The history of dogs as companions to humans is a long, complicated one. As the first animal to be domesticated, humans have a very special bond with dogs, but how did this relationship begin? Even scientists can’t really agree on exactly how, when, or why domestication began.
According to a 2015 study, evidence was uncovered that suggests that dogs have been around since the Neolithic period, which began around 15,200 BC and ended between 4,500 and 2,000 BC. It was previously believed that dogs were domesticated during the Paleolithic period, which was before humans started to build settlements.
The new evidence has lead scientists to the conclusion that wolves were probably domesticated when humans built settlements and dumped waste that attracted wolves. As the wolves scavenged these areas, they became more comfortable with humans until some of the wolves would even interact with humans.
To further back this theory, the scientists compared two dog skulls that dated back to as far as 32,000 years ago from Russia and Belgium. Using 3D technology, they examined 36 different points on the skull, and then they compared the findings to more than 100 other dog and wolf skulls, including those from modern dog breeds. They found that the ancient skulls were actually those of wolves and not dogs, which calls into question the theory that dogs were domesticated 30,000 years ago. Since the skulls found belonged to wolves, not dogs, it appears that dogs weren’t domesticated quite that long ago.
Being able to use advanced technology, scientists were able to get a clearer picture of more subtle shape changes in skulls than scientists were previously able to get with only a caliper.
Using DNA in 2016, another team of scientists found that dogs may have been domesticated twice in history in two different areas of the world. Using the inner ear bone of a 4,800-year-old dog found in Ireland, scientists pulled DNA and compared it to DNA from 59 other ancient dogs. What they found was that it seems dogs were domesticated both east and west of Eurasia, but not in the middle.
This team of scientists believes that when eastern peoples migrated west, they brought their dogs, which seems to replace most of the western ones, which is why Asian ancestry is dominant in modern dogs. Since there is a lack of archaeological evidence of dogs in the middle of Eurasia, the research team believes it is unlikely that domestication only occurred in Asia. If migrants brought dogs when they traveled to Europe, and no dogs were domesticated in Europe before, you would expect to see evidence of dogs all throughout the migratory path.
Many scientists believe that more research needs to be done before we can draw accurate conclusions of just how, when, where, and why dogs were domesticated. They are still looking for answer on how wolves evolved into numerous dog breeds, too.
No matter how dogs became tame pets, Drypet is sure glad dogs exist. For all those times when you need to dry your dog off quickly, grab a Drypet towel.