The history of the domestication of dogs


Some early accounts

A fossil site in Czechia estimated to be 28,500 years old, also known as the Ancient Canina Craniums, gives one of the earliest accounts of animal husbandry. Or perhaps they could just be regular wolves roaming from one place to another in search of food and shelter. Previous studies at Predmosti, a fossil site in Czechia, identify several distinct canine populations. However, there are still arguments whether these Palaeolithic dog fossils are from the last ice age time. All the modern world dogs are descendants of Eurasian wolves, which are probably among the first animals that humans domesticated out of love.

How did once a ferocious wild animal turn into a docile pet, though? Researchers claim that there has been a gradual series of steps to tame the animal. However, they are not sure about the reason why. Why did humans want an animal as pets when no such concept existed? And when exactly did the process of conversion start? The topic is still fiercely debated, with each researcher having their point of view. Not only are the fossil records of wolves, the first proto dogs, are tricky to understand, but also modern dogs and their wild counterparts are hard to distinguish. So when the fossils of the ancestors are compared with the present species, it is like splitting hair. 

Use of dental history

Anthropologist Peter Ungar from the Arkansas University, says that dental microwaves are a behavioural signal that appears in generations before any morphological changes take place in the population. Using these signals, it will become easy to distinguish between wolves and proto dogs. The researchers found considerable differences in the chompers from the fossils of wolf-like creatures from the same site to the proto dog craniums. Unlike Pleistocene, the early dogs had more significant scars on the teeth from wear and tear. It indicates that the diet included hard and brittle food like bones as opposed to a diet of mammoth that included flesh. 

The consistency builds the notion that the canines began to cohabitate within or along the edges of human society, consuming less desirable foods like bones that were either discarded or fed to them by humans themselves. Modern studies further confirm that dogs have a high rate of fracture in the teeth as compared to their counter wild animals like wolves.

Domestication of wolves

It is also possible that two behaviourally and morphologically different populations of wolves lived simultaneously in the region. At least based on season, just like the population today. In simple words, the wolves population might have changed their dietary system in response to the change in the environment and competing for survival and not necessarily because they were domesticated. Nevertheless, the study of the fossil site suggests that the two populations had a very different diet during the time of permanent human occupation. It indicates a shift in behaviour in the wolves towards being domesticated. The results need to be verified with additional studies from central Europe, which is the site for the most reliable fossil record on early dogs and also includes other parts of the world where domestication has known to occur. Perhaps we are about to find out when the human race decided we needed to have pets in our lives?