New Scientific Discoveries with Canine Origins

These theories have been advocated, more or less emphatically, by various authors, some inclining towards one conclusion. Meanwhile, the rest sways towards a combination of two of the alternatives; in other words, accepting that domestic dog derives from a cross between the wolf and the jackal. In 1972, the Finnish researcher Bjorn Kurten, conference speaker specialized in paleontology (the study of fossils), from the University of Helsinki, reported on the most recent scientific findings. In the "Hundsport" (No. 6 of 1972), official magazine of the "Swedish Canine Club", he wrote:

"It is not strange that the oldest proof of the existence of the dog is not found in America but in Spain; this therefore proves that the species emigrated from America to Eurasia in a distant period; the finding dates go back to 6-8 million years ago. Findings less ancient – 4-2 million years ago- found in North America reveal the existence of the ancestry of the wolf in the highlands of the present time, the Canis latrans. During that time, the wolf ancestry existed in Europe, the so called Etruscan wolf, Canis etruscus, which, approximately a million years ago, gave place to the evolution of the current species, and the Canis lupus. Further on, this last one also established itself in the New World.

"In general terms, it is now believed that the domestic dog descends from the wolf. The previous theory of the wolf and the jackal being the ancestors of the dog is no longer plausible. In reality, the wolf is the only member of the Canidae family that possesses intelligence and highly developed social skills that characterize it as a domestic dog. Nevertheless, when and where was the dog domesticated? When did it become "man's best friend", in other words, tame?

"Research is being carried out in the southeast of Asia, in the old cultures of Mesopotamia and in the neighboring regions. It was considered that the domesticated dog probably descended from a rather small wolf which lived in such regions as well as in India. In the region of Jarmo (Iraq), since the period of Stone Age, there were findings of small fragments of ceramic which resembled dogs with curled tails. The oldest of these figures were found 6500 years B.C. They also found bone fossils but in general they seemed to be remains of wolves. However, Professor Magnus Degebl of Copenhagen proved the existence of domestic dogs in a British region during the period of Stone Age in Starr Carr, Yorkshire. This dates back to 7500 B.C., therefore making this the oldest finding of Eurasia. (A German discovery, a dog called Seckeenberg, from Frankfurt, which might correspond to the same period, although its time period has not been proved with exactness.)

 

"Some findings that have taken place in Denmark, where a lot of edible seashells existed and other debris that indicated prehistoric human existence, date back to Stone Age, however are a thousand years less than the dog of Starr Carr."

All this seems to indicate that man did not domesticate the dog until after surviving the glacier conditions, could be approximately 8000 years B.C. Therefore, the dog might have been the second domesticated animal in history, since the sheep was first. Findings have been found in Zawi Chemi Shandir, north of Iraq, that sheep had been domesticated 9000 yrs. B.C.

However, Dr. Barbara Lawrence, from the University of Harvard, who examined material from some excavations that were performed in the "Jaguar Cave", of Idaho, northeast of United States, shed new light on the topic. In those fragments they were able to identify teeth and jaws belonging to domesticated dogs whose existence corresponded to a period no later than 8300 yrs. B.C., thus they were almost 1000 years older than the dog of Starr Carr. Furthermore, the findings corresponded to two different types of dogs, a big one and a small one. Later, I had the opportunity to examine the fossils of the "Jaguar Cave" and was able to confirm not only Lawrence findings, but also, various leg bones that corresponded to a breed much smaller, since the remains of this breed are more numerous than those of a bigger one. Due to its different sizes, these bones are different than that of a wolf, as well as the prairie wolf bones that were also found in the "Jaguar Cave".

"These findings indicate that the date of domestication was considerably much more remote than what was believed. In the period of the "Jaguar Cave" it had been converted to a region, the dog had reached its condition of a domestic animal long ago, probably thousands of years ago, since it had already had a division of breeds.

"The inhabitants of the "Jaguar Cave" belonged to the so called Palaeos Indians, a town of hunters which established itself 10 000 years B.C. in North America. It is believed that they brought in the dog from Siberia and therefore, it is possible that the American domesticated dogs descend from a breed that was domesticated in the Old World during the Ice Period. However, only the new discoveries and studies may be able to answer these questions. The same can be said about the Australian dog, the dingo that was believed to be a species domesticated by man and later on returned to its wild state. We continue to ignore when its ancestors arrived to Australia.

Therefore, a lot remains to be done to solve the enigma of the domestication of the dog. Nonetheless, one thing is clear: the dog shall be considered the first of our domesticated animals."

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