Dogs and humans have been best friends – in Europe and Asia, anyway – for about 9,000 years – according to new DNA research. And the arrival of the animals on the continent coincided with the advent of farming, BBC News reports.
Every domesticated dog, from the tiniest Chihuahua to the biggest Great Pyrenees and everything in between, evolved from wolves and similar canines. But while wolves have been around in Europe since well before H Sapiens got there, domesticated dogs have only been there for about 10 millennia. And researchers took a look at the DNA of living European canines and put together the story of how the domesticated dog wound up on the continent.
According to Psychology Today, dogs first began being domesticated around 100,000 years ago. Historians believe that wolves found hunter-gatherer tribes of humans useful, as wherever H Sapiens went, juicy bones and meat scraps were sure to follow. Conversely, our tribal ancestors found the dogs equally useful in their own way, specifically by warning about approaching predators. And thus began a relationship that has been going on for a hundred thousand years.
About 11,000-13,000 years ago, agriculture (as we know it) began, in the part of the Middle East now known as the Fertile Crescent. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors first started domesticating crops, such as wheat and lentils, as well as animals, such as goats and cows, at around that time.
And of course, even modern farms continue to employ dogs, both as pets and as guard dogs and sheep-and-goat herders.
About 9,000 years ago, researchers say, those ancient humans brought their knowledge of agriculture – and domesticated dogs – along with them. And the rest, as they say, is history (literally).
Dr. Morgane Ollivier of the University of Rennes in France says that as humans made their journey across Europe, they brought their dogs with them.
“Our study shows that dogs and humans have an intertwined story – dogs followed humans during this migration across Europe. We show in [our research] that dogs and humans were already really connected.”
Of course, Europe already had its own canids – wolves and foxes, mostly – by that time. So when domesticated dogs showed up, the gene pool got even more mixed up. And of course, modern domesticated dogs bear little relationship to their ancestors. In fact, the wide variety of shapes, sizes, and jobs of domestic dogs is something of a recent invention, historically speaking, having only developed over the past few centuries.