|Meet canis lupus|
It is hard to contemplate that the small, fluffy, white dog lying content and gently farting on my lap is essentially a wolf. The wolf and the domestic dog are virtually genetically identical. A diminutive
is fully able to produce viable offspring with the wild Grey Wolf. Although the mechanics of the mating might be tad contrived and the yapping offspring may well have the disconcerting habit of ripping your leg, clean orf...... Let's digress. Chihuahua
However, genetics can be deceptive and it would be ill-advised to consider the domestic dog a variant of the wild wolf. Although it is highly apparent that man has selected for external appearance in the dog, most of the changes relate to behaviour and temperament. The modern dog exhibits infantile, puppy wolf, behavioural traits throughout life. This makes them devoted and dependant on their human masters. In turn we love them for their tractable and loving natures. For those of us who have kept a wolf, divergence in behaviour becomes noticeable when the animal matures at about two years. Now you know you are dealing with a wild animal. Mature wolves, even those raised by humans, do not like to be confined. They are independent creatures who do not react well to physical strictures. This is where you realise how smart a wolf is. Wolves are smarter than domestic dogs because they have to be. As top predator wolves need to be smart to hunt their fleet of foot prey. With a few exceptions, dogs have not been cultivated for their smarts. Herding dogs like the Border Collie and German Sheppard are the smartest dog breeds. And one word of advice: never try to take a bone off a mature wolf, even if you raised it from a pup. If you do, you will get badly mauled- trust me, I have the scars.
Scientific consensus reckons that the wolf became domesticated between 34,000 to 10,000 years ago. At this time, mankind practised a hunter-gather existence and had yet to exploit the land in a systematic and organised way. Farming would have to await a later epoch. The advantage accrued to wolves (lone wolves?) attaching themselves to human bands is rather obvious. A carcass left after the kill and once butchered would present an attractive meal to following wolves. Less aggressive and less inhibited individuals may have entered human camps and humans may have nurtured wolf cubs, fortuitously found. For man, wolves would greatly assist with the hunt. In the early man-wolf association, a symbiotic relationship would soon evolve. Two intelligent species coming together because it benefitted them to do so. Man would start, almost unconsciously, to select individuals with desired traits. Wolves do not bark, although this trait innately exists. This trait was easily unearthed and the sentinel dog-wolf was born. The advantage to man is manifestly obvious, although, as the owner of three dogs, I can attest that this ability can become tiresome.
Over time, the dog was selected to become the bewildering shapes and forms we see today. When man became a farmer and became settled, subsets of the community acquired wealth. With wealth, came leisure. Now the elite could focus on a dog's aesthetic qualities. The true companion dog was born and the epitome of this madness is the 'toy breed'. These dogs are of no practical utility and are bred solely to evoke pleasure in their owner. In turn, these dogs have been selected to be adorable and loving.
|Howling because they can|
Dogs have retained an interesting mix of vestige from their Wolf ancestry. I have three Maltese Terriers, who on an ill considered prompt from their master, will lift their heads in unison and howl. Imagine what it is like to have the three of them on your lap howling and not so gently, farting. Now you know why I'm barking mad, howwwwwwl!
|The hounds of doom- canis lupus familiaris: Mandy, Loki and Chloe|