From Wolf To Dog: Tracing Your Dog's Origins

19 May 2014 | by | Posted in: Wag Wiki

Much has been speculated about the definitive time period when dogs were domesticated. However, most of us would agree that evolution is much more complex than snapping your fingers and converting wild dog into house dog.

We will have to agree upon a very vast time scale, roughly about 10,000 years or older when domestic dogs came to be documented in literature and scriptures. However, scientists have derived traces of the domestic dog (Canis Familiaris) to be as early as 33,000 years ago.


Origin of Species

Contrary to popular belief, the house dog [Canis Familiaris] has been know to be originated from the Grey Wolf [Canis Lupus]. However, some scientists with varying school of thought have traced our furry friend to coyotes, foxes and even jackals.

Although, the Grey Wolf deduction is most widely accepted as of now.

Speculative evolution process

There are various theories proposed by many schools of research, two of the most popular ones are:

Adoption: Few theorists state that wolf-cubs were adopted at an early age by humans, who nursed and nurtured them along with human babies making them more sociable. They would ultimately breed within the adopted wolves to acquire the desirable traits. This theory, however has the least empirical evidence in support of the claims.

Scavenging for food: The most widely approved theory that was suggested by scientists is that many wolf packs settled alongside human camps to feed off of leftovers that were hunted by the human settlers. This was favourable as the wolves did not need to hunt and food for new born puppies was readily available. As a result, younger humans started interacting with wolf cubs and developed new bonds over a course of time. Ultimately, the wolves with most sociable and least fearful characteristics were developed into personal pets within the families. 

Re-tracing evolution in the New Age

In order to back-trace canine evolution, a Russian scientist called Dimitri Belyaev decided to set up an experimental breeding project which involved Silver foxes (melanism of Red Fox). After 50 years, of trial and error some fascinating results were found in the study.

The two most fascinating observations were behaviour changes and physical changes. Some of the resultant ‘puppies’ were less fearful of the owners and over the span of time many physiological changes were observed like curled-tails, spotted fur, shortened muzzles etc.

The derivative conclusion from this experiment implied that gradual human interaction most likely caused the behaviour and physical modifications giving us the hundreds of breeds that we have available today.

Progressive breed development over the years

The plethora of currently available breeds were essentially developed based on the occupation of their subsequent owners. So in order to justify this multitude of options available to us, we need to be be aware of the original purpose of the dog. This also helps in current owners and potential dog parents to estimate what to expect when enrolling for a specific breed.

For Instance: the most obvious name would be the shepherd breeds (like German Shepherd, Border Collie) where as the name suggests, they accompanied the humans in the cattle and livestock rearing occupation.

Similarly, hounds (like Greyhound, Bloodhound) were developed for their hunting characteristics. Hounds were further characterised based on their more dominant sensory organ (sight, smell or sound).

Where we stand now

Putting a most-modernist view to our idea on dogs today, we have achieved tremendous progress towards the compassionate utility and employment of our beloved companions. As we speak, dogs are assisting their human counterparts in various jobs and making lives easier and work more joyous. Ranging from scentwork (bomb detection, drug detection) to therapy and service, the portal of opportunities knows no bounds.

However, there is a dark side towards this growing want of puppies amongst majority of households. The number of abandonment and puppy-mills lately has grown to a massive scale, especially in India.

The way forward

As Cesar Millan rightly states, “For a balanced and satisfied dog we need three words; Exercise, Discipline and Affection.”

Adding to his philosophy for Indian dog owners, the three-pronged approach initially should be: ‘Awareness, Awareness, Awareness!”

One for us, where we find and attain as much info as possible on our lovely canines.

Second, for spreading as much awareness and information amongst our friends and family.

Third, for successfully implementing our awareness in society for the betterment of our less privileged animals like the abandoned, the injured and the homeless creatures.


We would love to hear your views on your dog’s lineage and parentage!

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