It was originally believed the first domesticated wolves appeared around 15,000 years ago in the Middle East. New evidence, however, suggests it was much earlier than that. Swedish geneticist Pontus Skoglund published a study last year in the journal Current Biology, describing his findings of a 35,000-year-old Siberian wolf bone. He concluded that canine domestication may have first occurred 27,000 to 40,000 years ago.
Dog breeds vary in popularity. In the 1890s, Saint Bernard’s were the No. 1 breed but since the 1990s, Labrador Retrievers have been the favorite.
10 milestones from the history of dogs
- 45,000 years ago: Castaway wolves find comfort in close human contact, upon arriving in Europe around 45,000 years ago, modern humans competed mainly with their Neanderthal cousins and wolves as the top predators of wooly mammoths and the other megafauna that they would soon hunt to extinction. Scientists believe that at some point, vulnerable stray wolves exiled from their packs began following close to groups of humans, scavenging the bones of the animals they killed and surviving in their perimeter spaces, which other large predators were frequently reluctant to enter. Humans benefited from their presence—the lone wolves that followed them alerted their tribes to encroaching wild predators, Neanderthals, and rival groups of humans.
- 15,000–40,000 years ago: The first dogs evolve, Human beings were in direct competition and conflict with wolves for time immemorial, both killing wolves and being killed by their packs. According to Smithsonian Magazine, both gray wolves and the animals that would come to be known as dogs evolved from a single now-extinct species of wolf. The former would be one of humanity’s greatest adversaries and the latter would become its most important partner in the animal kingdom.
- 15,000–40,000 years ago: Dogs become humanity’s first domestic animal, Scientists can’t agree on exactly why or when, but at some point in the late Stone Age before the Agricultural Revolution, human hunter/gatherers formed a symbiotic partnership with the direct descendants of one of their oldest rivals. With loyal dogs at their sides, Homo sapiens with modern human brains could now leverage the senses and instincts of wild wolves. The moment stands with the domestication of fire as one of the most important milestones in human history that helped take the species out of the food chain—humans and their dogs would soon rule the world.
- 6,400–14,000 years ago: Dogs become globetrotters, According to the Atlantic, it’s likely there was more than one domestication event, although Smithsonian concedes a scientific disagreement on that point. The multiple-domestication theory states that humans domesticated early wolf descendants in both the East and the West independently around the same time. This created a fork in the DNA of dogs, which were continuously bred both with each other and with wolves in both the East and the West, creating a menagerie of different dog species.
- 12,000 years ago: Agricultural Revolution changes man and dog, around 10,000 B.C., millions of years of behavior natural to the genus Homo came to a screeching halt when human beings shifted from the lifestyle of nomadic hunters and foragers to that of stationary farmers. Their dogs settled down with them and, according to the Gettysburg Ian, the most dramatic societal change in the history of human beings forever altered the genes of both man and dog.
- 10,000 years ago: Dogs get jobs, since their earliest domestication, dogs helped humans track prey and avoid being preyed upon. The Agricultural Revolution, however, signaled the arrival of specialist dogs that did more than follow scents and make noise when danger was near. Upon settling down on farms, humans bred dogs with characteristics favorable to specific agricultural tasks like herding livestock—instead of eating them like their wolf ancestors; protecting chickens, pigs, and other farm animals; finding lost animals; and terrorizing and killing pests like mice and rats.
- 8,000 years ago: The basenji arrives, around 8,000 years ago, the original dog that had diverged from a common ancestor with the gray wolf had gone extinct. Around that time, the basenji emerged as the first and oldest modern dog species. Smart and independent, the so-called African “bark less dog” is still recognized by the American Kennel Club today.
- 6,000 years ago: Dogs go urban, the Agricultural Revolution gave humans an unprecedented level of food security that, for the first time in history, made large, permanent settlements possible. The first large-scale civilizations arrived with the Sumerians in Mesopotamia around 4000 B.C. and by this point, wherever people went, dogs went, too. Man’s best friend has been a common sight in cities for as long as cities have existed.
- 5,300 years ago: Dogs get leashes and collars, the early Mesopotamians urbanized dogs, and city dogs need leashes and collars. According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, dogs are depicted wearing leashes and collars in antiquity artwork from Rome to China. It was the Sumerians who invented the world’s most familiar dog accessories around 3300 B.C’
- 5,000 years ago: Eastern dogs win the genetic war, At some point, according to the Atlantic, the dogs in the East—and their human masters—began winning the biological battle of genetics. Today, just 10% of the planet’s dogs trace their DNA to that of Ancient Western dogs, which have since become extinct.