A grizzled, unshaven man sits in a crude hut and huddles next to a tiny fire. He is clothed only in the skin of an animal. Nearby his wife sleeps, and on the other side of the shelter sleeps his nearly grown son with his younger son and tiny daughter.
Sharing the fire with him is a dog with pointed ears, but of no recognizable breed. It has just awakened and is now standing and looking in the direction of a faint sound, one too weak for the man to hear. The dog sits back down, its head still cocked to follow the sound. Then, as humans have always done, the man speaks to the dog quietly: “What do you hear, my dog? You will tell me if I should worry?”…
…The dog settled to the ground, placing its head down on its paws, and the man knew that there was no danger near. He yawned and stirred the fire, then lay down to sleep as well, secure in the knowledge that his guardian would warn him if anything dangerous lurked by. In the morning they would hunt together and if they were successful, in the afternoon his dog and his daughter would have time to play together. His rough hand reached out and stroked the dog’s fur, and that touch made them both feel content.
Stanley Coren, The Pawprints of History
Although no one knows for sure how those first bonds were forged, it is likely that a scene much like the one quoted above happened on more than one occasion. Bones and artifacts point to the fact that dogs and man have long shared a symbiotic relationship. Evidence exists tying dogs to humans as much as 15,000 years ago. Evidence of the emotional bond between human and dogs can be documented in a grave in Israel dating 12,000 to 10,000 BC. In it was found a woman cradling a puppy as she left this world to continue to the next.
The earliest evidence of dogs in Europe was found in Star Carr in Yorkshire. Those bones date back to 7,000 BC. There has been documented evidence of the actual burial of dogs on every major land mass in the world, except Antarctica.
There are two major trains of thought as to how this relationship was forged. One idea is that early man recruited dogs into their societies because they recognized their superior sense of smell and their acute sense of hearing. That combined with the dog’s natural ability to travel long distances and assist in hunting made them worthy companions. Another train of thought suggests dogs themselves chose to live close to humans, living off the scraps of food discarded by our ancient relatives. Eventually their close proximity to humans allowed the two species to begin to forge the relationship that has evolved into what we now have. However that first connection was made dog and man have an intimate relationship. Continue reading