How Did Dogs Become domesticated?
The domestic dog is a domesticated descendant of a great extinct predator: the wolf. Domesticated dogs are still largely carnivorous, although they are also capable of eating plants. The dog probably originated from an extinct, flesh-eating wolf, and the closest living relative of the modern dog is the wolf. The earliest evidence of domestic dogs dates back to 15,000 years ago, before the arrival of agriculture.
People who lived then had no idea what to feed their dogs, so they fed them almost entirely on scavenging. This meant that domestic dogs would have lived very short lives, as most of their diet would have been small pieces of animal meat. Since people had no way of knowing what healthy foods were, the teeth of domestic dogs would have been damaged by these scratchings. Scavenging for food became an important part of the domestic dog’s life. The archaeological evidence from years ago shows us that domestic dogs fed mainly on flesh. Bones from cattle and pigs were gathered, and every animal fat, feather, muck, and hoof were counted in the dog’s daily ration.
At that time, there were about twenty different breeds of dog. Somewhere between twelve and thirty million dogs survived from the Ice Age. The woolly mammoth is still known to exist in the frozen wastes of the Siberian tundra. Some evidences of dogs have been found at the same time, but these are quite fragile and must be preserved carefully. Since these evidences are so delicate, the chances of preserving them are slim.
In the beginning of domestication, dogs were used as tools by early man. Later, the hunting dogs were bred for the same purpose. Ancient peoples liked dogs for their strong jaws, powerful body, agility and endurance. Apart from being used for catching or controlling wild animals, the other main use of dogs by early man was for transportation, to herd cattle and sheep, for searching for wild edible plants and flowers, as beasts of burden and as companions.
Domesticated dogs are now widely dispersed all over the world. There are two main types of domestic dog: the wild dogs and the herding dogs. Wild dogs are those species that have lived away from the farms since their birth. Herding dogs, on the other hand, were bred to help man in his everyday activities. The word “dog” itself has evolved from the German term “Dug” which meant pulling an ox.
Early man probably mixed both wild and domesticated dogs to create the various breeds we know of today. The earliest archaeological finds that are linked to dog domestication are skull fragments with dog hair and teeth. It is believed that dogs lived alongside men sometime during the Paleolithic era. The jaws of these ancient dogs have also revealed evidence of dog ownership. Some dogs are still genetically different from wolves.