Dogs are man’s best friends. They play with, care for, and guard dogs for their humans. Throughout history man has developed a wide variety of breeds to serve these purposes. Although there is considerable debate as to whether dog races were intended to compete the fittest dogs or if they were just fancy names given to distinguish the winners, no one can credibly argue that the present day dog is far superior to its ancestor.
The domestic dog, sometimes known as a lap dog, is actually a domesticated descendant of an extinct, long gone wolf. The wolf became extinct thousands of years ago, their population so diminished that they were hunted to the brink of extinction. A few hundred years later a population boom occurred, bringing tens of thousands of wolves that survived the reduction in numbers. Today, the domestic dogs we call the domestic dog and other breeds are a close cousin to their wolf forefathers.
Because of these similarities between the domestic dogs and wolves, geneticists have been trying for many years to determine the genealogy of canines. Recent estimates indicate that there is as much as 75 percent overlap between the various breeds of domestic dogs and wolves. This means that we can infer much about the lives of these animals just by studying their genetics. There have even been studies done using canine fossils to find conclusive evidence of early human ancestors.
Many of the dogs we consider today have evolved from a ancestor of the gray wolf thousands of years ago. Gray wolves tend to look quite a bit like a wolf and share many of its characteristics, including a short muzzle, a coarse coat, a high body posture, a thick fur coat, and a fondness for eating meat. In the last million years, dogs evolved into what we know today as the smallish domestic dog that most of us recognize. Their fur color changed from green to gray, as did the markings on their face and body.
As of today, there are eleven different classes of canines: the big dog (the size of an ordinary sized dog); the medium dog (the size of a teacup poodle or a toy dog); the small dog (the size of a cocker spaniel or a small breed like the Chihuahua); the Toy dog (the size of a toy poodle or a cocker spaniel); the Medium/large dog (the size of a medium sized dog with a double coat and weighing between ten and fifteen pounds); the Specialized dog (a dog bred especially for hunting or herding); the Hunting dog (used for tracking and gun shooting); the Herding dog (used for herding livestock in farms); and the Sporting dog (used for dog racing and sports). Today, there are also several breeds of wild dogs, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, chows, servals, hyenas, jackals, hawks, owls, eagles, and bears. Because each breed has different characteristics, they are categorized under different headings. These headings further include:
All the dogs come from one of twenty-two breeds or lines. In comparison to humans, who have just twenty-eight different races, dogs come in over one hundred different races. Humans and other animals may have varied ancestry, but the dogs that we know come from only twenty-two different genetic types.