Start of “Dog-ocene” dated to at least 28,500 years ago

Guest post by David Middleton

Two of my favorite things are dogs and the Pleistocene…

New Study Results Consistent With Dog Domestication During Ice Age
by Matt McGowan | Feb 19, 2020 | Advancing the Data Revolution, Research News

Analysis of Paleolithic-era teeth from a 28,500-year-old fossil site in the Czech Republic provides supporting evidence for two groups of canids – one dog-like and the other wolf-like – with differing diets, which is consistent with the early domestication of dogs.

The study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, was co-directed by Peter Ungar, Distinguished Professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas.

The researchers performed dental microwear texture analysis on a sample of fossils from the Předmostí site, which contains both wolf-like and dog-like canids. Canids are simply mammals of the dog family. The researchers identified distinctive microwear patterns for each canid morphotype. Compared to the wolf-like canids, the teeth of the early dog canids – called “protodogs” by the researchers – had larger wear scars, indicating a diet that included hard, brittle foods. The teeth of the wolf-like canids had smaller scars, suggesting they consumed more flesh, likely from mammoth, as shown by previous research.

[…]

Dog domestication is the earliest example of animal husbandry and the only type of domestication that occurred well before the earliest definitive evidence of agriculture. However, there is robust scientific debate about the timing and circumstances of the initial domestication of dogs, with estimates varying between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago, well into the Ice Age, when people had a hunter-gatherer way of life. There is also debate about why wolves were first domesticated to become dogs. From an anthropological perspective, the timing of the domestication process is important for understanding early cognition, behavior and the ecology of early Homo sapiens.

[…]

University of Arkansas

Cool article. I just wish they wouldn’t refer to the last Pleistocene glacial stage as “the Ice Age.”

Dogs are truly amazing creatures. Instead of hunting humans, some wolves (or wolf-like canids) became our friends (family to many of us)… They helped us hunt, protected us and our livestock all in exchange for a few scraps of food and a pat on the head. I have always been convinced that the domestication of dogs and horses enabled humans to dominate this planet.

Just think about it… 40,000 years of evolution did this:

40,000 years ago, Late Pleistocene
After 5:00 PM, Early Pomocene

National Geographic produced a great documentary on the natural history of dogs back in 2010: And Man Created Dog. You can watch it on Vimeo.

Featured Image (IMDB)

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142 thoughts on “Start of “Dog-ocene” dated to at least 28,500 years ago

      • Vuk?
        Is that what you say if you find yourself staring one in the face?
        I had a similar experience with a bear in Alaska last summer. Fortunately, despite the desperate ravages of climate change, there were enough salmon in the river for him not to be hungry.

        • I’m not sure I could say even that. It looks big, and strong, and healthy, and the facial expression says it isn’t going to take any crap from the likes of me.

          (Incidentally, Vuk, there is something wrong with your website. All the text has been replaced by random letters. I couldn’t read any of it.)

          • Is it Polish? I could not find my translate button. I can take in some French or German but with Polish I only get the very odd word.
            By the way, what has happened to the WordPress log on so I do not have to fill in contact details everytime. Another one would be Discus.

      • didnt realise they got so hefty
        my dane x staghound is 80+kg and stands about 3ft at shoulder head is halfway up my ribs and Im 5ft5
        the other 5 in the home are all around 40 to 50kg tiddlers;-)
        but one is the big fellers son @11mths hes 40+kg and growing still;-)
        cant live without a pack around me

  1. You’re going to the dogs, David? Of course humans domesticated wolves into dogs during the last Glacial Cycle of the current Ice Age we live in. The proof is “Joy to the World”, OK not that exactly, but the group who recorded it was Three Dog Night. Their group was named after the Inuit tradition of bringing a dog into the igloo at night to sleep on their feet during a cold(er) night, and the coldest nights were Three Dog Nights!

  2. In 1944, my mom’s father, James H.S. Bossard, wrote and article in the journal “Mental Hygiene”, entitled The Mental Hygiene of Owning a Dog.
    Over the following weeks, months, and years, he received over 1000 letters regarding this article, and it has since been cited in other scholarly works many thousands of times.
    I am trying to find a copy of the article that everyone can look at, but in the meantime I was wondering if anyone else here was aware of this article, and if so is there a link to where it can be read?

    It has been widely considered that this single article began the modern interest of the subject of human-animal interactions as an important topic in sociology.
    Example:

    “History of the Human-Animal Bond
    Modern interest in human-animal interactions can be dated to 1944 when James H.S.
    Bossard described the therapeutic value of dog ownership in the journal Mental Hygiene.
    According to Bossard, pets play several roles in the family including: a source of unconditional
    love, an outlet for people to express love, a teacher of children, social lubricants, and
    companions. He considered household pets as a basic instrument in mental health because of
    their integral role in the family.”

    http://dc.etsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3407&context=etd

    • You might find this article of interest, Nicholas. It serendipitously appeared in today’s (21 Feb 2020) Cleveland Clinic’s IM Daily Brief:

      “Researchers Do Not Know Why Dog Ownership May Be Associated With Reduction In All-Cause Mortality

      In a piece focusing on the benefits of pet ownership, CNN Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/20, Lamotte) reports, “An analysis Share to FacebookShare to Twitter last year of nearly four million people in the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom found dog ownership was associated with a 24% reduction” in all-cause mortality. What’s more, ‘f the person had already suffered a heart attack or stroke, having a dog was even more beneficial; they were 31% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.'”

      • This is very interesting…thank you, Robert!
        I shall have to look into this in more depth.
        This article is specific to dogs, but I wonder if the phenomenon may be somewhat more broadly applicable to pets in general, or perhaps only specifically to pets that have a close, and/or emotionally strong, relationship with their owners?
        I have known for some years that there have been various studies over the years that measured such physiological parameters as blood pressure, both before and just after interacting with a pet or, for example, a visiting dog.
        One study brought dogs from shelters into nursing home and assisted living facilities and measured the b.p. of residents as they interacted with these dogs.
        There was measured a very significant lowering of blood pressure and pulse rate after even a few minutes of petting a dog.
        Other studies have shown that people who are caring for someone else, or have some other specific task or purpose that is very important to them, seem to be able to delay their own time of death until after some notable event, such as the death of a spouse or loved one, or a birthday or some other type of meaningful event for a particular person in failing health, or even in cases where no known health challenges were present.
        Perhaps caring for a pet has this same effect of keeping people hanging on when otherwise they might choose to give in to their looming mortality?
        Either of these, and perhaps more likely both, as well as other such factors, could be an explanation for what is noted in this particular study which you have brought to our attention, eh Robert?

  3. I don’t think dogs were domesticated from wolves. When domesticated animals revert to wild in a few generations they recover their pre-domestication morphology, wild dogs like dingo do not look at all like wolves and they are very different behaviorally. One possibility that has not been properly explored is that ancestral wild dogs were a different species from wolves that became extinct after domestication. It is quite common that the wild version of an animal domesticated by humans becomes extinct.

    https://static01.nyt.com/images/2012/03/06/science/06DING_SPAN/06DING-jumbo.jpg

    That would explain also why wolves can be tamed but not domesticated. They are not the species of origin.

    • This article would support this hypothesis by showing that 28,500 years ago there were two types of animals. The second one would not be the domesticated wolf changed by human selection, but the ancestral pre-domesticated dog species.

      • That would explain also why wolves can be tamed but not domesticated. They are not the species of origin.

        Javier, ….. great post, …… a prime example of common sense thinking, logical reasoning and intelligent deduction. And to be quoting another person, I would like to say ….. “I should have thought of that”. 😊

        I believe modern cattle breeds are the same, their original species became extinct after domestication.

        And “HA”, ….. I really don’t think that the modern house cat has been domesticated, …. because they just tolerate humans as long as they are provided food and a warm place to sleep.

        Ya can “herd” horses, cows, sheep, goats and dogs, …… but you cant “herd” cats.

          • We had a Border Collie that successfully herded one cat called Sandvo. It was necessary for the cat to grow up thinking that it was normal to be herded.

            I support the idea that dependent/companion dogs go a lot further back than has been assumed. Humans do too.

            As a trainer of service dogs, it is obvious to me that the fundamental attributes we like have been selected by breeding for ages. The idea that they are not descended (recently) from wolves is sensible on the face of it. Perhaps there were several animals capable of interbreeding and what we see today is not representative of the past.

            That said, when Arctic Huskies that have escaped the chain see winter coming they “pack up” and the neighbours have to hunt and kill them all (each year) because they are very dangerous when hungry and do not fear people. The tendency to join packs does not make them wolves. Maybe Huskies are a cross between dogs and wolves, rather than partially domesticated wolves.

            During my time in Mongolia I was regaled with numerous tales of extraordinarily intelligent wolves that do things quite beyond what anyone would guess. There is still a lot to learn. Maybe they will find a 56,000 year old tooth and find the same patterns of wear and double the age of everything.

            This “common ancestor” thing never seems to pan out as well as imagined. Consider the huge re-interpretation that had to be made when they discovered gorillas are much more distant relatives of chimps than had been (vainly) imagined.

          • You got that right, Crispin, ……. “(vainly) imagined” …. is a much, much bigger problem restricting the advancement of science than most people realize.

            Once a chosen, per se “expert of experts” make a definitive claim about some facet of science, their subordinate “worshipers” will avert their eyes and their minds to any and all things contrary to said “claim”.

            Such was the case of the Headless dinosaur

            Like they, …… “science advances one death at a time”.

        • My cat was very much attached to me and some breeds follow their owners like dogs do.

          Most cat species are solitary so it’s not a surprise that breeding of a cat breed that is as social as a dig hasn’t happened.

      • It takes a number of generations of selecting for tameness before doglike traits emerge, as shown by Russian fox and Danish mink domestication programs.

        But Javier is onto something. While dogs are descended from wolves, the original wolf population from which they arose appears to have gone extinct. Grey wolves used to be more widespread and diverse. The suffered a severe genetic bottleneck. So too did dogs.

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3894170/

      • Thanks for the article and main post David. We lived with a wolf for a dozen years. Definitely different than a dog. She could be trained, and would obey, in her own way and time. Very independent, but timid around new people and animals. It took a couple of years, but visiting a local dog park regularly, she became socialized.

      • This is fascinating. I saw an experiment once. The researchers had a dog and a “tamed” wolf. They put the wolf in a room with a human being and a cage that contained a chunk of meat. They did the same with the dog. The wolf didn’t even acknowledge the presence of the human. It went after the cage like crazy and would not give up trying to get at the meat. The dog started after the cage, but after it met with no success, it gave up rather quickly, sat down and looked at the human. The researchers surmised it was seeking assistance or leadership. They also theorized that this trait was probably a big reason dogs became our friends and wolves, well are wolves.

        Thanks for the post.

      • David
        Just like dogs, wolves have different personalities. When I was in the army some 50 years ago, I was assigned TDY to Pt. Barrow (AK). Personnel at the base were, among other things, studying cold-weather adapted animals such as Arctic Fox, Wolverines, and Arctic Wolves. There was a large cage with about a dozen wolves in it. When I approached the cage, some of the animals moved to the far side. However, one animal came up to the wire and was intently studying me. I was wearing a pair of standard issue leather gloves with wool liners. Willing to risk the glove, but not a finger, I withdrew my index finger from the glove and stuck the empty glove finger through the cage to rub the animal’s muzzle. It behaved as I would expect a domesticated dog to.

        I later shared my experience with with one of the permanent workers. They told me that someone had shoved the hickory handle of a hammer through the wire and a wolf had shredded the handle. They appear to be intelligent enough to understand intent and perhaps had recognized that there was nothing inside my glove finger. The typical behavior of wolves may not be the same as that of the first wolves that became companions to humans. I remember reading about an Iditarod racer that related how a black wolf followed her and her team of dogs and would sit outside the ring of light from the campfire at night.

        Further, from my readings and personal experience, it appears that many animals (such as bobcats) can be tamed if acquired early, but tend to become unmanageable once they reach sexual maturity — just like teenagers! 🙂

      • ..and it’s common knowledge…..at the wolf sanctuaries where a lot of them end up….that these wolf/dog hybrids that are popular now….you can get an animal that looks like a wolf, but thinks it’s a dog…..or you can get an animal that looks like a dog, and thinks it’s a wolf

        ….the second one is the problem

    • wolves can be tamed but not domesticated. They are not the species of origin.

      Wolves can be selectively bred for domestication, after a few generations you have an Alsatian type. DNA proves wolves are doggy ancestors and wild dogs are more likely to be domestic dogs gone wild

      • DNA doesn’t prove anything in this case. Canids have a messed-up genetics because they can easily interbreed between species and have done so many times in the past. Coywolves demonstrate that they don’t even fit the classical definition of species since they produce fertile viable hybrids. That wolves are the closest extant relative of dogs doesn’t necessarily mean that dogs were domesticated from wolves rather than from an extinct unknown species.

    • The idea that the domestic dog descended from the grey wolf was originally established in 1993 using comparisons of wolf and dog mitochondrial DNA. This investigation showed that no other living animal was more closely related to the domestic dog than the grey wolf: “The domestic dog is an extremely close relative of the grey wolf, differing from it by at most 0.2% of [mitochondrial DNA].” link

      Based on genetics, can you find a better candidate?

      • Tough to argue with the logic.

        However, the Grey wolf is only one of the subspecies. Dire Wolf, Red Wolf , Dingo etc… come to mind. Many of these subspecies are far older than 40,000 years old.

        It’s seems logical to conclude multiple domestication events with different subspecies not just the Grey Wolf.

      • Based on genetics, can you find a better candidate?

        I don’t need to. Being the closest genetic relative doesn’t prove that dogs descend from wolves. It means both have a common ancestor.

        If dogs descend from an extinct species archeology is the only way to prove it, and as this paper shows it is very difficult to distinguish between both species fossils, but it is possible.

    • Javier, you might be a little correct, but not by much. European dog DNA is 98.8% wolf DNA. What is the origin of the last 1.2%? Unknown. Apparently dogs from China have a little more diversity, don’t know why. If we presume the early Americas settlers came from China, more-or-less, then they brought a more diverse DNA dog with them.

      • Some of the difference might come from hybridizing with other 78-chromosome canids, of which there are many, but mostly it’s probably just from thousands of generations of separate evolution, to include artificial selection by humans.

    • When dogs revert to the wild, evolution will select for those traits that best suit them for survival in that environment.
      If the genes of the original ancestors still exist inside dogs after 40,000 years of mutation and selective breeding, some of those genes may get expressed again. However there’s no guarantee that the genes that best fit the ancestor’s original environment best fit the environment where they returned to the wild.

    • Look for information regarding ‘dog packs’.

      Dogs that go feral quickly return to pack society and are cited as dangerous to people.
      Running into a feral dog is scary but not necessarily life threatening.
      Running into a dog pack is life threatening.

      Ordinary dogs living coddled lives as pets also turn into pack societies when they are running free as a pack. Less threatening than a feral pack they are nonetheless dangerous; especially to small animals and children.

      • ATheoK
        You remarked, “… especially to small animals and children.”
        When I first arrived in Pt. Barrow 50 years ago I noticed two frozen dogs stuffed head-first into a couple of burn barrels. When I asked our Inuit driver, taking us from the airport to the Army base, about the unusual sight, he said that they are working animals that are kept lean and chained outside, and could be a danger to children. So, there was a law that any animals caught running free would be shot. It wasn’t a big problem so the ‘dog catcher’ only patrolled on Tuesdays. It was a Tuesday.

  4. IMO dogs domesticated themselves. They started as outcast wolves, which survived by hanging around human camps, eating our scraps, bones and excrement. Our ancestors tolerated them as sentries to alert us to prowling predators by night.

    Humans then got involved in the domestication process by selecting puppies (or cubs) with the most desirable traits. This might have occurred at different times and places, but one study found dogs most closely related to NE Siberian wolves.

    Domesticated foxes develop dog-like traits.

    • Humans have dog-like traits. link I’m not entirely sure we didn’t learn our best characteristics from dogs as we co-evolved.

      • We’ve definitely co-evolved, but the traits I had in mind were floppy ears and up curved tails. We do indeed share behavioral traits, however, possibly to include arrested adolescent development.

      • Commie Bob;
        In that vein, there is a prayer I’ve seen, and used from time to time:

        “Lord, help me to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.”

          • Good one, I’ll have to tell my wife.

            Between Will and Yogi, you can probably find all the wisdom you need for a happy life.

          • There was a good Twilight Zone episode where a hillbilly man & his dog both drowned & died (he didn’t know it at first). After realizing he & his dog had drowned, he went along a road where someone at a gate wanted him to enter but wouldn’t let the dog in. The man said he didn’t want to go anywhere his dog wasn’t welcome, and further down the road met somebody (St Peter supposedly) who said the earlier guy was Satan trying to lure him in.

          • dogs are even more proof that God exists, and loves us, than beer is…

            bacardi silver (with coke out of a glass bottle)…

        • The logic behind dogs not going to heaven is that they have no souls. (my dog had more soul in her happily wagging tail than most people have in their big ugly bodies)…

          • A fundamentalist Christian dorm mate of mine in college distinguished between personality and soul. He admitted, how could he not?, that some dogs have more personality than people, but that we are uniquely blessed with immortal souls.

            Our fellow dormies called BS on that.

          • dogs are even more proof that God exists, and loves us, than beer is…

            bacardi silver (with coke out of a glass bottle)…

  5. Being essentially a cat lover (with various family dogs along the way), it is clear to me that domestic dogs were kept to keep bigger cats away.
    Ever seen what even our small cats can do to a dog? Horrible!
    They have some kind of a memory going way back, encoded.
    Notice domestic cats are kept much smaller – although there are cheetah pets which no-one would leave their kids near!
    And in the Louvre, Paris, are beautiful carved cats, the Egyptian god Bast (which the word “pussie” is from). They deified their will and self-esteem. The Dog Anubis, guarding, is well known there too.

    Which leads us to the night sky, as with everything Egyptian – Canis Major’s eye, Sirius, is the brightest star, the Dog Star, hence Dog Days of summer.
    And to precession – around 6000BC that star Sirius, seemed to head lower on the horizon leading to stories of a legendary battle and a hero taking over the role of the “hound”. Sirius is at Orion the Hunters foot.
    Everyone is looking at Orion’s shoulder Betelgeuse, right now, then it was the foot.
    Meanwhile a very large cat, Sphynx, looks east at Leo, with star Regulus, which slowly headed under the horizon around 10,000BC. Today that cat looks at Pisces, waiting patiently, as cats do, for Leo to rise gain.

    • Bonbon – February 21, 2020 at 3:16 am

      Ever seen what even our small cats can do to a dog? Horrible!
      They have some kind of a memory going way back, encoded.

      Ya ever watched a dog’s reaction when they hear a Wildcat scream?

    • Excerpts from a Dog’s Diary:

      8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing!
      9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing!
      9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
      10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
      12:00 pm – Lunch! My favorite thing!
      1:00 pm – Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
      3:00 pm – Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
      5:00 pm – Milk bones! My favorite thing!
      7:00 pm – Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
      8:00 pm – Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
      11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

      Excerpts from a Cat’s Diary:

      Day 983 of my captivity.
      My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.
      They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape.
      In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.
      Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am. Bastards!
      There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of “allergies.” I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.
      Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow –but at the top of the stairs.
      I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches.
      The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released – and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.
      The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now . . .

      • We have three M Cs (and two tabby strays). The largest has been on a controlled diet for several years. He weighs 25 pounds, down from a little over 32. He gets a lot of attention when we’re in public. Fortunately, as the breed is noted for, he is extremely docile. As far as he’s concerned, his teeth are only for eating, and his nails are for scratching whatever itches.

        We named him Daniel, and comes to me whenever I whistle Danny Boy.

      • Yes, some dogs like good-natured Labs and yappy little ankle biters. Not all dogs though. The Cesky Fousek (Drahthaar) must go out and kill a fur bearing animal on it’s own, usually a coyote or bobcat to be certified. German Shorthair Pointers will instantly kill a cat, as they were bred to be versatile hunter to hunt among other things, bobcats. Most Newfoundlands will also instantly kill a cat. Better to keep tabby safe than dead.

  6. Seeing our ancient ancestors were hunter gatherers, domesticating dogs made a lot of sense for them, and dogs assist greatly in hunting with their ability to track, corner and retrieve. Also dogs were much better at keeping vermin at bay than humans. Dogs also benefited, by having a more constant supply of food, and better living conditions in human dwellings than in dens.

  7. Two competing explanations:

    “Structural variants in genes associated with human Williams-Beuren syndrome underlie stereotypical hypersociability in domestic dogs”
    https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700398

    And
    “The “Domestication Syndrome” in Mammals: A Unified Explanation Based on Neural Crest Cell Behavior and Genetics”
    https://www.genetics.org/content/197/3/795

    I favor the adrenal-neural crest hypothesis (the 2nd one). It explains things with less need for exceptions.

    Both open access.

  8. I love dogs. Dogs are good people. I’ve had dogs all my life and can’t imagine a life without them. I have two of them sitting here beside me right now. Lots of love, very little trouble. They are always happy to see you.

    Some people cut the tails off their dogs. I would discourage this practice as a dog’s tail is a principal way he communicates with humans and with other dogs. I can tell how a dog is feeling just by looking at how he holds his tail. You don’t get that information if he doesn’t have a tail. Please don’t mutilate the dogs.

    • tails and ears in some places
      bloody stupid and cruel
      I had a pup born without a tail just a withered stump
      I was debating removing it as it seemed inert and a possible problem
      and then?
      she saw a lamington(sweetcake) and i saw that not so inert little stump wag a bit
      she kept her tail;-) though I never saw it wag again.
      the vet said shed be no use hunting as tails are for balance well she could run turn and spin like no ther dog Ive owned.
      if your dogs tail develops a different bend twist or holding angle
      dont ignore it, its a very good indicator of a problem somewhere else, arthritis muscle strains or illness.
      as is a dog who didnt before, suddenly developing a habit of semi thudding heads down as they lie down, instead of controlled lowering. in both dogs I had who did that it was a preindicator of shortly after found lymphomas

      • One of my dogs is a Blue Heeler who wandered up to my place a few years ago when he was about 8 weeks old. He had apparently been wandering for quite some time because when he arrived he was just skin and bones. He probably wouldn’t have lasted another week out in the woods if he hadn’t found the one little hole in my fence that was big enough for him to get through.

        He’s not skinny now. 🙂 In fact, he is probably a little overweight, but he came by that honestly.

        When he arrived I noticed that someone had cut almost all his tail off, although it was all healed up by the time he got to me. All he had was a little nub you could barely see moving if you look close.

        Both the dogs I have now were puppies that wandered away from their home and now they have a new home. They found me.

    • If you want to know which one is your bestest friend, …… your wife or your dog, …… just lock both in a closet for about 3 hours, …… then let them out and see which one is happy to see you.

        • Our dogs seem to think it’s a miracle every time we return… Even if it’s just returning from another room.

      • just lock both in a closet for about 3 hours

        (no, cogar, it’s lock them both in the trunk of your car and take a ride around the neighborhood)…

  9. “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain
    That guy could sure put a lot of meaning into few words.

    • He worked hard at that brevity. He once remarked, “If I’d had more time, I would have written a shorter book”.

  10. Has anybody else read about the long-going Russian experiments on fox domestication? It was selective breeding, finding those who were most tame and breeding them over generations. They wound up with remarkably friendly, human-centric animals, who somewhat coincidentally, were piebald (spotted). A parallel experiment produced a very vicious strain. I’ve lost the link, but it was a fascinating article.

  11. Y’all have this all wrong. Among animals, humans are unique in the length of our childhood. So, our young need nurturing and love for years longer than any other species. To support this long childhood, we have an extremely heightened instinct for nurturing the young. Given the right circumstances, that heightened nurturing instinct transfers to other species–even somewhat to inanimate objects. My wife often says of an object that is smaller than normal (small souvenir spoon or doll furniture, e.g.), “Aww, isn’t that cute?”. To which I reply, “No, it’s not cute. It’s just small.” But I digress.

    Anyway, dogs exploited this characteristic when they domesticated us. They began to retain juvenile characteristics into adulthood; like a juvenile face, behaviors and playfullness. That enabled them to wheedle food, shelter, protection, and warmth from us, and find a place in our homes.

    Gotta go now. My dog is insisting it’s time for me to come play with her.

    • That enabled them to wheedle food, shelter, protection, and warmth from us, and find a place in our homes.

      i always suspected that there was a M.O. behind it all. Heck, little regina maria never even bothered to hide her intentions. (people were merely useful idiots)…

    • See above the story of Orion the Hunter subduing a Wolfhound, today the most docile of very large dogs….

    • That certainly explains our relationship with our 11 dogs… Or more accurately their relationship with 2 people… 😉

        • Dogs are incapable of cleaning up poop, other than eating it, and I doubt you want that to happen. We do it for hygienic purposes, not because the dog is smarter than us. If you want a yard full of dog crap, wait for your pooch to clean it up. You neighbors won’t be happy though.

      • Sign on the wall at Frankie the supervisor’s favorite groomer: “My dog’s not spoiled, I’m just well trained.” 🙂 🙂 🙂

  12. If I recall correctly, several decades back, there was an article in the AJPA(American Journal of Physical Anthropology) stating that the oldest known interaction with wolves was around 47,000 years ago in Russia. It was all part of the “Dump-heap Theory”. Wolves would visit the human extended families and scrounge in their trash pile. If a wolf had puppies, the humans were apt to gather the little ones and raise them themselves. Once domestication begins, the wolves quickly change their physical appearance after a couple of generations, and look differently from their predecessors.

    • If a wolf had puppies, the humans were apt to gather the little ones and raise them themselves.

      The young, or babies, of most (or many) wild animals make for a fine “pet” for humans.

      But when that “pet” reaches sexual maturity, …… keep close track of where you fingers, hands and legs are iffen you don’t want them severely scratched or bitten.

      • But that’s the difference with wolves as opposed to other animals & why we get along so well.

        They don’t all need to be controlled by there hormones. Most wolves in the pack turn it off somehow. The ones that can’t or won’t turn it off usually leave. It’s not even a conscious event (like women after marriage….)

    • One problem I have heard about owning a wolf or half-wolf as a pet is that they see the master as an alpha-male, but also own an inherent desire to rise in status, and to become the alpha-male themselves. Therefore, should you enter the house after a ski trip on crutches, they may (and apparently on occasion have) seen it as an opportunity to have a dog fight and take command. People have been badly hurt by wolves and half-wolves which they assumed were as domesticated as a dog.

  13. “…provides supporting evidence for …”

    Gotta love scientific phraseology. As in–I’ve done one or two things in my career that ‘provided supporting evidence for’ me being positively an Einstein-level genius.

    But dog-gone-it I’ve done at least a dozen that cancelled that notion.

    When I read “performed dental microwear texture analysis” I swear I saw fairies dancing–fighting for space on some tiny support structure. But that could be only because I counted different fairies for 50 years.

  14. Dogs may thus have played an important role in early human history, especially if they helped make possible the transition from foraging to settled societies. People who settled down in one place would have been under constant risk of attack. It is perhaps significant that the first settlements occurred at the same time as dogs were domesticated.

    Another way in which dogs may have altered early human societies is by disrupting the foragers’ taboo against private ownership of property. Dogs don’t belong to a community: they attach themselves to a master. Possibly they forced themselves into human societies as the first major item of ownership, paving the way for the concept of the property-based sedentary societies that were to follow.

    Wade, Nicholas. Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors (pp. 110-111). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

  15. We have it backwards. Man didn’t domesticate dogs, dogs domesticated man. What other animal has trained humans to feed and house them, provide free healthcare, sleep with them (some of us), allow them to use all the furniture in the house, take them for walks, and pick up and dispose of their waste. Some brilliant canines many years ago saw the advantages of being nice to human beings by helping them hunt, serve as watch dogs, etc., etc. What a life!

  16. Have always had dogs. About 10 years ago took in a rescue cat. It has subsequently trained three dogs and is just as affectionate and smarter than any dog I know of plus tougher to boot. It once ran off an invading dog five times its size which was attacking my year old golden retriever pup! A very unbelievable sight to see. Landed with all four feet on that dog. Kitty is probably somewhat unusual as cats go but a trusted companion.

  17. “Dog-ocene” Thanks David.

    Brittanys, a small pointing dog, have a gene (?) that can produce short tails. When that trait is in both dog and bitch there also appears to be reduced litter size, say from 7 to 3. In the early years of Brittanys in America some of the enthusiasts wanted to restrict registration to animals with naturally short tails. That proposal did not make it to regulation.
    They did agree that the tail should be about 4 inches, and along with dew-claw removal, this is what we have today.

    Further note that I never see the “ Please don’t mutilate the dogs.” argument about spay/neuter surgery – in older animals.
    Seems this is more stressful to the animal than removal of tails and claws (cats?).

    Having had Brittanys – many more than I will admit to – we are with our “last” one, now 13+.

  18. Hector, our 4 year old brown and while “Party Breed” Cockapoo, is standing before me with a cool Howdy Doody smile on his face and a blue/purple beard after consuming a dish of grain free dog food mixed with fresh frozen blueberries and 2 huge chunks of fresh ripe Papaya sending powerful subliminal messages to me through non-ending full eye contact and steady wagging tail. — Message received! Time to poop and play! In constant search of happiness and fun.

    • a word of warning about those “grainfree” dryfoods
      theyre linked to cardiomyopathy in dogs , enough so that vets have given warnings
      its based on? peaflour and peas and beans and dogs arent a good mix
      a dog will eat grain like wheat barley or oats as grain or in the gut of animals it eats
      given the grains of peas and beans dried they wouldnt eat them, and any in bird or animal guts would be digested and have useful bacteria included

      the rage for these foods at exorbitant prices is a cheap food makers idea of heaven.

  19. Great post David. I agree with your comment “ I have always been convinced that the domestication of dogs and horses enabled humans to dominate this planet.” I even think it may have been dogs who led the domestication.

  20. I reckon the original lure was the smell of cooking meat, hmmm. The young pups would have come into the campsite first.

  21. I read an article recently about the difference between dog “domestication” and cat. The article argued that cats weren’t domesticated. Humans established working relationships with dog ancestors while we were hunter-gatherers. Selective breeding essentially suppressed some of the more adult characteristics and attuned them to see humans as the leader of their pack. The wolf “pack” social structure easily substituted an Alpha human for an Alpha wolf. When agriculture and domesticated livestock arose, dog breeding selected for characteristics that made the dogs advantageous for protection and herding. The dogs had more food and better survival rates with humans than without.
    Cats on the other hand, only became associated with humans after the development of agriculture and the concentration of prey animals, i.e. rodents, who were attracted to the quantities of stored grains. The progenitors of domestic cats saw that the hunting was much easier around human communities. Those cats that didn’t attack people, just the pests, did better. From a neolithic farmer perspective, a wild cat that ate mice and rats was a benefit. If some of those cats became tamed, friendly, and didn’t attack the children, they got better treatment. As in some wild cats were fair game for hides, etc., while the friendly ones that killed pests were allowed, and assisted to live.

  22. I was watching a documentary the other day. The species of dog that are most “wolf-like” are difficult to train to meet human needs. Researchers have tried to come up with intelligence tests: if more domesticated dogs can be trained to do what we want, that doesn’t necessarily make them more intelligent.

    1. Follow a human pointing to find covered food. Domesticated dogs tend to do this, wolves don’t.

    2. Work out that if you pull on one end of a rope, you will just pull it right through two pulleys, and get nothing. If you cooperate, two dogs or one dog one person pulling on the two ends, you pull a platform with food toward you. Both dogs and wolves will do this. Intelligent, but not trying to please humans.

    • In tests of general intelligence, ie problem solving, wolves put dogs in the shade, with possible exception of freakishly genius Border Collies.

      However, in terms of getting by in the real world, dogs, ie wolves who’ve thrown in with humans rather than their conspecific pack mates, far surpass their wild relatives in reproductive success.

    • Not sure that theory holds. One of the very oldest breeds on the planet is highly intelligent and can be trained to many tasks and is highly domesticated through long association with man. The Samoyed, whose lines have remained more or less pure for many thousands of years, and go back to the earliest domesticated dogs in Siberia.

  23. Great post, David! And a MAJOR shout out to Nicholas McGinley! Your cat diary had laughing so hard I was crying and got sore abs!
    Two points concern me though: 1) Doesn’t this mean that all dogs are GMO?
    2) Should we allow our best friend and second best ally (ask Genghis Khan
    who is greatest animal ally) to be confined in small city apartments with
    little contact with Nature and other dogs?
    Let’s solve both problems by banning GMO dogs from all major cities and re-introducing wolf parks in major city parks like Golden Gate and Central Park. This would make jogging much more exciting and keep SF and NY free of GMOs! And remember, wolf packs prefer herbivores, like vegans!

  24. You’ve got to be smarter than the dog to teach it something. I guess that’s why most dogs gave up on their owners and settled to just roll over and ‘shake hands’.

  25. It’s carnival time here in New Orleans. And among the festivities are the mystical krewes of Barkus and Endymeow. Both names being take-offs of the carnival superkrewes of Bacchus & Endymion. Lots of fun for both canines and felines alike (as well as their tag along owners)…

    * gonna kringe when i hit post comment (too cerebral for a highschool dropout in a leather jacket)

  26. I have postulate. Not a theory as I can’t think of a suitable hypothesis to test.

    Dog’s were domesticated well before settlement and there was waste (every part of the animal is used). Wolf cubs would have been cute but would have hardly have learnt anything from mature wolves about hunting before being adopted by humans. By the the time they were useful hunters, early humans would have had bad experiences with maturing wolves and given up on them.

    This recommend documentary says that puppies that didn’t have desirable instincts were done away with. That would be killed, gutted, skinned and roasted.

    My postulate is that they were allowed to tag along until they matured. What better form of long life protein than one that carries itself? Early humans might even have looked to steal a cub for this purpose.

    Eventually, there were puppies that were sexually active but still immature, and domestication began. Instincts would have made useful hunters after taming but not before, so why tame a wolf?

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