Wed, Feb 14, 2018 - Page 14 News List

How dogs domesticated humans

Akela, the Lone Wolf, on the frontispiece of the 1895 edition of The Two Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Studies have shown that wolves and dogs, when still young, are quite similar even now, after many generations of evolution. They both exhibit the same playful behavior, for example, and wolf pups are known to bark like dogs. However, when wolves mature, they become aloof, suspicious and fierce, and totally unsuited to a domestic environment.

The domestic dog we now share our homes with evolved from the wolf. Some say that humans domesticated the wolf, in a process that likely started somewhere between 20,000 and 15,000 years ago. It is also quite possible that this happened more through a symbiotic relationship and mutual reliance that changed the way humans evolved, too. Perhaps dogs domesticated humans.

To a degree, human society has successfully removed us from the dictates of the survival of the fittest in the wild. Back then, humans would have been competing with wolves for food. Indeed, humans did compete with carnivores, making sabre-tooth tigers and giant hyenas extinct in Europe, for example.

Humans were already efficient hunters, and wouldn’t have needed wolves. However, hunters accompanied by dogs would have had an advantage over those hunting without. Dogs would also have served as sentries, barking at the approach of strangers or predators.

While the exact mechanism by which humans and the dog began to cooperate is down to pure guesswork, one idea is that wolves approached human settlements first, and the more friendly, less aggressive ones were allowed to get close, and stayed when they were offered food to eat. Over several generations, that more friendly trait would have been reinforced through interbreeding among the dogs in the settlements, which were necessarily more genetically predisposed to being friendly. Changes happened not only to their appearance or their biology — such as evolving, with humans, the ability to process starch in their diets — but to their psychology, as well. These protodogs evolved the ability to read human gestures and to understand certain commands, which would have been an advantage in hunting.


fierce adj.

兇猛 (xiong1 meng3)

domesticate v.

馴養;馴化 (xun2 yang3; xun2 hua4)

survival of the fittest phr.

適者生存 (shi4 zhe3 sheng1 cun2)

carnivore n.

肉食動物 (rou4 shi2 dong4 wu4)

interbreed v.

混種繁殖 (hun4 zhong3 fan2 zhi2)

Over time, humans became reliant on their presence. You could even say that dogs had a huge impact on human development, or even served as a catalyst for our civilization.

(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)








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