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The history of the dog

From living in the wild to companioning as man’s best friend, the evolution and history of the dog is quite remarkable. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and can be found all over the world, but how exactly did they come to be such an integral part of our lives? The fact is that dogs have helped us hunt food and guard our possessions for so long that neither archaeology nor science can quite decide exactly where, when and how we got together in the first place.

A magnificent Czechoslovakian wolf dog
A Czechoslovakian wolf dog - early domesticated breeds would have looked a lot like this.

Where did dogs originate?

The canids - or the family of animals that includes dogs and wolves - first appeared on our planet around six million years ago. And while the actual origin of dogs remains elusive, we do know that dogs are direct descendants of modern gray wolves. Kind of hard to imagine your Chihuahua being related to a wolf, isn’t it? Many experts believe that dogs started separating from their wolf ancestors around 16,000 years ago in Southeastern Asia. It was at this point in their evolution that paleolithic dogs who had shorter snouts and fewer teeth first emerged, making them less threatening to humans than their wolf ancestors. And so man’s best friend was born.

Chihuahuas are a popular dog breed in the United States, although difficult to picture them as descents of wolves.
Chihuahuas are a popular dog breed in the United States, although difficult to picture them as descents of wolves.

How did the canine-human bond form?

Archaeological evidence shows us that dogs were living with humans in the Americas as early as 15,000 years ago. It is believed they migrated with humans as hunters and gatherers - essentially, the first animal companions. Because there was no agriculture at this time in history, dogs would have made useful allies in tracking and killing prey and alerting their owners to possible danger by barking. An early domestication theory suggests that as humans began migrating to colder climates, the canine-human bond formed very quickly. Humans relied on dogs to help them spot prey and dogs began to rely on humans for a constant source of shelter, safety and food. Centuries later, that bond has grown to include love and companionship.

First dogs in America

So how did dogs end up in America? The first known historical evidence of dogs in America dates back to Native Americans who used the assistance of canines for thousands of years. In native mythology, part of the Native American culture, dogs were important symbols of strength and guardianship for many warrior tribes of the Great Plains, including the Cheyenne. This makes sense as the oldest remains of dogs found to date have been unearthed in Wyoming and Colorado. Experts believe these early American dogs most closely resembled the Australian Dingo and were perhaps ancestors of the modern Husky breed. Then Colonialism happened and that is when the evolution of American dogs as we know them today really began. Throughout the 16th -19th centuries, dogs were bred in Europe for hunting and sport but as the Spanish, French and British colonists first arrived in America, they brought along dogs who would soon become useful in more specialized ways.

Abraham Lincoln and Fido

Did you know the word 'fido' may have originated from the White House? A shorthand word used to describe any dog, fido is one of the most popular dog names on the planet. And it may have all started with Abraham Lincoln. Five years before he became president, Abraham Lincoln named his mixed-breed, light brown, flop-eared dog Fido. Deriving from the Latin meaning “to trust”, President Lincoln chose this name as his dog was every bit the faithful and trustworthy hound of legend. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t have a happy ending. Two years after Lincoln’s assassination, Fido himself was assassinated by a drunk with a knife. While Fido may not have lived forever, his name is still alive and well today!

American Kennel Club

Is your dog an AKC champion? What does that even mean? In the first half of the 19th century, breeders began to place great value on their dog’s looks and not just their practical function. A trend that began in Britain and quickly spread to America, people started ‘showing’ their dogs in dog shows as a competition. On June 4, 1874, the first American Dog Show took place in Chicago, Illinois. Ten years later, in 1884, the American Kennel Club was founded. Interestingly, the American Kennel Club’s annual show, the AKC National Championship, is of surprisingly recent origin, given this long history. The famous dog championship began in 2001, where the Best In Show champion was a Bichon Frise called JR (official name “Special Times Just Right!”).

Omlet dog care

Dogs and humans have a long history together. At Omlet, it is our mission to celebrate those relationships with the products we create. With dog crates that resemble ancestral dog dens, dog beds for your winning dog to rest on and a whole range of essential dog products, we engineer our designs with your dog’s comfort, safety and happiness at the forefront.

Chihuahuas are a popular dog breed in the United States, although difficult to picture them as descents of wolves.
The American Kennel Club has been registering breeds such as this German Shepherd since 1884.

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A breed developed by humans to have a strong will to hunt


Dan, 25 June 2017

Thanks. Very interesting article. Good stuff to share with my daughter. I watched some documentaries and still got a lot of new info here. I just found this website and enjoy it very much...