A man's best (and oldest) friend?

Carter Levy reports on recent findings that humans had domesticated their furry friends before the invention of the wheel

Carter Levy
12th November 2020

A new study shows that humans had domesticated dogs 11,000 years ago - before the invention of the wheel. 

11,000 years is a long time. In fact, according to some estimates, someone living around that time was about the same length of time away from the invention of the wheel as we are now. This puts dogs as the first animals to be domesticated by humans, beating cats, pigs, cattle, and horses. 

The study shows that the spread of dogs largely followed the same patterns as humans, with some exceptions, and that this likely began prior to the start of the Holocene (a geological term for the current epoch, beginning 11,600 years ago). Essentially, early humans brought dogs with them as they migrated across the Earth, meaning that early dog linages had a population history “that in many ways tracked that of human groups”. 

dogs had more of an impact than their owners did on their respective populations

There are of course some exceptions to this similarity between human and dog migration and subsequent evolution patterns. Humans that moved from the steppe (a large region spanning Europe to Serbia) east into Asia had very little impact on the ancestry of modern humans there; however, dogs from the steppe are related to modern Chinese species, suggesting that they had more of an impact than their owners did on their respective populations. 

Where exactly the domestication of dogs first took place is still unknown. However, scientists suggest that it was likely one population of wolves (or a closely related species) that all dogs can trace their lineage from. 

Featured image: Pauline Loroy on Unsplash

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