When Dogs Evolved from Wolves Still a Mystery
It is thought that modern dogs have 1 common ancestor: the Eurasian grey wolf, and that about 30,000 to 40,000 years ago a subspecies of wolf began interacting with humans, perhaps foraging for food around human campsites.
Humans then learned the animals were valuable for companionship and work purposes and began to selectively breed them. When dogs emerged is unclear, but anthropologist say that perhaps it is not when that matters most but how their relationships with people evolved.
One thing is certain, dogs made an imprint on human hearts long ago and that imprint is here to stay.
Intriguing research has uncovered biological underpinnings of the human-dog bond and how it evolved.
Research published in the journal Science last year revealed, for instance, spikes of the “love hormone” oxytocin are triggered by mutual gazes between a dog and its owner.
Not only does it appear that humans are hardwired to bond with dogs, but the feeling, and the hard wiring, may be mutual. This strong of a relationship does not develop overnight.
Archaeological digs by anthropologist Robert Losey, PhD, of the University of Alberta and colleagues have showed that humans have been strongly bonded with dogs for thousands of years.
At an excavation site in Siberia, Dr. Losey found dog remains between 5,000 and 8,000 years old buried alongside humans. The find shows early evidence of dog domestication as well as displays the close bond between the people and the dogs.
Dr. Losey explained: “The dogs were being treated just like people when they died … They were being carefully placed in a grave, some of them wearing decorative collars, or next to other items like spoons, with the idea being potentially that they had souls and an afterlife.
… Globally you can see that there are more dog burials in prehistory than any other animals, including cats or horses. Dogs seem to have a very special place in human communities in the past.
As soon as we see skeletal remains that look like the modern dog, say 14,000 years ago, we see dogs being buried.”
Chemical analysis of dog bones showed that they ate similar foods as humans, which suggests the humans may have fed the dogs their “table scraps.” It is thought that dogs were bred for specific purposes even early on, including as working dogs.
Ancient dogs likely helped ancient humans in their daily tasks along with providing companionship. Ancient Romans were known to have lapdogs thousands of years ago.
Dogs have an imprint on our hearts long that imprint is here to stay.