The Genetic History of Dogs: Top 10 Facts and Theories


Where do dogs come from? It is only natural to wonder how the domestic dog came into being, considering that they hold such an important part in our lives. The origin of our faithful fidos has always been a difficult question, however. The domestication of dogs occurred such a long time ago that it is difficult to determine their ancestors, especially when combined with selective breeding over tens of thousands of years.

Here are our top ten facts and theories on canine genetic history:

  1. The domestication of the dog happened at least 15,000 years ago, and could have started as far back as 30,000 years ago
  2. Oldest evidence of domesticated dogs can be found in East Asia and China
  3. Dogs were originally domesticated for much the same reasons as today  – as guard dogs, hunters and companions
  4. Dogs are part of the canidae family, which includes foxes and wolves, domestic dog’s closest biological ancestor
  5. There are theories however that animals such as dingoes, coyotes and jackals are evident in our dog’s genetic make-up
  6. It is likely dogs were domesticated on more than one occasion in a number of locations throughout the world
  7. There is much curiosity over how exactly dogs came to be domesticated, but the most prominent theory believes that orphaned wolf cubs were bought into ancient homes and socialised early to human life
  8. New theories, however, suggest that more friendly wolves may have deliberately sought human company, possibly in search of food and warmth
  9. It is though that selected breeding of dogs began at least 10,000 years ago, with ancient humans breeding dogs for specific tasks such as herding
  10. Even Charles Darwin was uncertain of the dog’s true ancestry because of the great deal of differences in behaviour and physical characteristics of each dog breed

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