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Evolution of the Dog

Updated on February 9, 2013

Wolf-like species have been around for 2 million years.  The dog started to evolve away from the wolf about 100,000 years ago.

At about 14,000 years ago, humans started to played a big role in the evolution of the dog. Wolves gradually became dogs as natural selection selected traits of this animal that would be able to live compatible with humans. As wolves and humans intermingled, those wolves with traits that we human like or need thrived. And those with undesirable traits did not. Desirable traits included tameness, train-ability, and usefulness.

How it Probably Started

We can only speculate, since know one was keeping records back then. Wolves started to come into early human camps lured by the smell of food. Wolves would then take the leftovers of whatever was left.

As human move on to hunt, the wolves followed. Because with human cunning and their tools, humans probably was very good at finding and making a kill. Wolves found savaging the campsite easier than hunting themselves.

Those wolves that had traits that was most pliable and tame were eventually accepted by the human into their camps. Afterall, the wolves did provide human some benefit. The wolves more perceptive senses can alert humans to any danger that might come at night. Soon wolves started to hunt with the human assisting them in the hunt.

Also, wolves can become food for the human as needed. It sounds awful today. But back then primitive humans did eat puppies. Remember this is 14,000 years ago, before there was farms or thing like supermarkets.

National Geographic Editor Karen Lange writes ...

"Some argue that humans adopted wolf pups and that natural selection favored those less aggressive and better at begging for food. Others say dogs domesticated themselves by adapting to a new niche -- human refuse dumps."[1]

Then later, humans started cross-breeding them to select for traits that would be useful. The dog as a species display the one of the widest amount of diversity -- big dogs, tiny dogs, furless dogs, heavy coated dogs, etc.

As these animals (dogs/wolves) live more and more with humans, they don't have to hunt for food as much. Humans started giving them food. So their skulls and teeth became smaller. And other skeletal changes occurred that would eventually distinquished dogs from wolves. Dogs are now so dependent on humans that they could not live without them.  Even wild dogs need to be close to human proximity in order to savage their refuge.  

This is how the dog became the first domesticated animal.

Difference Between Dogs and Wolves

The DNA of the wolf and the dog is nearly identical.

Wolves howl.  Dogs bark.  The run differently.  Wolves can eat pounds of meat at a time.  They can digest bone and eat raw meat.  The modern dog will throw up if it tried to do that.  Wolves do not need humans.  Dogs do. 


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