A few weeks ago, we discussed some fun facts about modern-day dogs. You can read it here. Today, let’s take a look back on where those dogs came from by talking about some little-known facts about dogs’ ancestors, not only wolves but species which are ancestral to all canines who live today.
1. The very first ancestor of all, the bone-crushing dogs and bear dogs and wolves, was Miacis, who lived 55 million years ago, and who ate like a weasel, climbed trees, and had a fluffy tail like a squirrel.
2. It has been found that prehistoric humans in Japan treated dogs as family members and gave them distinct names.
3. Cynodictis was small and didn’t look very much like a dog, but they were the ancestor of not only dogs, but foxes and jackals, as well.
4. The first recognizably canid ancestor to dogs was Hesperocyon, who lived in groups among the trees or in underground burrows. They were about the size of foxes.
5. The transition from wolves to domestic dogs happened over so short a time frame that it is nearly impossible for researchers to study it thoroughly.
6. Dogs are probably descended from two different groups of wolves that were domesticated. These two groups then interbred to create the Canis familiaris we know today.
7. The ancestral canid Epicyon could have grown to 300 pounds, and had a tremendously strong bite due to their large teeth.
8. A “dog genome project” is underway, named after the Human Genome Project, which hopes to map differences across different dog breeds to understand the threats of disease and find the genes which lead to the vastly different behaviors across different breeds. This is possible because all dog breeds are the same species and have artificially been altered by humans.
9. Aelurodon was a “bone-crushing” dog, a family of scavengers who lived in North America. Interestingly, though, the name Aelurodon means “cat-toothed”.
10. It is thought by some that dogs became domesticated 130,000 years ago. That’s even before humans began to transition from hunter-gatherer societies into settled agricultural ones.
11. Some evidence from Europe shows that humans lived alongside dogs in a sentimental and symbolic way, and that they were cohabitating before the relationship was mutually beneficial, as in before the dogs were guarding or hunting for humans. They were around because the humans liked being with them.
12. Eucyon, the first member of the caninae family, which are “true dogs”, evolved in North America, crossed the Bering Land Bridge into Asia, and then crossed back over into North America at a later time.
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