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Happy National Dog Day! Today we honor one of the world’s most loyal and adorable creatures—the dog! For the average individual, an annual celebration of everything dog may be enough, but for dog lovers like myself, a single day of celebration doesn’t cut it.  So to kick off National Dog Day and keep the fun going, HWF presents Dog Blogs— an entire week dedicated to (hu)man’s best friend.  This week we will examine the bond that is shared between humans and dogs while highlighting a few of our furry friend’s most impressive characteristics.

Humans and Dogs— A History

Man’s best friend may also be our oldest friend

Humans and dogs have a long history together, a history that dates back at least 14,000 years—well before the domestication of livestock like goats, sheep, and cows.  Fossil evidence of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris, Canis lupus familiaris) indicates that domestication happened in central Europe and Asia sometime after the last Ice Age. But, details surrounding the exact origins of dogs are still a bit blurry. Some scientists believe that dogs and wolves split off from a common ancient ancestor over 25,000 years ago, while others insist that dogs are a direct descendant of the grey wolf (Canis lupus) who once followed humans, looking to eat their leftover scraps of food.

Europäischer Grauwolf (Canis lupus). Photo Credit: Gunner Ries Amphibol on Wikimedia Commons.

In any case, it is understood that there was a split between the more aggressive wolves and the friendlier wolves, with the latter approaching humans who in turn took them in as companions. As friendly wolves were bred with other friendly wolves, they developed a more docile disposition, becoming both less frightening and less afraid. Eventually, humans and the more affable wolves began to inhabit the same space. While they hunted and lived side by side, each species benefitted from the other’s company— wolves could easily chase and capture small prey which they shared with the humans who provided them shelter and warmth from their fires. As the relationship between man and wolf evolved, wolves began to change in body and nature. They became smaller, their ears flopped, and their paws and teeth shrank. They learned to read complex human expressions and interpret facial movements. Wolves became dogs.

Brehm’s Life of animals : a complete natural history for popular home instruction and for the use of schools. Mammalia” (1896)

The Contemporary Canine

From a teacup-size Chihuahua to a Great Dane, there is an astounding amount of variety among dog breeds. This variety becomes even more mind-boggling when one considers the fact that no matter the size, shape, or demeanor, dogs are all a part of the same species!

Dogs may have been man’s best friends for thousands of years, but the furry creatures we live with today are nothing like the dogs your great, great, great, great ancestors knew. In fact, it is estimated that 80 percent of the dog breeds seen today have been around for less than 150 years!  In the Victorian Era, a dog’s breed was categorized based on their propensity to hunt, to pull carts, wrangle sheep, or complete other tasks.  After the agricultural and industrial revolutions, working dogs became less common and our relationships with dogs became more personal and while selective cross-breeding for desired physical characteristics and personality traits has been happening since ancient times, it really accelerated during the 19th century.

Today, the American Kennel Club is responsible for the official declaration and registration of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States. According to Bloomberg reports, the Miniature American Shepherd (photographed below) and the Boerboel are among some of the newest dog breeds to be added to the AKC’s growing list of breeds. Check out some of the latest dog breeds in America HERE.

Though many things have changed for man and dog over the course of fourteen millennia, one element holds true— the bond between humans and canines remains one of the most unique interspecies relationships ever known. We hope you spend National Dog Day giving some extra love and attention to your Dogs. Don’t have a dog, no worries, you can show your support of dogs by visiting your local animal shelter and spending time with a dog in waiting, who knows, maybe you’ll even go home with a new friend!

The Havasi Wilderness Foundation works to create an understanding of the need for environmental education and awareness among world citizens. It is our job to help preserve and protect our planet and all those who live here. If you would like to help support our work, please make a donation to us today.

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