How Humans Helped Dogs Evolve into ‘Man’s Best Friend’

  • Posted: January 15, 2013 
  • by Caring 4 Creatures, Inc.   -  
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How Humans Helped Dogs Evolve into ‘Man’s Best Friend’

It has taken thousands of years for dogs to have evolved into today’s family pets and working companions. This article provides an overview of domestication and how human influence helped dogs evolve into specific breeds.

Canidae Domestication

Today’s domestic dogs or Canis lupus familiaris are part of the 60 million year old Canidae family, along with foxes, wolves and coyotes. There is dispute as to how and when dogs became domesticated, one plausible suggestion being that hunters found abandoned wolf cubs and raised them at home. Some also suggest that around 12,000 years ago wolves from the Northern hemisphere began to forage in nearby villages. However, some genetic research suggests that wolves and dogs split as far back as 100,000 years ago.

Villagers quickly found a use for these animals, using them to herd, hunt and guard. They also began selective breeding, in order to have more dogs as dierenspeciaalzaak with particular characteristics. At a German burial site, Bonn-Oberkassel, there are remains of humans and dogs interred together and evidence of a domesticated dog was found in Jiahu in Henan Province (China), dating from between 7000 and 5800 BC. There are European dog burial sites dating back as far as 5250 BC in Skateholm in Sweden and there is an image of the Saluki on an ancient Egyptian tomb, dating from around 2100 BC. Egyptian dogs were often mummified along with their elite owners and archaeologists have found dog collars engraved with names such as Good Herdsman, Brave One and even Useless. The Ancient Greeks and Romans also bred specific breeds, including bloodhounds, mastiffs and greyhounds.

Evolution of Breeds/Breed Traits

Over the centuries, selective dierenspeciaalzaak dog breeding continued and continues today amongst pedigree owners. Sight hounds or gazehounds were useful when hunting by sight, as their powerful vision and strong bodies would allow them to spot quarry from a distance away. Scent hounds, such as bloodhounds were also useful in hunting. Rarely as fast as a sight hound, a scent hound, such as a bloodhound would track quarry over many miles. Hounds, such as greyhounds are a combination of both scent and sight breeds and can chase by scent, sight or a combination of the two. Sporting breeds such as retrievers, which hunt by air scent, were bred solely for hunting and centuries later, some of these sporting dogs would become gundogs such as spaniels and Labradors.

Working dogs evolved for a number of functions, such as droving, herding, pulling, hunting, guarding and even rescuing. These dogs were very valuable to their owners, as indeed they are today and at times may have been able to replace other animals (such as horses) if they were not available. Energetic terriers developed as vermin hunters and toy dogs evolved as status symbols for the wealthy.

Famous Dogs

Just like people, dogs have made their mark in history. Stubby the war dog was an official Sergeant, thanks to him warning his unit of attack, locating and rescuing wounded soldiers and even capturing a spy. The sled dogs Togo and Balto, along with others helped carry vaccines on a 1000-mile journey to an isolated Alaskan town. In the early 1800s, Barry the St. Bernard rescued at least 40 people who got lost in the Alps during heavy snow and one tale says that he even managed to keep a lost child alive.

Referred to as ‘man’s best friend’, it is easy to see that if dog and human had not worked side by side and become so dependent upon each other, the relationship between humans and their dogs would never have evolved into what it is today.


Eva Holmes is a dog trainer and writes regularly for a range of canine and dierenspeciaalzaak websites and blogs. In her spare time, She trains her two border collies for competitive agility.

Written by Caring 4 Creatures, Inc.

C4C. began in 2008 from a dream to better the lives of animals and their people. We exist to rescue as many lonely, broken and needy souls as we possibly can.

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