Many centuries ago, prior to the industrial revolution and the full exploration of agricultural practices, humans developed a very unlikely relationship with a wild animal known as the grey wolf. Later in the years, fate intertwined the two species to develop a probable lifelong partnership. The wolf evolved its morphological structures to become friendlier to humans. The animal's paws, teeth, and skull shrunk while its ears flopped. The animal further developed a docile temperament hence becoming less fearful and frightening to humans. Most importantly though, the wolf developed significant cognitive characteristics which assisted it to read and respond to human expressions and behaviors. The wolf turned into a dog. But how did this happen? This essay will discuss human behavioral and cultural factors that were significant in contributing to the domestication of dogs including ancient humans' need for companionship, their tendency to hunt, herd, and transport food, their weaving culture, and rituals and religious purposes.
Dogs are said to be the first animals that humans domesticated and adopted them to live in their environment for the last 20,000 to 40,000 years (Udell, Dorey, and Wynne, 2008). According to the authors, dogs were very useful to humans in the Paleolithic era where they were used for various activities such as hunting, protection, transportation, warming, and even herding. In the modern world, dogs have taken up even more complex roles such as being used for rescue and detection. The dog has become even friendlier and many people now use it just as a pet. Udell, Dorey, and Wynne (2008) claim that dogs have always had a social bond with humans in a manner that has created a significant emotional attachment. Humans usually have a sense of emotional and physical security when they are around dogs and hence improving their mental health besides their cognitive and social abilities. Within a very short period of the domestication of the dog, archaeologists reported a notable increase in the cultural development of humans (Udell, Dorey, and Wynne, 2008). This is because it is the human behaviors and culture that led to the domestication of a dog in the first place.
First, the domestication of the dog would not have been possible without its friendly nature and ability to offer companionship. Naturally, humans grow in a social culture and any species that would have similar characteristics would obviously become his friend. As described above, dogs are descendants of the wolves' species. Zeder (2012) suggests that evolution is said to be relatively recent and hence domestic dogs have some biological and social characteristics of wolves. There are some intriguing similarities between a pack of wolves and humans in their social settings. For instance, wolves hunt cooperatively and live in territorial settings. Moreover, there is an emotional bond between pack members and they embrace each other emotionally after some periodic separation. Despite other members of a pack being sexually mature, the only sexually active members are the alpha males and females (Morey, 2006). In their evolution, dogs picked up most of these characteristics which are similar to humans' and hence easily integrated into human lives. The social adaptation of a dog is almost similar to that of humans and hence dogs can live happily in a human surrounding and vice versa. In the modern world, for instance, dogs are usually pampered by good food, like the best medical care when they fall sick, and love sleeping in humans' comfortable couches and beds.
The ancient human's tendency to hunt, herd, and transport food was another factor that aided the domestication of dogs. Humans have used dogs for hunting purposes since 20,000 years ago in a period where agriculture was not yet exploited and hunting and gathering was the main activity (Snyder and Jennifer, 2011). In fact, it is said that humans first domesticated dogs before sheep and cows. Evidence from archeologists points to the fact that, various species of wolves, jackals, and coyotes may have been living around human settings. Some theories further claim that owing to this proximity, humans allowed friendly wolves and their hybrids to eat scraps and coexist with them whereas aggressive ones were chased away. This eventually led to the evolution and domestication of dogs by humans. Evidence even exists in form of ancient cave paintings of dogs appearing together with human hunters. There also exists drawing evidence in prehistoric Japanese graves that prove that dogs were humans' hunting companion in ancient times (Snyder and Jennifer, 2011). According to the authors, native North American people used dogs for hunting musk ox and seals. The ancient Egyptian dog breeds were mostly used for hunting. The Plains Indian dogs were used for transportation through pulling a device known as a travois. The travois was a technology adapted from the French used on horses by fur traders. Other North American people also used dogs in transportation through pulling of sleds. Dogs were also used for herding caribou by some tribes in America. It is said that the contemporary German Shepherd derived its name from its herding duties in ancient years (Snyder and Jennifer, 2011). Dogs remained significant for hunting, herding, and transporting until the discovery of Spanish horses to take up such duties.
The ancient human's culture of collecting fur and weaving was also a major reason that led to the domestication of a dog. In the late 18th Century, the existence of a Salish woolly dog belonging to the communities in the western coasts of British Colombia and Washington was reported (Barsh et al 2006). The depictions of the explorer (Captain George Vancouver) were that the dogs had a fluffy and light-colored appearance and had upright and steady ears. Generally, Vancouver observed that the dogs resembled big Pomeranians (Barsh et al 2006). The Salish woolly dog was an American native dog whose long fur was popular among ancient humans for weaving. It, however, got extinct during the colonization era by Europeans. Two separate dog breeds existed among the Native American community in the 1940s with one being used for hunting and the other providing fur for weaving. The woolly dog was smaller and more of a pet and a companion to humans than the hunting dog. The smaller dog which was fluffier resembled a modern-day Finish Spitz. (Barsh et al 2006). According to the author, weaving had a special place in the Coast Salish community as the status of their women was depicted by the value of fabrics they made. The textiles made were used for trading and storage purposes or simple to depict one's wealth. North American Natives are said to have kept warm and stylish by making clothes, ancient blankets, and carpets by using materials like fireweed cotton, mountain goat wool, and duck down. However, the Pacific North Western community especially used dog fur in manufacturing their fabrics as it was easier to acquire the canine's hair than that of the mountain goat which could only be acquired through trading with other communities. Besides, the dog fur made more quality products such as the long and soft undercoat which was distinctly white in color. This high value of dog fur necessitated the domestication of dogs so as to easily acquire their fur. After their domestication, the dogs proving fur were treated specially, bread separately from other types, and even buried decently upon their death (Barsh et al, 2006).
Humans' cultural rituals and religion further contributed to their domestication of dogs. There has been evidence of dogs being used symbolically in Mexico for ceremonies such as the "sun passage" where they were burnt and eaten. There is the likelihood that the hybrid dogs were first being used as pets and later for ceremonies following an ancient tradition in Mexico that specified the wolf's significance of the sun (Reisman, 2015). Ancient people from different parts of the world had creation legends and myths which are derived from the common world. Native North American people are no exception as they had origin narratives that related to a dog. For instance, there is a narrative that claims that the creator of the North American community possessed a dog. There is also another legend describing a character known as "Deceiving Man" as cursing every other animal because they did not have a friendly association with humans as dogs (Reisman, 2015). These native legends and narratives describe the significance of a dog in the cultures of North American communities which hence led to its domestication. Finally, some ancient people found it necessary to domesticate a dog simply because their cultural practices allowed them to use it as a delicacy. This is more like the modern world domesticating cows, goats, and sheep for the purposes of eating them. Reisman (2015) describes a North Western community in the U.S. known as Teton Sioux as which cooked and ate dog meat. The author further describes that men of the communities were key in the dog eating practice as they believed that it assists in solidifying their relationships. The Kickapoo Community in Oklahoma is said to kill and eat dogs in ceremonies (Reisman, 2015). This simple fact that dogs became part of a delicacy of ancient people explains why they decided to domesticate it.
In conclusion, dogs have been an integral part of human life since ancient times. As discussed above, dogs were once wolves which evolved to become friendlier to humans. Whereas the modern world has been taken over by the advent of agriculture and technology, the activities of ancient humans were mainly herding, hunting, and transporting the meet. Owing to the absence of sophisticated technology to aid in these activities, the ancient people decided to use an animal that they found friendly, loyal and having a high cognitive property to assist them. This necessitated the domestication of a dog which they found to have a social setting close to that of humans. The essay has discussed ancient humans' cultural practices that led to the domestication of the dog and they include companionship; herding, hunting, and transportation; weaving; and ritual and delicacy reasons.
Barsh, R. L., Jones, J.M., and Suttles, W. (2006). History, Ethnography, and Archaeology of the Coast Salish Woolly-Dog. Dogs and People in Social, Working, Economic or Symbolic Interaction, Oxbow Books, Oxford, United Kingdom, Pp 1-11.
Morey, D.F. (2006). Burying Key Evidence: The Social Bond Between Dogs and People. Journal of Archaeological Science 33(2):158-175.
Reisman, M.E. (2015). "How has the domestication of dogs impacted native North American culture and way of life?" Senior Honors Project, the University of Rhode Island, Paper 435. http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/srhonorsprog/435Snyder, L.M. and Jennifer A.L. (2011). The Diversity and Origin of American Dogs. The Subsistence Economies of Indigenous North American Societies, Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, Lanham, Maryland pp. 525-541.
Udell, M.A.R., Dorey, N.R., and Wynne, C.D.L. (2008). Wolves outperform dogs in following human social cues. Animal Behavior, Vol. 76. Pp. 1767-1773.
Zeder, M. (2012). The Domestication of Animals. Journal of Anthropological Research, 68(2), 161-190. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.proxy.cc.uic.edu/stable/23264664
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