern times. The breeds tested included basenji, golden retriever, cocker spaniel, and four wild coyotes.

The results of the testing of the fossils was not resolute in its determination as to the exact location for where dogs came from. There resulted in essence three theories, all which based their reasoning on the latest genetic testing. The most likely theory probed is that the modern dog came from what is now Europe, and was domesticated for use in hunting.

Why So Much Interest in Dogs?

Many outside the scientific world may question the reasoning for using such sophisticated DNA testing simply to examine to evolution of the modern dog. It’s a viable argument that this testing is a little overkill in the attempt to understand man’s best friend. However, the importance of dogs in nearly every culture and country on the planet defies the theory that somehow dogs are not important. Nearly every society on the planet in some way or another has used domesticated dogs throughout their existence in modern times.

As far back as ancient civilizations ruling China or the Egyptians, domesticated dogs have always enjoyed a place in history right next to their masters. There exists no single other animal species which has been carried through time as man has developed more and more complex and modern societies. The rulers of ancient kingdoms had domesticated dogs which resided in the home, much as modern presidents of most any nation on earth. Understanding the origins of canines is an important step in understanding a part of history that is also the story of human evolution.

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