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Jo Bian

Writing 39C
Lynda Haas
Canines domestication
Dogs are called humankinds best friend for a reason. Ever since
humans began to domesticate animals and plants in the Stone Age, 12,000
years ago, dogs are one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans
(Morey 1). They became humans hunting-mates, doormen, and later on,
members of the household. Compared to their ancestors, grey wolves, dogs
vary in sizes, shape, and color; they are submissive and eager to please their
owner, upon which they rely on for food and protection. Dogs also play huge
roles in humans history and culture. For example, Saint Guintfort is a
legendary greyhound was sanctified in the early Christian era for his bravery
and loyalty; his story will be introduced later in this paper. In this historical
conversation project, dog domestication expert James Serpell, Darcy F.
Morey, L. N. Trut, Leslie Irvine and Adam Miklosis publication will be
compared and discussed. These scientists have traced dogs journey of
domestication, analyzing their change in physical appearance, behavior, and
relationship with humans.
Change in physical appearance
Because of humans intervention, dogs have experienced drastic change

in their physical appearance. Because they do not have to live in the wild
anymore, they do not need to prey and compete with other predators;
therefore, their fur coloration and bone structures change to adapt to their
domesticated state. The head researcher at the Institute of Cytology and
Genetics of Siberian Department of the Russian Academy of Science,
Lyudmila N. Trut in her article, Early Canine Domestication: The Farm-Fox
Experiment, describes the Russian Geneticist Dmitry K. Belyaevs
experiment on domesticating foxes, who are close kin to dogs. The research
began in 1959; Belyaev uses foxes to restore the scenario of early humans
domesticating dogs. Through years and generations of
fox breeding, Belyaevs research group found out that
domesticated foxes body sizes polarize from either
giant to dwarf (Trut 162). In the wild, overly large
or small foxes are disadvantaged in hunting and hiding
from predators, but in a domesticate environment,
food and protection are provided, and the foxes sizes
begin to vary. Because they do not need the
camouflage fur coat, domesticated foxes start to have
patches of discoloration on their fur due to lack of

Figure 1: domesticated
fox with patch-colored
coat. Trut.

pigmentation (Trut 162). Another significant observation on not only foxes,

but also in almost all the domesticated animals is the unique droopy ears.
This feature is not seen in any wild animals other than elephants, but is
common in domesticated foxes and dogs (Trut 162).

Aside from developing droopy ears like domesticated foxes do,

domesticated dogs seem to evolve to be more appealing to humans. Dr.
Darcy F. Morey is a zooarchaeologist from the University of Tenniessee at
Knoxville. In his journey published in American Scientists in 1994, he defines
domestication as people isolated individuals of a particular species from
their wild counterparts and then selectively bred them to exaggerate
desirable traits and eliminate undesirable ones in a process known as
artificial selection (Morey 336). Morey noticed that compared to their
ancestor wolves, dogs are smaller in size; they have a shorter and more
rounded face. Morey suggested that this phenomenon indicates during the
evolution process, the domesticated wolves remain their juvenile form even
in adulthood, which makes them look harmless and submissive, therefore, it
is a desirable trait favored by their human owners (Morey 341).
Change in Behavior
Not only their physical appearances stay premature, domestication also
causes dogs to behave differently than their wild ancestors. Adult dogs act
much like juvenile wolves (Morey 344). They constantly seek attention from
their human owners. Seen as a form of submissive, dogs play, whine, and
bark; they kept the behavior that is only seen in wolves pups, which wolves
out grow when they reach their adulthood (Morey 344).
Belyaevs experiment on farm foxes also shows that the offsprings of two
tamed foxes are usually friendlier and more willing to approach human (Trut
163). The researchers categorize foxes that intentionally seek humans

attention as domesticated elite. In about 40 years and 30-35 generations,

the population of domesticated elite foxes increased from 18 percent to
70-80 percent of the entire experimental group (Trut 163). The domesticated
elites display dog-like behavior, showing their eagerness to please human by
wagging their tails and licking visitors hands (Trut 163). From This
phenomenon combined with the phenotypical change displayed from wolves
to dogs, leads Morey to questions if the there is a cause-and-effect
relationship between behavior and the physical appearance of domesticated
Relationship with Human

James A. Serpell, the director of Center for the Interaction of Aminals and
Society, mentioned that the earliest record of
canine skeleton found in humans burial could be
traced back to as early as 400,000 years ago
(Serpell 8). During 1930s, the site Ein Mallaha was
discovered in Hayonim, Israel. A human and a
canidae skeleton were both found in the same
burial site. Scientists debated about whether if the
canidae skeleton belongs to the earlydomesticated dogs because its structure looks

Figure 2: Ain Mallaha burial

site. Canine-like skeleton
seen on the top left of the
human skull. Simon Davis.

more like modern Arabian wolves but smaller in

size (Serpell 8). Serpell believes the skull belonged to a tamed wolf, which is
a crucial evidence of the origin of dogs and the ancient human-dog
However, Dr. DM MIKLSI, director of the Family Dog Project in Etvs
Lornd University of Hungary in his book Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and
Cognition states that there has not been enough evidences discovered to
prove any long-lasting relationship between humans and early dogs before
15,000 years (MIKLSI 126). He said that humans began to dwell in
settlements about 10,000-15,000 years ago, which is when they started to
have excessive food to attract wild dogs (MIKLSI 128). Individual hunters
realized the benefit and efficiency of working with dogs, so they start to
domesticate and train them (MIKLSI 128). This could explain why dogs

appear relatively rapidly at western and northern European sites around

12,000 years ago, said MIKLSI (128).
Humans originally domesticated dogs for hunting purposes (Morey 339).
Since humans no longer depend on hunting as the only way to acquire food,
they began to train and breed dogs to do other tasks. Serpell mentioned in
the chapter Evolution of Working Dogs of his book The Domestic Dog: Its
Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with People, new breeds of dogs are
created for Herding and sledding. Herding dogs such as Australian shepherd
dogs and boarder colie are able to lead livestock and keep them together
(Serpell 30). These dogs would display an intrinsic predatory behavior during
their juvenile phase (Serpell 30). Humans observed the behavior and trained
the dogs to display these stalk and chase, grab bite, and crush bite
actions in the right environment and right time (Serpell 30).
Similar to herding dogs, humans also bred Sledding dogs as working aid.
These dogs were essential during the 1896 Alaska Gold Rush for they
provided transportations in the extreme environment (Serpell 21). Sledding
dog breeds are later glorified for they incredible ability in distance running,
as Serpell stated in the chapter, For distances of over ten miles, sled dogs
are easily the fastest land mammal (22).
Just as humans changed dogs world, dogs also have taken a big role in
the human culture. Sociologist Leslie Irvine in the chapter Them and Us of
her book-length study titled If You Tame Me, states that throughout history,
humans views towards dogs are not always constant. In the early sixth

century, religions consider dogs as unclean. And hunting is viewed as

carnal diversion (Irvine 37). Dogs, therefore, are prohibited among
common people. However, during the early Christian era, dogs social status
raised. There are even stories about dogs loyalty and bravery gained them
respect form people (Irvine 39). The most notable one is about Saint
Guintfort, who was a greyhound. He protected an infant from a snake, but
was killed by his misunderstood owner who thought Guintfort kill the child.
The owner later realized his mistake. He buried Guintfort in a tomb. People
who heard this story sanctified Guintfort, and prayed to him to protect their
children (Irvine 39).
Historical evidences show that humans started to train wolves into dogs
since at least 400,000 years ago. Dogs physical appearances such as bone
structure and fur color changed due to being absent from natures severe
environment and humans selective breeding. Their behaviors also stay
premature compared to their ancestor, wolves to compromise to humans
preference. Dogs has always been a part of humans history and culture
whether as work forces or as family members. The scientists studies show
the inseparable connection between dogs and humans throughout history.

Work Cited

Belyaev, Dmitry K. "Destabilizing Selection as a Factor in Domestication." The

Journal of
Heredity 70 (1979): 301-08. Print.
Irvine, Leslie. If You Tame Me: Understanding Our Connection with Animals.
Temple UP, 2004. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
Miklsi, dm. Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition. 2nd ed. Oxford,
United Kingdom:
Oxford UP, 2015. Print.
More, Darcy F. "The Early Evolution of the Domestic Dog." American
Scientists 82 (1994):
336-47. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
Serpell, James. The Domestic Dog: Its Evolution, Behaviour, and Interactions
with People.
Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
Trut, L. N., I. Z. Plyusnina, and I. N. Oskina. "An Experiment on Fox
Domestication and
Debatable Issues of Evolution of the Dog." Russian Journal of
Genetics 40.6 (2004):
644-55. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.