Where did dogs come from, anyway, and why is there so darn many of them? Well, there are many theories, but ‘Proto-dog’ (translating to ‘First Dog’) is perhaps the greatest! Because dog breeds vary so greatly, Charles Darwin was unsure whether the dog's true ancestry could be determined.
Beginnings of ‘Proto-Dog’
Historians estimate that about 14kya (thousand years ago), wolves began to ‘piggy-back’ among nomadic tribes of humans, feeding from their scraps/leftovers. Slowly, over time, they began developing characteristics more suitable to this new way of life, becoming smaller and more ‘doglike’.
After all, why not? Tracking and hunting down prey was certainly tiresome work, requiring a lot of energy! This new way of living was much simpler.
It wasn’t until much later in our history that humans began selectively breeding dogs for desirable traits; at first, one animal was simply bred with another similar animal. Many biologists believe it was the Celtic people who first noticed some of their Mastiff breeds were better at trailing a scent than others; they began breeding for this purpose.
Ironically, Mastiffs were our first Scent Hounds! Now we have over 300 species of dogs recognized by the American and United Kennel Clubs! They are:
★ Toy breeds, many originally bred to hunt and kill small rodents
★ Medium to Large breeds, many bred for hunting/fishing/sporting activities
★ Giant breeds, many also bred for hunting/defense purposes
(These are generalizations; not every species falls into that category)
Evidence has led to the current widely accepted scientific understanding that all breeds of domestic dog have descended from the Grey wolf!
Traveling the Globe
But- how did we get so many different kinds of dogs all over the world? All the way from the ancient Egyptian Basenji to the heavy coated Chinese (some say Mongolian, originally) Chow Chow, the differences are truly incredible!
Again, accurate recorded history doesn’t go beyond ancient Egypt (with our first languages), so no one can say for sure, but these are pretty solid theories. It is believed that men traveled along with dogs on great ships in the very early time period. Also, the oceanic expanse is thinnest at a point between Russia and Alaska; Russia descending throughout the rest of Europe/the Middle east, etc.
As they acclimated to new environments, dogs began to evolve characteristics to suit those environments. A Grey wolf’s thick double coat wouldn’t do at all in an intense Middle Eastern climate!
More Interesting Dog Facts
- The ‘Pug’ is an ancient Chinese breed, so highly regarded at one time, they were given lush quarters and provided their own guards!
- The Siberian Husky was bred to tolerate severe temperatures- down to around -40*F!
- Most dogs don’t have sweat glands like humans do, but do sweat from their toe pads (there are some hairless breeds who do)!
- Though Pitbulls have a very poor, misguided reputation, they were originally bred specifically for their ‘bite inhibition’, and are often better around humans than most breeds!