“If humans were as varied as dogs we would range in height up to 22 feet tall and in weight more than 1,000 pounds” (courtesy National Geographic Channel). The dog is the most varied species of mammal due solely to the influence of man.
It is generally accepted knowledge that the dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is the first domesticated animal and was developed from the grey wolf (Canis lupus). A domesticated animal is one that is not just tamed: but whose behavior, looks, and breeding habits have been permanently altered due to man’s influence. The domesticated animal is dependent upon man for survival.
Based on archeological evidence, the dog has been a working, hunting and companion animal for over 30,000 years. Although archeology has given us approximate dates for the early relationship between dog and man. Genetic research (DNA analysis) has provided additional clues for the transition from wolf to dog.
It is possible that the genetic changes or offshoots may have occurred as long as 135,000 years ago. Recent evidence from DNA analysis indicates that dog first originated in the middle east rather than the far east indicated by archeological evidence. Furthermore, based on genetic similarities it is now thought that there are four distinct branches based on geography from the common wolf ancestor.
Early domestic dogs may not have been looked much different from the wolf. It is possible that the change from nomadic hunter-gatherer societies to more sedentary agricultural populations around 10,000 to 15,000 years ago may have resulted in a smaller breeding pool that began the transition of the wolf-like looks into the beginning of the dog.
If the dog was developed from the wolf, how and why is there so much variety? Dog sizes range from the largest, the English Mastiff which weighed over 340 pounds to the smallest the tea cup Chihuahua weighing 8 ounces. This boggles my mind and led me to investigate further.