Worlds First Dog 31700 Years
January 25, 2012 by staff
Worlds First Dog 31700 Years, Ask Mark Derr about his recently deceased dog Katie, and he’ll speak of her “two-brain” intelligence, a set of smarts that encompassed both athletic skill and mental acuity. He’ll tell you that she didn’t really care about food so long as she had her tennis ball – her favourite toy. But perhaps the most compelling thing Derr will say about his beloved kelpie, who passed away Sept. 13 at the age of 13½, is that he felt a mutual connection to the animal, a bond that seemed to transcend all time and space, all emotion and logic.
“People say it’s love, but I think it’s a very deep empathetic understanding that these two species have,” he says, referring to man and his best friend. “That’s partly why I say the dog was an evolutionary inevitability. It sounds predeterministic, doesn’t it? But some things are inevitable.”
The dog was bound to happen from the day man and wolf first crossed paths, writes the Florida-based author of the new book How the Dog Became the Dog: From Wolves to Our Best Friends, published in November 2011. If the two hadn’t joined up and hunted together, there wouldn’t be an estimated one billion dogs in the world, he contends. There would be no playful Labs or golden retrievers, no “infantilized” breeds such as pugs or French bulldogs with wrinkly, short-muzzled faces that make it hard for them to breathe. (He goes so far as to call the pug a “monument to some of the worst practices of modern breeding.”)
“They want to make these dogs look like dolls,” Derr says from his Miami Beach home. “And the long hair! In some cases, studies have shown this affects the ability of animals to communicate … They can’t see and other animals can’t see them.
“And some dogs can’t even make the full range of dog vocalizations any more,” he adds, sounding somewhat exasperated by the many ways humans have manipulated the mutt.
While Derr spends much of the historically rich book exploring the evolution of the dog and man’s relationship with it, he has a lot to say about modern-day breeding practices that have turned the once codependent companionship between man and dog into the hyper-controlled parent-child type arrangement of many pet owners today.
Over the past 200 years, people have turned away from “the mutualism on which the human-dog relationship was built,” he says, and in-stead have veered toward “total human dominance and control over the animal’s freedom of movement, reproduction and ultimately its death. Part of it is the way you conceive of the animal, I think, and that is: Is it a pet? Is it something you can just do with as you will? Or is it a companion?”
Legally, humans serve as owners, but they’re really the dog’s companions and guardians, he says. “We have certain responsibilities to them and we should treat them with re-spect the same way we should treat all animals with respect.”
Respect was inherent in the early days of the dog when humans and wolves hunted together, Derr argues in the book, which takes readers from the last ice age through the 20th century.
“Once these two species met, because of great similarities – they’re both social beings, both living in the same family settings, as in Ma and Pa are the alphas – it became inevitable that the dog would emerge.”
Evidence suggests that the original dogs were camp guards, hunters and companions, taking on the nomadic lifestyle of humans. They were smaller than wolves and had shorter noses, which researchers believe signifies domestication.
Many of those same researchers have long quibbled over when and where the first dog showed its snout.
The estimations range from 35,000 to 135,000 years ago, with genetic proof pointing to many parts of Asia and the Middle East. Dogs have also been found around the same time periods in Europe. In 2008, Belgian paleoarcheologists said they discovered a dog skull that had been found in the country’s Goyet Caves a century earlier, but had never been studied. At 31,700 years old, the skull signified the oldest dog on record, about 15,000 years older than the runner-up from Paleolithic hunters in Russia.
What is clear from the research is that these dogs were on the move with humans and they helped each other out, Derr says. A human would watch a wolf corner and kill its prey, then he’d snatch the meat from the animal’s grasp.
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