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The Co-Evolution of Dog And Man

Updated on June 16, 2014
Man's best friend
Man's best friend | Source

In This Article...

  • Man's Best Friend
  • Where Dogs Come From
  • Dogs Teaching Humans
  • Dogs Are Highly Intelligent

Man's Best Friend

The most recent edition of a magazine I am subscribed to, "Hart Voor Dieren", A Heart For Animals in English, contained an article that had me standing still on the street, leaning against a lamp post as I breathed in its contents. The article talked about man's best friend, the dog. And what a well-deserved title it is!

Even though I don't own a dog at this moment, I do love them, and I can attest to the special bond a human being can have with a dog.

And so did the article. It informed me that, of all the pets humans currently can own, dogs have been our companions the longest, going back thousands of years. We have truly evolved side by side.

Where Dogs Come From

As will come of no surprise to most people reading this, dogs originate from wolves. Early humans hunted side by side with wolves, protecting the wolf's share from rival wolves and other humans, and in turn the wolf would protect the human while he slept. As time went by, this mutual agreement proved beneficial to both, and a unique bond between two different species developed. Although nowadays we can no longer say when precisely the first wolves - dogs-to-be, started voluntarily accompanying humans as they hunted, it is estimated that this probably took place somewhere around 15,000 years ago.

To a dog, such a deal would've come quite natural, because even today, we can see wolf packs sharing their meal.

Dogs are uniquely adapted to life amongst humans.
Dogs are uniquely adapted to life amongst humans. | Source

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Dogs Teaching Humans

Some scientists claim the possibility strongly exists that humans learned to share their food and protect the elderly, the sick and weak, from dogs! Because this behavior cannot be found with our closest relatives, the apes. The earliest humans didn't do it. And no other species helps care and feed those who can no longer contribute to the group! Altruism seems to be conspicuously absent in the animal kingdom - with the exception of the wolf and dog! So could it be humans copied this behavior and incorporated it into themselves as they lived with dogs?

Quick facts

  • Latin name: Canis Lupus Familiaris
  • First dog: as early as 140,000 years to as late as 15,000 years ago
  • Very popular pet
  • Hearing range: 40 Hz - 60,000 Hz
  • Smell: up to a million times more sensitive than a human's!
  • Originally a predator and pack animal
  • Highly intelligent
  • Very loyal

Over the course of time, as they spent their whole lives together, an intense bond was born. As the millennia progressed, dogs and humans became more adapted to each other. Dogs learned to understand human speech and body language. They even at times understood us better than other humans could!

Dogs also changed physically. Since they didn't only eat the raw meat they hunted, but also what humans cooked and ate, a dog's dietary system adapted. Nowadays, dogs can digest food that would sicken a wolf!

They even learned to understand our facial expressions. Researchers have found that dogs can even smile - just as a human can! They pull up their lips in a grin, attempting to mimick a human's smile or laugh. They sympathize with us, whether we're happy or sad, and they react to it.

Dogs Are Highly Intelligent

In fact, a dog's ability to understand and feel empathy for a human goes as far as to actually understand what it means when we stretch out our arm to indicate a direction - a movement that is unknown and impossible in a dog's world. Wolves don't understand such a gesture and just stare at our stretched arm. Even chimpansees and other apes can't understand this gesture - only dogs can!

A dog knows what we're looking at, and can imitate our behavior. If we press down on a door handle 9 times, the 10th time the dog will attempt to open the door in a similar way. Every time we take out the dog's leash to go for a stroll, he's watching, until one day he stands in front of us, already holding the leash between his teeth - ready to go!

Dogs are amazing, and they are unique in the animal world. As time has gone by, they now truly are a man's best friend.


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    • Mel Jay profile image

      Mel Jay 4 years ago from Australia

      Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Importantly a lot of studies are now being done on dogs, often in the area of genetics. Dogs get the same diseases that humans do - especially things like heart disease and diabetes, so recently geneticists have started to use dogs genes in trying to isolate things that will help humans. I think this might have spilled over into some behavioural studies. Dogs didn't used to be that popular for biologists to study. Pavlov was into dog studies, but only from a certain perspective. I think that in the past dogs have been incredibly taken for granted because they are so common. Only now are people really examining the complexity and truly amazing evolution of the dog. The human - dog bond is fascinating and from my perspective an entirely positive one. Voted up and interesting from me - Cheers, Mel