Friday, January 29, 2010

Dogs and Man's Evolution

It has been said that you can tell a lot about a person by the company he keeps. Come along with me for an adventure concerning that idea. Step back and wonder about two animals who seem to have survived for millions of years. Our adventure takes us to, of all things, a dog show. Do you know that these humans we are considering seem to have kept dogs near them for as long as they started to become dog-like and human-like?
Come on, now, what could have been some of the circumstances for that speedy looking Greyhound to be a friend of man? Another dog with lop ears and obviously no speed-deamon called a Treeing Walker is on a bench nearby next to a red dog called an Irish setter. So many strange creatures to have followed the development of this strangest creature of them all called Homo sapiens. Do you suppose some of the humans migrated from the African forests to flat plains taking dog-like creatures with them.
It is said these human creatures were hunter-gatherers and the speedy dogs were helpful in running down game like rabbits and hares that both the human and the dog could eat. How about that lop eared hound they call a Treeing Walker? What use could that creature be in helping to feed the hunter? Well suppose that dog could trail eatable creatures until the food climbed a tree and the dog sat barking up the tree until the human-like creature arrived to harvest that crop. But the red setter doesn't bark much and only finds game to point at and not to attempt to catch? Perhaps our hunter-gatherer ancestor went hunting with that dog, how would the dog help? Imagine those so called bird dogs would point out the game hiding in the vegetation so the hunter could approach close enough to dispatch the bird before it flew away.
OK but how about those smallish white muscular looking dogs, how could the human use such a creature that obviously couldn't run fast? If the humans that spread out hunting for a source of food found themselves in an area with many creatures like bears that were difficult for the human-like creature to subdue, what type dog-like partner would be best for hunting them? With the Treeing Walker to trail the bear and the Bull Terrier to fearlessly attack the bear could be the difference in survival for both the dogs and master.
Then when we consider the many strange breeds of dogs we have to wonder about some such as the Yorkshire terrier for example. It seems to me even before recorded time the human animal was breeding dogs for other than utilitarian use and these perhaps may be called, like car license plates, vanity breeds. All the traits in all breeds that can be helpful to man are found in the Timber Woolf and genetic studies indicate that the Chihuahua and the Great Dane are both related to the Woolf and to each other. Since all creatures seem to change during millions of years, what the predecessors of the Woolf was like would be interesting to know.
So,having come this far I see more questions than those answered among which is why we are such a violent animal and then why we are such peaceable animals at other times. To survive in the environment that we can surmise existed during the domestication of humans required us to be ruthless insofar as we were hunters and shouldn't we all carry such traits in our genes? But the affection, love and devotion we show with our dog pets with bonding as well as with our offspring tend to bring out the peace-loving side of many of us. That conflict has to work its way through evolution and may the better of the two survive as the result of reasoning and not blind luck.

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