Dog Breeds of Great Responsibility
The domestic dog is a descendant of an extinct, archaic wolf. The dog probably derived from an archaic, extinct wolf, and today’s grey wolf are the domestic dog’s closest living relative. Domesticated dogs have been domesticated since at least the beginning of the last century. From time to time dogs play a role in helping humans for example: they are often used as guide dogs, therapy dogs for the blind, assistance animals for those with serious disabilities and physically handicapped, hunting dogs for sport and to track lost or missing people, therapy dogs for the mentally and physically impaired and even as service dogs for the armed forces.
Dogs were initially bred for several reasons including controlling animal violence, retrieving lost objects, tracking down fugitives and wild animals and for hunting. In fact, the grey wolf was the only animal ever shown in an actual hunting scene in movies and television before the domestic dog came on the scene. The first domestic dog, the Alaskan malamute, was bred specifically to track small animals. Malamutes are now used extensively as watchdogs. They also assist hunters during the winter by bringing in frozen bunnies to feed on while they hunt.
The domestic dog breeds have undergone a tremendous amount of evolution from their humble origins to their current state today. The word ‘dog’ actually comes from the Old English dog “dok” and the German term “zuen”. It was through Germany that the word ‘hound’ got formed, from the Old High German word “hudra”, meaning hunting dog. Today there are hundreds of different dog breeds, each with their own distinct characteristics and behaviors.
One of the most common characteristics of domestication is the reduction of natural prey drive in humans and other species. Since dogs can better sense danger than we do, they were naturally selective about which species they would attack and that they would avoid. Dogs that are used as watchdogs may not be able to protect the family all the time, but when they are on duty it is usually enough to keep the human family safe. As our ancestors increased in intelligence the need for hunting dogs decreased, as they were more useful for following tracks, following signals or for herding sheep. It is unclear how much they actually benefitted from domestication, but they certainly did not suffer by not being allowed to go after smaller animals that they could catch.
One of the reasons the American Kennel Club declared the Border Collie the first domesticated dog in the United States was because the breed was originally bred to be used as a hunting dog. The dogs were originally bred to track and trap game and bring it back to the hunters. This meant that they were quick and agile and could catch quickly. However, because the dogs could not catch anything on their own they were eventually domesticated for other purposes. The dogs were later used as servants and taught to assist humans.
One of the other breeds that was mentioned was the gray wolf. The ancient Chinese regarded the gray wolves as evil spirits and used them to hunt wild boars, bears and hawks. However, in recent times the wolves have been reintroduced into the American wilderness and are experiencing a rebirth as American pets. The Yellowstone Park has had trouble with the introduction of the gray wolves, but the government has been successful in capturing and rehabilitating the red wolves that are in the park. While no one knows what impact the wolves will have on future populations of dog breeds, there is no doubt that they are an interesting experiment in dog genetics.