Before cattle, before wheat, and yes, before cats, there were dogs. Domestication as we know it began with man’s best friend, between 15 and 40 thousand years ago.

The history

Some researchers suggest that the emergence of the relationship with the dog may have been responsible for the victory of modern humans outside of Africa who were in their competition with our cousins, the Neanderthals. At some point in the Pleistocene a lucky population of wolf-like canids (early dogs) became associated with humans. Over time this resulted in a host of changes.* They likely became more docile and socially aware of human moods and manners. Physically they changed in a manner evident in the fossil records. They became smaller, exhibiting a more neotenous (“puppy-like”) look. In this way they paved the way for domestication of dozens of other plants and animals with the Neolithic revolution.

Dogs and humans

The association between humanity and dogs reaches back to the very origins of modern humans. Though the dingo seems a late arrival in Australia, the indigenous people of the New World brought dogs with them from Siberia. Those lineages persist in the far north and among feral populations in the American South. Other domesticated animals are only associated with relatively recent farming civilizations. However, the dog was man’s companion during the earlier eons of hunting and gathering. Some people, such as the Thule culture of the Arctic, ran on “dog-power” in the same fashion that other societies relied upon horses. Meanwhile, many dogs today continue to “work” for humans, often as guards, whether for our homes or our flocks, or provide emotional support.

At Embark we feel like we are helping to unravel part of the human story. This is because one can not tell our history without narrating that of our best friend

* An alternative reading. At some point in the Pleistocene a population of lucky African hominins (early humans) became associated with canids. Over time this resulted in a host of changes