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A talk given at the Indianapolis Women’s Club.

 

Jenny and Bobbie – Barbara’s toy poodles

Dogs are surely man’s best friend, and dog history goes back generations. While each individual breed has a unique history, all share some common traits based on their ancient ancestors the Wolves. Dogs and Wolves share 99% of their genetic structure and archaeological evidence supports the fact that Wolves were man’s original companion more than 100,000 years ago.

Wolves are naturally pack animals and it has been theorized that lone Wolves – particularly abandoned puppies would be drawn to human tribes for care and companionship. This led ancient people to care for these animals and in so doing they discovered a canine’s enormous capacity for bonding, loyalty, work and sport.

There are many legends that say the relationship went the other way and that Wolves often raised lost or abandoned children as they would their own pups. The Roman myth of Romulus, and Remus is such a tale: the abandoned Twins were supposedly nursed by a mother Wolf. Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is another heartfelt story of a young child being raised by Wolves.

About 12,000 years ago Hunter – gatherers in what is now Israel placed a body in a grave with its hands cuddling a pup. Whether it was a dog, or a Wolf can’t be known. Either way the burial is among the earliest fossil evidence of the dog’s domestication.

Scientists know the process was underway by about 14,000 years ago, but do not agree on the why or how. Some argue that hunters adopted Wolf puppies and that natural selection favored those less aggressive and better at begging for food. Others say dogs domesticated themselves by adapting to a new niche, the human refuse dump. Scavenging canines were less likely to flee from people. They survived and succeeding generations became increasingly tame. It has been said, “all that was selected for was one trait, the adaptability to eat in the proximity of people”. The Gray Wolf is so closely related to our canine “best friends” that they can still interbreed producing fully viable offspring.

Hundreds of different breeds were developed. But modern dogs each retain some wolf-like characteristics. These include pack behavior, dominance and submissive relationships, aggression, territoriality, socialization ,chasing, fleeing and vocalization. Selected breeding has accentuated specific traits suitable to particular purposes. the classification and standards of breeds are as follows :

Sporting dog group developed for hunting

Hound group used for hunting and work in law enforcement and protection

Working dog group used for police work with strength and endurance

Herding dog group agile strong intelligent with the ability to control large herds of animals

Terrier group able to borough and flush out game and kill rodents

Nonsporting group cannot be generalized. There are many dissimilar dogs in this group

Toy group enjoyed by the wealthy in early days; now pets for everyone strictly for pleasure of the owner

Man’s passion and pride in his dog led to the desire to show his dog and compare it to other breeds. Organized dog shows were born in the mid-19th century. Initially the dogs were identified by their kennel names. Much confusion occurred. This led to the organization of kennel clubs that were formed to establish breed standards. Today the characteristics of the different breeds has led to increased opportunities for dog and man interaction.

Barbara’s last dog, Andy

After living with poodles ranging from 40 lb. standards to six lb. toys for 50 years, we now have a seven lb. Yorkshire terrier named Andy. He is a fine little dog. He entertains us with his antics and reacts well to situations such as traveling in the car or on a plane, meeting strangers, and being left alone occasionally for short periods. We are both so happy when we are back together. We give Andy shelter, food, and take care of his needs. We spend a lot of our time caring for this little dog and he returns the love we give him with dividends.

 

Contributed by: Barbara Helveston

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1 thought on “From Wolf to Woof

  1. And author in Smithsonian Magazine asks why we love dogs so much. Answer: They look at us!

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