Recent Scientific Findings about our First Domesticate Partner (2022)

The history of dog domestication is that of an ancient partnership between dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and humans. That partnership was likely originally based on a human need for help with herding and hunting, for an early alarm system, and for a source of food in addition to the companionship many of us today know and love. In return, dogs received companionship, protection, shelter, and a reliable food source. But when this partnership first occurred is still under some debate.

Dog history has been studied recently using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which suggests that wolves and dogs split into different species around 100,000 years ago. Although mtDNA analysis has shed some light on the domestication event(s) which may have occurred between 40,000 and 20,000 years ago, researchers are not agreed on the results. Some analyses suggest that the original domestication location of dog domestication was in East Asia; others that the middle east was the original location of domestication; and still others that later domestication took place in Europe.

What the genetic data has shown to date is that the history of dogs is as intricate as that of the people they lived alongside, lending support to the long depth of the partnership, but complicating origin theories.

Two Domestications

In 2016, a research team led by bioarchaeologist Greger Larson (Frantz et al. cited below) published mtDNA evidence for two places of origin for domestic dogs: one in Eastern Eurasia and one in Western Eurasia. According to that analysis, ancient Asian dogs originated from a domestication event from Asian wolves at least 12,500 years ago; while European Paleolithic dogs originated from an independent domestication event from European wolves at least 15,000 years ago. Then, says the report, at sometime before the Neolithic period (at least 6,400 years ago), Asian dogs were transported by humans to Europe where they displaced European Paleolithic dogs.

That would explain why earlier DNA studies reported that all modern dogs were descended from one domestication event, and also the existence of evidence of two domestication event from two different far-flung locations. There were two populations of dogs in the Paleolithic, goes the hypothesis, but one of them—the European Paleolithic dog—is now extinct. A lot of questions remain: there are no ancient American dogs included in most of the data, and Frantz et al. suggest that the two progenitor species were descended from the same initial wolf population and both are now extinct.

However, other scholars (Botigué and colleagues, cited below) have investigated and found evidence to support migration event(s) across the central Asia steppe region, but not for a complete replacement. They were unable to rule out Europe as the original domestication location.

The Data: Early Domesticated Dogs

The earliest confirmed domestic dog anywhere so far is from a burial site in Germany called Bonn-Oberkassel, which has joint human and dog interments dated to 14,000 years ago. The earliest confirmed domesticated dog in China was found in the early Neolithic (7000–5800 BCE) Jiahu site in Henan Province.

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Evidence for co-existence of dogs and humans, but not necessarily domestication, comes from Upper Paleolithic sites in Europe. These hold evidence for dog interaction with humans and includeGoyet Cavein Belgium,Chauvetcave in France, andPredmosti in the Czech Republic. European Mesolithic sites like Skateholm (5250–3700 BC) in Sweden have dog burials, proving the value of the furry beasts to hunter-gatherer settlements.

Danger Cave in Utah is currently the earliest case of dog burial in the Americas, at about 11,000 years ago, likely a descendant of Asian dogs. Continued interbreeding with wolves, a characteristic found throughout the life history of dogs everywhere, has apparently resulted in the hybrid black wolf found in the Americas. Black fur coloration is a dog characteristic, not originally found in wolves.

Dogs as Persons

Some studies of dog burials dated to the Late Mesolithic-Early Neolithic Kitoi period in the Cis-Baikal region of Siberia suggests that in some cases, dogs were awarded "person-hood" and treated equally to fellow humans. A dog burial at the Shamanaka site was a male, middle-aged dog which had suffered injuries to its spine, injuries from which it recovered. The burial, radiocarbon dated to ~6,200 years ago (cal BP), was interred in a formal cemetery, and in a similar manner to the humans within that cemetery. The dog may well have lived as a family member.

A wolf burial at the Lokomotiv-Raisovet cemetery (~7,300 cal BP) was also an older adult male. The wolf's diet (from stable isotope analysis) was made up of deer, not grain, and although its teeth were worn, there is no direct evidence that this wolf was part of the community. Nevertheless, it too was buried in a formal cemetery.

These burials are exceptions, but not that rare: there are others, but there is also is evidence that fisher-hunters in Baikal consumed dogs and wolves, as their burned and fragmented bones appear in refuse pits. Archaeologist Robert Losey and associates, who conducted this study, suggest that these are indications that Kitoi hunter-gatherers considered that at least these individual dogs were "persons".

Modern Breeds and Ancient Origins

Evidence for the appearance of breed variation is found in several European Upper Paleolithic sites. Medium-sized dogs (with wither heights between 45–60 cm) have been identified in Natufian sites in the Near East dated to ~15,500-11,000 cal BP). Medium to large dogs (wither heights above 60 cm) have been identified in Germany (Kniegrotte), Russia (Eliseevichi I), and Ukraine (Mezin), ~17,000-13,000 cal BP). Small dogs (wither heights under 45 cm) have been identified in Germany (Oberkassel, Teufelsbrucke, and Oelknitz), Switzerland (Hauterive-Champreveyres), France (Saint-Thibaud-de-Couz, Pont d'Ambon) and Spain (Erralia) between ~15,000-12,300 cal BP. See the investigations by archaeologist Maud Pionnier-Capitan and associates for more information.

A recent study of pieces of DNA called SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphism) which have been identified as markers for modern dog breeds and published in 2012 (Larson et al) comes to some surprising conclusions: that despite the clear evidence for marked size differentiation in very early dogs (e.g., small, medium and large dogs found at Svaerdborg), this has nothing to do with current dog breeds. The oldest modern dog breeds are no more than 500 years old, and most date only from ~150 years ago.

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Theories of Modern Breed Origination

Scholars now agree that most of the dog breeds we see today are recent developments. However, the astounding variation in dogs is a relic of their ancient and varied domestication processes. Breeds vary in size from the one pound (.5 kilogram) "teacup poodles" to giant mastiffs weighing over 200 lbs (90 kg). In addition, breeds have different limb, body, and skull proportions, and they also vary in abilities, with some breeds developed with special skills such as herding, retrieving, scent detection, and guiding.

That may be because domestication occurred while humans were all hunter-gatherers at the time, leading extensively migrant lifeways. Dogs spread with them, and thus so for a while dog and human populations developed in geographic isolation for a time. Eventually, however, human population growth and trade networks meant people reconnected, and that, say scholars, led to the genetic admixture in the dog population. When dog breeds began to be actively developed about 500 years ago, they were created out of a fairly homogenous gene pool, from dogs with mixed genetic heritages which had been developed in widely disparate locations.

Since the creation of kennel clubs, breeding has been selective: but even that was disrupted by World Wars I and II, when breeding populations all over the world were decimated or went extinct. Dog breeders have since reestablished such breeds using a handful of individuals or combining similar breeds.



What was the first domesticated dog? ›

In terms of knowing exactly when dogs were in the picture, the remains of the Bonn-Oberkassel dog were found buried alongside their human companions approximately 14,200 years ago. This was the first undisputed case of a domesticated dog.

Why did humans domesticate dogs first? ›

Dogs are the only animals domesticated by hunter-gatherers: all the others were domesticated after farming became widespread. One suggestion is that people domesticated dogs to help them with hunting, while another scenario has wolves scavenging human waste dumps and becoming accustomed to people.

What was the first domesticated animal? ›

Goats were probably the first animals to be domesticated, followed closely by sheep. In Southeast Asia, chickens also were domesticated about 10,000 years ago. Later, people began domesticating larger animals, such as oxen or horses, for plowing and transportation. These are known as beasts of burden.

When did dogs first get domesticated? ›

The ancient canines share ancestry with modern European dogs. By looking at the rates of change to the DNA from the oldest specimen, scientists were able to place the timing of the domestication of dogs to between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Whats does domesticated mean? ›

Definition of domesticated

1 : adapted over time (as by selective breeding) from a wild or natural state to life in close association with and to the benefit of humans The Incas used one of the first domesticated animals, the llama, to carry goods.—

Who owned the first dog? ›

He concluded that canine domestication may have first occurred 27,000 to 40,000 years ago. According to genetic studies, modern day domesticated dogs originated in China, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Are humans domesticated animals? ›

The notion that humans are “domesticated” far precedes the notion that humans have evolved. Since antiquity, scholars have described humans (in general or in reference to their own particular culture) as domesticated, which generally referred to their “civility”: their distance from a wild or savage state of being.

How does an animal become domesticated? ›

Domestication happens through selective breeding. Individuals that exhibit desirable traits are selected to be bred, and these desirable traits are then passed along to future generations. Wolves were the first animal to be domesticated, sometime between 33,000 and 11,000 years ago.

What was domesticated first dogs or cats? ›

A Single Wildcat Ancestor

This same research also revealed that cats were likely domesticated in the Near East around 12,000 years ago. Dogs were domesticated thousands of years before than cats.

What is an example of domestication? ›

Examples of Domestication

Sometimes, multiple regions domesticated the same plants and animals. Animals raised for their meat and other products are known as livestock, such as the horses, cows, and goats kept on Trevor's family's farm.

When was the last animal domesticated? ›

AnimalWhere DomesticatedDate
GoatsWestern Asia8000 BC
PigsWestern Asia7000 BC
CattleEastern Sahara7000 BC
ChickenAsia6000 BC
25 more rows
Jan 27, 2019

How many domesticated animals are there? ›

Nowadays, several authors agree that there are approximately 40 animal species domesticated in different geographic areas (Scherf and Pilling, 2015; Leroy et al., 2018).

Can wolves and dogs mate? ›

Wolves and dogs are interfertile, meaning they can breed and produce viable offspring. In other words, wolves can interbreed with dogs, and their offspring are capable of producing offspring themselves.

Why are dogs called dogs? ›

The history of dog

About seven centuries ago, the word hound, which came from the Old English hund, was the word for all domestic canines. Dog was just used to refer to a subgroup of hounds that includes the lovely but frequently slobbering mastiff.

What does domesticated mean in a relationship? ›

"domestic relationship" means a personal relationship between 2 adults in which one provides personal or financial commitment and support of a domestic nature for the material benefit of the other and includes a domestic partnership but does not include a legal marriage.

What is a domesticated wife? ›

The “Domesticate Wife” has changed over the years as more women celebrate independence and shared responsibility in the household. These changes have allowed society to say ” You will always be single because of that or this is how you get and keep a man”.

What is a sentence for domesticate? ›

1) These animals are only partly domesticated. 2) Cows were domesticated to provide us with milk. 3) The domesticated cat retains its predatory instincts. 4) He is thoroughly domesticated and cooks a delicious chicken casserole.

Why do dogs lick you? ›

Licking is a natural and instinctive behaviour to dogs. For them it's a way of grooming, bonding, and expressing themselves. Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!

What breed is the oldest dog? ›

While many believe the Akita Inu is the oldest breed of dog, some scientific studies suggest that the Basenji emerged first. Prehistoric cave paintings dating back as far as 6,000BC show images of Basenji, but these are far more modern than the Akita remains discovered at the Kamikuroiwa Rock Shelter site.

When did we first start calling ourselves humans? ›

Human was first recorded in the mid 13th century, and owes its existence to the Middle French humain “of or belonging to man.” That word, in turn, comes from the Latin humanus, thought to be a hybrid relative of homo, meaning “man,” and humus, meaning “earth.” Thus, a human, unlike birds, planes, or even divine spirits ...

Can you domesticate a tiger? ›

Tigers are not domesticated cats. None of the six surviving species of tiger (another three are extinct) should be kept as pets. A majority of states in the U.S. have instituted bans on keeping any of the big cat species as pets.

Can we domesticate all animals? ›

Though it's theoretically possible to domesticate anything, the difficulty involved may have profound historical impact. Domesticating any animal requires a concerted effort spanning multiple human generations, and large mammals in particular are often dangerous and slow to breed.

What were the benefits of domesticating animals? ›

Domestication of animals help the humans in many ways for eg ; Cows ang goats gave them milk and meat , Cattle also helped them in ploughing the fields also Cattle and sheep are kept for their wool, skins, meat and milk , large animals can also be used to do physical work like carrying things or plowing the field and ...

Is domestication good or bad? ›

Although domesticated animals have brought humans invaluable advantages throughout history, they have not come without a price. One of the main disadvantages of animal domestication has been an increase in the number of diseases from contact with animals.

Do cats fall in love? ›

Do cats feel love? It's a question that many cat owners have wondered. And the answer is a resounding yes! Cats often feel love quite strongly for their owners and other companions.

Do dogs know cats are cats? ›

The science behind dogs thinking they are cats is mostly to do with behavior and influence. The dog does not literally sit there thinking they are a cat. However, what they may do is display certain feline trains because of the influence of having cats around and the impact this has on their behavior.

Are dogs really domesticated? ›

The dog was the first species and the only large carnivore to have been domesticated. The archaeological record and genetic analysis show the remains of the Bonn-Oberkassel dog buried beside humans 14,200 years ago to be the first undisputed dog, with disputed remains occurring 36,000 years ago.

How did early humans use domesticated animals choose four answers? ›

They were used for milk, food, and/or wool. They were also used for carrying loads or pulling tools used in farming.

What are the 5 domestic animals? ›

Examples of domestic animals
  • Cow.
  • Dog.
  • Cat.
  • Fish.
  • Horse.
  • Rabbit.
  • Hen.
  • Elephant.

Who started domestication of animals? ›

Origins of domestication

The first attempts at domestication of animals and plants apparently were made in the Old World during the Mesolithic Period. Dogs were first domesticated in Central Asia by at least 15,000 years ago by people who engaged in hunting and gathering wild edible plants.

Can snakes be tamed? ›

Snakes can be great pets for those who take the time to learn how to properly care for them. They can even become tame, allowing you to hold them on a regular basis. However, not all snakes start off tame.

Can lions be domesticated? ›

Lions can never be tamed or domesticated – nor should they. Their needs are just not compatible with our needs. They have evolved for thousands of years to live in their natural environment? One interesting study found that lions are entirely unsuitable to life in captivity (Clubb & Mason, 2003, 2007).

Are dogs the first domesticated animal? ›

These studies have shown, first, that dogs were the earliest animal domesticated, and the only species that entered into a domestic relationship with people during the Pleistocene (1, 2, 12, 13).

Can a dog mate with Cat? ›

Cats and dogs cannot mate with each other, even if it looks like they're trying to do so. Their breeding behaviors, heat cycles, and different DNA prevent them from being able to produce healthy, viable offspring. Hybrid species can be created when the animals have similar DNA to each other, such as lions and tigers.

Can foxes mate with dogs? ›

Short answer: no, they can't. They simply don't have compatible parts. (Of course, that doesn't mean they can't be friends: witness Juniper the Fox and Moose the Dog, above). The longer answer to why dog-fox hybrids can't exist has to do with the two species having vastly different numbers of chromosomes.

Can a coyote mate with a dog? ›

A coydog is a canid hybrid resulting from a mating between a male coyote and a female dog. Hybrids of both sexes are fertile and can be successfully bred through four generations. Similarly, a dogote is a hybrid with a dog father and a coyote mother.

What breed is the oldest dog? ›

While many believe the Akita Inu is the oldest breed of dog, some scientific studies suggest that the Basenji emerged first. Prehistoric cave paintings dating back as far as 6,000BC show images of Basenji, but these are far more modern than the Akita remains discovered at the Kamikuroiwa Rock Shelter site.

What was the first dog on earth name? ›

It is called Miacis, the genus that became the ancestor of the animals known today as canids: dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes. Miacis did not leave direct descendants, but doglike canids evolved from it. By about 30 to 40 million years ago Miacis had evolved into the first true dog—namely, Cynodictis.

Where did the GREY Wolf come from? ›

The first grey wolf, Canis lupus, probably appeared in Eurasia sometime in the early Pleistocene period, about 1 million years ago. Around 750,000 years ago, it is thought to have migrated to North America.


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