Domestication of Dogs – When and Where?
I was curious as to when and where the domestication of dogs occurred. I really didn't expect to find "exact" answers, but I didn't think this would be such a highly debated topic. There appears to be considerable confusion in this area. I'm going to try and summarize the main points that seem to be fairly consistent from the information that I've found.
When Were Dogs Domesticated?
This question has been investigated by scientists for many years. Based on scientists' findings, they were pretty sure that dogs originated from the Asia area.
Right now, due to a recent study, the long belief that dogs originally were domesticated first around Asia is now being questioned.
Dogs Domestication in Asia - Long Standing Belief
For a long time, scientists believed that domestication occurred somewhere around 11,000 to 14,000 years ago in the Asia area. This time period is about when man started the agriculture phase.
Since man was now growing crops, he was probably also building settlements and phasing out of the nomadic role. Prior to this, man primarily had to hunt for his food. Animals tend to migrate so that they can find enough food and water. As a result, man had to follow the migration of the animals which meant a nomadic life for him.
Many fossil skulls found in the Asia area have been determined to be dogs. Using various methods to determine the age of fossil bones, scientists have estimated that these skulls have been around for about 11,000 to 14,000 years.
Dogs Domesticated in Europe - Recent Study
Many scientists also believe that the domesticated dog evolved in Europe and not Asia, but, until recently, there really wasn't any hard evidence to support this theory. In a 2013 study, a fossil skull found in Siberia was genetically analyzed. This skull may provide the evidence needed.
The analysis on this skull resulted in these scientists concluding that dogs were domesticated around 33,000 years ago. Other scientists, after further review of this study, believe that the domesticated dog may have appeared in Europe around 18,000 to 32,000 years ago.
Even though there is a debate as to the actual age of this fossil skull, this skull is still considerably older than any found in Asia..
Dog Domestication Debate - Asia or Europe
In another news article from Sciencemag.org, the debate of whether dogs might have been domesticated twice continues. This debate is caused by the latest study relating to the fossil skull found in Siberia.
Since the skull in Siberia is older than any found in the Asia area, it is possible that dogs were first domesticated in Europe. If the European dog became extinct, then it appears reasonable that dogs were domesticated, once again, in the Asia area many years later.
The Domestication of Dogs
This is another strongly debated topic and I really don't think that there's one answer. There are basically two main thoughts. Each of these beliefs have a strong following. I like to believe that wolves adopted man, but both of these beliefs are probably true. We'll never know which occurred first.
We Domesticated Wolves
One thought is that man is responsible for domesticating wolves. Here's a little story that I created to explain this theory.
One day, many years ago, a man came across some orphaned wolf pups. Feeling sorry for the pups, he took them back to his settlement to raise. The man had also been observing wolf packs and he knew they were great hunters. He also noticed how they protected their entire pack from outsiders.
Perhaps, these little pups could help his settlement when they grew up. All he had to do was earn their trust. That should be easy since he was now their nurturer.
When fully grown, these pups could help him hunt and provide food for his settlement. They could even help protect the settlement by alerting everyone to potential dangers during the long dark nights.
This would make the man very important in his settlement. The other people would respect him and, perhaps, treat him as one of the wise ones.
Wolves Adopted Man
The second belief is that wolves approached man first. Here's another created story by me.
During this time period, man lived in settlements and had started cultivating the land. When you have a group of people living together, there's always trash. It would be quite reasonable to assume that the trash included scraps of food.
Wolves are extremely good at hunting, but there are always the lean times when prey is hard to find. Imagine a wolf scouting for prey and not having any luck. During his search, he comes upon a settlement and gets a whiff of scraps.
He's really hungry. He watches the people in the settlement and knows the scraps are on the outer edges. Should he take the risk? Hunger overrides fear and he makes a wild dash for the scrap. Success! No one notices.
The hungry wolf repeats this process over several days. He notices the people in the settlement don't seem to mind that he's eating their scraps. He gets braver and decides to go further into the settlement for more scraps. Eventually, the people accept the wolf as part of their settlement.
My Thoughts on the Domestication of Dogs
I think the determination of when and where dogs were first domesticated is going to be debated for many years. With the advancement of technology, more tests will be performed. More tests usually result in more questions. Scientists want answers.
For me, it really doesn't matter when or where dogs were domesticated. It doesn't even matter if man domesticated the dog or if the wolf adopted man.
The domesticated dog has been around for many, many years and both have benefited from the companionship of the other.