Dogs – just a dog? ... well no – they could be a domestic dog, beloved pet plain and simple, now dogs do work in so many disciplines ... but before that they had an interesting evolutionary journey.
Domestic dogs inherited complex behaviours from their wolf ancestors, which would have been pack hunters with complex body language – as I saw when I was lucky enough to see Cape Hunting dogs set out on hunts in Botswana.
|Cape Hunting Dog|
Sia McKye offered us a detailed insight into how our ancestors needed their dogs to have particular characteristics ...
|A Harlequin Great Dane|
Sia, who breeds Euro Great Danes (Harlequins), tells how the North American Indians, in this case specifically Buffalo Bird Woman, born 1840, went about her dog-work: It is a very informative read – enjoy.
Dogs, foxes, jackals, wolves, coyotes et al ... are of the tribe Canini ... and were invaluable to early human hunter-gatherers, quickly leading dogs to becoming ubiquitous across world cultures.
|Ancient Greek rhyton (drinking vessel)|
in the shape of a dog's head,
Made by Brygos, early 5th-C BC.
Aleria Museum, Corsica
Their various strengths were evolved ... as hunters, herders, beasts of burden, guard dogs ... while as our Western culture gathered momentum in the 20th century – we added them as companions, dogs for the deaf or the blind, or the people needing an outlet ... a ‘pet pal’ ...
|Tamaskan from Finland - look wolf-like|
Genetic studies show that the dogs were descended from the grey wolf, which was first domesticated in Asia about 15,000 years ago. Our first dog-like creatures were similar to the modern Alaskan Malamute, or Norwegian Elkhound.
Working and Guard Dogs’ progenitors were the Mastiffs of 5,000 to 3,000 BC from Mesopotamia – now the Rottweiler, Great Dane, Bulldog, Boxer ....
|Irish Wolfhound running|
Sight Hounds’ ancestors, also from Mesopotamia or Egypt around 5,000 to 3,000 BC, have keen eyesight and speed for pursuing game – now the Greyhound, Afghan Wolfhound, Irish Wolfhound ...
The Northern Breeds – the Norwegian Elkhound from around 4,000 BC – these dogs have specific adaptations for a cold climate, such as a heavy “guard” coat that protects against wind, rain and snow, and can rapidly be shaken dry ...
... almond-shaped eyes for squinting in the snowy conditions, and longer nasal sinuses to warm the air before it is breathed in: now also include the Siberian Husky, Iceland dog, Canadian Eskimo Dog breeds ...
|Pembroke Welsh Corgi|
Toy Dogs – the Maltese from the period 3,000 BC – 1,250 BC in Egypt - small dogs bred for their docile temperament ... the pug, Pekingese, King Charles Spaniel ...
Herding Dogs – the Canaan Dog from Israel around 2,200 BC and the Welsh Corgi around 1,200 BC – came with characteristics for herding: a good memory, intelligence with great agility ... from these two we have the border collie, old English Sheepdog, royal corgi, and the Australian cattle dog ...
The Spanish Pointer and Spanish Spaniel – both extinct as progenitors – but from which the Pointers and Springer or Cocker Spaniels originated approximately 2,100 years ago ... to flush birds from the undergrowth, or through marshy river banks, while pointers were bred to work the upland game.
The Water Spaniels and Retrievers came from Newfoundland and Ireland only about 1,300 years ago (700 AD) – they have a long muzzle for carrying birds, a crisp oily coat that sheds water, perhaps even webbed feet for swimming, and they are gentle – these are the Standard Poodles, Labradors, Retrievers ...
|A Yorkie ...|
The terriers, particularly, were bred in Medieval Britain 1,500AD) to hunt vermin. They are curious creatures with a tenacious approach to hunting – which we know today as Jack Russell terriers, bull terriers, Airedale terriers ... from which came the smaller breeds - the Yorkshire terrier for one ...
While the last type – the blood hounds: the scent hounds were bred at the end of the Roman Empire (300AD) in southern Europe for their keen sense of smell and endurance – from these came the harrier, dachshund, beagle, Basset hound and fox hounds.
|Gaston III, Count of Foix,|
Book of the Hunt 1387-88
In 14th-century England hound was the general word for domestic canines, while dog referred to a sub-type, a group including the mastiff. By the 16th-century, dog had become the general word, with the hound referring to hunting dogs.
Man’s best friend over the centuries has been moulded by humans for specific talents that suited earlier civilisations but which continue to evolve to this day.
So as dogs’ relationships and place in human society evolves there is one place that a dog continues to hold ... a special place in the human heart.
Happy Mother’s Day for those in the United States ...
My mother has been ‘quite lively’ this week – i.e. communicative – I read to her from a book on Cornwall; she asked me about the book I am reading up there – it is about Hereward the Wake and the build up to 1066 and the day of Conquest in England.
She was pleased to see some photos of some German friends – we keep up her tradition of sending them a few Euros for their birthday, Christmas and Easter.
The kids had sent a thank you letter each ... so we have some news – a confirmation at the Church next to the hotel we used to stay in when we visited, see "tea-bag" post here. Boy – have the they grown ... kids do grow don't they!!
However, perhaps sensibly?!, she slept through the Opening of Parliament and The Queen’s Speech – but it is a pity ... as it has great pageantry and she would have loved to have watched.
PS: Friko from Friko's World here in Shropshire has written a delightful post on Man's Best friend from the very human take of how animals embed themselves in our lives .. Please Read it here - she has an excellent blog with wonderful stories and photos ...
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