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Painting of three greyhound-like dogs

An Illustrated History of Dogs (Video)


A video from TedEd tells exactly how members of a rival species became our best friends.

Before the emergence of cities and agriculture, dogs were already accompanying humankind. It’s curious that this unique relationship came about with an animal species which, thousands of years ago, was a main rival in the food chain. According to some scientific studies today, we’re even connected at a chemical level, after centuries and centuries of co-evolution. Dogs perceive human emotions in ways we can hardly intuit and form an essential part of our symbolic and mythological universe.

Dogs (canis lupus familiaris) are the direct descendants of wolves (canis lupus). Experts believe that some 200,000 years ago some canids, especially those not part of a pack, approached human communities, and a relationship of mutual assistance came to be between these two species. People fed wolves with leftovers from their own food, and in return the wolves helped people to hunt and guard their territories. Over time, the closeness of people with dogs generated an evolutionary change: dogs came to have smaller snouts and teeth, and became less aggressive. Their bodies began to change to adapt to the various tasks given to them by people.

Because as animals they’d already lived within their own societies, dogs adapted to groups of humans. They were first animals domesticated by people, a process which was probably complete by about 33,000 years ago. It was only in the 19th century that people became interested in the breeds of dogs, naming and describing them, and this was especially true in Victorian England when dog competitions became a fad.

In this animated video by TedEd —in clear stylistic tribute to the dogs Keith Haring once drew— anthropologist and science enthusiast David Ian Howe summarizes the fun history of dogs and the special relationship they have with people.


Image: Public Domain

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