The 411 on canines

It is believed that hyenas, bears, raccoons, weasels, cats and dogs all have the same common ancestor, the Miacis. Approximately forty million years ago what is believed to be the true grandfather of modern dogs evolved. The dog as we know it, is thought to have appeared as long as 5 million years ago. Wolves began roaming Eurasia just a little over a million years ago and it is believed that from these we get our modern day wolf and dog. We can not be sure how it took place but around 10,000 BC we see some of the first evidences of domesticated dogs. As humans became settled and developed permanent villages dogs became integrated in the daily lives of both the hunters and herders. Dogs seem to have been bred from the beginning for two distinct purposes: work and food. Of the more than three hundred breeds of dogs today only two hundred or so are officially recognized and out of the hundred most known only around fifty breeds are considered popular.

In Denmark domestic dog teeth dating about 10,000 BC show that even then dogs were being selectively bred for certain traits such as small jaws. In Iraq archaeologists have uncovered figurines of dogs with curled tails and of short stature that are traits probably bred into their pets in order to help distinguish them from wolves. The Egyptians left us many clues in their art and even burial sites that point to them having a close relationship with canines both as pets and religious symbols.

In Ashkelon, Israel a dog cemetery was uncovered containing the tombs of one hundred and twenty dogs. This site dates back to about five hundred BC and is believed to contain the hunting dogs of Persian and Phoenician nobility. The Romans were responsible for breeding a number of pure breeds through out their empire such as the saluki, dachshund, terriers and lap dogs. Large dogs who are the ancestors of our modern day Rottweiler, Saint Bernard and great Dane crossed the Alps with the Roman armies.

The Chinese had a custom of eating mongrel pups and used to breed long haired dogs for their pelts. The Chinese nobility were fond of their "sleeve dogs" and these were bred into the pug, Pekingese and Lhasa Apso. Around the same time other toy breeds like the Italian Greyhound began appearing in other parts of the world. Domesticated dog's remains have been discovered in America at the archaeological site in Jaguar Cave, Idaho dating back to about 9,000 BC. The first dogs in America probably came across the Bering Strait.

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