Where did dogs come from and how were they domesticated? (Part 2)

In part 1 we ended with the two hypotheses in the evolution of dogs_-

  • Humans ‘adopted’ orphaned wolf cubs which were subsequently tamed
  • that wolves as scavengers were likely to live near human settlements stealing from campsites,

If we look at the adoption of orphaned cubs, this is a possible and likely explanation, there is evidence that even today in hunter gatherer society’s wild animal cubs are taken and brought up within the clan. Evidence suggests however that for a wolf cub to be tamed in this way it needs to be removed from its mother at between 13 and 21 days and fed and weaned by its human ‘owner’. We could ask if an early hunter gatherer society would have the time to bring up a wolf cub from such an early age.

The hypothesis that wolves as scavengers lived near human settlements tends to be a bit more persuasive. Professor Raymond Coppinger suggests that wild wolves have a ‘flight distance’ and that wolves that had a closer flight distance would have had access to more food from the created garbage of our hunter gatherers. These dogs would have then bred, creating dogs with an even closer ‘flight distance’. If we extrapolate that over a number of generations we just might have a wolf/dog that felt unthreatened by humans and began to live closer and closer to our settlements.

Humans began to live in villages around 15,000 years ago, this fits closely with the emergence of the ‘Protodog’ around 14,000 years ago. The protodog’s physical characteristics are a smaller brain, smaller teeth and a physique around two-thirds the size of a wolf. Coppinger hypothesises that these characteristics evolved due to the dogs being scavengers – they did not need the brain capacity of a wolf to make hunting decisions, they needed smaller teeth as they did not need to bring down large animals and by being two-thirds the size needed less food to survive.

Of the two hypotheses the later seems to be the more likely, that the wolf over a number of years slowly turned itself into the dog.

Part 3 looks at the Russian experiment that seems to add weight to this theory

Visit my website