Woofing back to the days of wolves

Which breed of dog comes to your mind when you see a wolf? Yes, a German Shepherd Dog! But it is not a mere resemblance as wolves are the ancestors of pooches–which is evident in early fossils and other historical traces. Here’s a sneak peek into the primitive period when canines used to live in wild before reincarnating as the man’s best friends.

It must be via myths or movies that we come across a lot about wolves being closely attached to human beings. But there is a bunch of facts on this!

Early transition…

Earliest fossil carnivores have unearthed some certainty to canids (wolves, foxes and dogs), who were the Eocene Miacids around 38-56 million years ago. With the evolutions through eras, these Miacids evolved into cat-like Feloidea and dog-like Canoidea. Canis Lepophagus, a small and narrow-skulled North American canid of the Miocene era, led to the first true wolves Canis Lupus (Gray Wolf) who are considered to be the immediate precursor to the domestic dogs.

According to some studies, complete separation of dogs from the wolf lineage is believed to have occurred around 1,00,000 years ago. But fossils containing wolf bones along with that of early human beings have been found to be more than 1,00,000 years old. So, it is assumed that tamed wolves might have taken to hunting by the pre-historic man. Researchers opine that such influx of cross genes in the canine family from time to time has resulted in dogs having extraordinary high number of breeds and genetic variability today.

DNA analysis…

Numerous DNA theories argue different logics behind the genesis of dogs. Based on such scientific tests, most of today’s pet dogs are found to be belonging to one of four different groups. The largest and most diverse group comprises a bloodline found in the most ancient dog breeds such as Dingo of Australia, New Guinea Singing Dog and modern breeds like Collie and Retrievers. But other groups such as German Shepherd Dogs have very close relation to wolf sequences than to those specified dog groups.

A certainty amid all the scientific analyses is that dogs might have been domesticated from wolves on different occasions and at different locations. Identified mitochondrial DNA evidence suggests a common origin of all dog populations from a single East Asian gene pool. But a recent study based on a much larger data set has pointed to the Middle East as the source of most of the genetic diversity in domestic dogs. And the region is considered to be the origin of the domestication of dogs. Archaeological findings reveal the earliest known domestication at 7,000 BC. Perhaps the earliest confirmation of domestication is the first dog found buried together with his human (pet parent) in Palestine around 12,000 years ago.

Real domestication…

History of dogs is really more of a history of their companionship with humans. That companionship is based on needs and requirements of humans from the furry friends who are experts by birth in herding and hunting, alarm system and a lot more. Even the companionship with humans helps dogs transform their characters and instincts into more sober ways. Look at the instance of the domestication of wolves over time, which ultimately resulted in a number of physical changes viz. reduction in size, variations in coat colourations and markings, size of teeth, jaw structure, etc.

At the end, dogs have changed the explicit behaviour of wolves, such as regurgitation of partially digested foods for the young. And dogs don’t do freaky woooooo… on the full moon nights. They simply ‘woof’ to communicate!

Wolves can be socialised too…

Some scientific studies have proved that wolf pups reared by human in early stage can easily be tamed and socialised. Even one research finding has mentioned about adult wolves can be socialised successfully. But many researchers argue that wolf pups after 21 days of age are difficult to be socialised!