History of Dog as Pets – Domestication, Physical Traits, Breeds & Facts

History of Dog as Pets – Domestication, Physical Traits, Breeds & Facts

Dogs are the foremost choice when it comes to selecting a pet for the household. With over 400 pedigree varieties to choose from, there is indeed no dearth of options when it comes to a dog. In addition to the pure-bred, there are also many mixed breeds and mongrels as well. History of Dog is being over thousands of years. As of now, dogs that we see today are quite different from their ancestors.

All in the family: Canidae

Dogs belong to the family called Canidae. Along with dogs, Canidae also includes wolves, dingoes, jackals, coyotes and foxes. An individual member of this family is referred to as a canid. The biological term, stating the species and sub-species, for the domestic dog is canis lupis familiaris. Canidae family, as established by research, has as many as 14 genera along with 34 species. The smallest canid of them all is the Fennec Fox, measuring only about 24 centimetres or 9.4 inches in height and weighing a mere 2.2 pounds or 1 kilogram. On the other hand, the largest canid is the Grey Wolf, with an average height of 200 centimetres or 6.5 feet and weight that ranges between 60 to 145 pounds. Females of the species comparatively weigh lesser as compared to their male counterparts.

Behaviorally speaking, canids are typically social and can be seen travelling together in a group referred to as a pack. With a marked territorial streak, every canid marks its own territory by scent. Domesticated dogs also display this tendency, marking objects, trees and bushes.

History Of Dog

Direct descendants of the wolf

Research has proved that the modern dog breeds, though sharing the same Canidae family with the Grey Wolf, has a marked difference when it comes to origin. Genetically though, the modern dog and the Grey Wolf are so similar that they can even be inter-bred. As such, there is no conclusive evidence to show as to when exactly did man succeed in taming the wolves. Nevertheless, fossil remains of dogs have been found dating back to almost 12-15 thousand years.

Evolution of Dogs from Wolves – Canis lupus

There are indeed uncanny similarities between the man and the wolf. Both were good at hunting and hunted in packs. In all likelihood, in the course of a hunt, the early men might have come across a small wolf pup and taken him home with them. This wolf pup would have grown up to be a semi-tamed version of the wolf – somewhat less accommodating than the modern dog, but less intimidating than the wolf. Over time, this semi-tamed wolf would have become an integral part of the hunts, contributing its own share to the hunting party. Evolution of the wolf to the modern dog would have begun in this way. 

Evolution of facial muscle anatomy in dogs | PNAS
Evolution of facial muscle anatomy in dogs | PNAS

Evolution of the Domestic Dog – Canis familiaris

In the many years of history of dog, instances of wolf pups being rescued from the wild and taken home might have occurred simultaneously in different groups of hunters. Gradually, there might have been selective breeding. Wolves that were neither of any practical use nor willing to be trained, in all probability, were put to death. The remaining that had the desirable and requisite traits, might have then selectively bred. Wolves living with a particular group of humans would have been bred keeping in mind their specific requirements. This led to various dog breeds being developed over the years. Features such as color of the coat, size, length of the coat, and other specific traits – such as, guarding, hunting, pacing – would have been in accordance to a group’s needs. The selectively bred dogs would have been a reflection of their own human groups.

Domestic Dog Canis Familiaris Group Photograph by Konrad Wothe
Domestic Dog Canis Familiaris Group Photograph by Konrad Wothe

How did History of dog impact Human History?

History of Dog, along with the ever-changing needs and requirements of man over the years, led to the various breeds that were gradually developed by man. Dogs came to be specifically bred to serve a distinctive purpose. Over the years, this led to various dog breeds being developed that can be classified together under various groups. Human history finds resonance in the various dog breeds found in a particular epoch. Dogs of a particular period in history generally reflect the expectations from the dogs by men at that duration in time. Generally, while times of peace led to many people keeping toy dogs, a time of strife could well signal a preference for more aggressive breeds that could be used for guarding and protection. 

The short history of how dogs became our companions. — Part 1. | by Abhi  Patwardhan | Medium
The short history of how dogs became our companions. — Part 1. | by Abhi Patwardhan | Medium

Domestication a few 1,000 years – History of Dog

Dated as many as 12,000 years ago, the earliest evidence known for a domesticated dog is a jawbone unearthed from a cave in Iraq. This jawbone cannot be that of a wolf as it has a much smaller jaw as well as teeth. This lends credence to the theory that this particular dog was selectively bred. In a litter, usually some puppies display certain desirable traits more than the rest. These are the favored ones and are selectively bred. Desirable traits differ greatly and can range from a good coat of hair, barking abilities, obedience or even size. As these favored puppies get bred, and in turn other favored puppies are bred from subsequent litters, such traits get more marked in the generations to come. 

Archaeologists Uncover Earliest Evidence of Domesticated Dogs in Arabian  Peninsula - HeritageDaily - Archaeology News
Archaeologists Uncover Earliest Evidence of Domesticated Dogs in Arabian Peninsula – HeritageDaily – Archaeology News
Archaeologists uncover earliest evidence of domesticated dogs in Arabian  Peninsula | EurekAlert! Science News
Archaeologists uncover earliest evidence of domesticated dogs in Arabian Peninsula | EurekAlert! Science News
Ancient Dog Skull Shows Early Pet Domestication
Ancient Dog Skull Shows Early Pet Domestication

Evolution of History of Dog: Greece

The annals of history bear testimony to the fact that dogs enjoyed a special place in ancient Greece and Egypt. In Greek Literature, the dog makes an appearance quite early on – as a dog with three heads, Cerberus, guarding the entrance to Hades. Another popular dog in ancient Greek Literature is Argos, the loyal dog of Odysseus. After being away for 20 years, no one recognises Odysseus on his return to Ithaca, except the faithful Argos.

Ancient Greeks Had a Great Love and Respect for Their Dogs
Ancient Greeks Had a Great Love and Respect for Their Dogs

Gradually, people in Greece revealed a marked preference for herding dogs, guarding dogs and hunting dogs.

Evolution of History of dog: Egypt

The belief in Ancient Egypt associated the history of dog to the mythical Anubis, a god with the face of a jackal, entrusted with the task of guiding the spirits of the deceased into the Hall of Truth to be judged by Osiris. Dogs of the house were treated with much love and affection. Considered a member of the family, if a dog died and the family could afford it, the dog would be mummified with all due respect. Much grief was displayed on the death of a pet dog. This grief often led to the shaving of the eyebrows by all the members of the household.

5 Ways Ancient Egyptians Were More Obsessed Their Dogs Than You
5 Ways Ancient Egyptians Were More Obsessed Their Dogs Than You

History bears proof to the fact that various civilizations used dogs in warfare. War dogs were an integral part of the armies of the Egyptians, Persians, Slavs, Greeks, Alans, Sarmatians, Baganda as well as the Romans.

Dogs have been around for many centuries. Originating from the Grey Wolf, the modern dog has indeed come a long way. The progression from canis lupus to canis familiaris did not just happen overnight. Though a canid, with cousins such as wolves, jackals, coyotes, dingoes, foxes; dogs have nonetheless been successfully domesticated to be the best companions that anyone can ask for.