The domestic dog is an evolved descendant of the wild wolf. Domesticated dogs are the descendants of wolves that were brought as companions, or allies, to man. The ancestors of today’s domestic dog actually originated from an extinct prehistoric, wolf-like wolf, which existed alongside other herbivores in what is now Siberia, Mongolia, China, North Korea and Tibet. The dog was probably the first species ever to be fully domesticated, beginning around 15,000 years ago, prior to the emergence of farming. In fact, much of what we know about dog domestication can be traced back to the early years of humankind, when people hunted and ate other animals in order to survive. Much of today’s domestic dog’s origins can be tracked to these early years of human history.
One of the most important facts about domestication is that it started out as a process of cultural evolution, not biological. The best friends that we have today are not the result of anyone’s careful planning. They developed as a result of thousands of years of trial and error, and because we, the descendants of wolves, played a major role in their initial domestication. Our ancestors fed, nurtured and companions them until they were tamed for use as household pets. The historical record reveals many examples of dogs being used for warfare, protection, herders, watchdogs, hunters and companions.
The best guess as to when domestic dogs became domestic is somewhere between the sixth and fifth centuries AD. This is the point when most written sources about dogs first begin to appear. While some sources do not give a precise time frame, based on the material culture found in various geographical areas it is estimated that dogs were domesticated in Asia, Europe and Africa between the sixth and fourth centuries AD. A paper published by archaeologist Nicholas J. Rose in 1996 proposed that dogs were domesticated in China around the year 1200 BC.
Domestic dogs have been a part of our history since then. Throughout history we have bred dogs for their strength, endurance, reliability and sensitivity. In fact, in most parts of the United States, dogs are treated as our nation’s currency. If you think about it, there are probably more pet dogs living in the United States than there are people, which is kind of a telling bit of information.
There are five recognized breeds of domestic dogs including the English Cocker Spaniel, the Alaskan Malamute, the German Shepherd, the Golden Retriever, and the Greyhound. Domestic dogs share many genetic traits with humans, but many dogs can be considered wild ancestors. Two of these wild ancestors of the domestic dog are the grey wolf and the canis Lupus familiaris.
Canine dogs have lived with humans for thousands of years and they have also been domesticated dogs in other parts of the world. Domesticated dogs are the basis of much of what we know about modern veterinary medicine. As an example, dogs helped to heal soldiers on battlefields because they could bring food and water to the wounded soldiers. Today, we depend on dogs to help us in many of the same ways that soldiers depend on us. Dogs are as loyal and faithful as families are, and they make wonderful additions to any family unit.