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Pawprints In Time: The Origin Of Dogs

Emma's ancestor
Dogs have walked beside men for more than fourteen thousand years. During the Ice Age, about 20,000 years ago, large mammals occupied the Eurasian Arctic tundra and were the target of two weaker and smaller types of hunters: men and wolves. These two species are both family-based and live in packs. They also have broadly similar diets and social brain development as well as complementary attributes and skills. It is for this reason that instead of competing for the same prey, they developed a natural strategic alliance which allowed them to prevail over other species. This primitive affiliation influenced both humans and wolves' evolution, and emerged as one of the most beautiful inter-specie relationships of history: man and dog.


When humans changed their nomadic hunting lifestyle to become planters and farmers developed a more collective social organization. Domestication of farm animals for practical reasons and the integration of dogs into men's new activities, played a major role in the success of humanity.


Archeological evidence of an existing canine-human relationship are numerous and date from more than 30,000 years ago. For instance, a 50-meter trail of footprints of a boy and a large canid part-wolf, part-dog lies in the Chauvet cave, in France. This finding suggests that approximately 26,000 years ago this child walked inside the cave accompanied by his pet . Moreover, fossilized remains found in different parts of Europe, including the Kesslerloch cave, as well as in different places in Asia, were the missing pieces in the puzzle that lead towards the conclusion that 14,000 years ago, domestic dogs were part of humans' entourageAlthough the fossils found in the Goyet Cave, Belgium, and Southern Siberia suggest that the origin of the domestic dog dates back to more than 30,000 years, scientists think that the Ice Age could be the reason why neither the Belgian nor the Siberian domesticated lineages survived. Also, the discovery of dog burials demonstrate early pet domestication as well as the fact that humans gave dogs a special status. The oldest case of a double grave, consisting of a dog being buried next to a human, in Europe dates from about 14,000 years ago and is located in Bonn Overkassel, Germany. In America, this type of evidence dates from around 10,000 ago and was found in Danger Cave, in Utah.

Goyet dog 31,700 years ago.
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Studies of Mitochondrial DNA provide genetic evidence that wolves are the ancestors of domestic dogs and suggest that current major dog populations have a common origin. In the process of evolution of wolves into dogs genetic changes have occurred. These include an overall size reduction as well as other morphological skeleton variations.






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Settlement leaded to substantial changes in humans' lifestyles influencing dogs' habits and functions. Unlike nomad primitive men, sanitation started to concern settled civilizations. Therefore, the most sociable and friendly canids of the group were allowed to roam around camps to control rats, insects, and rotten food. Consequently, only friendly canids lived close to people and under their protection. These dogs turned out to be healthier and more likely to reproduce. This human selection of the desirable characteristics in a dog was the starting point of the latter's friendly nature and the deliberate control of their breeding generated dogs to hunt, track, guard, herding, and provide company or assistance.




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