What is the origin of the domestic dog? Who were his predecessors? How did they evolve with man? Why is your social behavior so similar to that of the human being? These are questions that most people, whether they like dogs or not, ask themselves the dogs do not go indifferent through the lives of human beings.
With cats it’s something else. Those who do not love them, many times, even hate them, but finding people who have negative feelings towards dogs is much more uncommon. The explanation is simple: The dog is an animal that has been vital in the development of humanity and in the well-being of people from its appearance to the present day.
They have been and are guardians of their properties, assistants in the security of their daily lives, entertain with their sports competitions and in modernity and the development of big cities have come to cope with loneliness much better, which is the main evil observed in the big cities.
It is very difficult to think that Without the dog, humanity would have advanced in the same way it has done with them present. For all this it is that that of which ‘the dog is the best friend of the man’ is something frequently heard and that the majority accepts as true, especially the lovers of the dogs.
But the reason for this assertion, the reason for the origin of this phrase that the majority accepts and repeats to the following generations, very few know or, at least, have thought about it. The answer has been given by ethology in general, which is the science that studies animal behavior and the veterinary specialty of animal behavior in particular.
The answer is that our species are so similar in regard to the social structure that many years ago, when our ancestors did not have or imagined having our difficult modern and city life, the similarity in social behavior was something that led those former men to incorporate the ancestors of the dog as ‘one more of their social group’.
Even today in our modern life the dog remains the only animal species that has managed to be accepted in that same way.
Origin of the domestic dog: the wolf
The domestic dog descends from the wolf. This, at present, is a fact that no serious and responsible scholar of this subject would think of calling into question. However, So how could a toy poodle have come from a wolf?
In the same way that a sheep – like Dolly – could be born without having a father to supply his sperm. That is, by the hand of man or, explaining it more clearly, due to the genetic manipulation he was doing reproduce wolves of a docile nature and, through successive generations, go on obtaining animals with the characteristics that are increasingly marked.
That has been the origin of the domestic dog. With the passage of time, these first dogs continued to be reproduced, but already in search of animals with a body and behavior more related to the utility that was going to be given, with features like the ones below:
- Longer legs for race greyhounds or shorter legs for those who had to hunt weasels.
- Strong bodies and spirited spirit for battle dogs.
- Closer in time, tiny and docile animals to be carried in the portfolios of the courteous ladies of French or English high society a few centuries ago.
Within this genetic manipulation there was something that man has not been able to modify completely, because it is in the depths of the genetic inheritance and the brain of the dog.
What has not been fully modified is the social behavior that these wolves transmitted to their domesticated descendants. And here is the key to the reason why the human being prefers the dog over all other animal species, because The dog not only accompanies the man, but he “understands” for having, basically, the same social and behavioral structures as him.
And, despite the thousands of years gone by and the ‘culturization’ suffered by our brain, Even today people continue to manage as a social group, our family being more important than the rest of the people and worrying about our children eating, regardless of whether or not the children of those who are outside our social group can do it.
The domestic dog: man’s best friend
To understand our dogs, and thus be able to answer the question “why is the dog the best friend of man?”, It must be known that wolves are a gregarious species, living in community, which leads to a group being composed almost exclusively of animals related to each other; that is, living in family, which in turn leads to The success of an individual results in the benefit of the whole family or social group and vice versa.
The union between the male and the female is stable and lasting, and the older children of that couple help in the raising of the smaller puppies until these older children reach adulthood and what is called the phenomenon of dispersion occurs, moment in which these animals leave their family group to meet individuals of the opposite sex who dispersed from other communities to form their own social group.
In many cases, young females stay in their parents’ group and do not disperse, but young males almost always do.
Wolves hunt cooperatively, that is in groups, synchronously and jointly; they distribute the hunted prey according to the established hierarchical order and take the food to the cubil to feed their little puppies.
They have a place where they install the cubil, which is called the central house or home, and they have a hunting territory that they try to keep free from other groups of wolves, and that use it as a source of resources, thereby obtaining their food and, after obtained, they return to the home, which is usually located in the center of that territory.
They protect their puppies from predators, while the younger females take care and breastfeed the pups when the mother is hunting; This is the genetic and behavioral basis of the famous ‘false pregnancy’ of domestic dogs.
They have a language of gestures, postures and vocalizations to communicate with their peers and let them know your mood and requirements. This is the explanation of how they realize the different moods of people.
Ending with this brief synthesis of the main patterns of wolf behavior and its similarity to human behavior, It is worth noting the strict hierarchical order that they have and that all the members of the group respect, and that is the basis of the behavioral alteration known as dominant aggression, but that will be the subject of another article.
Current domestic dogs no longer need to hunt deer: at most they must break some garbage bag; Likewise, like us, we no longer have to hunt with bow and arrow to eat.
Both species were modified by the environment, but not the essence or the behavior patterns that are archived and well kept in some corner of our brains. And it is because of this fact that even today the dog is there, next to us, looking at us, waiting for us to give him some of our food as maybe some of his predecessors did with some of our ancestors who had just hunted a dam thousands of years ago.
Surely, he knows what it cost us, before and now, to get that piece of meat and then he thanks us, but, fundamentally, he understands us. It is for all this that most of us and, especially dog lovers, accept and are convinced that the domestic dog is man’s best friend.
The book ‘The origin of species’ is still fully valid today, but at the time it was not easy to assimilate. Read more “