In, The Biography of your Best Friend (The Evolution of the Dog) – Part 1, we learned all about how wolves became dogs…and just how long those dogs have been a part of human life. All wolves pretty much look the same, though, and everyone knows that dogs come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, temperaments, and energy levels. So how the heck did that happen?
Evolution is an amazing thing. Once the partnership between humans and dogs formed, some of the wolf-y qualities began to fade. For the first time, dogs as a species began to take on their own characteristics. Barking is probably the first to come to mind. Wolves howl to communicate with each other. Dogs would have developed barking as a way to warn their human counterparts at the sight or sound of something unfamiliar.
By the time humans began to increase their population and therefore spread to different areas of the world, dogs were already members of “society” – so they came along for the ride. Just as our own species did, dogs had to adapt to the new environments while simultaneously adapting to fulfill our own changing needs. Technically, though, this created new dog landraces not new dog breeds. By definition, a landrace is a domesticated animal that develops because of its adaptation to a new natural or cultural environment. In other words, humans were not forcing two dogs to mate to create new, more helpful creatures. It was an organic process.
Of course, though, we humans couldn’t sit by and let nature take its course. Over time, we began to create breeds (NOT landraces) to help accommodate our own needs. Modern dog breeds were not recognized until the creation of the English Kennel Club in 1873. The American Kennel Club was founded shortly after in 1884 and is now the largest purebred dog registry in the world. (Now recognizing 173 breeds! Woof!)
Even now…after all this time… some of our breeds are very closely genetically related to wolves. Some of the most similar breeds? The Siberian Husky, the Afghan Hound, the African Basenji, the Chinese Chow Chow, the Japanese Akita, and the Egyptian Saluki. It’s really not surprising seeing as where these dogs hail from…surely the sites of some of our earliest civilizations.
But just what part did humans play in creating the “modern dog”? Hmmmm….good question! You will just have to check back in with the Wags & Whiskers blog for the third instalment of “The Biography of your Best Friend.”