Friday Firesmith – Origin of the Mutts

The Origin Of Dogs

In the beginning, somewhere around thirty thousand years ago, humans, who were one of the most violent and virulent predators who ever walked the planet, even then, decided to enter into an agreement with wolves, who were very large and very fast predators in their own right. No one knows how. No one knows why. All we do know is that it did happen and the end result was an entirely different species evolving; the dog.

There are two prevailing theories and both of them have enough fatal errors to be totally wrong, but then again, both have to have some truth in them. We’re blinded by the lack of evidence and the imperfect vision that we have of who we were back then.

Theory One: Wolves hung around human campsites and living places so they eventually got used to being around humans, and eventually they became dogs.

Problems with Theory One: Why in the name of Lassie’s left foot would a group of humans allow really strong, fast, and deadly predators hang around their campsites and living places?

Theory Two: Humans found some lost wolf pups and raised them as their own.

Problems with Theory Two: The puppies would still be wild when they grew up and they would still be prone to attacking small humans and returning to the wild.

Some issues here: Both theories take on a lot of water very fast because of one very simple and very fatal flaw inherent in both of them; the size of the wolf gene pool that would eventually breed towards domestication. When humans were out trying to domesticate cows they would have a lot of wild cows, pen them up, herd them with dogs likely, and the offspring would not be allowed to wander. That’s a herd sized gene pool. But with wolves, you cannot have a herd sized gene pool because wolves are predators. They compete, a lot, for food and they’re dangerous. Cows are dangerous but you can herd them and pen them. What kept the wolves in place long enough to become dogs and how did the gene pool stay large enough to allow the evolution?

Disclaimer: I do not know enough about this subject to present any facts or cite any material backing The Mike Firesmith Theory on the Beginning of Mutts. However, I am more than willing to allow anyone and everyone to present their own theory and poke at mine with sharp sticks.

To begin with, in order for the wolf to dog gene pool to be large enough to work you need a sizeable population of wolves. This means an even large population of human beings. I hereby declare that our early ancestors of 26,000 years ago, lived in much larger groups than we suspect they did. Instead of there being scattered group of hunter/gatherers living in small clans that wandered here and there, I think those groups must have consisted of hundreds of humans.

This would explain why every time humans arrived at a new island or continent, the megafauna went extinct fairly quickly. Instead of there being small groups of humans who hunted large animals into extinction it makes more sense there were larger groups of humans who did this.

Why this doesn’t work: There isn’t a scrap of evidence for it anywhere.
Why it does work: It explains the extinctions and it explains dogs.

Here’s the scene: You have a nomadic tribe wandering around hunting and gathering and raising kids. They kill to eat but they also kill to eliminate competition. Following in their wake of destruction is a pack of wolves who scavenge the animals the humans hunt. At this point, my theory doesn’t make sense unless there is something the humans are getting out of this. If the humans are eliminating competition and wolves certainly would be, then the wolves couldn’t hang around without the humans needing them for something.

Protection would be a good answer, but it’s been proven that 26,000 years ago humans were already laying waste to any and every predator that walked the earth and more than a few who flew and swam.

Yet suppose Tribe One had a pack of wolves that were following it and Tribe Two decided to move in and go to war with Tribe One. If the wolves defended Tribe One, or at least alerted Tribe One to the presence of Tribe Two, a symbiotic relationship could begin.

When wolves began protecting one group of humans from another group of humans, that pack of wolves became protected from humans. When one group of humans saw the wisdom in having wolves near, the Dawn of the Dogs was not far behind.

I welcome sharp pointy sticks and competing theories at this juncture.
Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

20 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Origin of the Mutts”

  1. Wow Mike! Some crazy theories there. I can’t help but default to The Flintstones depiction of domesticated animals back in the Bedrock days when reading your thoughts. “Here Dino!” Even so, it is interesting that we experience domesticated dogs today without giving much thought as to how they came to be domesticated. It does make some sense that there had to be an evolution of sorts taming wild dogs (a.k.a. wolves) down to the point that they were less likely to rip your throat out. Maybe next week you could explore how domesticated cats came to be? (Think Fred putting the cat out for the night?) That would be even more interesting seeing as how cats in the wild were much more ferocious than wild dogs could ever be.

      • “And you first have to offer proof cats are domesticated.”

        Got me there Mike! I am not a cat person and consider them the perfect example of socialism. Laying around all day expecting me to cater to their every whim without so much as a thank you. As for dogs: my border collie Zeke is ALWAYS grateful and glad to see me no matter what kind of day the both of us had.

        • I’ve lived with cats, Dave, they can be really feral sometimes and that’s not good. Then they can be layabouts with no redeeming qualities. But they do love us, or at least enough to get us to serve them.

          Border Collies are a neurotic bunch, but they love hard and never wrong.

  2. The old research of captive wolves threw unrelated wolves into a large enclosure so there were conflicts. Thus began the myth of the Alpha Wolf kicking ass to the top. Recent research in the wild shows the Alpha Wolf is dad, and a pack is actually family, several seasons worth of pups until they are old enough to split, find a mate, and form a new pack. There is conflict between packs for hunting territory (food), but not much within the pack(family).

    With this understanding of wolf behavior it’s easier to see why a certain pack could become attached to a family(pack) of humans especially if the human children and precocious wolf pups were friendly to each other. But then how did the wolf gene pool not become isolated?

    The pups raised in a pack which had good experience with humans, eventually leaves and forms a new pack where at least one of the pair has less fear of humans. The mate may have come from a strain of wolves that have since gone extinct and we know nothing about, but contributed genes to the ones that survived. After all, there are still about 40 different types of wolves who have survived to this day.

    There are also other canids, Jackals, Coyotes, Foxes, who may have slipped some genes in there through some perverted hippie wolves eating peyote buds and playing bongos. Who knows?
    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents for what it’s worth.

    • Bruce,I think if you do the research you’ll discover that wolves are the first canids and everything canine on earth began there.

      But this is one of those posts I’m nit really sure about anything.

      I like your theory. But how many wolves would it take?

  3. What it comes down to is that in the beginning the wild animals were gathered together and from there they sieved themselves out. Some where domesticated other still having a wildness to them, left the pack to form new packs. After domestication came dominance and symbiosis, a combining of wills to form a new bond. Those that stayed were called, owners or masters.

    • No, the two wolves were still wild when they boarded the ark, so had to be penned up. By the time that they got off of the ark, they had decided that the cooked food that the humans were giving them was better than their usual victuals, so they voted to become dogs…That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

      • Your story is as likely as mine! What were the humans cooking and giving to the wolves?

    • Henry, there is mention in the article I read about this. You still wind up with wild foxes when you do this. You get tame ones, yes, but there are still some wild genes.

      And I doubt we knew about genes 26,000 years ago.

  4. However if you look at feral dogs, a lot of cities have them especially in poorer countries, they end up looking pretty much alike in size, color, ears and tail. I doubt they started out all alike but through generations evolved to be the same, in all cities.

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