When Were Dogs Domesticated?

In this 1923 DogWorld article, dog experts claim that dogs were the first animal to be domesticated by the earliest humans.

Dog World April 1923From the Archives of Dog World: Enjoy this all-access pass to dog history from the pages of the longest published dog magazine. This content remains in its original form and reflects the language and views of its time. Health and behavior information evolves and only the most current advice should be followed.

Almost the earliest human beings of whom we have any record seem to have been accompanied by dogs, which were apparently the first animals domesticated. In the Danish kitchen-middens belonging to the Neolithic period, dog remains accompany those of man. The birds’ bones are those of the legs and wings, which dogs cannot eat, and hence it seems likely that the men, after eating the flesh of the birds, gave their remains to the dogs, who devoured what they could. This has led to the further conjecture that these dogs were domesticated.

Assyrian sculptures depict two dog forms, a Greyhound and a Mastiff, described as ‘the chained-up, mouth-opening dog’ (watchdog), and several other kinds are alluded to in the cuneiform inscriptions. The first mention of the dog in the Bible occurs in connection with the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt, and the earliest to it as the companion of man is in the Book of Tobit. The detestation with which the Hebrews regarded the dog was possibly due to its being an object of adoration to the Egyptians.

Xenophon records two species of Spartan dogs. Many references are found to their use in battle, for which purpose they were sometimes provided with spiked collars, so that the ‘dogs of war’ was no mere figure of speech. At Marathon, one of these four-footed warriors gave such assistance to its master, that its effigy was engraved upon his tablet.

Dog Breeds Vary Greatly

It must not, however, be supposed that the differences between the various dog breeds are entirely due to this difference of parentage, for there can be no doubt that they are largely the effect of careful breeding and selection.

Variations occur in almost every part of the dog’s organization. As regards size, some are six times as long as others (the tail being excluded); the ratio of the height to the length varies from 1:2 to 1:4. The number of caudal vertebrae, the number of teats, and the number and disposition of the teeth, are all subject to modifications.

Among peculiarities which are confined to domestic dogs as opposed to wild dogs may be mentioned the drooping ears and the curled up tail; the former correlated with a diminished need for watchfulness; the latter with a decreased use of the tail as a helm.

Only Tamed Dogs Bark

Barking, too , is almost universal in domestic dog breeds, but does not characterize a single wild dog breed. Certain tame dogs, which were left on the island of Juan Fernandez, were found after 20 years to have quite lost the faculty, and only gradually reacquired it on renewed contact with men.

Excerpted from Dog World magazine, April 1923, Vol. VIII, No. 4. For back issues of Dog World, click here.

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