How Dogs Changed Human Evolution
Barbara J. Andrews, Journalist, AKC Master Breeder
Surely you must wonder why there’s such affinity between dogs and man. We love cats and horses and some of us have birds, bunnies, or reptiles but every domestic species would happily return to the wild – with but one single exception.
The dog. Canis lupus familiar is different. Unlike any other animal on earth, the dog came to us! I know, you’ve been told it was because we had scraps of meat around the entrance to our cave. No way. Here’s the hole in that donut, we didn’t eat meat then!!! We’re also told that prehistoric man decided the wolf would make a good hunting partner so he domesticated it about 30,000 years ago. The premise being that the wolf showed early man the value of meat but that evolutionary theory conflicts with factual archeological history as you will see below. We’ll let scientists argue over dates while we explain the extraordinary bond between man and dog.
Here’s the deal. Neanderthal and Cro-Magnan man were both Homo Sapiens and they co-existed for a while but a recent study of their jaw bones reveals that only one began to eat meat. At the risk of offending my horse-owning friends, I’ll point out the obvious. Plant eaters are not as smart as meat eaters.
Early Man ate his meat raw until he discovered fire and learned to cook his food. Let me say that another way. Herbivores have only to graze to survive. ii Carnivores have to be smarter to catch food that can think, fight back, or run away. Every predator, from a saber tooth to today’s domestic mouser has to stalk and outwit its prey. That takes cognitive skills the herbivore just doesn’t have. So when pre-man stumbled over a carcass and found meat to be good eating, he had to become smarter to get the fresh stuff. Find Instant Information on ii The Carnivores Diet.
Nature always has an evolutionary answer. Meat is higher in protein. It stimulates cellular development which allowed prehistoric man’s brain to grow, along with his “canine” teeth.
So… our meat-eating ancestor became a dominant species and his vegan cousin became extinct. That’s genetics for you. The meat eater survived and became – us. Or God created Adam and Eve. Or “mankind” is an intergalactic experiment in evolution. All of mankind’s beliefs, religious and/or scientific, fit comfortably with these evolutionary facts.
Obviously there was a Grand Plan for the evolution of mankind and so it was necessary that prehistoric man’s primitive brain had to evolve and get bigger. To fuel his brain, Man evolved as a meat eater. Is it not thought-provoking that such an incredible evolutionary advancement became possible due to a partnership that is absolutely unique in the animal world??!!?. There are other symbiotic relationships such as sucker fish and whales but none that compare to the prehistoric human-dog bond.
Mitochondrial DNA, discovered in the 1960s through electron microscopy, reveals that wolves and dogs split into separate species well over 100,000 years ago, about the same time Neanderthal man’s brain grew and he ventured out of Africa. It took a few centuries but Homo sapiens finally evolved from a plant eating gatherer into a very effective hunter after partnering with primitive wolf during the period often referred to as the “Upper Paleolithic Revolution.”
Studies suggest that today’s dogs descended from three females in Asia about 15,000 years ago. Scholars disagree on whether Canis lupus familiaris came to us or we went out and stole its pups for our children. That debate will never be settled but one thing we do know: in about 13000 BC, the dog became the first domesticated species.
That was long before prehistoric man domesticated the next oldest companion species, cats. By 8500 BC, we had developed rudimentary agriculture and humans became more stationery. That generated garbage which brought rodents. Cats came and controlled the rats.
Man later began to tame cattle, goats, and pigs because it was easier to keep and control what we ate than to hunt for it. Getting smarter every day, we finally caught a horse! It is believed the horse was first ridden in what is now Kazahkstan (central Asia) about 3600 BC, predating domestication of the ass and the camel. Fast-forward…
The earliest Americans had dogs. Their ancestors migrated across the land bridge from Asia some 12,000 years ago and came south as evidenced by the Kentucky and Clovis NM digs presented during the 1999 science convention. North America may have also been populated by the Ainu from Japan and early people coming north from South America.
We’ll let the anthropologists argue the melting pot details but the first “civilized” humans were nomadic big-game hunters who lived in small bands, subsisting on animals such as musk ox and bison. They didn’t have horses but we know they had dogs to find, chase, and help kill those food sources!
While it may fairly be said that horses mobilized civilization, we know that the dog sustained man’s evolution and actually civilized mankind in the process.
I’ve shown you that human development is connected to dogs more so than any other living creature. In fact, canines have become more than hunter-buddies; dogs are man’s alter-egos, models of honesty and character.
So why haven’t scientists and geneticists taken a closer look at the dog and why it came to us? Can dogs help us evolve even more? What’s a hundred thousand years? In the span of evolution, it’s only the blink of an eye. Man has evolved technologically but morally, I’m not so sure. Humans could be a better species (from a happiness and/or moral viewpoint) if we were more like our Best Friend, the dog.
Think. Dog language has no curse words. Dogs are always happy. The only thing that dampens a dog’s joy in life is loss of a pack member. Every day is a good day for a dog. If he eats today, that’s good but it is not as important as being with you. Starve him, abuse him but he will not forsake you. Sure, we’ve heard that before but who dares to compare it to mankind’s level of loyalty?
Wolf packs, even feral dog packs, rarely fight each other. They know it’s counterproductive; dangerous to their survival as a species. Once dominance is established, there is harmony. The pack intuitively works together within a strong social code. Harmony exists because the canine is not mean, vindictive, or dishonest like some other species… Love and loyalty is in his genes.
Perhaps this whole evolution thing isn’t done yet and some day we will understand why dogs are here.
Think some more. The primitive beast that predated wolf looked at bumbling fumbling humanoid, sighed, and evolved into Wolf. Wolf watched prehistoric man struggle and recognizing his duty, he became Canis lupus familiaris. Call it evolution, call it creation. I call it a good thing because dogs, who could easily fend for themselves, choose to be with humans. It’s evolution. It is in their DNA.
In 2014 a retired psychology professor, John Pilley made network news with his border collie Chaser who has a 1,000 word vocabulary but understands verbs and nouns. It took documented research to convince the smartest scientists what you knew since childhood – that dogs understand human emotions and sounds which we call “words” like “good boy” and “toy” and “shut up!” Seeing is believing – watch Chaser in this 3 minute ABC clip we added to Video Theater.
It may be that dogs evolved here on earth so that scholars can figure out what humans are supposed to be when we finish evolving. I’d like to think that we were meant to be dog’s best friend.
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