It is not “how much is that doggy in the window,” as it is “where did the doggy in the window come from?” In researching the history of dogs, I found almost as many opinions as there were people to ask. You would think in this age of DNA, computers and high tech technology that the true story of dog history would be easy to track. Apparently, this is one time the “cat” has it over the “dog,” as cats can be tracked back as far as 11 million years ago.
It has been said, however, that Micacis a weasel-like animal that existed over 50 million years ago was the father/mother of all carnivores that included dogs, cats, bears, raccoons and others. I am not certain if it was a mythical animal or real, however the story also mentions that from Micacis, there evolved a dog-like animal called Cynodictis,which eventually evolved into the dog as we know it.
Many researchers and ordinary folks are firm believers that the dog evolved from the wolf. There are so many characteristics shared by coyotes, jackals and the other carnivores that it makes it very hard to put together a family tree showing the change from a wolf to a dog. Archaeologists have found in ancient camps the remains of both the wolf and dog.
In Germany and in other sites within Central Europe dog-like jaws and other skeletal remains, dating back 14,000 years have been found. While researchers are debating the dates of the dog’s arrival some researchers say 135,000 years and others say 14,000 years, one thing is fairly certain that when humans walked across the Bering Strait some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, dogs were with them. This of course, has now opened a new debate are the Old World dogs and the New World dogs related. The answer for the moment is yes.
The high point of this discussion is that possibly within the next few years we will have more definite answers. In September (2005) the National Human Genome Research Institute put dogs on a high priority list for genetic research, this means not only new data for genetic research, but for the study of the evolution of the dog.
Now that we have digested all that information let us think about dogs in a different vein. The early settlers of our country were not the most prime examples of loving pet parents, in fact Indians, the Spanish and even early white settlers used dogs for food. The Spanish trained dogs to hunt down and kill Indians. They even went so far as to bring along Indian slaves to be used as food for the dogs. Dogs on the whole were treated very cruelly. Slaves and Indians considered it an insult to be called a “dog.”
It took until the 18th century for a change to occur in people’s thinking about dogs and other animals. Slowly but surely as time went on, people began to realize that dogs and horses were important in their lives. It was proven many times over that a dog’s loyalty and devotion was far more reliable than most humans. A dog is a natural hunter and humans have used its hunting instincts over the centuries. The use of the dog as a hunter’s companion has led to the development of special breeds.
In areas where there were no trees it was necessary to have a dog that could see the prey in the distance and then silently and quickly hunt it down. This need led to the development of a group of dogs known as “Sight Hounds” or “Gaze Hounds.” These dogs had long legs and a keen sense of sight. Irish Wolfhounds, Greyhounds, Afghan Hounds, Basenjis and the Rhodesian Ridgeback are some of the breeds that came from that necessity.
Some hunters needed dogs with stamina and a good sense of smell to track down animals. Speed was not of great importance, but endurance was. As a result a breed with large nasal passages and drooping ears was bred. The ears were considered important for keeping the scent near the dog’s face and nose. These dogs were slower and had deep barks that could be heard in the woods.
Some of the breeds that developed are the Basset Hound, Beagle, Bloodhound, Dachshund and the Coonhounds of which there are several breeds. These dogs were the backbone of the rural hunter.
Other types of hunting dogs were developed through the years, as there was a need for a type of dog to hunt burrowing animals that were destroying crops. These dogs had to have a high energy level and be very frisky, so with the help of the British, we have what is known as the Terrier breed. There are small terriers that hunt for badgers, foxes and rabbits and large terriers that hunt for otters, water rats and wild life that that live around the water in rural areas.
As civilization grew and the needs of the populace changed so did the types of dogs grow and change. We now have herding dogs, guard dogs, dogs that aid humans, working dogs such a sled dogs, guide dogs and rescue dogs, the list goes on and on.
Dogs of all sizes and shapes have filled the needs of their humans. Dogs now are not just considered for the work they can do, but for the pleasure they bring to us each day. You cannot find a more loyal and trustworthy companion than your dog. Your secrets are safe, they will keep you warm on a cold winter night and no matter what the outside world thinks of you, your dog will always love you.
In this world of many uncertainties there is one thing we are certain of and that is the world is a far better place because of dogs.