History of Dogs – From Feral Wolves to Furry Friends
The history of dogs is a fascinating one. It’s hard to think that our furry companions were once our arch enemy. That at one point in history, we feared them and fought them, living a very separate existence. The domestication of dogs is a process that has been ongoing for thousands of years. The exact origins of domestic dogs are still a matter of debate among scientists, but there is evidence to suggest that the domestication process began between 20,000 and 30,000 years ago.
So how did dogs become so domesticated? And when did this transition take place?
Let’s step back in time, some 60 million years ago …
Dogs have played a major role in human evolution. As dogs became more closely associated with humans, they began to develop certain physical and behavioural traits that were suited to life with humans. For example, dogs have evolved to have a better sense of smell and hearing than wolves, which made them more effective companions. They also developed a greater ability to communicate with humans, which helped them to form stronger bonds with their human friends.
An interesting thing about the domestication of dogs is how it’s affected their digestion. One key difference between wild wolves and domestic dogs is their intestines. Wild wolves have shorter intestines compared to domestic dogs, which means they can’t digest starches as efficiently. But as dogs evolved to live alongside humans, their intestines got longer, allowing them to better digest starchy foods like grains and vegetables. This makes sense when you think about it – early humans were probably feeding their dogs scraps of their own food, which would have included a lot of grains and vegetables. So over time, dogs that were better able to digest those foods would have had an advantage and would have been more likely to survive and reproduce.
There are many scientific studies that have looked into the domestication of dogs and how it’s affected their biology. One particularly interesting study was published in the journal “Nature” in 2013. The study’s authors analysed the DNA of modern dogs and wolves, and they found that dogs have a gene that’s responsible for starch digestion. This gene is different from the version found in wolves, which suggests that it’s a result of the domestication process.
This ability to digest starches is one of the reasons why dogs can eat a wide variety of foods, including vegetables, and it’s why they are able to thrive on a plant-based diet, which is not the case with wild wolves.
Another study published in the journal “PLoS Genetics” in 2017, confirms the previous findings and goes further by analysing the genomes of ancient dogs and wolves. The study found that ancient dogs had a more varied diet than ancient wolves, which is consistent with the idea that they were already able to digest starches.
A more recent study in 2020, published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” states that the domestication of dogs and the evolution of their diet have been influenced by the human diet and the way of life, the study showed that dogs have developed adaptations that allow them to digest and metabolize carbohydrates, which is not the case with wild wolves.
Dogs have been on quite a journey, from wild wolves to a loyal and trusted companion.
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