Ten Random (But Fascinating) Facts About Dogs and Domestication

August 12, 2013

1. Dogs were the first domestic animal species. Unambiguous archaeological evidence for dogs is about 12,000 years old, but domestication may have started 20,000 years or more before that.

2. Ancient Egyptians had at least three dog breeds: a greyhound type, a mastiff type, and a small Spitz type.

3. The modern concept of breeds, and of deliberately breeding animals for specific traits, developed in Victorian England. Which means that most of the 400-ish dog breeds recognized today are less than 200 years old.


Check out those ears!
Courtesy of WilleeCole/Shutterstock

4. Scientists aren’t entirely sure whether house cats are actually domesticated. It’s possible they’re nothing but “delightful profiteers,” to borrow a phrase from Stephen O’Brien, leading expert on the evolution of the cat family.

5. Dingos are a breed of domestic dog. People took dingos with them to Australia several thousand years ago.

6. Floppy ears are found in almost every domestic species. The only wild species with floppy ears is the elephant.

7. Chimpanzees are humans’ closest relatives. Dogs are better at interpreting human gestures, such as pointing.

8. Crop species are considered domesticates of wild plants.

9. Domestication is a type of evolution. Natural, artificial, unconscious, and conscious forms of selection are all involved.

10. The group of Russian scientists that domesticated red foxes also attempted to domesticate otters. It did not go well. Neither did other people’s attempts to domesticate zebras, despite their close relationship to horses.

Did I miss your favorite dog or pet fact? Share it in the comments! Remember, the deadline to enter the Talk About FOX TALK Contest is August 20!

4 Comments on ‘Ten Random (But Fascinating) Facts About Dogs and Domestication’

  1. Fascinating Lindsey!
    So dingoes would be feral dogs then?

    Reply | 
    1. Yup, basically! Although they’ve been independent of humans for so long now that they’re probably evolving back towards a true wild species again. I didn’t research that part though, so don’t quote me!

      Reply | 
  2. Great list! Cool about #7–it explains how dogs and humans can do agility together. There’s lots of hand gestures to go with the commands. I didn’t know the Russians tried other species. My girls are still waiting for the day I say we can get a pet fox. I’m tempted because one might keep the rabbits and rats out of the yard better than a cat. ;-D

    Reply | 
    1. The fox would definitely help with pest control. Google “Anya versus cockroach” for an adorable video of a domestic fox hunting bugs!

      Reply | 

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