The origin of Dog has been researched by many for many years. The elusive single ancestor, a la Lucy for hominids, was thought to have originated in Europe but after careful study and genetic testing, Dog may have two distinct parents worlds apart. What does this mean? Is there more to being a Dog than sniffing rear ends? Where did domesticated dogs really come from?
It has been argued that dogs actually who tamed us. Watching us from a safe distance, they saw how useful we could be killing and cooking for them. The human’s only problem was finding and catching the wild animal for dinner. Sure, they could track one down in a few days time. But, who could wait that long? Especially if the home pack could run it down faster and corner it for the kill.
It didn’t take long to become partners in hunting food. Once both sides recognized the benefit of helping each other, human and dog soon depended on each other to hunt food even easier. Much as hunting dogs today, the pack would trap and encircle the prey for the humans to come in for the kill. Voila, instant grocery shopping. Wait…did we just learn that we were actually the ones domesticated by domesticated dogs?
Recently, near Newgrange in Ireland, a grave of an ancient dog was discovered. For those of you who may not know, Newgrange is a temple and grave constructed by Stone Age farmers in 3200 B.C. The grave of the dog is dated from around 2800 B.C. Now that we can perform genetic testing, scientists couldn’t wait to find out about neolithic Fido. Soon, we had a blueprint for one of the oldest domesticated partners ever discovered. In this case, Fido was very similar to the wolves around that time but there was enough difference between the wild wolves to see a difference. This former wolf had been domesticated by man. Or was it the other way around?
Researchers poured over the different genetic tests of ancient dogs found throughout archaeology. What was unexpectedly found was that there are two different origins of dog. Domestication had occurred in two distinctly different places. While domestication was very similar in both places, environment and culture led to two different branches of dog species. One was originally from Ancient Europe and the Middle East while the other was from Ancient Asia. This discovery was found through the mitochondrial DNA, which is to say genetics passed on from mother to pup.
One extra piece of information that was revealed is how long domesticated dogs have existed. Once domestication was thought to date back 15,000 years. Now, by tracing the steps between mitochondrial mutation, the domesticated dog is thought to date back at least 20,000 years and maybe even 60,000 years! We all know dogs are very patient but who would have thought they would have kept their eye on us for thousands of years, waiting for us to be ready to help them find food?