Evolution of Dogs and Wolves

Do you think Noah had two of every single dog breed on the ark? Or do you believe that dogs evolved from wolves?

wolf town_3

The latest research from PLOS Genetics suggests that today’s dogs and gray wolves share a common ancestor in an extinct wolf lineage that lived thousands of years ago. The researchers found no clear genetic link between the modern dogs and wolves studied, so dogs and wolves likely diverged from the same Stone Age wolves between 11,000 to 16,000 years ago.

We still don’t know how dogs were domesticated. We don’t even know when precisely, but one estimate is between 18,800 to 32,100 years ago. Could someone please write some historical fiction about this? I would love to read a Paleolithic-era novel about a European hunter-gatherer in the Stone Age and the very first pet dog.

To me, dog breeding is strong evidence that evolution happens. I compare a pug to a Great Pyrenees and wonder, How are these even the same species?

I also wonder, What would happen if we stopped breeding dogs?

The dog welfare community seems universally opposed to puppy mills and pet store dogs. These days, the politically correct, animal friendly way to acquire a dog is to rescue one from an animal shelter.

But “dog breeder” is not synonymous with “puppy mill.” Each dog breed was created for a reason, and responsible breeders exist. Isis and Leo both came from breeders committed to preserving the qualities that make German shepherds so loyal, intelligent, hard-working, and really, really, ridiculously good-looking.

Abandoning dog breeding means saying goodbye to the distinctions between Labradors and Belgian Malinois and border collies …

The dogs studied in the aforementioned PLOS Genetics research were basenjis from central Africa and dingos from Australia. These smallish, pointy-eared breeds bear some resemblance to the dogs I’ve seen in the streets of Thailand and India. Most street dogs, I’m fairly certain, are not bred by people.

I wonder, if people stopped breeding dogs to have longer coats, and flatter faces, and floppy ears, would all dogs evolve to look like this one?

E is for Evolution.

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Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

10 thoughts on “Evolution of Dogs and Wolves

  1. “Slow though the process of selection may be, if feeble man can do much by his powers of artificial selection, I can see no limit to the amount of change, to the beauty and infinite complexity of the co-adaptations between all organic beings, one with another and with their physical conditions of life, which may be effected in the long course of time by nature’s power of selection.” Darwin, On the Origin of Species

  2. The Mammoth Hunters: Earth’s Children, Book Three [Mass Market Paperback]
    Jean M. Auel (Author)
    This book is a historical fiction addressing domestication of dogs! It is the third in a series, so it will make more sense if you read the two before it.

  3. Love this post…and good suggestion about a book to read. Read those years ago. I would hate to see responsible dog breeding disappear – pure bred dogs are beautiful and contribute to their community in many ways. RESPONSIBILITY is the thing that needs to be taught. We need to somehow get rid of irresponsible breeders that force these mutations to win beauty contests or to make a buck. I don’t have any answer unfortunately, just indignation.

  4. The PLOS research is amazing. Thanks so much for summing it up, and the book recommendation. I’ll have to check that out.

    And the breeding problems freak me out – it’s so unfair to the dog, and creates such problems for health and behavior it’s insane. I hope that humans come to their senses and stop messing with that.

  5. The potcake dogs of the Bahamas have that universal “street dog” look as well! I’ve had quite a drastic change of heart and mind over the last year about rescue and adoption. I will always be a huge advocate for it, but I no longer believe that EVERYONE should get a shelter dog. People looking for something specific or people new to dogs might be over their heads with many rescue dogs. I think responsible breeders are a very important resource and should not be considered mutually exclusive to rescue and adoption. I believe that education and awareness are the key factors to uniting the two ideas and eradicating warehouse breeders and pet store puppies.

    I don’t always take the time to comment but I wanted to let you know that I always read your thoughtful posts.

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